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The Canine in Conversation
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Bruce Weitz' character, Mick Belker from Hill Street Blues
figure 1  


dog breath or dogbreath. 1. A repulsive person. 2. Halitosis.

Smell is a sensory experience that is characteristically associated with dogs. In part this is because smell is central to a dog's perception of the universe around him or her (in the way sight is for humans). The other reason is that dogs tend to stimulate our own olfactory apparatus. In this case, to paraphrase an apocryphal quotation from Samuel Johnson, we smell them, they stink.reference 1commareference 2 Dogs, being rather limited in their capacity for oral hygiene, have halitosis, or, in common parlance, bad breath. The reader will not be surprised to discover that, once again, this term has less than pleasant implications.

Calling someone “dog breath” is just another way of calling someone worthless and repulsive. Indeed, at this point, this definition probably seems needlessly redundant.



1. My mom attributed this one to Lincoln. As it turns out, nobody seems to know where it comes from, though it is most often attributed to that paragon of quotableness, Samuel Johnson. In one of his works, a character says, “Dr. Johnson, you smell!” to which he replies, “Incorrect, Madam, you smell me, and I stink!”

2. Lynch, Frank. 2001. The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page. Accessed Sep 7 2001 from http:// www. index.html

My personal association with this term is with a character played by Bruce Weitz on the prime-time television drama, Hill Street Blues. In describing the show, Yesterdayland's Popopedia names him as “...probably the most whimsical [character] of all. Mick Belker, a disheveled detective who was perpetually undercover as some kind of vagrant...was known to growl at and bite the perps he brought in to book.”reference 3 Mick called people “dogbreath,” which rang with irony since his character was known to eat raw onions out of hand as a snack. As I recall, he not only growled, but also barked at criminals. 3. Burke, Kevin, ed. 2000. Accessed Sep 7 2001 from http://
About the illustration: This image of Bruce Weitz's character, Mick Belker, probably belongs to Steven Bochco or NBC. However, I found it on a number of HSB fan sites as well as in the Popopedia without attribution or named permission.
see also: eating one's own dog food; dog's breakfast Last updated: June 21, 2008
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