- Activity Level: moderate
- Grooming Level: moderate
- Trainability: moderate
- Adaptability: high
- Kid/Pet Friendly: often
- Average Size: Medium
- Average Lifespan: 12-15 years
- Prey Drive: high
- Watchdog: very alert
- Registered?: aca, akc
Norwegian Elkhound Breed Profile
Did You Know?
The Norwegian Elkhound is a spitz-type dog breed. They originated in Norway several thousand years ago. They are one of the oldest dog breeds of Europe and have been found as far back as 4000-5000 B.C. Norwegian Elkhounds were used for a variety of purposes. They could be found sailing with Vikings, guarding farms, herding and protecting flocks, hauling goods, serving as a hunting dog, and just being a beloved companion.
Although it has a long history in Norway, this dog breed was rarely seen outside of the region until the 19th century when they started appearing in England. The Kennel Club, which is the official kennel club of the United Kingdom, recognized the breed in 1901. The American Kennel Club recognized the Norwegian Elkhound in 1913 and they are a member of the Hound Group. Their skills for trailing, tracking, and holding large game during a hunt are what qualifies them as a member of the Hound Group.
Although the Norwegian Elkhound is a talented working dog and hunting dog, they are also a fantastic family pet. They have a dignified look and tend to be reserved around strangers. But, their friendly nature shines through once they have been introduced.
These dogs get along well with children and other dogs. Although serious when they are working or on the hunt, they have a playful nature “off the clock”. Sensitive and loyal, these dogs love their families and tend to bond closely with them. Due to their hunting dog background, they have a high prey drive and an urge to chase. They make excellent watchdogs as they will alert you with a distinctive bark.
Norwegian Elkhounds are highly adaptable dogs. Although they will love running in a fenced-in yard common to a larger home, they also adapt well to apartment living as long as they are given enough exercise and attention. Due to their hunting background and urge to chase and wander, it’s important that your Norwegian Elkhound is only let off-leash in secure areas.
Their double coat insulates them well against the cold and makes them a great fit for colder climates. They are able to handle some heat as well, which makes them a good fit for moderate climates too. As with any dog breed, they are sensitive to the extremes and tend to be more sensitive to heat. Although they have an independent mind, they do not like being left alone for long periods of time because they tend to bond so closely with their families.
Overall, the Norwegian Elkhound is a healthy dog breed. There can be some health issues that pop up, especially in older dogs, like cancer or heart issues. However, these are common health issues that can occur in any senior dog and are not breed-specific. Hip and elbow dysplasia, kidney issues, and progressive retinal atrophy can appear in this dog breed, but have mostly been reduced through good breeding practices.
Reputable breeders will screen their breeding stock for these issues to make sure they are not being passed on to puppies, so don’t be afraid to talk to the breeder about the health and genetic history of the parents. You can also ask to see any relevant health clearances or test results, like a Patella Evaluation or Ophthalmologist Evaluation from the National Breed Club.
Although this dog breed can be a good fit for owners of any experience level, first-time dog owners will want to enroll in puppy training and obedience classes. It’s not that this dog can’t pick up on things easily because they do. They are highly intelligent and learn quickly, but, because of this, they also get bored easily and don’t tend to respond well to repetition.
Their independent nature can also provide a challenge. Even though your Norwegian Elkhound understands perfectly what you’re asking of them, they may simply choose to ignore or do something else. They’re great with simple house manners and housebreaking, but getting them to respond to other commands or perform tricks on your terms can be a challenge if they don’t see the point.
The Norwegian Elkhound has a double coat. Their top coat will shed moderately year-round and their undercoat will shed heavily twice a year as the seasons change. Although they will shed a lot during these times, their coat is still relatively low maintenance. A quick brush every day will help keep your dog comfortable and will help control the shedding during these heavier shedding sessions. They are also clean dogs that do not tend to develop that particular “dog smell”, so they only need a bath a few times a year or more often if they get dirty.
In addition to coat care, you will also need to care for your Norwegian Elkhounds nails, ears, and teeth. Monthly nail trimming is usually enough to keep nails from growing too long, but may need to happen more often if they are not wearing down as much naturally. Although floppy ears tend to be more prone to ear infections and not ears that stick up like the Norwegian Elkhounds, you will still want to check your dog’s ears weekly and carefully clean them as needed. Just taking a look to make sure they are clean, dry, free of debris, and do not have excess wax buildup can help prevent ear infections. Plus, you’ll be able to catch anything that is happening early.
You also want to practice good dental care for dogs. Just as brushing your teeth every day helps prevent dental disease for you, the same is true for your dog. Brushing their teeth or using an enzyme toothpaste daily helps prevent the tartar buildup that leads to painful dental diseases like gum disease and tooth decay. Although this is a necessary part of caring for your dog, it’s also one of the most overlooked, which is why dental disease is one of the most common health issues in dogs!
Although the Norwegian Elkhound has a working dog and hunting dog background, they only require moderate exercise to stay happy and healthy. Daily walks plus some additional activity is usually sufficient for this dog breed. But, they will definitely be up for more activity if you are!
Due to their wanderlust and prey drive, you won’t want to let them off-leash in an open area. However, they may enjoy going hiking with you, swimming, and more. They can also be good candidates for canine sports like herding or agility trials.
A fully-grown Norwegian Elkhound usually stands 19-21 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs 45-55 pounds.
The Norwegian Elkhound generally lives 12-15 years.
Because this dog breed has so much history, they show up in a lot of old Norse tales and legends. During Medieval times, the Norwegian Elkhound was known as a “dyrehund”, which roughly translates to “animal-dog”. There is even a 12th-century story about the land of Throndhjem where a Norwegian Elkhound was named king.