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Nodding Dogs

8 Conversations

Some nodding dogs.

The thought process seems to go like this...

I have a car.
Many people have the same car as me.
My car is boring but I am quirky and interesting.
I will decorate my car.
My car will be as individual as me.
I will buy a nodding dog.


These odd creations serve little purpose other than to sit on the parcel shelf of a car and amuse or annoy the occupants of the vehicle behind while stuck in traffic. The word 'nod' is slightly misleading as the dog's head will exhibit a full range of twisting and shaking motions as well as nodding and occasionally falling off.


Originating in Germany, so legend goes, they usually consist of a hollow plastic body and separate hollow plastic head. The head is counterbalanced with a metal weight, normally a steel bolt that can be screwed in or out, so the head remains level when hung from the hook at the centre of the back of the neck. The hook passes through a loop at the top of an opening into the hollow body which is hopefully at an appropriate place for a head to join a body, but not always. Despite the American version of the name they are not related to the bobbing head dolls popular in Japan and the United States, which have a hollow head resting on a long neck stud protruding from the body section.

Operating Instructions

Place the 'dog' on the parcel shelf, or other convenient location, in a car. The changes in direction and velocity of the car in which the nodding dog is placed causes the head to oscillate at varying frequencies and in a variety of directions, producing the so-called 'nodding' effect.

The placement of the dog need not be restricted to a car or other motor vehicle but if it's situated on a windowsill or table it will need to be poked, prodded or flicked in order for one to experience the full nodding action.


Normally covered with coloured flock1 Most of the decorative markings are traditional. The Dalmatian puppy, for example, will nearly always have the spots in the same place regardless of manufacturer. Most are undoubtedly ugly while some have a distinctly deformed appearance. This apparently adds to their charm.


Probably the first of a long line of fun car decorations, for some reason shunned by the furry dice brigade for being naff. They were unfortunately followed by a spate of Stick-on-Garfields, a stuffed toy version of a cartoon cat, designed to be fixed with suction pads to the window of a car for the same purpose as the nodding dogs but without the nodding. Things went further down hill with the production of a figure of a man designed to amuse or cause offence when a remote control was operated and the said figure dropped its trousers and exposed its buttocks.

International Nodding Dogs

  • English: Nodding dog

  • German: Wackelhund, Nickenderhund (but Schwankenkopf is nicer)

  • Spanish: Perro aprobador

  • French: Chien qui agite la tĂȘte

  • American: Bobbing head dogs (or Dog with the bobbing head)

1Flock is powdered wool or cloth, also used in the production of some wallpapers.

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