Norwegian Elkhound: Dog Breed Profile

norwegian elkhound

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The Norwegian Elkhound is a short yet powerful dog that resembles a Husky from a distance. This ancient breed sailed with the Vikings and is known for being reserved with strangers but loving with their family. This breed is energetic and independent, requiring an active home. Their thick coat makes them best-suited to cooler climates. This breed is quite uncommon in the United States.

With their thick silver and black coats, these dogs are strikingly beautiful. Despite being elkhounds historically, these dogs aren't all that big! They are generally smaller than a Labrador but bigger than most Border Collies. If you're looking for a hardy, outdoorsy, independent mid-sized dog, this might be a breed for you!

Breed Overview

GROUP: Hound Group, but this breed is also classified as a Spitz

HEIGHT: 20 inches at the shoulder

WEIGHT: 48 to 55 pounds

COAT AND COLORS: Thick and long, lush. This dog will require regular brushing and cannot be shaved due to the double coat. This breed is silvery, often darker on top and around the face.

LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12 to 15 years

Characteristics of the Norwegian Elkhound

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

History of the Norwegian Elkhound

As its name suggests, the Norwegian Elkhound has its roots in Norway and Scandinavia. This is an ancient breed, with skeletal remains dating back to at least 4,000 to 5,000 B.C. This breed was a true all-purpose dog: They guarded farms, herded flocks, and hunted elk and other large animals. While Elkhounds don’t exactly look like the sleek, droopy-eared hounds of the south, they’re excellent scent trailing dogs. Their main skill as a working dog is as a scent-hound.

Modern Norwegian Elkhounds still require a lot of activity and exercise. Thanks to their diverse history, this breed does well at many different sports and activities, from hiking to agility to herding trials. They are certainly not couch potatoes! If you're looking for a big, cuddly pillow, this breed isn't right for you. They need plenty of exercise, which can be tricky in warmer climates.

Do Norwegian Elkhounds Shed a Lot?

If you don’t like dog hair everywhere, the Norwegian Elkhound is probably not a great dog breed for you. While this breed’s coat isn’t quite as thick as a Husky’s, they still shed profusely. Regular brushing will help keep the fur at bay, but you’ll definitely want a lint roller handy if you bring home one of these dogs.

Thanks to their double coat, these dogs shouldn't be shaved. This can damage their coat permanently, actually diminishing their ability to regulate temperature. Their thick coat is certainly hot, but it also helps insulate them from the heat! It's far better to focus on lots of regular brushing, especially with a good undercoat rake.

Norwegian Elkhound Training and Care

The Norwegian Elkhound is an active dog. While they aren’t quite as exhaustingly go-go-go as your average Husky or Border Collie, this is not a dog for an inactive home. If you’re hoping for a dog that’s happy with a yard to romp in and a few 20-minute walks per day, you might not be quite ready for a Norwegian Elkhound. But if you enjoy skijoring or jogging on cool days, this dog might be perfect!

This breed isn’t exactly known for off-leash reliability due to their tendency to follow their nose. Keep that in mind if off-leash hiking is a big hobby of yours! They’re excellent at agility, jogging, swimming, and herding. If you are interested in dog sports, jogging, or hiking, you can probably keep up with this pup. Puzzle toys are a great option to help burn off excess energy while you’re away at work.

Norwegian Elkhounds require regular brushing and grooming. If you brush your dog several times per week, you’ll probably be able to keep up. Expect to get a few different types of brushes. In general, it's easiest to trim out mats in their thick coat than it is to try and work them out. Don’t forget that all dogs need regular nail trims and dental care as well.

Common Health Problems

This breed is generally very healthy and long-lived. Most Norwegian Elkhounds live into their double digits. Younger dogs may suffer from progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disease. Hip dysplasia and patella problems can occur, but most elkhounds are orthopedically quite sound. The AKC recommends that breeders check for eye and knee problems, at a minimum.

Of course, it’s best to support breeders that do more than the minimum. Many breeders do more extensive health testing for their puppies, checking for all sorts of hereditary disorders. This is much more than a vet checkup—it’s an in-depth look at the parents before the puppies are even conceived to reduce the likelihood of any hereditary problems. Responsible breeding practices are about much more than taking the parents and the puppies to the vet. Routine exams don’t necessarily catch many heritable genetic diseases that you want to steer clear of.

Diet and Nutrition

Norwegian Elkhounds are often big “foodies”—they’re not picky. This means that it’s important to avoid letting your pup gain weight. You should be able to see and feel your dog’s waistline, the top of his hipbones, and his ribs with relative ease. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that it’s fur or muscle covering those muscles when it’s really fat.

Your vet will be able to help you select a high-quality dog food or formulate a good home-cooked diet for your dog. Highly active dogs may require more protein or bigger servings.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Is a Norwegian Elkhound right for you? Before you bring home a new dog, you might want to explore some other similar breeds to compare their personalities and needs. Be sure to speak to owners, breeders, and rescue groups and meet a few Norwegian Elkhounds in person to learn more.

If you’re interested in related breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed profiles. There’s the perfect companion out there for everyone!