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The Norwegian Lundehund is a small purebred from Norway also called the Puffin Dog, the Norsk Lundehund or the Norwegian Puffin Dog. It is one of the rarest breeds of dog. Its name comes from what it was bred to do. Lunde means Puffin and hund meaning dog. It was developed with six toes per foot to climb steep and treacherous rocky cliffs to hunt puffins and puffin eggs. Today they are no longer used as such as Puffins are now a protected species. They are good family dogs though and do well in show rings in things like agility, obedience and conformation.
|The Norwegian Lundehund at A Glance|
|Other names||Norsk Lundehund, Norwegian Puffin Dog|
|Average weight||13 to 20 pounds|
|Average height||12 to 15 inches|
|Life span||12 to 15 years|
|Coat type||Double, short, thick, smooth, dense, rough|
|Color||Black, grey, white, yellow, red, sable|
|Popularity||Not popular – ranked 188th by the AKC|
|Intelligence||Excellent – very intelligent breed|
|Tolerance to heat||Good – can handle warm to hot climates but nothing too hot or extreme|
|Tolerance to cold||Excellent – can handle even extreme cold climates|
|Shedding||Constant – high amount of hair will be around the home|
|Drooling||Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool|
|Obesity||Average – not especially prone to weight gain but if over fed and under exercised it can happen|
|Grooming/brushing||Moderate – daily brushing will help control the hair around the home|
|Barking||Frequent – training it to stop on command will be needed|
|Exercise needs||Very active – will need plenty of opportunities for activity|
|Trainability||Moderately difficult – experience will help greatly here|
|Friendliness||Excellent with socialization|
|Good first dog||Low – needs to be with experienced owners|
|Good family pet||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with children||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with other dogs||Excellent with socialization|
|Good with other pets||Very good with socialization|
|Good with strangers||Excellent with socialization|
|Good apartment dog||Low – needs access to a yard and room indoors|
|Handles alone time well||Moderate – does not like to be left alone for long periods|
|Health issues||Quite a healthy breed, a few concerns which include gastroenteropathy, Lundehund Syndrome and cancer|
|Medical expenses||$435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance|
|Food expenses||$75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats|
|Miscellaneous expenses||$195 a year for basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items|
|Average annual expenses||$705 as a starting figure|
|Cost to purchase||$2,000|
|Rescue organizations||Several including Norwegian Buhund Rescue, Norwegian Lundehund Club of America, Inc|
|Biting Statistics||None reported|
The Norwegian Lundehund’s Beginnings
The Norwegian Lundehund is a member of the Spitz type dog family and comes from Northern Norway. It is an ancient breed developed around the 1500s and was developed on arctic islands off the western and northern coasts. This was where Puffins lived and the dog was bred to hunt fledgling Puffin. Puffins live on high rocky cliffs so the dog was developed to be able to handle that terrain. It needed to be sure footed, agile, confident, focused, tenacious and have excellent tracking skills as it took on the steep cliffs and dangerous subterranean tunnels. There was a brief window when parents stopped protecting their young but they were not yet able to fly. Hunters and their dogs took advantage of that time.
For hundreds of years it was used in this role, Lundehund could bring back 20 or more Puffin fledglings in one night. Hunters usually had two or three dogs so a catch would be over 60 birds sometimes even as many as 300 a night with dogs who were in top form. The Nordic people used the puffin feathers for bedding and pillow stuffing, ate the meat or cured it and then fed the remains to their dogs. Entering the difficult winter months a village would have at least three or four barrels of preserved Puffins. But in the 1800s Puffins became a protected species and it was no longer legal to hunt them. This breed’s skill set had been very specific and now they were no use to farmers in the area so numbers of the breed dropped dramatically. In remote areas some survived and remained pure as they were not crossed with other dog breeds. But it was a breed at risk of extinction still.
In the early 20th century a great dog enthusiast Sigurd Skaun came across articles talking about a Nordic dog that was once used to hunt Puffin on two islands, Lovunden and Vaeroy. He was intrigued and was curious about whether that dog was still around and started an investigation. None were left on Lovunden but a ferry postmaster from Vaeroy reported that there were still some there. Skaun published an article on the dog and sent a request to the Norwegian Kennel Club to give the dog recognition but it refused. At the time many assumed the Lundehund was the same as the Buhund so that may be why.
Then in the 1930s another Norwegian dog fancier called Eleanor Christie read the article and also became interested in the breed. She tried to get some from the island of Rost but because of a too high dog ownership tax, the breed had disappeared there. But she met a farmer who had some and still hunted with them on the island of Vaeroy. She discovered there were around 50 dogs there, pure still as no other dogs lived there. That farmer, Mikalsen, gave her 4 puppies and these became the foundation of her breeding stock and her work to save the breed. In 1943 the Norwegian Kennel Club officially recognized the Lundehund but disaster struck. A distemper epidemic took the island that year and because it was still during World War II vaccinations were not available. Only one dog out of the whole islands population survived. Things were again looking bleak for this dog.
New Lease on Life
Thankfully after World War II the Norwegian Lundehund was rescued from disappearing thanks to those 4 dogs Christie had. She managed to send two puppies and two pregnant dogs to try to help repopulate the island with. Unfortunately distemper then hit her kennels in 1944 also killing all but one dog. Mikalsen sent her two new puppies in 1950 to try and rebuild her kennels with but sadly those dogs died without reproducing. As her husband was dying Christie stopped trying to run her kennel to care for him. After he passed in the early 1960s Mikalsen again sent her 3 puppies and one pair reproduced the following year.
Interest in the dog started to rise and in 1962 the Norwegian Lundehund Club was started. Again Mikalsen lost the last of his dogs and there were no purebreds left on Vaeroy and again his friend helped by sending two purebred puppies for his 75th birthday. Numbers started to very slowly increase enough for small numbers to be sent out to other European countries and in the 1980s it came to the US. In 1988 the Norwegian Lundehund Club of America was formed. By the late 1990s there were about 350 dogs in Norway and in total 700 to 800 around the world. It was recognized by the AKC in 2011 and is ranked 188th in popularity. While experts say it is no longer facing extinction it is still one of the rarest breeds in the world.
The Dog You See Today
The Norwegian Lundehund is a small dog weighing 13 to 20 pounds and standing 12 to 15 inches tall. It is a compact and rectangular shaped dog with some very unique features you don’t find in other breeds. Each foot has six toes and each toe is double or triple jointed. It has eight foot pads on the front feet and seven on the back feet and its dewclaws are functional. These developed to enable it to better grip and have stability on the slippery steep cliffs where it comes from. Its neck is double jointed so it can actually turn its head 180 degrees, helpful when squeezing through tight tunnels. The shoulders are very flexible to the point where it can actually stretch out its front legs to the sides at 90 degrees. This meant they could hug the cliff if they did stumble and fall.
The coat of this dog is double with a soft under coat and a short, rough and dense top coat. Common colors are reddish brown, black, grey or white. The coat is shorter around its head and then longer at the neck to create a ruff that is more noticeable in males. It is then shorter on the front of the legs and longer on the back of them. The tail is thick but does not have a lot of feathering.
Another unique aspect of the Lundehund is that its ears are far more mobile than most other breeds. They are erect, medium sized and can close them by folding them back or forwards, probably so that they could protect them from the rain, debris and dirt. Its eyes are somewhat deeply set and are brown. The head itself is wedge shaped and small and is usually white or mostly white with dark rimmed eyes and dark eyelashes. Interestingly it has one less tooth on each side than other dogs and why that has happened is not clear.
The Inner Norwegian Lundehund
Lundehunds are alert dogs so will bark to let you know if there is an intruder. It does have protective instincts but they come out just with lots of barking, no actual aggression and being small it is not likely to scare anyone away! It is not a good breed for new owners though, it is best with those who have experience. It is a loyal breed and loves to be around people, friendly and social and wanting to be a part of family activity. It is not aggressive and loves to cuddle whether that is with you, someone else in the house or with another dog! It is also quite active and playful and will want to play daily.
This is a moderately sensitive dog and is well tuned in to what is going on around it, and is also quite curious. It will want to explore and investigate around the house, the yard and when out walking. It is smart and with strangers it is shy until it gets to know them. It can be very affectionate and charming and is always cheerful and that makes it a great family dog. It does have a stubborn side though and some are more independent than others. It also tends to be a frequent barker so a command to stop it should be included as part of its training. Be prepared for its tendency to stash and hide things too. Food, toys and so on will be hidden, sometimes it will spend a lot of time doing it too.
Living with a Norwegian Lundehund
What will training look like?
The Norwegian Lundehund is moderately easy to train, it is intelligent and loves to spend time with you but it can have stubborn moments. There will be times when it will be more difficult and experience with dogs can help overcome this. It is important to be consistent, confident, firm and strong as its pack leader. Mean what you say and stick to the rules. Treat it like a small dog, do not spoil it as if it is a baby. Training should be done with patience and a positive approach. Reward it, encourage it, use treats to motivate. This dog has a good memory and will hold a grudge against you if you are too negative or use physical punishment. Show them there is something in it for them and they will be more willing to go along with it. Keep the sessions short and fun.
Unfortunately the Lundehund is actually even harder to house break, and there are some owners who say they never have achieved it! Try to stay ahead of them from when they are young and avoid letting it have the run of the house, it gives them more places to pee where they want to! You can use crate training, and also create a schedule that gives it lots of opportunities to go outside. This breed does do a lot of marking its territory which means urinating inside and outside the home. House training will take longer than other dogs, and may never be quite reliable. Early socialization is also very important. Expose them to different sounds, places, people and experiences so that they have time to get used to them. Sounds are especially important as if not well socialized it can become too shy and sounds can stress them.
How active is the Norwegian Lundehund?
It might be small but it is very active so while it loves its snuggle times, be prepared too to give it play opportunities and to take it out for a couple of walks each day. While its size means it can live in an apartment it would be best in a home with a yard that is well fenced, where it can play. It is happy to be involved in almost any outdoor activity and also loves to find ‘treasures’ to bring to its owner. As as walks take it to a place where it can off leash time somewhere safe like a dog park. There it can run free, socialize and play games with you. It is a very athletic and agile dog, it can join you on hikes and likes to be busy. Make sure it has plenty of toys and that it has mental stimulation too. Also be warned it does love to dig.
Caring for the Norwegian Lundehund
Caring for the Lundehund will take a moderate amount of effort to keep its coat and it in good shape. It does shed constantly so you will have to vacuum daily. Brushing daily is a good idea to keep up with the loose hair. Use a firm bristled brush and only bathe when it really needs one. Bathing too frequently can lead to skin problems as it dries out the skin.
Its ears should be checked for infection once a week and those signs can include swelling or discharge, redness, irritation and wax build up. You can also take that opportunity to clean them weekly using either a cotton ball with dog ear cleanser or a warm damp cloth. Do not use anything to insert into the ear, this could cause damage and hurt the dog a great deal. Just wipe the areas you can reach. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week and check its nails. If they are too long they will need to be trimmed and that should be done with proper dog nail clippers. Their nails are not like ours so make sure you know where the nerves and blood vessels are that need to be avoided. If you cut into them it will hurt and cause bleeding. If you are not confident have the vet or professional groomer do it for you.
The Norwegian Lundehund needs about ½ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food, split into at least two meals. How much exactly can vary depending on its level of activity, metabolism rate, size, health and age. Because of its special toes and agility it can reach a lot of places to get at food so be prepared.
How is the Norwegian Lundehund with children and other animals?
Lundehunds are very good with children especially with socialization and when raised with them. They love to play and be active together and are loving and affectionate of each other too. Supervise younger children though as they can be rough and make sudden loud noises, which it may not like. It would not be aggressive to the child though it is the one that needs protecting! Make sure you teach the children how to touch and play in a kind and appropriate way. With other pets it is good when raised with them and with socialization. While it was a dog bred to hunt, it was a specific prey. In most cases they will not feel the drive to hunt other pets though some Lundehunds can have stronger prey drives and that might change. It gets on well with other dogs and in fact likes having other dogs in the home to be raised with a pack.
What Might Go Wrong?
The life span of this breed is 12 to 15 years. It is quite a healthy breed but there are some potential concerns such as Leaky Gut Syndrome, Lundehund Syndrome, lymphagetasia and cancer.
When looking at reports of dog attacks against people that caused bodily harm in North America over the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Norwegian Lundehund, though that would be unlikely given its rarity. It is not an aggressive dog though, even if it is challenged it is more likely to just bark in response. Early socialization and training are a key part of making sure you can trust your dog, as is giving it the activity and attention it needs. But still its is important dog owners accept that any dog, even ones who are not aggressive, can have off days.
Your Pup’s Price Tag
Being so hard to find the Lundehund puppy will set you back around $2000 from a decent breeder of pet quality dogs, and even more from a top show dog breeder. You will have to be put on a waiting list but it is worth waiting to ensure you get a well bred puppy. Do not be tempted to use back yard breeders, puppy mills or pet stores. There are rescues and shelters full of dogs that need new homes. While chances on finding purebred or even mixed breeds that have Lundehund in them, perhaps there is a dog at one of them that will capture your heart anyway. Expect to pay between $50 to $400 if you do get a rescue.
Before you bring it home there are some items you will need to have at home for it. A crate, carrier, bowls, collar and leash for example, and these will cost around $120. As soon as you have it home you should get it to a vet for some tests and procedures. It will need its shots updated, blood tests taken, be micro chipped, have a physical examination, be dewormed and spayed or neutered. This will cost about $260.
There are also ongoing costs to be ready for. Basic health care like flea and tick prevention, check ups, shots and then pet insurance too will cost around $435 a year. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats will be another $75 a year. Miscellaneous costs like license, basic training, miscellaneous items and toys are another $195 or so a year. This gives a yearly total starting figure of $705.
Looking for a Norwegian Lundehund Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!
This is not an easy dog to find if it is really the one you want. Be prepared to do your homework, make a lot of calls and then still have to be put on a waiting list if you find a breeder you like. It is also expensive to buy and does come with the potential of some pretty serious health problems. It is a joyful, devoted and loving dog though and makes a great family companion if you find one. Its coat is easy to care for too. However it is a very hard dog to house train, socialization is very important to stop it being too shy or fearful, and it can be quite willful at times.
Featured Image Credit: Irine and Andrew, 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 Lundehund’s Beginnings
- New Lease on Life
- The Dog You See Today
- The Inner Norwegian Lundehund
- Living with a Norwegian Lundehund
- Caring for the Norwegian Lundehund
- How is the Norwegian Lundehund with children and other animals?
- What Might Go Wrong?
- Your Pup’s Price Tag