The phrase “in the doghouse” is a figure of speech with its roots in the English language. More particularly, this idiom is of American origin and usually refers to currently being out of favor with someone of importance. As with all idioms, the application of this phrase is an example of colorful language that conjures up a powerful and vivid image in order to describe a situation.
Figures of speech like this one seek to create a visual image that expresses the degree of emotion present in a given situation, but still maintaining a small amount of humor. In American culture, the phrase has particular meaning, owing to the fact that canines are sometimes banished from the home when they misbehave. Instead of being inside with the pet owners, the dog must seek shelter in a doghouse in the back yard until the owners choose to allow the pet back into the home.
It is possible to be in the doghouse in a number of different situations. Most commonly, the phrase is applied to a period of discord between romantic partners. A spouse who repeatedly fails to arrive home at a reasonable time each evening, for example, might be in disfavor. Eventually, the other person in the relationship could decide that this is no longer a tolerable circumstance and take action to express his or her displeasure. This may include informing the offending partner that he or she will temporarily be barred from sharing a bedroom with the offended party. As a result, the offending party must seek shelter elsewhere.
Employees can also be in the doghouse with a supervisor or manager. Once again, this usually comes about because the individual has failed to comply with the expectations or wishes of the other party in the business relationship. While out of favor, the employee may receive some type of disciplinary action, lose the option of a promotion or raise, or lose privileges until the confidence of the manager is restored.
There is likely no human relationship that does not experience this phenomenon. Disobedient children fall out of favor with frustrated parents. Municipal officials may choose actions that cause citizens to lose confidence in his or her leadership, getting him or her in trouble with his or her constituency. Even friends occasionally disappoint one another.
Fortunately, this idiom does not refer to a permanent state. In most cases, the offending party can make some type of restitution and once again be in the good graces of the offended party.