Dogmatic Logo
The Canine in Conversation
contents page back to last page visited reload this page prior page in site next page in site
Sign that says 'Never Mind the Dog - Beware of Owner' illustrated with a hand holding a gun pointing towards the viewer
figure 1  


beware of dog. A warning that property has fierce protection.

Some people choose not to invest in home security, but simply in signs warning that the home has security, whether of the canine or the alarmed sort.


puppies on a fence with a boy posting a sign saying
figure 2  
Even if you have a dog, not all household pets are reliable watchdogs. It may be equally important for property owners to beware of trusting too much in their dog's ability to provide protection, unless the canine has been specifically trained. There is, of course, the dog made famous by Conan Doyle whose silence Sherlock Holmes found worthy of comment. That dog failed to protect a horse in the stable because the dog trusted the thief. And then there is the mythical guardian of Hades, a three-headed dog with a snake for a tail, Cerberus, who turned out to be readily tamed by Orpheus's lyre.

The phrase is most often lettered on a sign for strangers to read on approaching a home or business. There are, no doubt, numerous establishments so labeled even though no dog resides there; the sign is posted simply to discourage entry. In this case, it may be less a matter of issuing a warning as one of trying to sell woof tickets.

mosaic of dog on leash
figure 3  
The Romans apparently felt that this warning was good advice. Rather than post a sign, some of them included this warning in their mosaic floors: cave canem.reference 1 The location of the words does leave it unclear: who was being warned about what?
1. Budiansky, Stephen. 2001. The Truth About Dogs. New York: Penguin Books. 3.
About the illustrations: I found Figure 1 quite unnerving when I first came across it. Indeed, it probably reflects the true nature of the threat, even when enforced by dogs: it is the human owners who determine what is protected. Dogs are not all that interested one way or the other, except as it may matter to the pack as a whole and to the extent that the dog has been trained. Unlike their canine forebears, dogs are only mildly territorial, marking boundaries more as conversation than to claim anything. Provided courtesy of PAINet: Photographic Arts and Illustration Network © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

Figure 2 is more benign. © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.

Figure 3 is a cave canem mosaic from Pompeii. It is located at: Museo Archeologico Nazionale (Naples), Italy. The photograph is by Massimo Finizio. This file is licensed under the Creative CommonsAttribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Italy” Licence.

see also: watch dog; what the dog did in the night
cf: junkyard dog; Cerberus
Last updated: June 21, 2008
by Alec MacLeod 2001-2008  Dogmatic Technologies Oakland Creative Commons unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Alec MacLeod and included in The Canine in Conversation and any related pages, is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Please read the Terms of Use Agreement by Alec MacLeod Dogmatic Technologies