In French, the word for dog is chien. The female version of dog is chienne. This post covers everything you need to know about how to talk about dogs in French, including slang words for dog, expressions with chien, dog commands, names and common breeds.
How to Say Dog in French
First, before we dive into the fun stuff, let’s get into the main reason why you might be here. You likely want to learn how to say dog in French.
So to begin with, the most common translation of dog in French is “chien.” But just like many other French nouns, nouns that refer to animals usually have male and female versions.
Female Dog vs. Male Dog in French
Likewise, the word dog in French also has both a male and female version.
Chien means male dog in French, while chienne means female dog in French. But, if you’re talking about a dog in general, you’ll use the male form, chien.
un chien, une chienne
Dog in French as an Insult
In English, we also have a feminine word for dog. But this word is used more as an insult toward women.
At the same time, in French, the word dog can also be used as an insult—but both for men and women. To call a man a chien or a woman a chienne means that they are sexually promiscuous.
Other French Translations of Dog in French
Besides chien and chienne there are a few other translations of dog in French.
- Canine – canidé
- Molosse – big breed of dog
- Roquet – small breed of dog
Slang Words for Dog in French
Unsurprisingly there are a lot of slang words for dog in French as well. The French love a good slang word, especially for their beloved companions, so let’s look at a few.
Toutou is another French slang word for dog that is mostly used among children. The French use it similarly to how we might use “doggy.”
slang for dog
A few more slang words for dog in French include:
Iench also means dog! If you’ve learned a little bit about verlan (a very unique form of French slang), you might notice this word is chien backwards.
The french simply took the first part of the word “ch” and flipped it with the last part of the word “ien” to create iench. Generally, you’ll mostly hear younger French speakers using this word for dog.
Idioms That Use the Word “Dog” in French
Besides slang words in French, there are other idiomatic expressions that use the word dog in French. In English, we have idioms like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and French natives similarly use certain expressions that contain the word dog in French.
For example, here are some of the most common:
Arriver comme un chien dans un jeu de quilles
- Direct translation: To arrive like a dog in a game of Mölkky
- Meaning: To arrive like a bull in a china shop
Avoir du chien
- Direct translation: To have some dog
- Meaning: To be hot/attractive
Avoir un mal de chien
- Direct translation: To have a bad of dog
- Meaning: To be sick as a dog
Avoir un mal de chien à faire
- Direct translation: To have a bad of dog to do
- Meaning: To have a heck of time doing something (negative)
Couché en chien de fusil
- Direct translation: To be laid down like a hammer (of a gun)
- Meaning: Fetal position
Être comme chien et chat
- Direct translation: To be like dog and cat
- Meaning: Fight like cats and dogs
Entre chien et loup
- Direct translation: Between dog and wolf
- Meaning: At twilight/at dusk
Être d’une humeur de chien
- Direct translation: To be in a dog’s mood
- Meaning: To be in a foul mood
Il fait un temps de chien.
- Direct translation: The weather is the dog’s.
- Meaning: The weather is dreadful.
Yeux de chien battu
- Direct translation: Eyes of a defeated dog.
- Meaning: Puppy-dog eyes
Famous French Tongue-Twister Containing the word Dog in French
Before we finish up with French idioms that contain the word dog, I thought it would be fun to share one of the most famous French tongue twisters.
The French call tongue twisters virelangues or turn-tongues. Here it is:
Un chasseur sachant chasser doit savoir chasser sans son chien.
Meaning: A hunter who knows how to hunt should know how to hunt without his dog.
If you can say this phrase three times fast, you’re definitely on your way to being a French expert! And if you’re not sure how to pronounce it, here is a great YouTube video, where a French news channel talks about French tongue twisters like this one.
Common English Idioms That Use the Word “Dog” and Their Translations in French
Now that we’ve talked about those French idioms containing dog, let’s talk about some common English idioms that use the word dog.
Although for the most part dog will translate to chien in French, this isn’t always true—especially when it comes to English idioms.
For example, the word “dog” in the English Idiom “how to teach an old dog new tricks,” doesn’t translate to chien. This is because the French just have a completely different phrase with a similar sense.
Keep reading to learn more.
How to Say Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks in French
One of the most common English phrases that contain “dog” is the idiom “you can’t teach a dog new tricks.” In French, the same idiom exists, but you don’t use the same vocabulary.
Instead of using the word dog, the French use the word horse.
On ne transforme pas un bourrin en cheval de course.
This French phrase translates to “We don’t turn an old horse into a racehorse.”
How to Say Dog-Eat-Dog in French
Consequently, here is another common English idiom where the word “dog” doesn’t translate directly into French. The French version of this is:
L’homme est un loup pour l’homme.
This French phrase translates to “Man is a wolf for man,” which means that man is a danger to his own kind just like dog-eat-dog.
Key Dog-Related Phrases in French
Voila ! Finally, we’ve made it through all of the English and French dog-related idioms. And now it’s time to get into some key dog-related phrases in French. Whether you’re a huge dog-lover and want to learn how to talk about your own dog in French or just discuss dog-related subjects, these will come in handy.
How to Say “I have a dog” in French
- J’ai un chien.
How to Say “Little dog” in French
- Un petit chien.
How to Say “Can I Pet Your Dog?” in French
- Est-ce que je peux caresser votre chien ? (formal)
- Est-ce que je peux caresser ton chien ? (informal)
How to Say “Beware of Dog” in French
- Attention aux chien
How to Say “Dog Lover” in French
- Quelqu’un qui aime les chiens.
How to Say “Dog Sitter” in French
- Personne qui s’occupe de chiens.
Pet Culture in France vs. the USA
As you’ve seen, when it comes to language, there are more than a few differences between dog in English and dog in French. But the pet culture in France is also different than it is in English-speaking countries, like the United States.
The first thing I noticed when I moved to France was the size of the dogs. I saw way fewer labradors and Bernese mountain dogs. And I saw way more Yorkies and terriers.
In general, the French live in smaller houses and apartments than we do in the United States. This means they do not have the same space for large dog breeds.
You’ll still find families with large dog breeds and some large dog breeds are some of the most popular dog breeds in France. But, I found, in general, there were more small dog breeds than in the USA.
Other common differences between dog culture in France vs. the US:
- Vets tend to be cheaper and more accessible.
- There are more dog-friendly public places.
- Less food selection. In the USA there are many healthy treats, raw food, and specialty food options for dogs. But in France, there aren’t as many dog food brands—especially ones that don’t contain lots of grain and corn.
- Less common to pick up dog poop. The French certainly do pick up their dog’s poop. But, you are much more likely to find piles of dog poop in France than you will in the USA. This is because a good chunk of French people don’t bother to pick up their dog’s merde.
Common Dog-Related Words in French
- Un Collier pour chien – dog collar
- Un Panier pour chien – dog bed
- Une Friandise pour chien or un récompense – dog treat
- Un Chiot – puppy
- Une Médaille (pour chien) – dog tag
- Une Muselière – muzzle (restraint on dog)
- Un Museau – muzzle (dog’s snout)
- Une Patte – Paw
- Les Moustaches – whiskers
- Une laisse – leash
- Dresser un chien – to train a dog
Dog Commands in French
And speaking of dog training, let’s chat a little bit about dog commands. If you’re looking to train your dog in French, there are a few important words to know. Just like in English, French dogs often learn to sit, roll over, and fetch, so here’s everything you (and your dog!) should know.
- Assis – sit
- Au pied – come right to your feet
- Viens ici – come
- Pas bouger – stay
- Couché – lie down
- Stop/Halte – stop
- Laisse/Pas Toucher – leave it
- Lâche – drop it
- Donne la patte – give paw
- Tape m’en cinq – give me five
- Bon chien – good dog
- Méchant chien – bad dog
- Va chercher – fetch
- Fait une roulade – roll over
French Animal Sounds: What Does a Dog Say in French?
Even though we know that the French language has different words for almost every English word, something we don’t think about as often is their onomatopoeias for animal sounds. From cows to birds, almost every animal sound is mimicked by a different word than it is in English.
For example, in English, a dog says “Woof, woof,” “Ruff, ruff,” or “Bow, wow.”
In French, the dog says, “Wouf, wouf.” While this looks a lot like “Woof, woof,” it’s pronounced more like wowf, wowf.
French Dog Names + The Unique French Dog-Naming Tradition
You’ve learned how to dog about dogs in French, how to shop for dogs in French, and even how to make a noise like a dog in French. Now, it’s time for the fun part. Let’s talk about French dog names!
In English, we have popular dog names like “Daisy,” “Sadie,” and “Max.” In French, the ten most popular dog names are:
But, something interesting about dog names in France is that there is a tradition that helps owners decide what to name their dogs. Each year, there is a different letter, which the French use to inspire their dogs’ names.
For example, in 2022, the letter of the year is T, which means dog owners might choose names like Tina, Tartine, or Tyson. This isn’t mandatory, but many French families choose to name their puppies with a name that starts with the letter of the year.
Common French Dog Breed Names
And finally, another thing you might not have thought about when it comes to learning about the word dog in French is that it’s not just the dogs that have different names. Dog breeds in French also have different names.
Not every single dog breed has its own translation, but many of the most popular do. So here are a few of the most common dog breeds with a French name and their French translation:
- Berger Australien – Australien Shepherd
- Berger Belge – Belgian Shepherd
- Berger Allemand – German Shepherd
- Bouledogue Français – French Bulldog
- Setter Anglais – English Setter
- Épagneul Breton – Brittany
- Teckel – Dachshund
- Bouvier Bernois – Bernese Mountain Dog
- Caniche – Poodle
- Carlin – Pug
- Bichon Maltais – Maltese