I was reading Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, and the following sentence came up in Chapter 5.

If your dog is running the roost, it may not be such a good idea.

What does "running the roost" mean?

  • 2
    It should be "RULING the roost," not running it. To rule the roost means to wear the pants or to be in charge. Jun 17, 2019 at 1:21
  • I suspect it's a sort of pun on "ruling the roost" and, perhaps "running the show", or some "run of the ..." idiom. I'm vaguely remembering an idiom along the lines of "running the yard" or some such, applied to dogs.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 17, 2019 at 1:41

1 Answer 1


I believe looking at the sentence in context, that this idiom has the same meaning as "rule the roost"

rule the roost

To be the real boss; to be the person in charge.

You just need to accept that your daughter is going to rule the roost for most of her childhood.

For all intents and purposes, it's the assistant manager who rules the roost.

In the sentence you provide it would imply that the dog's owner could not control the dog enough, therefore the dog was in control of them. A "roost" typically refers to a place where birds sleep and in this case refers to "the home."

"Ruling" and "running" can have similar meanings. To me "rule the roost" sounds more idiomatic because of the repeating of "oo" sound. Also at first I thought running the roost might mean the dog was "running [away from] the roost," but that does not seem correct.

  • 1
    In the sense of "rule the roost", "roost" refers to the high spot on the roof of the chicken coop where the rooster stands to crow. If there are two roosters in the yard, competing to be "ruler", the one that can command this roost wins.
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 17, 2019 at 2:14
  • (It's amusing to watch a rooster and a tom turkey in the same yard. The rooster will make more noise, but he's clearly intimidated by the tom.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 17, 2019 at 2:16

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