- According to Norse sagas, Elkhounds traveled with the Vikings.
- The Elkhound tends to be friendly to family and strangers alike.
AKC group: Hound
UKC group: Scenthound
Average lifespan: 12 – 15 years
Average size: 50 – 60 pounds
Coat appearance: Coarse and weatherproof
Coloration: Gray and silver
Other identifiers: Square, medium-sized body; black, wide nose; dark brown oval eyes; broad, strong chest; straight and strong legs; thick muzzle; strong, pointed ears on top of head and fluffy tail that points upwards
Possible alterations: Puppies are born black and turn silver within a few weeks of birthComparable Breeds: Keeshond, Swedish Elkhound
Dogs like the Elkhound accompanied the Vikings, the Norse sagas tell us; after all, a man’s dog is as important as his weapons. Over the centuries, the Elkhound’s ancestors guarded farms, herded and protected flocks from predators, and hunted big game such as elk and bear.
Though these dogs have been known in Norway for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until 1877 that they began to be exhibited in dog shows. The Norwegian Hunters Association held its first show that year, and owners began to keep better records of pedigrees and trace them back as far as possible. They wrote a breed standard and published a stud book. A photograph of a well-known dog of that time — Gamle Bamse Gram — looks much like an Elkhound of today, lacking only some of the modern dog’s refinement.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Elkhound in 1913. Today the breed ranks 106th among the dogs registered by the AKC.
The Norwegian Elkhound is well-known for his friendly nature and outgoing personality. He loves people however; he has a unique ability to tell which people are welcomed guests and which are unwanted. Very protective of his family, he makes an awesome watchdog. Barking is the Norwegian Elkhound’s forte. He loves to bark and will simply bark because he likes the sound of his own voice! It is imperative that he be trained to be quiet on command or he will drive you crazy.
A family-oriented breed, the Norwegian Elkhound craves affection. Many suffer from separation anxiety which could lead to the dog becoming destructive of your possessions. Exercise and plenty of toys can help to minimize his anxiety. This breed does not fare well when left alone for long periods of time.
This Norwegian Elkhound, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, occasional suffers from intracutaneous cornifying epithelioma, patellar luxation, Fanconi Syndrome and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
The most serious aliment affecting it is canine hip dysplasia (CHD), while minor health problems such as renal dysplasia, hot spots, and sebaceous cysts are common. Hip, eye, and urine tests are good for this breed of dog.
The Norwegian Elkhound requires daily exercise, not only to burn off energy but also to help him maintain a healthy weight. Exceptionally food-motivated, he can become obese, and proper feeding and exercise are required throughout his life.
He does all right in apartments, but he is a barker, so take that into consideration. A home with a fenced yard is more suitable. He could live outside because he’s so hardy, but he’d much rather be indoors with you.
Crate training benefits every dog and is a kind way to ensure that your Elkhound doesn’t have accidents in the house or get into things he shouldn’t. A crate is also a place where he can retreat for a nap. Crate training at a young age will help your Elkhound accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized.
Never stick your Elkhound in a crate all day long, however. It’s not a jail, and he shouldn’t spend more than a few hours at a time in it except when he’s sleeping at night. Elkhounds are people dogs, and they aren’t meant to spend their lives locked up in a crate or kennel.
The Norwegian Elkhound will be okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is fairly active indoors and does best with at least a large yard. Elkhounds prefer cool climates.
Elkhounds are intelligent dogs and have minds of their own, making them challenge to train. This breed needs firm leadership and absolute consistency or they will take over the household. Calm-assertive leadership is required, and many trainers suggest exercising your Elkhound before training sessions to ensure they are in the right frame of mind to accept leadership.
Once leadership has been established and basic obedience has been mastered, Norwegian Elkhounds should graduate on to agility training. The obstacle course gives them an outlet to burn off physical energy, while keeping their minds sharp and active.
Norwegian Elkhounds are bundles of energy and need a lot of vigorous activity in order to maintain health and an even temperament. Several walks a day are great, but that is just a start for this breed. They need time to run every single day, and should be exercised for one to two hours. If your Elkhound is not getting enough physical activity, he will become hyperactive and resort to destructive chewing when left alone.
Norwegian Elkhounds are best suited for those who already have an active lifestyle. People who walk, jog, bike, hike and camp will find that an Elkhound fits seamlessly into these activities. Couch potatoes, or those who want a docile family dog should look to another breed.
The Elkhound has a soft, woolly undercoat and a coarse, straight top coat. The thick double coat is easy to groom with brushing several times a week, but it sheds heavily. During seasonal sheds, you’ll think it’s snowing Elkhound hair. At those times, daily brushing and warm baths will help remove the loose hair so the new hair can grow in. On the plus side, there’s never any need to trim his coat or whiskers and baths are rarely necessary.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every six weeks. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
An Elkhound is excellent with children and will play with and protect them. However, without careful obedience training, they may take over the role of pack leader and become dominant, especially toward children, less strong-willed adults, or other dogs.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
The Norwegian Elkhound generally gets along with other pets, including cats, but remember his prey drive and willingness to hunt big game.
Is this breed right for you?
The Norwegian Elkhound does extremely well with children, especially when introduced to them when a puppy, and is a loyal and loving family dog. Protective of and affectionate to his family, he’s very devoted to his owners and does best in a family setting. An active and people-loving breed, he does best when exercised daily. A big shedder, the Norwegian Elkhound will need to be groomed at least twice a week. In need of a yard and a known barker, this breed does best in homes located in colder climates.
Did You Know?
The Norwegian Elkhound’s job is to track elk, bear, or moose, and then keep the animal in place by barking at him until the hunter arrives.
Famous Norwegian Elkhounds
- President Herbert Hoover’s “Weejie”
- “Canute” and others, in Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando: A Biography
- In The X-Files, Mulder blocks Eugene Victor Tooms when stalking a potential victim by asking him about his Norwegian Elkhound, Heinrich, in the episode “Tooms.“
A dream day in the life of a Norwegian Elkhound
A lover of his people, the Norwegian Elkhound will ideally wake up at the foot of the bed of his owner. After breakfast with his family, he’ll enjoy a morning job outdoors. Coming home to a good brushing, he’ll inspect the house to ensure it’s safe and secure for the homeowners. Playing with the kids all day, he’ll nose up to the cat, and bark away any possible intruders. After a game of Frisbee and tag in the backyard, this pup will head back inside to enjoy the evening with his loving humans.