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Why People Love Nodding Dogs for Their Cars

Louise Kirkpatrick owns a driving school in the East Midlands region of England.

A typical pair of nodding dogs

A typical pair of nodding dogs

Nodding dogs are everyone's favourite car accessory, endlessly agreeing with road users from parcel shelves and dashboards the world over!

In the UK we call them nodding dogs, in the USA they call them bobbing head dogs or bobblehead dogs. I've also heard of them called dashboard dogs, and in Germany they're known as wackelhunds or wackeldackels!

This page is an affectionate look at nodding dogs, including how they're made and featuring some famous nodding dogs.

Why I Like Nodding Dogs

My first encounter with nodding dogs was when I was a small child. My aunt's family went on holiday to Spain and bought me back a souvenir of their trip.

I was mystified to receive two small wicker baskets, one containing a small Dalmatian dog, the other containing a grey donkey. I remember thinking "Wow, they've got big heads".

"Look what they do!" said my uncle swiping at both of them, setting their gigantic heads wobbling like mad, "Isn't that great?"

Being very small and not yet jaded by the world and itss woes, I was somewhat charmed by this phenomenon of interactivity and spent the rest of the evening making the dog and the donkey compete with each other in "whose head can keep nodding the longest" contests.

I don't know what happened to Dog and Donkey, I remember them gracing the mantelpiece in the living room for ages, but then I guess I grew up and didn't care about them any more and I imagine my Mother chucked them away probably breathing a sigh of relief as she did so.

I liked both Dog and Donkey, but I liked Dog best!

Having been introduced to the kitsch wonderfulness of nodding animals at such a young age, I still retain an affection for them and smile benevolently whenever I find myself behind a vehicle with a nodding dog doing its thing. They do it so solemnly and with such diligence, they deserve my admiration.

Nodding Dogs FAQs

What are nodding dogs made of?

  • Nodding dogs are usually made of plastic or plastic covered in flock (flock is finely powdered wool, cloth, etc used for producing a velvetlike substance used to coat paper, metal or plastic e.g. flock wallpaper).

What makes nodding dogs nod?

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  • Nodding dogs come in two parts which hook together - a head and a separate hollow body section. The head of a nodding dog usually has a metal bolt screwed into the bottom of it's neck which is attached via a small hook onto a metal loop fixed on the middle of the "shoulder" area of it's body section. The metal bolt acts as a counterbalance and allows the head to move around freely, nodding and wobbling as appropriate.

What is the purpose of nodding dogs?

  • The purpose of nodding dogs is to wobble their heads around and thus amuse people.

What is the natural habitat of a nodding dog?

  • Nodding dogs are happiest when placed on the parcel shelf or dashboard of a vehicle. In such positions, the movement of the aforementioned vehicle allows free and liberal expression of the full range of mock canine head motion for the amusement and delight of all.
  • If a vehicle is not available, a nodding dog can be placed on any suitable surface, but in order for a nodding motion to occur, manual force must be applied to the head area to avoid disappointment and complaints of "this dog doesn't nod".

Famous Nodding Dogs

Churchill Insurance Dog

The most famous nodding dog in the world must surely be the Churchill car insurance dog!

The Churchill Insurance Company held a staff competition in 1994 to suggest a promotional mascot for the company to differentiate it from perceived associations with the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. The suggestion of a bulldog was accepted and at first a real bulldog was used, but this was later replaced in 1996, by the now nationally famous and well loved computer animated Churchill nodding dog!

Churchill is voiced by comedian, Bob Mortimer and his catchphrase "Oh Yes!!!!" is believed to be based on the school janitor character played by actor Deryck Guyler in the 1970s TV series Please Sir.

"Nodding Buster" From the Paul O'Grady Show

"Nodding Buster" was based on Paul O'Grady's own much loved dog who died in 2009.

A few years after the Churchill dog became a megastar, "Buster" became famous. He was a nodding version of Paul O'Grady's own pet Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise cross, Buster, who was a regular on his shows: The Big Breakfast, Lily Savage/Lily Live and The Paul O'Grady Show on Channel 4.

The "Nodding Busters" started off by being given away as prizes on the show, but some were donated to raise money for charity. As far as I know, Nodding Busters were not available to buy commercially, but some Nodding Busters do come up for sale on eBay via private sellers, and due to their comparative rarity are considered quite collectible!

Origami Nodding Dog

Watch, learn, then make your own origami nodding dog!

Are you a Nodding Dog fan?

© 2008 LouiseKirkpatrick

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