I can't seem to retrieve an expression I read, that effectively meant “look at the bigger picture and don't be distracted by the details”.

It had to do with a (dog?) tail (that acted as the distraction), something like:

Don't loose the dog for the tail

The original context* was about ISAs, and non tax-exempt investments. And the bottom line was: (once you have maxed out your ISA) don't be put off by taxed investments (because of the sheer fact they are taxed), as you will still be winning at the end of the day.

Does an actual English expression matching this description exist?

* The following is not meant to be a financial advice, but simply providing context for my question. Your mileage may vary!

  • 2
    I wouldn't be surprised if such an idiom exists in another language or perhaps in an English regional usage that I'm unfamiliar with. The idea of "don't form opinions based on small parts but rather on the whole" has been used with a metaphor of body parts vs the whole body before. Feb 1, 2022 at 17:22

2 Answers 2


Can't see the wood for the trees is what comes to my mind.

I don't recognise that expression you quoted: it looks to me like a half-remembered version of the idiom the tail wagging the dog, which has a rather different meaning.

  • Thank you for your answer that led me to the solution!
    – ebosi
    Feb 1, 2022 at 19:47

Thanks to Colin's answer and further searching, I believe that the expression I failed to remember was:

Don’t let the tax tail wag the investment dog

which is simply a contextualized variant of the idiom the tail wagging the dog as Colin found.

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    Just to clarify, although "don't let details obscure the big picture" is a reasonable guess, the primary meaning of this idiom is more like "Don't let minor things tell important things what to do." Feb 1, 2022 at 19:53
  • @AndyBonner You're totally correct — it's me who remembered the meaning (and expression) incorrectly.
    – ebosi
    Feb 1, 2022 at 20:27

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