Norwegian Elkhound: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

norwegian elkhound

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The Norwegian elkhound is a medium-size hound dog breed from Norway that has a thick, medium-length coat; erect ears; and a curled tail. It's an ancient spitz-type dog breed that was bred to hunt large game. Today, it’s primarily a companion dog that’s known for its friendly, loyal, and energetic demeanor. It also is a highly intelligent dog with an independent streak that would do best with an active owner and in a cooler climate.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Hound

HEIGHT: 19.5 inches (female), 20.5 inches (male)

WEIGHT: 48 pounds (female), 55 pounds (male)

COAT: Medium-length double coat

COAT COLOR: Black and gray; black and silver; black, white, and silver; gray, black, and silver

LIFE SPAN: 12 to 15 years

TEMPERAMENT: Loyal, friendly, affectionate

HYPOALLERGENIC: No

ORIGIN: Norway

Characteristics of the Norwegian Elkhound

Norwegian elkhounds generally have a loyal and dependable temperament. They can be quite protective and vocal watchdogs. But with proper training and socialization, they typically have friendly personalities. 

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

History of the Norwegian Elkhound

The Norwegian elkhound has a long history in Norway, with skeletal remains dating back all the way to 5000 B.C. There are tales of these dogs being steadfast shipmates to Vikings. And they were used to protect property and livestock while being friendly companions to their families. 

Hunters also used the Norwegian elkhound for large game, including elk and moose. The hounds were adept at following scent trails and holding game at bay. These dogs also were fierce and fearless enough to protect farms from bears, wolves, and other wild animals. 

The breed largely remained in Norway until the 19th century, when it then started popping up around Europe. The American Kennel Club first recognized the Norwegian elkhound in 1913.

Norwegian Elkhound Care

The Norwegian elkhound is a high-energy dog breed that needs lots of daily activity. It also requires consistent training and socialization. And you must keep up on grooming its thick coat.

Exercise

Bred to follow their hunting quarry over long distances, Norwegian elkhounds are high-energy dogs with good strength and stamina. They should get at least one to two hours of exercise per day via walks, jogging, playtime, and other activities. They also like to hike and swim, though it’s best to keep them on leash when not in a secure area. Otherwise, their prey drive can cause them to take off following a scent.

Norwegian elkhounds also can excel in dog sports, such as agility and herding, which can exercise both their bodies and their minds. Puzzle toys are great for exercising their minds as well. Just make sure to keep outdoor exercise brief in hot weather, as this breed’s thick coat can make it sensitive to the heat.

Grooming

The thick double coat of the Norwegian elkhound needs regular brushing to remove loose fur and prevent mats. It’s recommended to run a brush through the coat for a few minutes every day to stay on top of the loose fur. That also will help to limit the amount of dog fur that ends up on your furniture and clothes. A couple times a year, usually in the spring and fall, expect periods of heavier shedding during which you’ll have to brush more extensively. 

The good news is the Norwegian elkhound’s coat doesn’t tend to have an odor and only needs an occasional bath when your dog gets dirty. Plan to check the nails to see whether they need a trim roughly every month. And aim to brush your dog’s teeth daily. Also, look in its ears every week or so to ensure there’s no wax buildup, irritation, or other abnormalities.

Training

The Norwegian elkhound is a very bright dog and can learn tricks and other skills quickly. However, it also can be independent and stubborn at times and can get bored with obedience training. Keep training sessions short and fun, and always use positive reinforcement methods. Plus, start as young as possible with basic obedience, and be consistent with your commands to prevent bad habits from developing. 

Likewise, aim to socialize your Norwegian elkhound from as young of an age as possible. These dogs are usually adaptable and open to meeting strangers, especially when they’ve had positive experiences around people since they were a puppy. But due to their watchdog nature, they likely will still bark at people and other animals that pass by your home.

Common Health Problems

Norwegian elkhounds are generally a very healthy dog breed and have a relatively long lifespan. But like most breeds, they are prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Norwegian elkhounds as pets illustration

The Spruce / Kelly Miller

Diet and Nutrition


Always have fresh water available for your dog. And feed a quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. It’s typical to feed two measured meals per day. But you should always run both the type of food and the amount by your vet first to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s individual needs. Norwegian elkhounds generally love to eat and will beg for extra food. So it’s important to watch their daily intake to make sure they’re not overeating.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Norwegian Elkhound

While the Norwegian elkhound is a relatively rare breed, it’s still worth checking local animal shelters and rescue groups to see whether there’s a dog in need of a home. For a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $700 to $5,000, though this can vary widely. 

For further information to help connect you with a Norwegian elkhound, check out:

Norwegian Elkhound Overview

Pros
  • Loyal and affectionate

  • Good watchdog

  • Generally healthy breed

Cons
  • Can be very vocal

  • Sheds a lot

  • Can be stubborn about training

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Be sure to do plenty of research first before determining whether a Norwegian elkhound is right for your lifestyle. Talk to breed owners, rescue groups, reputable breeders, and veterinarians. Try to meet some Norwegian elkhounds too if possible.

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

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Are Norwegian elkhounds good family dogs?

    Norwegian elkhounds are moderately good with kids. They are usually best for a family with older children. Their herding instinct might cause them to nip at the heels of young and excitable children.

  • Are Norwegian elkhounds aggressive?

    Norwegian elkhounds are usually not an aggressive breed. But they will still be on guard against perceived threats, which is why early and consistent training and socialization are key.

  • Are Norwegian elkhounds good apartment dogs?

    Norwegian elkhounds have a lot of energy and typically do better in a home that allows them some space to run and play. They also can be prolific barkers, which might bother neighbors in apartment living.

Article Sources
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  1. Norwegian Elkhound. American Kennel Club.

  2. Norwegian Elkhound Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.