The Norwegian Elkhound is an ancient, hardy breed, adapted to withstand the harsh climates of the extreme north of Scandinavia.
Although these dogs were once used to hunt ferocious big game, nowadays they make popular pets—and with good reason. Read on to learn all about this fascinating breed.
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What is the Norwegian Elkhound?
The Norwegian Elkhound is one of the members of the Spitz family of dog breeds. The dogs that belong to the Spitz family include the Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, Shar Pei, Welsh Corgi, and Pomeranian.
Spitz breeds are thought to originate in Northern Asia, possibly Siberia. Their most distinctive features are their pointed muzzles and ears, curled tails, and long, thick double coats.
History of the Elkhound dog breed!
The Elkhound is an ancient breed, and appears throughout Nordic history, dating back as far as 5,000 BCE.
Dogs that closely match the description of a modern Elkhound are mentioned in Ancient Norse myths and legends, and numerous remains of Elkhound-like dogs have been found in Viking burial grounds, implying that Viking warriors took their loyal hounds on to Valhalla with them.
A Norwegian Elkhound was very versatile, acting as a hunting dog, guard dog, sled dog, and companion to their masters.
The Norwegian Elkhound dog, along with other Sami breeds (the Swedish Lapphund, Finnish Lapphund, Jamthund, Hällefors Elkhound and Lapponian Herder), is believed to be the result of a wolf-dog hybridization, which took place a long time after dogs were initially domesticated.
As a result, these dogs have a unique DNA sequence that is only found in these Scandinavian breeds.
These hunting dogs were rarely seen outside of Scandinavia until the turn of the 20th century when they were exported to the UK and other European countries. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the breed in 1913.
Appearance and Personality of the Bright Norwegian Elkhound Puppy!
The Norwegian Elkhound is a medium-sized dog, with an average height of 19.5 to 20.5 in (50–52 cm) and an average weight of 44 to 51 lbs (20–23 kg).
These dogs have a sturdy, square profile and a broad, wedge-shaped head. The pointed or prick ears stand up straight, and the expression is keen, alert and courageous.
There should be no loose skin on the neck or chest. The tail should be tightly curled and carried over the back.
The amazingly thick and warm coat of this breed is a double coat, with a shorter, soft, dense and waterproof undercoat, and a coarser, straight covering layer.
The coat is various shades of gray and silver, with black tips to the longer guard hairs. The saddle, muzzle, and ears are darker, while the chest, stomach, and withers are lighter in color. These dogs should not have their coats clipped, even in summer, as it can affect their ability to regulate their temperature.
The Black Norwegian Elkhound is a modern variant on the breed, though it is not recognized by the AKC breed standard. These black dogs are slightly smaller than their gray cousins, though otherwise very similar.
The Norwegian Elkhound has a friendly and confident temperament. These dogs are often described as brave and loyal, and they certainly form very strong bonds with their “packs”.
These dogs are intelligent and playful, with lots of energy, so if they don’t get sufficient exercise or training, they have a tendency to be over-boisterous. When they were hunting elk, these dogs would roam far and wide alone, only alerting their owners once they had tracked an animal.
As such, these dogs maintain an independent streak and are likely to stray far from you on walks if you don’t pay close attention.
Swedish Elkhound Vs the Norwegian Elkhound: Is There a Difference?
Swedish Elkhounds and Norwegian Elkhounds, though they share a common lineage and some characteristics, are different breeds.
The Swedish Elkhound, or Jämthund, is considerably larger (at least 4 inches taller at the shoulders, and stockier) that its Norwegian cousin, and also has clearer white markings on the face and chest.
4 Facts You Need to Know About these Puppers!
- The Norwegian Elkhound is, unsurprisingly, the national dog of Norway.
- This breed is only the 91st most popular breed in America, out of 190. They are much more popular in their native Norway, however.
- In Virginia Woolf’s novel, “Orlando: A Biography”, the main character has a number of “the finest elk-hounds of the Royal strain” bought from “the King [of Norway’s] own kennels.” The character turns to dogs having declared himself “done with men.”
- The Norwegian Elkhound is so important in its native land that, apparently, in the case of war, the Norwegian Defence Minister can mobilize all the privately-owned Elkhounds in the country to carry troops to battle in sleds!
Norwegian Elkhound puppies are Vigilant, Quick Learners!
While these dogs are very intelligent, they are not always the easiest to train, thanks to their independent streak. It is critical that you start young with these dogs before they have time to develop bad habits.
A consistent, firm approach works best, and harsh words or negative reinforcement is likely to be detrimental to their training, and to your relationship with them.
With proper training, however, these dogs can master a number of commands, and even compete in agility and obedience training events.
Keeping your Norwegian Elkhound well exercised is key to having a happy and well-behaved pet. Most breeders recommend at least 30 minutes twice daily of high-intensity exercise.
These dogs have excellent stamina and are able to track moose or other large game for hours without tiring. Training exercises and puzzles are another great way to keep this intelligent dog occupied, and to tire them out.
A Healthy and Hardy Breed
Generally, the Norwegian Elkhound is a very healthy and hardy breed. As with any pedigree dog, however, there are certain hereditary conditions that the breed is more inclined to.
Though many of these can be avoided with careful genetic testing and responsible breeding practices.
This breed of dog is also very food-motivated, and prone to obesity if not fed and exercised correctly. Opt for a high-quality dog food, and make sure they get sufficient daily exercise.
Above all, try to resist the puppy-dog eyes asking every so politely to share your dinner.
Longevity of this little Hound
The average life expectancy of the Norwegian Elkhound is 12 to 14 years, though many owners have reported their dogs living to be 16 or 17.
Norwegian Elkhound Puppies!
If you’re thinking of buying a Norwegian Elkhound puppy, make sure you get it from a responsible breeder. A good way of knowing is to ask to see the puppies with the mother, where they were born and reared.
If a breeder refuses for any reason, they are likely not responsible. The AKC keeps a directory of vetted, responsible Norwegian Elkhound breeders, and this can be a great place to start your search for Norwegian Elkhound puppies.
Expect to pay $600 to $800 for a Norwegian Elkhound puppy from a responsible breeder.
Typically, this price will include all of the age-appropriate vaccinations and deworming, as well as genetic testing for hereditary diseases and information on the puppy’s parentage.
Norwegian Elkhound Rescue
If you’re looking for a Norwegian Elkhound, why not consider adopting an adult dog?
The Norwegian Elkhound Association of America runs a rescue program, which will be able to put you in contact with rescuers closer to you.
6 Tips for First Time Norwegian Elkhound Puppy Owners!
- Most Norwegian Elkhounds enjoy swimming, and this can be a great way to help them cool down during the hot summer months. Just watch out when they shake off their thick coats afterward, or you may get an unwelcome shower!
- As long as they have sufficient exercise, these dogs can live in apartments, though as guard dogs they are prone to barking, so you may want to invest in some sound-proofing! Overall, however, these dogs are happiest in homes with well-fenced yards.
- These dogs usually do well with strangers, and are very gentle around children, making them a good option for a family pet. As with any dog, however, you should never leave them unsupervised with young children.
- These dogs can show aggression towards other dogs, so proper socialization from a young age is important.
- These dogs are big shedders and will need frequent brushing to remove loose hair and dead skin. The coats of these dogs can get matted quickly if they are not brushed enough.
- These dogs are built for cold weather, and while they can survive warmer climates, they are happiest in the ice and snow. Just search for videos of these dogs frolicking in the snow if you need proof!
Loyal, Playful, and Smart! An Elkhound Pup will Never Let You Down
If you’re looking for a noble, loyal, energetic companion, the Norwegian Elkhound could well be the pet for you.
This ancient breed has been living, hunting and exploring alongside us for thousands of years, and all those generations of people can’t have been wrong, can they?