Let's talk Norwegian Elkhounds

With their wolf-like looks, thick weather-proof coats and sturdy, athletic build, Norwegian Elkhounds embody the spirit of the great outdoors. These companions of the Vikings were originally developed to track large animals such as moose and bears and it’s not much of a stretch to imagine these determined dogs bounding across snowy Norwegian landscapes. Even if they can and do now thrive in less extreme climates – and in the less extreme role of family pet – lap dogs, they certainly are not. 

Official name: Norwegian Elkhound

Other names: Norwegian Moose Dog

Origins: Norway

Close-up of Norwegian Elkhound in black and white
 Drooling tendencies

Very low

Warm weather? Medium
 Shedding level Very high
Suited to apartment living?  High
 Energy level * High Family Pet? * 
High
 Compatibility with other pets High
Can stay alone? * Low

 * We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations.

Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication.
 
For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs).
 
Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child.
 
Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice.
 
All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.  However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age.  Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.

 
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Illustration of Norwegian Elkhound
Male
52 cm Height
Up to 32 kg Weight
Female
50 cm Height
Up to 25 kg Weight

 Baby age  Birth to 2 months
 Puppy age  2 to 12 months
 Adult age 1 to 7 years
 Mature age  7 to 10 years
 Senior age  From 10 years

Side view of Norwegian Elkhound standing in snow

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Get to know the Norwegian Elkhound

All you need to know about the breed

Energetic and determined Norwegian Elkhounds are best known in their grey iteration, with distinctive thick silvery fur tinged with darker “harness” marks, and pointy ears which give the breed a wolf-like look. A slightly smaller black version of the Norwegian Elkhound exists too.

Whatever the colour, while these affectionate and comical dogs may have been bred for the job of hunting large animals such as moose or bear, they now revel in playing and make delightful family pets. Once trained, Norwegian Elkhounds get on well with children, although they shouldn’t be left unsupervised with little ones. With a reputation for barking, they may take on the role of watchdog, whether you ask them to or not.

Training your Norwegian Elkhound will need to include plenty of food rewards (taken out of their daily rations of course!), or your independent-minded canine may just not be interested. Socialisation is important too: they need to get used to people and other animals early and learn their position in the pack, rather than assuming they’re the leader.

Norwegian Elkhounds are gregarious and affectionate – be warned, they may chewing or bark if left alone for long periods. After so many millennia living alongside their human companions, who can blame them?

Norwegian Elkhound standing on snowy hill while it snows

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2 facts about Norwegian Elkhounds

1. Norwegian Moose Dog

The Norwegian Elkhound’s name in English sounds straightforwardly descriptive. But in fact it is a bit misleading: these dogs were originally bred to hunt moose, not elk (and to add to the confusion, they’re not hounds either). The English name comes from the Norwegian Norsk Elghund (which – are you keeping up? –  means moose dog). The German word elch, meaning moose, may be at the root of the confusion. 

2. Barker by background

Norwegian Elkhounds’ original role was to track down large animals by scent and then bravely hold them at bay, barking all the time, until their human arrived. Of course, times have changed and Norwegian Elkhounds are no longer to be found battling with bears, but be warned, they have kept that instinct to bark and, because they’re so strong-willed, persuading them the barking is no longer necessary may be a challenge. 

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History of the breed

Norwegian Elkhounds are thought of as the national dog of Norway, and their history is closely entwined with that of the country. They’re still popular pets in Norway today.

These sturdy, Spitz-type dogs feature in Norway’s ancient myths and sagas – such as the 12th century tale of an Elkhound who was made king in Throndhjem – even if the official designation of the breed goes back only as far as the 19th century.

Beyond the legends, Norwegian Elkhounds’ real-life origins date back at least a thousand years to the Vikings who used the dogs to hunt large animals, such as moose and bears, and to guard their flocks and homes. The breed may in fact be even older – artefacts found in a cave in Jæren, western Norway that date back to between 4,000 and 5,000 BC contain an Elkhound-like skeleton.

In modern times, interest in these dogs as a distinct breed began in the late 19th century in Norway, and the Norwegian Elkhound is recognised by the UK Kennel Club as well as the American Kennel Club.

Norwegian Elkhound lying down in black and white

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Norwegian Elkhounds

1. Head

Broad, wolf-like head, tapering to the nose; pointed ears.

2. Fur

Thick, grey fur with distinctive black “harness” marking.

3. Body

Square, short and solid body full of strength.

4. Coat

The black Elkhound is slightly smaller with black fur.

5. Tail

Short, tightly-curled thick tail.

Side view close-up of Norwegian Elkhound while snowing

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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Norwegian Elkhound
Norwegian Elkhound standing on snowy hill

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Caring for your Norwegian Elkhound

Grooming, training and exercise tips

Those luscious coats require a fair amount of grooming – daily brushing as a minimum, but even that needs to be stepped up twice a year when Norwegian Elkhounds shed their undercoats. The vacuuming will need to be stepped up then too. Grooming after walks is a good opportunity to check for any debris such as twigs, grass seeds or thorns that have got stuck in their fur. It will come as no surprise to learn that these hardy and athletic dogs need plenty of exercise – long walks, play sessions, even a swim – it’s all good. Just make sure they’re in a safe enclosed space if they’re off the lead as they have a tendency to follow their noses and display selective deafness to their owners’ calls. Norwegian Elkhounds are intelligent, fast learners, but they can also be strong-willed (did somebody say stubborn?) You’ll need to make sure training is fun and not too repetitive. And food rewards will be key to success – just make sure they come out your dog’s daily food rations.

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All about Norwegian Elkhounds

Yes – as long as you’re prepared to give them the exercise they need to stay healthy and content, Norwegian Elkhounds are affectionate to their humans as well as great fun. Once trained, Norwegian Elkhounds are good with children, although because of their strength, they shouldn’t be left unsupervised with young ones. 

While loyal and friendly to their human family, Norwegian Elkhounds are courageous and naturally wary of strangers, not to mention a little on the barky side, so they suit the role of watchdog pretty well.

Other breeds that might interest you.

Sources

1 - Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/ 

2 - Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020

3 - Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/

4 - Royal Canin BHN Product Book

5 - American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/