Beware of the dog

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(Redirected from Cave canem)
Cave canem Roman mosaic at the entrance to the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii, Italy, 1st century AD
Mosaic at Pompeii
Notice at the Glasgow Necropolis
Beware of dog sign in Tokyo

Beware of the dog (also rendered as Beware of dog) is a warning sign posted at the entrance to a building or other private area indicating that a dangerous dog is within. Such signs may be placed to deter burglary even if there is no dog, or if the dog is not actually a competent guard dog.[1][2]


Warning signs of this sort have been found in ancient Roman buildings such as the House of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii, which contains a mosaic with the caption cave canem (pronounced [ˈkäu̯eː ˈkänɛ̃ˑ]).[3] The Roman work Satyricon, written by Petronius, includes a passage mentioning the phrase cave canem painted on a wall with large letters, in the chapter Dinner with Trimalchio.[4]

Philippians 3:2 is translated as "beware of the dogs" or "beware of dogs" in the King James Bible and many other editions.[5] For example:

Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.

This is often interpreted as a euphemism, bad people having been described as dogs in a number of previous biblical passages.[6] Nonetheless, the yard signs are sometimes alluded to in reference to the passage.[7][8] The use of such signs in the Roman world may have influenced the author of the passage,[9] and conversely the passage may have influenced the wording of the more modern yard signs.[10]


Under English law, placing such a sign does not relieve the owner of responsibility for any harm which may come to people attacked by the dog.[11][12] Where a company employs the services of a guard dog, Section 1(3) of the Guard Dogs Act 1975 requires "a notice containing a warning that a guard dog is present is clearly exhibited at each entrance to the premises."[13] In many cases, security signs integrate both CCTV warnings and Guard Dog warnings into the same signage.[14]


  1. ^ R Wright, RH Logie (1988), "How young house burglars choose targets", The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 27 (2): 92–104, doi:10.1111/j.1468-2311.1988.tb00608.x
  2. ^ C Wilkinson (1998), "Deconstructing the fort", Journal of Australian Studies
  3. ^ Cheryl S. Smith (2004), The Rosetta bone, Wiley, pp. 10–11, ISBN 978-0-7645-4421-7
  4. ^ Petronius. Satyricon.
  5. ^ ◄ Philippians 3:2 ► Bible Hub
  6. ^ Why to Beware of Dogs?
  7. ^ Warning: Beware of Dogs
  8. ^ Onward & Upward: Philippians 3:12-16
  9. ^ The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament
  10. ^ Beware of dogs
  11. ^ James Paterson (1877), Commentaries on the Liberty of the Subject and the Laws of England, p. 271
  12. ^ Charles G. Addison, Horace Gray Wood (1876), A treatise on the law of torts, p. 285
  13. ^ "Guard Dogs Act 1975". Retrieved 2019-08-17.
  14. ^ "Site Security Sign". Archived from the original on 2021-07-30. Retrieved 2019-08-17.

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