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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Norwegian Elkhound Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Norwegian Elkhound Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Norwegian Elkhound_Piqsels   

The bold, playful, strong-willed Norwegian Elkhound is a beautiful dog breed that is native to Norway. Originally bred for hunting large game and herding and protecting flocks of livestock; this sturdy dog is built for cold temperatures and rough terrain.

The Norwegian Elkhound is a hardy, medium-sized dog that weighs between 45 and 55 pounds and stands 19 to 21 inches in height. When they are born, puppies will have black coats but as they develop, they will turn gray and silver with black tips on the outer coat while maintaining a light undercoat. They have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years and are generally healthy.

Breed Overview


19-21 inches


45-55 pounds


12-15 years


Gray, silver

Suitable for:

Active families, outdoorsmen


Loyal, strong-willed, playful, bold, affectionate

Norwegian Elkhounds are affectionate and loyal with their owners but may be aloof with others. This breed will have a drive for adventure and need an active, outdoorsy family that can stimulate them both physically and mentally.

Norwegian Elkhound Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.


Norwegian Elkhound Puppies

Bringing home a new dog is a serious commitment. You need to ensure you are prepared for the financial commitment and have the time and patience to take proper care of a dog. Finding the right dog for your lifestyle is essential. Different dog breeds have different characteristics that may not be compatible with all owners.

Norwegian Elkhounds are made for the cold, rugged outdoors of Norway and will be happiest in the colder climates they are naturally built for. Those living in warmer climates need to keep this in mind and ensure they have a cool environment and are not overexposed to excessive heat.

These dogs are very independent, bold, and strong-willed. They are not the easiest to train and may not be the best choice for novice dog owners. They also need a lot of exercises and would work best with an active outdoorsy owner or family.

Norwegian Elkhounds are not well-suited for apartment living due to their activity needs and barking tendencies. They do make excellent watchdogs, as they remain on high alert and can be territorial.

Norwegian Elkhound_Shutterstock_Maxim_ka
Image By: Maxim_ka, Shutterstock

Temperament & Intelligence of the Norwegian Elkhound

The Norwegian Elkhound is of high intelligence. This dog is so independent that they will learn to think and make decisions for themselves, even at the opposition of their owners. These dogs form tight bonds with their people and are very loyal and affectionate with their families.

They tend to be more aloof and wary of strangers, and even a bit territorial. They do make great watchdogs for this reason. Their hunting background has them more prone to barking than some other breeds.

These dogs are strong-willed, bold, and fearless. Their rugged independence makes them very difficult to train despite their intelligence. They are not the breed for everyone and should be trained beginning in puppyhood to have the most well-rounded dog.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Since this is an independent hunting breed, they aren’t typically the first choice for a family pet. That doesn’t mean they cannot make wonderful family members though. Norwegian Elkhounds can do well with children and can be very loyal and affectionate dogs. Due to their energy levels and independent nature, they may do best in a home with older children.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Norwegian Elkhounds typically get along well with other family pets if raised with them from puppyhood. They are a hunting breed so they may have the drive to chase, especially house cats. Aggression with other dogs of the same sex is the most common issue they have with other animals. With proper socialization, training, and even spaying or neutering, this behavior can be prevented

divider-multiprint Things to Know When Owning a Norwegian Elkhound:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

As with any dog, the Norwegian Elkhound is going to require high-quality dog food that is suitable for their age, weight, and activity level. High protein is key for these high-energy and active dogs. Make sure to discuss proper dietary needs directly with your veterinarian to come up with a great nutrition plan so that you have a happy, healthy dog.

Exercise 🐕

These Norway natives are built to hunt. Being that they were bred to track and hunt moose and other large game they have a lot of endurance. Norwegian Elkhounds typically tracked game far ahead of the hunters, their independent and adventurous nature makes their exercise requirements intense. It’s best not to let these dogs off-leash to exercise unless in a fully fenced yard, as they do prefer to wander.

Generally, it is best to provide your Norwegian Elkhound with at least 60 minutes of exercise daily. This is a great dog for hiking trails and rigorous activity. They are built for the cold weather conditions in Norway, so it is best to be wary of extreme heat.

Training 🎾

The Norwegian Elkhound is an intelligent breed that learns quickly. They are very independent and strong-willed as well, so they do need a firm and consistent leader. You may have trouble in training, as you may be met with some resistance.

Norwegian Elkhounds are notorious leash-pullers so training your puppy from an early age to be well-behaved on the leash will help tremendously in the long run. They are very strong as adults and the training can be more challenging as they age.

Keeping this breed stimulated and using positive reinforcement during training is key. They typically do better with short, exciting training sessions and can become bored easily with redundancy.

Grooming ✂️

If you are looking for a low-shedding dog, this breed is not the fit for you. These dogs are winterized all year round and come complete with a topcoat and dense undercoat. During certain seasons, these dogs will shed immensely but you can expect to always find hair around the house.

Keeping up with regular brushing and having a good quality vacuum is key for Norwegian Elkhound owners. In addition to coat maintenance, you will want to check their ears and ensure they are clean and free of debris and maintain their nails with regular trimming.

Health and Conditions 🏥

With an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, the Norwegian Elkhound is an overall healthy breed. They are prone to developing health conditions in their old age. Conditions they can suffer from include skin cysts, eye conditions, kidney disease, hypothyroidism, and hip dysplasia.

Finding a reputable breeder that has health testing done on their dogs is key to bringing home the healthiest individual. Good breeders will strive to breed out any health ailments in their bloodlines and put health as their top priority.

Minor Conditions
  • Eye Conditions
  • Skin Cysts
Serious Conditions
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Kidney Disease

Male vs Female

Male Norwegian Elkhounds are generally taller and weigh more than females. They tend to reach a height of about 20 to 20.5 inches, while females usually max out at about 19.5 inches tall.

Males tend to weigh in upwards of 50 pounds, typically reaching closer to 55 and females generally remain between 45 and 49 pounds.

As with any dog, females are more costly to spay due to the complexity of the surgery. It is recommended for both health and behavioral benefits that if you do not plan on breeding your Norwegian Elkhound, they should be spayed or neutered. This is something that needs to be discussed directly with your dog’s veterinarian.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Norwegian Elkhound

1. They Are a Recognized Breed

They were officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1913.

2. They Have History with the Vikings

Norwegian Elkhounds are estimated to have a history that dates to 5,000 B.C. Archeologists have even found skeletons resembling the Norwegian Elkhound buried next to Viking remains and their weapons.

3. Their Hunting Abilities Go Beyond Elk and Moose

Norweigan Elkhounds are most famous for hunting down elk and moose but have even been used to hunt badgers, lynx, mountain lions, bears, wolves, caribou, and rabbits. They are versatile and have also taken on roles as guard dogs and herding dogs.

divider-paw Conclusion

The bold, strong-willed, and independent Norwegian Elkhound is a hunting dog that can be dated back to as early as 5,000 BC. These hardy dogs bond closely with their people and remain loyal, affectionate, and protective of them.

While they are very intelligent, their independence gets in the way of training. This dog is quite a challenge to train and will require a more experienced handler. They are built for the rugged cold outdoor terrain of their native land, Norway.

These dogs can make companions to owners who enjoy strenuous outdoor activity and can provide them with the regular exercise they need.

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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