Norwegian Lundehund: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

A Norwegian Lundehund standing in the grass
The density and shading can vary amongst Norwegian Lundehund.

CaptureLight / Getty Images

 

The Norwegian Lundehund is a very rare, small Spitz-type breed with several unique characteristics, including six toes on every paw. They were traditionally used for hunting puffin in the remote Islands of their native homeland of Norway, and they have a long history.

These dogs are energetic, happy and loyal, but they aren't necessarily for the novice dog owner. They can be independent, stubborn, and wary of strangers.

Breed Overview

Group: Non-Sporting

Height: 13 to 15 inches (male); 12 to 14 inches (female)

Weight: 20 to 30 pounds

Coat: Double coat with a harsh, short outer and a soft and dense undercoat; males have a thicker ruff around the neck

Coat Color: Ranging from fallow, to tan, to a reddish-brown; black hair tips that darken with age and can also have white, white with red, or dark markings

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Norwegian Lundehund

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly  Medium
Pet-Friendly  Medium
Exercise Needs  Medium
Playfulness  High
Energy Level  High
Trainability Medium
Intelligence  High
Tendency to Bark  High
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Norwegian Lundehund

The Norwegian Lundehund is an ancient breed that was originally developed to hunt puffins on the remote Arctic Islands of Lofoten, near Norway. Puffin in Norwegian is actually the word 'Lunde', and these birds were a vital food and down source for the farmers resident on the Islands.

Alongside having six toes on every paw, to help provide additional traction on slopes, the Lundehund also has two fewer teeth than your average dog. Their unique jaw is the same as that of the Varanger Dog, and fossilized remains of this ancient Russian dog have been dated as being about 5,000 years old. This suggests that the origins of the Lundehund are ancient, but the exact dates and details are unknown.

The breed also has incredible flexibility. They can tip their head back to touch their back, and this makes it easier for them to turn around in small spaces when hunting. Their shoulder joints are so flexible that it allows them to spread their legs right out at ninety-degree angles, and this helps them lay completely flat on their chest and helps them gain additional traction on steep and slippery surfaces. Another unique feature is that the Lundehund can close their pricked ears forward or backwards to form a tight seal, preventing debris entering while they search out nests.

They were highly prized by their owners, and it wasn't uncommon for farmers to own multiple Lundehunds that would scale the steep cliffs of the Islands to retrieve the puffins and their eggs from difficult to reach nesting locations.

The introduction of net puffin catching and Government taxes that were levied for the ownership of the breed meant that by the early 20th century the Lundehund was facing extinction.

Thankfully, a secluded Island called Værøy managed to retain a number of purebred Lundehand around the fishing village of Mostad.

An English Setter breeder called Eleanor Christie read about the plight of the breed in the 1960s. It was from Værøy that she obtained stock, from a remaining pool of just six purebred dogs, to allow her to develop a breeding program to save the Lundehund.

While the breed is still exceptionally rare, especially outside of its home country of Norway, the numbers have stabilized, and the Lundehund achieved AKC recognition in 2008.

Norwegian Lundehund Care

Given their background, you can expect your Lundehund to be agile, energetic, loyal, and curious. They're suited to owners that lead an active lifestyle. If they don't get enough exercise and stimulation, problem behaviors could surface as a result of boredom.

They're very playful too and enjoy games with their families. It's also a good idea to make sure they have lots of enriching interactive toys to keep them busy when you can't.

Their playful nature means they often get along well with respectful children, although you may need to work on ensuring they don't get too boisterous or jumpy around younger kids.

While they're a friendly breed, they can be wary of strangers and early and appropriate socialization is important to avoid them becoming overly sensitive. The Lunde is known for being an alert barker, and this can get out of control if you don't work on rewarding them for offering quiet, alternative behaviors instead.

They're also often prolific diggers, and your garden should be secure, and they made need supervision to prevent any escaping and to work on training if this becomes a habit. Providing them with a designated sandpit as an outlet for their digging instincts can also be beneficial.

Their hunting instincts mean they won't always live peaceably alongside small furries. You may also need to work harder on achieving a solid recall, especially if you walk regularly in places that are a haven for wildlife. They do tend to get along well with other dogs, though.

Lundehunds are intelligent problem solvers, but they also have an independent and sometimes stubborn streak. This means you may need to keep training sessions short and varied to hold their interest. Using positive reinforcement and high-value rewards will help to keep them motivated.

With their dense double coat, you can expect a moderate amount of shedding throughout the year. During their biannual coat blow out, get ready to brush their coat out more regularly and be armed with a good hoover and lint roller.

Aside from this, though, the Lundehund doesn't have high-maintenance grooming requirements, and a weekly brush out to keep the skin and coat in good condition should suffice.

Norwegian Lundehund panting, sitting, isolated on white
GlobalP / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The Lundehund is known for being prone to a number of gastrointestinal issues that can vary in their severity. This genetic predisposition has been given the name Lundehund Syndrome. It affects all Lundehunds to some degree, although in some cases, dogs may be asymptomatic or only exhibit very minimal and easy to manage symptoms.

For other dogs, they can develop more serious problems or have multiple gastric conditions. Some of the problems they can be prone to include intestinal bowel disease (IBD), protein-losing enteropathy (PLE), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and intestinal lymphangiectasia (IL). Changes in lifestyle and diet can manage some of the problems, and others may need more aggressive medical intervention.

It's important to be aware of this syndrome and do your research before deciding to home a Lundehund. Making sure that you find a reputable breeder is also key. More information on the disease can be found via the Norwegian Lundehund Association of America.

Aside from this syndrome, the breed is regarded as generally hardy and healthy.

Diet and Nutrition

Every dog should be fed a high-quality and properly portion-controlled diet, and the Lundehund is no exception.

Because of their propensity towards gastrointestinal problems, you may need to feed a specific restricted or prescription diet to help manage any symptoms. This should always be done in consultation with your vet and possibly even a qualified vet nutritionist.

Pros
  • Loyal and playful

  • Suited to an owner leading an active lifestyle

  • No high maintenance grooming regime

Cons
  • Prone to stomach problems

  • Rare and difficult to come by

  • Problem behaviours can develop if not given enough exercise and stimulation

Where to Adopt or Buy a Norwegian Lundehund

Because they're such a rare breed, you may need to go on a waiting list or travel a further distance to find a puppy Lundehund.

Don't let your enthusiasm for the breed cause you to make any impulsive decisions, though. Finding a responsible breeder is important for the future of the breed and also to ensure that you have a well-rounded puppy that has received appropriate early socialization and health checks.

A good place to start your research is through the Norwegian Lundehund Association of America.

You may not find many Lundehund in rescue. There are lots of other wonderful nordic, spitz-type breeds available in shelters across the country looking for forever homes.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you're interested in dogs similar to the Norwegian Lundehund, you might want to find out more about:

There are lots of wonderful dog breeds out there. By doing your research, you'll find one that will be best suited to having a forever home with you.