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Norwegian elkhound sitting in the dirt

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Hound group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 19.5-20.5 inches
  • Weight — 48-55 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Straight, medium double-coat
  • Coat color — Standard coat colors include gray, black, and silver; gray and black; and silver and black.
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Very vocal
  • Life span —12-15 years
  • Temperament — Friendly, energetic, and loyal
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — Norway

Norwegian elkhound fun facts 

  • The breed has been around for millennia. Norwegian elkhound remains have been found alongside Viking remnants that archeologists believe date back as far as 5,000 B.C.
  • These sled dogs could be called to serve. The Norwegian Defense Minister has the power to mobilize any privately-kept Norwegian elkhounds to carry military supplies during a war.
  • The Norwegian elkhound is subject to tales and legends. One story involves a member of the breed being tapped as king of Trondhjem, a city in Norway.
Norwegian elkhound close up

Norwegian elkhound temperament and characteristics 

Norwegian elkhounds are friendly, loyal dogs who are relatively independent but highly affectionate with family. They’re also protective, historically known for guarding farms, flocks, and homesteads from bears and wolves. These days, the elkhound may find more relaxation, but be prepared for a tendency to bark when your Amazon Prime order arrives or when a guest comes to visit. Despite their baying, Norwegian elkhounds are usually friendly toward strangers.

Norwegian elkhounds would do best in a home with older children. They’re hit or miss with other dogs, so be sure to schedule a meet and greet with any other canines in your home before deciding on a specific Norwegian elkhound. They can also do well with cats, particularly if raised with one.

Elkhounds have the independence of a hound but are also hard-working dogs with high energy. They do best in a home that can meet their needs for frequent physical activity and mental stimulation.

Common Norwegian elkhound health problems 

It’s never fun to think about health issues affecting our pups. But like all dogs, Norwegian elkhounds can develop health issues. Knowing specific risks can empower pet owners to seek prompt care should symptoms arise.

  • Hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is chronic and happens when a dog’s hip joint doesn’t fit into the socket as it should. Dogs with hip dysplasia may have trouble walking or develop arthritis.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy. This eye condition progressively leads to blindness.
  • Cysts. Norwegian elkhounds are prone to follicular or sebaceous cysts. These cysts form when skin pores become clogged.
  • Otitis externa. Otitis externa is a fancy name for an ear infection. Head shaking and increased itchiness are signs one or both of your dog’s ears may be infected.

👉 Be sure to go through a reputable breeder. They can inform you of common health conditions associated with the breed and flag any issues in the dog’s lineage. 

Cost of caring for a Norwegian elkhound

Caring for a dog of any breed is an expense. You’ll need food, supplies like dog beds, leashes, and chew toys, and a budget for regular veterinarian visits. Those visits usually occur once or twice per year, depending on your dog’s age or health. However, your pet may need closer care if they develop a health condition.

Severe cases of hip dysplasia require surgery, which can cost $4,000 or more per hip.

Cysts are more of a nuisance than a general health problem, but they can rupture and become infected. Removing a cyst costs $500, and draining one can cost around $250, with the possibility that the cyst may return later. An ear infection typically requires an exam, diagnosis, cleaning, and medication. The total cost could add up to around $200.

Health insurance is one way to reduce out-of-pocket costs. Pet owners who sign their furry friends up earlier receive the greatest benefits. Other alternatives, such as developing a budget and setting up a pet savings account, can also help.

Sleepy Norwegian elkhound laying beside a brick wall

History of the Norwegian elkhound  

Based on remains, the Norwegian elkhound has likely been around since around 5,000 B.C. Remains were found alongside Viking warriors, indicating this breed was popular amongst the seafaring Scandanavians. They likely hauled supplies on sleds — and privately-owned modern Norwegian elkhounds can be called to do so again by the Norwegian Defense Minister in wartime. These fearless dogs were also probably used to hunt wild animals like elk, mountain lions, bears, and raccoons.

The breed’s name is derived in part from its hunting roots. Elkhounds may not resemble the basset hounds and beagles commonly associated with hunting, but they’re hounds nonetheless. Elkhounds were able to follow the scent trail of the elk, keeping them in place and warding off attack until the huntsman could catch up.

These days, Norwegian elkhounds are typically companion animals. However, their love of adventure and physical activity dates back to their days as working dogs. Ditto for their protective and vocal nature.

Caring for your Norwegian elkhound

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. Though exciting, dog parenthood is a commitment, and you’ll have specific to-dos after bringing a new puppy home. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. Puppy-proofing your home will keep your Elkhound — and your possessions — safe. If you’re getting a young puppy, you’ll want to be ready for teething.

No one likes to think about losing their new dog, but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag so you’re prepared just in case. Here are some other basics specific to the Norwegian elkhound.

Exercise

Norwegian elkhounds are high-energy dogs with a need for consistent physical activity. The Norwegian Elkhound Association of America recommends 20 to 30 minutes of exercise twice per day. The good news is that Norwegian elkhounds are up for a range of physical activities and dog sports. They love hiking, camping, scent work, and walks around the block. Obedience training and dog shows also appeal to this breed.

You can set up a DIY obstacle or agility course in the backyard or play a game of fetch. Be sure to provide plenty of water, particularly during and after physical activity in warm weather. Just like people, dogs need to stay hydrated during exercise. Always keep an eye on your elkhound during water play.

In the wintertime, snowmobiles and government vehicles put down salt to melt the snow, which can irritate your dog’s skin. Paw balms may help soothe their feet, making it more comfortable to walk.

Norwegian elkhound with a grassy yard in the background

Grooming

The Norwegian elkhound is a double-coated breed and sheds its undercoat twice per year. Good grooming habits year-round are important, but they are particularly essential during shedding periods. Brush the dog’s coat at least once every week with a slick brush, bristle brush, or furminator brush. Monthly baths can also keep your Norwegian elkhound’s coat shiny and clean. Be sure to clean the dog’s ears after every dip in the water, including baths, to protect against infections.

Norwegian elkhounds are active dogs who love to move. Regular nail trimming reduces the risk of issues like ingrown nails and breakage, which can be painful. Dental disease is a sometimes overlooked issue in dogs. Daily teeth brushing is your best defense.

Diet and nutrition

A healthy Norwegian elkhound at a normal weight can thrive on a diet that consists of mostly AAFCO-approved dog food. This seal signifies the food is nutritionally complete. Choose a bag that is appropriate for your dog’s weight and age — the label will have this information. A Norwegian elkhound’s daily caloric intake should consist of at least 90% dog food. The other 10% can come from low-calorie treats.

Older puppies and adult dogs should eat twice per day. Your vet is your best resource for food portioning. The bag may have guidance. Sometimes, it will tell you the total number of cups of food to give your pet daily. In these cases, divide it by two. Generally, a neutered, 55-lb. adult dog will need about 1,250 calories per day. The keyword is generally — your dog’s age, health, and activity levels all factor into this number. Again, discuss diet with your Norwegian elkhound’s vet.

Training your Norwegian elkhound

A Norwegian elkhound is highly intelligent and eager to please. It’s why these pups have served as working dogs throughout history and are relatively easy to train.

The Norwegian elkhound responds best to positive reinforcement training, which aligns with the Humane Society of the United States’ recommendations. Treats, praise, and pets are more effective than negative consequences and yelling.

Norwegian elkhounds are heralded for their intelligence. However, they’re not going to follow a lecture on why they should sit, stay, and come. Instead, short, simple phrases like “sit” and “leave it” work best. Make sure all members of the household are using the same commands and following the same rules to prevent confusing the pup.

Norwegian elkhound resting outside

Breeds similar to the Norwegian elkhound 

Not quite sure that a Norwegian elkhound is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Rhodesian ridgeback. These dogs are highly affectionate, eager to please, and protective, but they generally bark less than a Norwegian elkhound.
  • Saluki. Another loving ancient breed, the Saluki, usually has high energy and is less protective in nature than Norwegian elkhounds.
  • Irish wolfhounds. The Irish wolfhound is loving and protective, just like the Norwegian elkhound.

Frequently asked questions

Is a Norwegian elkhound a good family dog?

It depends on the family. Norwegian elkhounds are generally very loving toward family members. But they usually do best in homes with well-behaved older children or adults. They can get along with other dogs and cats, particularly if raised with another pet, but it can vary.

Why do Norwegian elkhounds bark so much?

Norwegian elkhounds are highly vocal. They used to bark after cornering prey and are also protective watchdogs who once guarded farms and flocks.

Do Norwegian elkhounds like to cuddle?

Norwegian elkhounds are highly affectionate dogs who love to cuddle. However, they have a ton of energy. Owners will want to make sure they get 40 to 60 minutes of exercise per day. A good cuddle session is a great way to wind down after physical activity.

Are Norwegian elkhounds rare?

Yes. Norwegian elkhounds are uncommon in Norway and considered “very rare” outside of Scandinavian countries, including the United States.

What is the appearance of a Norwegian elkhound?

A Norwegian elkhound is a hard-looking dog who appears ready to work. The dogs have deep chests, tightly-curled tails, and sturdy, muscular legs. Their triangular ears will appear erect when alert and relaxed when hanging out with their favorite people.