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The Norwegian Elkhound is a medium to large purebred from an ancient line of North Spitz type dogs. There are ancient Viking burial grounds that have Elkhound remains in them. It was bred to be a hunter and acted as a guardian, defender, and herder too. As its name indicates it was used to hunt elk and moose as well as other large game like wolves and bears. It is the national dog of Norway and is a hardy dog able to handle Norway’s low temperatures and difficult terrain. Today it is more often kept as a companion and is known for its sense of humor, energy and protectiveness.
|The Norwegian Elkhound at A Glance|
|Other names||Norsk Elghund Grå, Norsk Elghund Sor|
|Average size||Medium to large|
|Average weight||40 to 60 pounds|
|Average height||18 to 21 inches|
|Life span||12 to 15 years|
|Coat type||Thick, dense, wooly|
|Color||Grey, silver, white, black|
|Popularity||Somewhat popular – ranked 88th by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Above average – quite a smart breed|
|Tolerance to heat||Good – can handle some warmth but nothing too hot or extreme|
|Tolerance to cold||Excellent – can even handle extreme cold climates|
|Shedding||Frequent and seasonal – this is a heavy shedder|
|Drooling||Low – not a breed known for drool or slobber|
|Obesity||Fairly high – can be prone to weight gain so measure its food and make sure it gets daily exercise|
|Grooming/brushing||Brush daily – this can help reduce shedding|
|Barking||Frequent – known to bark a lot and has a high pitched bark|
|Exercise needs||Very high – needs a lot of daily exercise so active owners is a must|
|Trainability||Moderately hard – needs owners with experience|
|Friendliness||Very good with socialization|
|Good first dog||Good but best with experienced owners|
|Good family pet||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with children||Very good with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Very good with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Good with socialization though can have high prey drive|
|Good with strangers||Very good with socialization|
|Good apartment dog||Good – can adapt but a home with a yard would be more ideal|
|Handles alone time well||Moderate – prefers to have company|
|Health issues||A healthy breed – some issues can include eye problems, kidney problems and cysts|
|Medical expenses||$460 a year for basic care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$215 a year for a license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous items|
|Average annual expenses||$820 a year as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$650 – $2500 (prices for this breed range quite widely)|
|Rescue organizations||Several including Norwegian Elkhound Association of America, Norwegian Elkhound Rescue and the Norwegian Elkhound Club of the Potomac Valley Rescue|
|Biting Statistics||Attacks doing bodily harm: 1 Maimings: 1 Child Victims: 0 Deaths: 0|
The Norwegian Elkhound’s Beginnings
The Norwegian Elkhound is thousands of years old and comes from Scandinavia. A skeleton of a dog very similar was found and has been dated to 4000 to 5000BC. When humans were living in caves and using slingshots to hunt with, the Elkhound’s ancestor was around. It was used by Vikings too later on as a guard dog and hunting dog. It was capable of helping to hunt large and small prey, moose, bear, elk, wolves, mountain lions to rabbits, deer, and badger. Its role was to track down the prey and hold it and bark to let the hunters know where it was so they could come and take it down. It was bred to have a lot of stamina and would jump around the prey and bark to keep it there.
Its name in Norwegian is ‘elghund’ which translates to moose dog not elk hound! In 1877 it was first shown in dog shows in Norway and has been a common fixture for hundreds of years. Interest was re-ignited after the dog shows by the Norwegian Hunters Association and breeders started to look at establishing a breed standard.
New Lease on Life
In the US it was recognized in 1913 by the AKC and in 1923 by the British Kennel Club. Interestingly it is also good as a sled dog and the Norwegian Defense Minister still can call in all Elkhounds in times of war. The Black Norwegian Elkhound is related to the this dog but they are classed as separate breeds.
The Norwegian Elkhound became a family dog but also does well today in areas such as tracking, flyball, agility, conformation, herding, search and rescue, obedience, freestyle, guarding and sledding. It is currently ranked 88th most popular registered breed by the AKC.
The Dog You See Today
Norwegian Elkhounds are medium to large dogs weighing 40 to 60 pounds and standing 18 to 21 inches tall. It is a sturdy dog with a squared build and short body. It has a strong and straight back, a wide and deep chest and a tail set high that is held over its back and is tightly curled. When looking at the legs from the front they look straight and it has small oval shaped paws. On the front legs are dewclaws but not on the back. Its double coat is weather-resistant, dense and wooly and also hard, short and thick. Typical colors are grey, black, white and silver.
Its head is wedge shaped and is broader at the ears. It has a muzzle that starts thick and then tapers but does not become pointed. Its eyes are oval shaped, medium and dark brown. Its ears are high on the head.
The Inner Norwegian Elkhound
Owners with not much experience could have a Norwegian Elkhound without too much trouble if you are prepared to do some homework, but experience does help with this independent, bold, energetic and enthusiastic breed. It is known for having a mind of its own but in the right hands it is a great family dog, it is very friendly and affectionate, loyal and trustworthy. Some are more reserved around strangers though.
This is an alert breed so it makes a great watchdog that will let you know if an intruder is trying to get in. It is also a good guard dog so it can be protective and will act to defend you. However it is a barker, it comes from a background of barking constantly to let its humans know where prey is. You will likely need to train it to control that somewhat though it will not be a completely silent dog ever. It bonds very closely with its owners and it will need quite a lot of attention to keep it happy. It will not be happy being left alone for long periods and can suffer from separation anxiety.
It is quite intelligent and has quite a playful and boisterous nature. But it can also be quite a dignified dog and is confident and controlled. Some will need to be trained not to jump up in greeting when you come home or when there are visitors. This is not a dog that is all that interested in toys, it might play with a ball for example but is not always going to bring it back to you!
Living with a Norwegian Elkhound
What will training look like?
Training the Norwegian Elkhound can be difficult as while it is intelligent it is also headstrong, obstinate and independent. It will try to out think you or do things the way it wants to. For people with little experience it is hard to train and thing will be a gradual slow process. For those with more experience they are easier to deal with. Remember they are more than capable, they just want to be the boss. It is very important that you establish yourself as pack leader and that when it tests you, as it will often, that you remain firm and in control. Be consistent and clear that you mean what you have said to it.
If it deems there is no point to what you are asking it will try to avoid it. Find a way to motivate it, treats are often a good start. When you have established a strong bond between you, you will have a great partnership. Also make sure you socialize it early on. Ensure it has exposure to lots of different places, people, animals and so on. It will then grow to be a well rounded dog and one you can trust and rely on.
How active is the Norwegian Elkhound?
The breed is active so it will do best with active owners. It should have acess to a yard ideally one that is large and it will need to taken out for a couple of long brisk walks a day. It would also do well going on a jog with you, hiking, running alongside you on a bike and so on. A minimum of an hour a day to keep it happy and healthy is a must, some may need more. You should make sure it is kept on a leash though as it likes to roam and if it catches a scent it will go after it. It will enjoy opportunities to play hard too, going to places like a dog park where it can play, run free safely and socialize. Norwegian Elkhounds up to two years old are more energetic and boisterous. It is important it is exercised enough and played with enough as otherwise it gets bored and destructive.
Caring for the Norwegian Elkhound
There is a moderate to high amount of grooming and care of the Norwegian Elkhound as it does shed frequently and more during seasonal times. Daily brushing may be needed, as well as regular vacuuming around the home. If you are not prepared to have dog hair on the clothing and furnishings this is not the breed for you. Use a rubber brush and comb when the shedding is seasonally heavier and only bathe it when it really needs one. Bathing too often will damage its natural oils otherwise and lead to skin problems. Thankfully this is a dog that likes to be clean and its coat expels debris effectively.
Other needs include brushing its teeth at least three times a week, checking and cleaning its ears once a week and keeping its nails trimmed when they get too long. Make sure that the nails are done by someone with knowledge and experience as there are blood vessels in them and if you cut too low it will hurt the dog and cause bleeding.
How much an adult dog needs to eat depends on its size, age, metabolism, activity level and build. For a Norwegian Elkhound this amount could be between 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day split into two meals. This is a dog that likes it food, will try to beg for scraps and will overeat if allowed to. Make sure its food and treats are monitored and that it gets enough exercise.
How is the Norwegian Elkhound with children and other animals?
Elkhounds are good with children with socialization, they love to play and be energetic so they tend to make great play buddies and enjoy getting up to mischief together. Because of that boisterousness they can knock over smaller children so supervision of toddlers is still needed. When it comes to other animals they are usually accepting when raised with them and with socialization. However strange small animals are seen more as prey to be chased. Key to how they get on with others is making sure they known their place, otherwise they can be over protective and dominant. For this reason they can be aggressive with dogs that are the same sex so make sure it is well monitored when around other strange dogs at dog parks for example.
What Might Go Wrong?
The Norwegian Elkhound has a life span of about 12 to 15 years. It is generally quite a healthy breed though it can have problems with its kidneys, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, eyes and cysts. Also remember it is a breed that is prone to weight gain so make sure it is not overfed and that it gets the level of exercise it needs to be healthy.
When looking at reports of dog attacks against people over the last 34 years, in the US and Canada, the Norwegian Elkhound is named in just one incident. The victim was maimed so, there was permanent scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement, and it was an adult. There are no deaths reported. This makes this a breed very unlikely to be aggressive towards people and one people do not need to be more cautious with. However this can be a dog aggressive breed which is why training and socialization are so important. Also keep in mind any dog can snap or have an off day regardless of its size or breed. Ways to improve its trustworthiness are to see it is trained and socialized, well raised, given the attention it needs and the activity and stimulation it needs.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
This breed has quite a wide range of prices from $550 to $2500 depending on where you buy it from and what is included with the dog. Avoid puppies from pet stores or backyard breeders and puppy mills. Often the animals are of poorer quality and they are also often mistreating them. A dog from a rescue or shelter will be less, around $50 to $400 and that should include medical needs taken care of too. While it is possible it will be an adult rather than a puppy you get the pleasure of giving a dog a new forever home. An Elkhound of show quality from top show dog breeders is going to be even more than that top end price and could go into the several thousands.
Once you have done your homework and found a good place to buy from you need to prepare for some initial costs alongside the actual price of the dog. If they have not been done by the breeder or shelter there are medical needs like a physical check up, blood tests, deworming, spaying or neutering, micro chipping and vaccinations. These will cost about $270. You will also need some things for your home like a crate, collar and leash, bowls and carrier. These will be another $200.
Other cost factors to consider are the annual ones like basic medical care, food, and other miscellaneous needs. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats for this size dog will be around $145 a year. You can pay less with a lower quality product but that is not good for the dog’s health. There are of course top of the range dog foods that will cost a lot more too. Basic health care like shots, flea and tick prevention and vet check ups along with pet insurance in case of emergencies will cost about $460 a year. Other costs like basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items will be another $215 a year at least. This gives an annual starting figure of $820.
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The Norwegian Elkhound has a lot of spirit and character and if you want a yes dog this is not the breed for you. It has its own mind which can make training harder than some dogs despite the fact it is an intelligent dog. With socialization it is a great family dog for an active family who are happy to spend at least an hour a day briskly exercising it.
This is not a dog to be left alone for long hours every day, it needs a lot of attention and your company. With the right people it will be extremely devoted, protective, affectionate and responsive. Be prepared it will be inclined to jump enthusiastically to greet and it barks often, with a bark some find unbearable! These traits can be controlled with training but will not be completely vanquished. Also be prepared for dog hair around the home especially during its seasonal shedding times.
Featured Image Credit: Maxim_ka, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.
- The Norwegian Elkhound’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Norwegian Elkhound
- Living with a Norwegian Elkhound
- Caring for the Norwegian Elkhound
- How is the Norwegian Elkhound with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag