Hair of the dog meaning is very sensible, no its very unhelpful

Hair of the dog definition, you will have heard it lots but what does it mean and where does it come wrong. Hair of the dog meaning is one of those rumors that may have gotten out of hand.

Or is hair of the dog meaning just an unhelpful metaphor in terms of drinking culture.

So after my liver failed as a result of social drinking, a mixture of stress infection and a stomach issues, I began to take notice of what people say in their language and the social pressure to have one more drink.

I was by no means an out of the ordinary drinker compared to my peers.

Yet when I gave up alcohol I noticed that despite me not having touched any alcohol in over 14 months the pressure to drink can always be there and not from yourself either!


social drinking

It’s almost as if people are as uncomfortable with you having a drink as they are not having one. What’s that all about?

However, a few of my readers have said what is the hair of the dog meaning?

Where does it fit in with drinking too much and it is not a bit of fun. The saying is it is up there with “Dutch courage” , it is said lightly but carries a lot of weight and can seep through the subconscious mind quickly so it becomes the norm. Its become part of our social fabric.

What is the hair of the dog meaning in reality ?

So into everyday life you have been for a night out and drank heavily. It is generally related to nighttime drinking than day to be fair and not really aimed at heavy drinkers with a so called issues with whatever that means. It is designed to do a couple of things for a few people who are hungover :

  • Improve the headache
  • Stop the shakes
  • Continue the party
  • Talk about what you got up to last night
  • Make you feel better about your drinking
  • Make others feel better about their own drinking

It literally does not mean you eat the hair of the dog. You would not get far in any situation on that!

Where does the hair of the dog meaning come from?

It is probably as far-fetched as you might imagine, most of these sayings are but then again most of which come in the form of metaphor so they stand for something, they don’t actually mean it.

So if I said too many cooks spoil the broth you would know it meant too many people involved can mess things up. Except when of course it does not! So metaphors appeal to a different side of the brain so can be very useful.

The problem comes when it is taken literally. Not everyone gets it. I once said to someone on holiday that because the hotel was really busy you could not sometimes see the wood for the trees.

They replied, but there are no trees here. So tread carefully.


However, the hair of the dog is so ridiculous even at a metaphorical level. Do you remember rabies. It still exists but due to vaccinations it is not the horrible disease it was for both dogs and humans.

In the UK there were lots of ads with dogs frothing at the mouth and if you got bit well you were probably a gonna!

Now the world has moved on but vaccinations remain and in some areas you have to be vigilant but like with many diseases’ science has found a way.

However, get this, its like the witches of east wick or a scene from Macbeth in Shakespeare.

Here is what it is based on.

If you, have been bitten by a rabid dog you must grab a bit of hair that it has left and mix it into a potion and you will be cured of rabies.

I do not want you to say to yourself next time after a heavy one “ oooooh I know I will have the hair of the dog!”

What a load of nonsense, And yet it has become the norm in our drinking culture.

Who would have thought the morning drinking would be inspired by rabies.

Does the hair of the dog really work?

No, it might delay the symptoms but they will arrive soon enough. Imagine your body has been taking a drug in large amounts and your alcohol level drops to zero.

This is when the headache, shakes, thirst and all those feelings are at their worst. It takes about an hour for the liver to metabolize alcohol per drink and we are talking a basic measures here.

Nothing you or I can do will change that.

Always know your limits through drink aware

mit through drink awareYes maybe aspirin, water and a quick walk outside may help a bit as will food but your poor old liver will need the time to do its job and the excess alcohol will stay in the system until the liver has dealt with the drink it’s dealing with.

So just as you can’t put the hair of a rabies dog in your wound after a bite, you cannot just make it go away with a stiff drink in the morning either.

The vicious cycle?

So the hair of the dog meaning has no use then? No I am afraid but here is the thing.

Imagine an iceberg, the top half has all your conscious thought and the bit under the water represents your subconscious, it basically houses the program then runs your whole system automatically.

After all we can’t think of everything so that is why the brain is designed this way.

Now an old “saying” or “metaphor” when repeated more often eventually go into the unconscious part of the brain and the message is “you need a hair of the dog”, so your body and mind goes for it.

Remember we are always moving away from pain and toward pleasure.

The problem with this is that the brain loves habit, it takes shortcuts so after time the hair of the dog becomes the go to answer, after all, it is true isn’t it? Nope! The brain doesn’t know that.

This can begin to have a massive effect on your liver and your health overall.

I was just a wine drinker after work or with dinner so just imagine if you are constantly having a dog’s hair!

hair of the dog

So hair of the dog meaning forget it, zero alcohol choice maybe?

If you, have read some of my articles you will know I am passionate about giving people who want not to drink more options.

The truth is out there the real world people shun non-drinkers as much as they do big drinkers in some cases even more! I have many personal examples of being made to feel very small and a barman who says “what the point?” when ordering a 0.0 alcohol free beer

Check out my review of peroni alcohol free beer here, one of my favorites

However, research is showing from universities that more and more people given the choice “that’s interesting” will choose a non alcohol option.

Luckily the world is changing from gin, beer even zero alcohol whiskey is out there. Plus mocktails which are often the stable feature of a Saturday morning hen party.

You can check out my thoughts on mocktails here.

The zero alcoholic range could be the perfect help to that mental solution of having a hair of the dog meaning changed forever. I don’t mean rabies either!

Have you ever had a hair of the dog and believed it would work or did it for you? What other drinking myths have you come across like hair of the dog meaning ?I would love to hear your views and I always respond. Just message me below and I always reply.

4 thoughts on “Hair of the dog meaning”

  1. Thanks for the information on where the saying ‘hair of the dog’ comes from. I never really knew but have used it often enough myself – usually the morning after a night of heavy drinking to persuade myself that having another alcoholic drink (whilst still hungover!) is OK. I’ve never really found it to help me though to be honest, Usually drinking water between alcoholic drinks and then the next morning in order to stay hydrated and help flush the alcohol out of my system works well – oh and coffee! 

    • Thanks Will for commenting of hair of the dog meaning. I guess it is one of those sayings that floats around and becomes reality. You are spot on about the water, people underestimate it and yet that is what we are really made up of mostly . Again the notion of another drink helping is bigger than the actual reality. I appreciate you taking time out to share. All the best Phil

  2. Very interesting post. I know from my upbringinging I used to hear a lot of different myth related to drinking alcohol. But never heard of hair of the dog before. I remember my previous partner used to drink beer, wine and whisky all day everyday. He never believed he is a drinker no matter how much I tried to give him some insight. He never drinks a bottle of water per day. He never gets drunk, he can drive perfectly fine after having 3 bottles of beer, 2 glasses of wine and a shot of hard liquor. 

    I believe that people really would benefit from having more options as you stated on your post such as alcohol free beer. However, I don’t have the stat to compare how many people actually quit alcohol and switch to alcohol free beer. Generally, daily alcohol drinks more that 2 for guys does more damage than good.

    Thank you.


    • Thanks TG, you make some really good points here so thankyou for commenting on hair of the dog meaning. The stats in the UK is that up to 23 per cent of people would make choices differently if the options were there. 

      As I write this I am staying in a hotel in the south of the UK and the bar in the hotel had no options at all , just diet cola was the one I was offered. So I think over time the more options that are made available the easy it will be for people to have a choice. Of course the options need to be good ones and it really varies from place to place around the world.

      Thanks so much for sharing your personal story. It is not an uncommon one! I really appreciate it, all the best, Phil


Leave a Comment