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The Canine in Conversation
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a photograph of a dog on a porch
figure 1  


run with the big dogs. Be comfortable competing and working with those at the top of the power or social hierarchy. Synonyms: move in the fast lane, rub shoulders with the movers and shakers, hang with the top dogs. Note that this is not exactly the same as being one of the big dogs.

Venture capitalist Ann Winblad recalls an extension of the metaphor in discussing one of her first pitches as a woman in her 20s to a room full of men in their 50s. The CEO of her firm at the time said, “Ann...after the break you gotta jazz it up a little bit. If you're gonna run with the big dogs, you gotta learn how to lift your leg.” She goes on to report that this “really empowered me to ask for that $10,000.”reference 1 Winblad was certainly not a big dog at the time. Indeed, it is tempting to read between the lines of his advice that he was suggesting that she needed to act like a pointer not a setter.

The phrase shows up also in a more extended form of homily: “If you Can't Run With The Big Dogs, Stay On The Porch,” meaning that if you aren't willing to suffer the consequences, don't take the chances.reference 2


1. Livingston, Jessica. 2007. Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days. Berkeley: Apress. 301.

2. Hobbs, M.A. Underwood. 1999. Pure Doggerel. White Star Farm,. Accessed Oct 21 2001 from http:// meanwhileback doghouse/ puredoggerel.htm.

About the illustration: A dog trying to decide whether to stay on the porch or go running... © 2008 Jupiterimages Corporation.
see also: big dog; running dog; running with both hounds and hares
He who lies down with dogs, rises with fleas
Last updated: July 28, 2008
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