This post is simply to clear up the definition of the terms, Hocks, and Hackles. They are not interchangeable yet used incorrectly quite often.


The hock connects the talus and calcaneus bones of the paw with the tibia and fibula bones in the shin. The hock is also called the tarsal joint in a dog. On a human, it would be the ankle.

You can easily identify the hocks on a dog by the sharp angle on the back legs. The hocks are usually very prominent on a German Shepherd.

The confusion between hocks and hackles may be the use of the expression “when a dog sits with his hocks up” meaning that the dog is not sitting properly. When your dog sits, his hocks should be on the ground. Your dog can be overly anxious and experiencing an impulse to get up or may have a medical reason causing pain and discomfort and needs to be seen by a veterinarian.




Hackles raised on a wolf

Hackles are the hairs along the backbone, from the neck to the tail. The involuntary raise of these hairs is a piloerection function. All breeds can raise their hackles, but of course, it’s more apparent in some breeds and not in others.



Hackles raised on a dog


Raising hackles is a physical reaction to an emotional response. Often considered to be a sign of aggressive behavior, that is not true.  This is an involuntary reflex triggered by anxiety, excitement, or fear. When a dog raises his hackles, this is not considered a behavior.






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