The Norwegian Elkhound is a robust spitz type known for his lush silver-gray coat and dignified but friendly demeanor. The durable Elkhound is among Europe’s oldest dogs. The name Elkhound acknowledges the breed’s age-old quarry, the giant elk, or moose. Elkhounds specialized in following the scent trail of these magnificent and dangerous creatures over a distance and holding them at bay while dodging attack until the trailing huntsmen arrived. Elkhounds look nothing like the droopy-eared, sleek-coated scent hounds developed in warmer climates, but they are classified as hounds by virtue of their job description including trailing and holding warm-blooded quarry.
Norwegian Elkhound Appearance
The Norwegian Elkhound is 19.5 to 20.5 inches tall and weighs 48 to 55 pounds. They are a typical northern dog of medium size and substance, and square in profile. The head is broad with prick ears, and the tail is tightly curled and carried over the back.
Elkhound have a two-ply coat; a top coat and an undercoat of which both shed. A slicker brush helps keep the fur storm under control. Five minutes a day of “back-brushing” (brushing in the opposite direction to which the coat lies) will take care of shedding for most of the year. Brushing just two minutes a day at other times will keep the coat beautiful. Elkhounds do not have a doggy smell, due to the harshness of the coat. A bath two to three times a year is perfect and helps the dead coat to fall out and new, healthy hair to grow in.
Norwegian Elkhound’s life expectancy is 12 to 15 years. Their temperament varies from one individual to another, but an Elkhound is not normally aggressive by nature and can be relied upon not to attack without extreme provocation. Normally friendly, even with strangers, his bear-like look, deep resounding bark, and large white teeth can discourage most unwanted visitors. An Elkhound can be protective, even possessive, of his human family and his property making him a commendable watchdog. They are excellent with children and will play with and protect them. They also generally get along with other pets, including cats, but they are prey driven with big-game hunting instincts so training and early socialization is necessary.
Because of his long association with man and his deep devotion to his human family, an Elkhound thrives on love and attention. They are strong-willed enough to take over a house if given the chance. They love a dominant role and without training and socialization can be a problem.
Housing needs are simple as he prefers to live with you. Given a proper diet, reasonable exercise (30 minutes twice a day), and clean living conditions, the Elkhound is an extraordinarily maintenance free dog. Strong and vigorous, he will relish long walks or bicycling with his master. Agility and herding trials are good outlets for their natural athleticism and eagerness. Reserved until introductions are made, an Elkhound is a trustworthy friend ever after. These strong, confident dogs are truly sensitive souls, with a dash of houndy independence.
Caring for a Norwegian Elkhound
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Norwegian Elkhound.
The Norwegian Elkhound should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Most Elkhounds are not picky eaters, and will develop pitiful faces in order to weaken their humans into giving them as many treats as possible. To determine if the Elkhound is in good weight is to watch them when they eat. The area just behind the end of the ribcage should sink in when they eat. Another indication of an overweight dog is a rolling motion on the dog’s back or sides when he trots. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
These are hunting dogs in their native Norway. They track and follow moose, ranging far ahead of the hunter, and they must be able to trot many miles for several days if necessary. Because they must make their own decisions when hunting, and by virtue of the way they hunt, they are independent and lovers of the woods and their freedom. For that reason, when exercising their Norwegian Elkhounds, owners should not allow them to roam the neighborhood or the park off leash. The instinct to travel and to inspect the world is inbreed in Elkhounds. Most love swimming and many enjoy agility and herding trials.
Norwegian Elkhounds are very smart dogs however; they tend to be quite stubborn. Consistency is the key to training. Short and regular training sessions are most productive when working with Norwegian Elkhounds. The reward system works best so be sure to have plenty of tasty treats while training.
Some people train their dogs to become Therapy Dogs and visit ailing people in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. Another great activity for Norwegian Elkhounds is agility training. This is a great outlet for their energy and they get to use all of their muscles that were originally developed for hunting elk and moose.
Although a generally healthy breed of dog, the Norwegian Elkhound is predisposed to a variety of health issues. PRA or Progressive Retinal Apathy, which causes blindness, is a problem that is, fortunately, dwindling in the breed due to diligent breeders ensuring that their breeding stock is clear of the problem. Other health problems include Fanconi Syndrome (a rare kidney disorder), Hypothyroidism (low production of thyroid hormone), Chondrodysplasia (abnormal development of a dog’s bone and cartilage), Ectropion (when the dog’s lower eyelid turns or sags outward, away from your eye, exposing the surface of your inner eyelid), Cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) and Primary Glaucoma, which causes blindness.
An Elkhound’s eyes rarely need care and likewise, his prick ears are usually trouble free. His feet require no special attention except regular clipping of his claws about every six weeks. Cleaning the dog’s teeth regularly is very important to avoid dental disease. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If you don’t prevent or treat dental disease, the dog loses teeth and can be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints.