A Polish diplomat gave Catherine the Great a little dog, then, by observing the little dog, he found out who was Catherine's secret lover.

In a hierarchical organization, people who are two layers above you always look nice, but the ones appointed immediately above you always betray their masters' attitudes.

I wonder if there is an English word for this role played by little dogs.


  • Clever little dog. Is there a word for this in some other language that you are aware of? – Mitch Dec 19 '15 at 18:43
  • 狗腿子 in Chinese (a dog's leg), often used to say that there is no need to hit back at the one who offended you because he is just a dog's leg. – George Chen Dec 19 '15 at 18:51
  • I'm not sure if I understand completely. Is the implication that you can judge a master by his minions? – Kit Z. Fox Dec 20 '15 at 1:18
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    I'm confused. Are you saying that 'one's lieutenants betray the leader's true intentions' is the same as 'a dog's leg/no need to retaliate against someone so unimportant'? THose don't seem comparable at all to me. Can you elaborate? – Mitch Dec 20 '15 at 4:30
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    There is a saying, "You can judge a man by the company he keeps." but that's not quite what you're looking for I think. – Jim Dec 21 '15 at 0:51

While not a noun to describe the dog itself, the idiomatic dead giveaway serves your purpose quite well:

Something that reveals a fact or an intention completely. The car in the driveway was a dead giveaway that someone was at home.

Alternatively, just giveaway can be sufficient:

Something that reveals a fact that was meant to be concealed. (Often with dead.) The way he was walking was a giveaway to the fact that he was the one who was injured.

This particularly emphasises the idea that the fact was intended to remain hidden.

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