Do You Know What the Canine Hip Nudge Behavior Means?

The hip nudge functions as a pacifying behavior. It signals friendliness.

The hip nudge functions as a pacifying behavior. It signals friendliness (illustration by Alice Rasmussen from “Dog Language” by Roger Abrantes).

Dog owners often think their dogs are pushy or impolite when they turn their backs to them, sometimes even pushing them. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

A hip nudge is a behavior a dog shows when it nudges another with its hip or rear end. Dogs often use this sort of behavior towards people, typically during greeting ceremonies when we show the dog passive friendliness by crouching down to it. The dog will then walk towards us, turn round and either nudge us gently with its hip or rear end, or stand passively with its back turned to us.

This dog shows a half hip nudge.

This dog shows a half hip nudge, still a sign of friendliness. Both human and dog are relaxed and show their peaceful intentions and that they trust one another (photo by Lisa Jernigan Bain).

The hip nudge functions as a pacifying behavior. It signals friendliness. By turning its back to us, the dog shows that it doesn’t intend to attack—it turns its teeth away. At the same time, it shows that it trusts us.

Dogs use the same behavior though modified, during mating rituals where the male nudges the female.

I described this behavior first in the original edition of my book “Dog Language” in 1987 after having spent several years observing, photographing and filming the behavior of dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), wolves (Canis lupus lupus) and foxes (Vulpes vulpes).

Between dog and wolf, there are only small differences, which we can almost characterize as dialects. The fox is a different story, although displaying many behaviors common to the other two, probably because it is not as social as its cousins.

 

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Author: Roger Abrantes

Born in Portugal, a citizen of the World. Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology, B.A. in Philosophy. Speaks seven languages. Present work: lecturing on Ethology and sailing and diving in Thailand (marine biology environmental management).