If You Sleep With Dogs, You Wake Up With Fleas

Item (direct transcription):

If you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas.

Background Information:

The informant learned the proverb from her father.

To her, the proverb means that even if you’re “clean,” when you “consort, make friends, do business with, or associate with people who are doing things that you don’t want on you, it will end up on you. Then you could get punished for their acts.”

Contextual Information:

The informant says she would use this proverb to warn someone against associating with someone of questionable character.


This saying meets all four of the canonical criteria for a proverb. It is (1) short, (2) fixed-phrase, (3) rhetorical, and (4) metaphorical.

Another version of this proverb was recorded by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanac as “He that lieth down with dogs shall rise up with fleas.” This provides a terminus ante quem of 1758 for the proverb.