Norwegian Elkhound

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norwegian elkhound portrait
Ready to embark on a journey through the enchanting fjords of Norway? Meet your perfect companion, the Norwegian Elkhound! Known for their robust stamina, sharp intelligence, and unforgettable silver-grey coat, they're sure to capture your heart in a heartbeat!

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Norwegian Elkhound is a dream come true for active families and outdoor enthusiasts. Their energy, intelligence, and loyalty make them perfect for those who love hiking, camping, or simply enjoy a bustling household. However, get ready to be outsmarted occasionally – these clever canines are known for their independent thinking!

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMENorwegian Elkhound
OTHER NAMESNorsk elghund, Grå norsk elghund, Gray Norwegian Elkhound, Small Grey Elk Dog, Norwegian Moose Dog, Harmaa norjanhirvikoira
ORIGINNorway
BREED GROUPHound Group
BREED SIZEMedium
HEIGHT18-21 inches
WEIGHT50-60 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACELarge
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSHigh
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYHigh
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELHigh
POPULARITY RANK100th
norwegian elkhound in the snow
Photo: Darius Murawski/Getty Images

Appearance

Picture this: a strong, sturdy canine with a heart as big as its personality. That’s the Norwegian Elkhound for you! Standing tall at 19 to 21 inches for males and 18 to 20 inches for females, these dogs are an impressive sight. They weigh between 50 to 60 pounds, enough to make their presence felt but still manageable enough to cuddle with.

The Elkhound’s body is compact and well-muscled, built for endurance and agility. They carry themselves with an air of grace and confidence, ready to spring into action at any moment. Their tails, thickly covered in fur, curl elegantly over their backs, creating a beautiful silhouette.

Their heads are broad and wedge-shaped, with a noble expression that is both friendly and alert. The ears are medium-sized, set high on the head and always standing erect, like two sentinels keeping watch over their territory. The eyes are a warm brown, almond-shaped, and sparkle with intelligence and curiosity.

One look at an Elkhound’s face and you’ll see a dog that is eager to explore, ready for adventure, yet always attentive to its human companions. Their expression is often described as keen, reflecting their sharp intellect and quick-witted nature.

But what truly sets the Norwegian Elkhound apart is their stunning coat. It’s a dense double-layered wonder, designed to resist the harshest Norwegian winters. The topcoat is thick and hard, while the undercoat is soft, woolly, and incredibly warm. This combination gives them excellent insulation and a striking appearance.

The color of their coat is another standout feature. It’s a gorgeous silver-grey, with darker tips on the outer coat and lighter undercoat. This shading gives them a unique, almost mystical appearance, as if they’ve just emerged from a snow-laden forest.

In short, the Norwegian Elkhound is a perfect blend of strength, elegance, and rugged beauty. They’re a testament to nature’s creativity, a breed that combines functionality with aesthetics in the most wonderful way. Every feature of these dogs tells a story of their rich history and the harsh, yet beautiful, landscapes they were bred to thrive in.

norwegian elkhound on a walk outdoor
Photo: Kyle Reynolds/Getty Images

Temperament

If there’s one word to describe the Norwegian Elkhound, it’s spirited. These dogs are full of vim and vigor, with a zest for life that is infectious. They’re not just energetic, though. Beneath their playful exterior lies a loyal heart and an intelligent mind.

Norwegian Elkhounds are known for their friendly disposition. They love being around people and are known to be great with children. Their protective nature combined with their patience makes them excellent family dogs. They’re also sociable with other dogs, making them a great choice for multi-pet households.

Despite their friendly nature, Elkhounds are not pushovers. They’re independent thinkers, with a stubborn streak that can be both endearing and challenging. This trait harks back to their origins as hunting dogs, where they had to make quick decisions on their own. Today, it means they won’t blindly follow commands. Instead, they’ll consider what you’re asking before deciding whether it’s worth their while.

Don’t mistake their independence for aloofness, though. Elkhounds are incredibly devoted to their families. They form strong bonds with their humans and are happiest when they’re part of family activities. Whether it’s watching TV together or going on a family trip, your Elkhound will want to be right there with you.

Elkhounds are also known for their courage. They’re fearless dogs, ready to protect their loved ones at a moment’s notice. This bravery combined with their loud, distinctive bark makes them excellent watchdogs. They won’t hesitate to alert you if something’s amiss.

One of the most charming aspects of the Elkhound’s personality is their sense of humor. They’re known to be quite the comedians, always ready to entertain with their antics. They love to play and can turn even the most mundane activities into a game. Their expressive faces often seem to be grinning, as if they’re sharing a private joke with you.

However, beneath their jovial exterior, Elkhounds are sensitive souls. They’re attuned to the emotions of their human companions and will often mirror their feelings. If you’re feeling blue, don’t be surprised if your Elkhound comes over to offer comfort. On the other hand, if you’re excited, your Elkhound will be bouncing around with joy.

norwegian elkhound sitting on lawn
Photo: slyncher00/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

If you’re considering welcoming a Norwegian Elkhound into your life, envision a companion that thrives in a world full of activity, affection, and adventure. This breed doesn’t just exist in your environment; they actively participate and add their own unique flair to it.

Ideal Owner

First off, Elkhounds are in their element with active individuals or families. They love being part of the action, whether it’s a weekend hike, a game in the yard, or a family picnic. They’re not just spectators; they’re participants, ready to join in and make every moment count.

Finally, Elkhounds are smart dogs who appreciate smart owners. They respond best to pet parents who offer consistent training, plenty of mental challenges, and lots of love. They’re independent thinkers, so a little patience goes a long way.

Children & Other Pets

When it comes to children and other pets, Elkhounds are usually a hit. Their playful nature makes them great pals for kids, while their social tendencies often allow them to get along well with other dogs. However, their strong prey drive may lead to chasing smaller pets, so careful introductions and supervision are key.

Physical Environment

The physical environment for an Elkhound should cater to their active lifestyle. A home with a secure backyard offers a safe space for them to burn off energy. If you live in an apartment, daily exercise and mental stimulation are crucial to keep your Elkhound happy and healthy.

Climate Adaptability

Now, let’s talk climate. Hailing from Norway, these dogs are built for cold weather. Their thick double coat is like a built-in winter jacket, perfect for snowy frolics and crisp winter walks. However, this same coat can make hot climates challenging for them. If you live somewhere warm, ensure your Elkhound has constant access to shade and water, and avoid peak heat hours for exercise.

norwegian elkhound lying on the grass
Photo: TiinaKoo/Getty Images

Grooming

Grooming a Norwegian Elkhound is like having an intimate dance with nature’s masterpiece. Their dense double coat, that beautiful blend of silver-grey, requires attention but offers a unique bonding experience between you and your furry friend.

Coat Care

Elkhounds possess a thick, weather-resistant double coat that sheds moderately throughout the year, but brace yourself for their shedding season, affectionately known as ‘blowing the coat.’ During this time, usually once or twice a year, they shed their undercoat heavily. It can feel like it’s snowing fur in your home!

To manage this, regular brushing is essential. A thorough brush-down two to three times a week will keep your Elkhound looking their best and cut down on loose hair around your home. During the shedding season, daily brushing might be necessary to keep up with the fur-fall.

For this task, a slicker brush and a metal comb with both wide and narrow teeth are your best friends. The slicker brush can help remove loose hair and detangle any mats, while the comb can reach into the dense undercoat for a thorough grooming session.

Remember, grooming isn’t just about keeping your Elkhound’s coat clean. It’s also an excellent opportunity to check for any skin issues or parasites.

Bathing your Elkhound doesn’t need to be a frequent affair. These dogs are naturally clean, and their coat repels dirt. Usually, a bath every 3-4 months is enough, or whenever your dog gets particularly dirty. Use a dog-friendly shampoo to preserve the natural oils in their coat.

Dental Care

Now, let’s talk about dental hygiene. Just like us humans, Elkhounds can suffer from dental problems if their teeth aren’t looked after. Regular brushing of their teeth with canine toothpaste can help prevent tartar build-up and gum disease. Aim to brush their teeth several times a week, or daily if possible. Dental chews can also supplement your Elkhound’s dental care routine.

Nail Trimming

Don’t forget those nails! Elkhounds have sturdy nails that can grow quite quickly. Regular trims are necessary to prevent overgrowth, which can lead to discomfort or even pain. If you can hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim. If you’re uncomfortable doing it yourself, a groomer or vet can help.

Ear Care

Lastly, keep an eye on your Elkhound’s ears. They should be clean and odor-free. A gentle wipe with a vet-approved cleanser once a week can help prevent infections.

norwegian elkhound playing on the beach
Photo: Darius Murawski/Getty Images

Exercise

Get ready to lace up those sneakers and embrace the great outdoors with the Norwegian Elkhound! This breed is as energetic as they come, with an innate love for physical activity rooted in their history as hunting dogs in the rugged landscapes of Norway.

Exercise Amount & Types

An Elkhound isn’t a couch potato. They thrive on regular, vigorous exercise. A quick stroll around the block won’t cut it for this active breed. Instead, think along the lines of long walks, hikes, or jogs. A daily exercise session of at least an hour is essential to keep your Elkhound happy and healthy.

But don’t limit yourself to just walks and runs. Elkhounds are versatile and enjoy a variety of activities. Fetch, frisbee, or agility training can be great ways to burn off energy while engaging their sharp minds. These activities also offer an excellent opportunity for bonding and improve communication between you and your furry friend.

Remember, exercise isn’t just about physical fitness; it’s also crucial for your Elkhound’s mental well-being. Regular physical activity can help prevent boredom and associated behavioral issues, like destructive chewing or excessive barking.

Dog Sports

Elkhounds also excel in dog competitions. Their intelligence, agility, and trainability make them strong contenders in events such as obedience, tracking, and agility trials. Participating in these competitions can provide a fun, challenging outlet for your Elkhound’s energy and intellect.

Exercise Precautions

One thing to note is that Elkhounds have a strong prey drive. Always exercise them in a secure area or on a leash to prevent them from chasing after squirrels or other small animals. Their recall might not be reliable when they’re in pursuit mode!

norwegian elkhound sitting on snow
Photo: Rolf Johnsen/Getty Images

Training

Training a Norwegian Elkhound is like conducting a symphony. It requires patience, persistence, and a keen understanding of your canine companion. With the right approach, you’ll find these dogs are as eager to learn as they are to play.

Elkhounds are intelligent and quick to pick up new commands. However, they’re also independent thinkers with a streak of stubbornness. This combination makes them moderately easy to train, but it’s important to remember that they won’t blindly follow orders. Instead, they consider what you’re asking, and if it makes sense to them, they’ll happily comply.

Because of their independent nature, traditional training methods may not always work with Elkhounds. They respond best to positive reinforcement techniques. Praise, treats, and play can be excellent motivators for these dogs. Make training sessions fun and engaging, and your Elkhound will be more likely to participate enthusiastically.

Consistency is key when training an Elkhound. Be clear and consistent with your commands and expectations. Changing rules or commands can confuse them and make training less effective.

Remember to start training early. Puppyhood is an ideal time to begin basic obedience training and socialization. Exposing your Elkhound to a variety of people, pets, and environments can help them grow into a well-rounded adult dog.

Training should also include managing their strong prey drive. Teaching commands like “leave it” and “come” can be lifesavers, especially in outdoor settings where squirrels or other small animals might tempt your Elkhound.

The trick with Elkhounds is to make them think that following your commands was their idea all along. It’s a delicate dance, a negotiation between two partners. But once you’ve mastered it, you’ll have a loyal, well-behaved companion who’s ready to tackle any challenge with you.

So, grab some treats, put on your patience hat, and get ready to embark on an exciting training journey with your Norwegian Elkhound. It’s a journey filled with laughter, learning, and lots of love.

norwegian elkhound sitting on a deck
Photo: slyncher00/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

Feeding your Norwegian Elkhound is more than just a chore; it’s an opportunity to contribute positively to their health and well-being. With the right nutrition, your Elkhound will have the energy to explore, play, and enjoy life to the fullest. It’s not just about filling their bowl; it’s about filling their life with vitality and vigor.

What to Feed & How Much

When it comes to what to feed your Elkhound, you have several options. Dry food, wet food, or a raw diet can all work well, provided they’re balanced and nutritious. Look for foods that adhere to the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) guidelines to ensure they meet the nutritional needs of your dog.

The amount of food your Elkhound needs depends on their age, size, and activity level. Puppies usually require more frequent feedings, typically three to four times a day. Adult Elkhounds, on the other hand, can generally be fed twice a day. Always follow the feeding guidelines on your dog food packaging and adjust as needed based on your dog’s condition and activity level.

Elkhounds are an active breed, but they can be prone to obesity if overfed. Keep an eye on their weight and adjust their food intake as necessary. Your vet can help you determine an ideal weight range for your individual dog.

Treats

Treats can be a great training tool, but remember, they’re just that – treats. They should make up no more than 10% of your Elkhound’s daily caloric intake. Opt for healthy options like carrot sticks or apple slices, and always give treats in moderation.

Water

Water is a crucial part of your Elkhound’s diet, too. Make sure they always have access to fresh, clean water, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

two norwegian elkhound on sand
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

Health

The Norwegian Elkhound is a hearty breed known for its robust health and impressive lifespan of 12 to 15 years. They’re the canine equivalent of a hardy, lifelong explorer ready to brave any adventure. However, even these sturdy adventurers need some care and attention to stay in top shape.

Now, let’s dive into some of the health issues commonly associated with this breed:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit snugly into the socket. It can lead to discomfort, pain, and in severe cases, lameness.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): An eye disorder that gradually causes loss of vision, ending in blindness. Regular eye check-ups can help detect PRA early.

Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, leading to symptoms like weight gain, lethargy, and skin issues.

Pyotraumatic Dermatitis: Also known as “hot spots”, these are painful, inflamed areas of skin that can result from excessive licking or scratching.

Obesity: Elkhounds love their food! Without careful portion control and plenty of exercise, they can easily pack on the pounds.

Choose a high-quality dog food that meets the AAFCO guidelines. The right diet will depend on your Elkhound’s age, size, and activity level. And remember, treats are fun but should make up no more than 10% of their daily calories.

Schedule annual visits to the vet for a general health assessment, dental check-up, and necessary vaccinations. These regular check-ins help catch potential issues early. Also, keep your Elkhound’s vaccinations up-to-date. They’re crucial in preventing various diseases.

a group of norwegian elkhounds playing on sand
Photo: slowmotiongli/Getty Images

History

Step into the time machine, and let’s journey back to discover the fascinating history of the Norwegian Elkhound. With a rich heritage that spans thousands of years, this breed truly is a living piece of history.

The story of the Norwegian Elkhound begins in the rugged landscapes of Scandinavia. Believed to be descended from dogs that existed during the Stone Age, Elkhounds have been found in archaeological sites dating back as far as 5,000 to 6,000 BC. These resilient dogs were bred by the Vikings, who appreciated their versatility, strength, and endurance.

Originally, Elkhounds were used as hunting dogs, specifically for tracking and cornering large game, including elk (hence the name). Their keen sense of smell, combined with their stamina and agility, made them invaluable companions on these hunting expeditions. But they weren’t just hunters; Elkhounds played multiple roles, serving as watchdogs and even herders.

Fast forward to the late 19th century, when the breed first made its way to England. The Elkhounds’ unique combination of beauty, intelligence, and hardiness quickly endeared them to dog enthusiasts across the country.

The American chapter of the Elkhound’s history began in the early 20th century. The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1913, and it has steadily gained popularity ever since.

But the Elkhound’s influence extends beyond the show ring and into popular culture. The breed has made a few appearances on the silver screen, most notably in the 1957 movie “The Trollenberg Terror,” where an Elkhound named ‘Troll’ plays a crucial role.

Parent Club

The official parent club for Norwegian Elkhounds in the United States is the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America (NEAA). Founded in 1935, the NEAA is dedicated to preserving and promoting this ancient breed. The association provides a wealth of information about the breed’s history, health, training, and more. Visit their website to learn more about the NEAA or to join the club.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Norwegian Elkhound’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Acquiring

Thinking about welcoming a Norwegian Elkhound into your home? That’s exciting! First, prepare for an active and loyal companion who’ll fill your life with joy.

If you’re planning to buy, ensure you choose a reputable breeder. They should prioritize health testing and temperament, providing you with a well-socialized pup. But have you considered rescuing? There are many wonderful Elkhounds in shelters and rescue groups waiting for their forever homes.

The Norwegian Elkhound Association of America (NEAA) and the American Kennel Club (AKC) can help you find rescue organizations. By choosing to rescue, you’re giving a second chance to a deserving dog.

Whether you buy or rescue, prepare for this new chapter. Stock up on essentials like food, toys, and a comfy bed. Most importantly, be ready to give time, love, and patience as your new furry friend adjusts to their new home. Welcome to the Elkhound family!

FAQs

Is the Norwegian Elkhound a good family dog?

Absolutely! Norwegian Elkhounds are known for their loyalty, friendliness, and protective nature. They get along well with children and can be very affectionate with their families.

Is the Norwegian Elkhound a wolf hybrid?

No, the Norwegian Elkhound is not a wolf hybrid. While they may bear a slight resemblance to wolves due to their thick grey coat and sturdy build, they are a distinct breed with a lineage dating back thousands of years.

Is the Norwegian Elkhound a Husky?

While they share a similar Arctic heritage, the Norwegian Elkhound is not a Husky. They are two separate breeds, each with their unique characteristics and traits.

Why does my Norwegian Elkhound bark so much?

Elkhounds were bred as hunting dogs, using their bark to communicate with their human companions during hunts. If your Elkhound is barking excessively, it might be due to boredom, anxiety, or a lack of exercise. Regular physical activity and mental stimulation can often help reduce excessive barking.

How much exercise does a Norwegian Elkhound need?

Norwegian Elkhounds are an active breed that requires at least an hour of regular exercise to keep them healthy and happy. A couple of walks a day, combined with some playtime or other activities, should be sufficient.

Are Norwegian Elkhounds easy to train?

Elkhounds are intelligent and eager to please, which can make training easier. However, they can also be independent and stubborn at times. Consistent, positive reinforcement methods work best with this breed.

Do Norwegian Elkhounds shed a lot?

Yes, Norwegian Elkhounds are heavy shedders, especially during the spring and fall. Regular brushing can help manage their shedding and keep their coat healthy and shiny.

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