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December 08, 2012  |  The (lack of) dogs in the night  |  4749 hit(s)

I get so distracted by things I hear in meetings that I sometimes wonder how I manage to get anything work-related out of them at all. (Perhaps my boss wonders that too, hmm.) Anyway, the other day someone said that we should put a work item on a "dogs not barking" list.

I pondered this while the other participants continued their conversation. I was pretty sure this was new to me. I thought of a possible meaning or two, but didn't feel confident that I had it.

Fortunately, the guy who'd uttered the phrase is friendly enough, so I popped into his office and just asked him outright. "Oh," he said, and kind of laughed. "It's a phrase I picked up around here from management."

He went on to explain that "dogs not barking" refers to looking out for what's not obvious. It's kind of the opposite of the squeaky wheel, was his (anti-?) analogy — in this context, a squeaky wheel is the customer who's complaining loudly about something they need. But what's out there that customers need but we're not hearing about?

His theory was that it derived from a situation where you'd expect dogs to be barking — at a burglar, say — but they're not. There are times, goes the theory, that you should be hearing dogs bark but you're not, and that means trouble.

Anyone else know this phrase?

Alan   09 Dec 12 - 9:54 PM

I'm pretty sure there's a Sherlock Holmes story where the critical clue is that a dog didn't bark. Therefore Holmes knew that the intruder was known to the dog.

That said, I've never heard of the phrase in this kind of context.

mike   09 Dec 12 - 10:19 PM

Right you are -- the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, from "Silver Blaze":