gray coat with lighter undercoat. Black on muzzle, ears and tail.
19-21 inches (48-53 cm)
50-60 pounds (23-27 kg)
18-20 inches (46-51 cm)
40-55 pounds (18-25 kg)
Indoor with a large yard for exercise and cooler climates are best.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a compact and muscular medium sized dog that is very like a spitz breed in appearance and somewhat like a hound in temperament and hunting ability. The Norwegian Elkhound gives the appearance of athletic ability, power and intelligence while still being an excellent dog for families.
The Norwegian Elkhound has a typical spitz body with strong, straight legs, deep chest and relatively long and deep ribcage. The front of the body appears heavier and more substantial than the back end, and the chest is deep and strong to allow for long days of running on hunts. The neck is solid and sturdy and flows up from the shoulders to the head. The head of the Norwegian Elkhound is held high and alert, with the sharp, triangle prick ears constantly tracking sounds in the environment. The head is covered with shorter, thick hair that accentuates the wedge shape of the head. Many people that first see the Norwegian Elkhound compare it to a small Husky or Malamute when they see the face. The muzzle is strong and tapered with strong jaws that meet in a scissors bite. The eyes are dark brown and very alert and clear, enhancing the look of intelligence and constant vigilance that the breed is known for.
The coat is a very distinctive trait of the Norwegian Elkhound with a darker outer coat over a lighter colored inner coat. The coat is considered a "stand off" coat which means that the dense undercoat pushes the outer coat outwards giving a volume appearance to the coat over the entire body. Typically the body itself as well as the ears, muzzle and the end of the tail are a dark black, with darker shades of gray over the body and lighter silver or gray coloration on the legs and undersides of the dog. The tail is carried in a typical spitz roll over the back. It is slightly plumed looking but not excessively and the lighter undercoat hair is very visible as the tail curls over the back.
Norwegian Elkhound puppies are all born black and then gradually their coats lighten as they age. Often the full development of the gray coat color does not happen until the puppy is several weeks old.
The coat is a very dense looking stand off coat that is darker on the back and upper body including the face and neck. The muzzle and face have a shorter coat that is dark to black and the ears and tip of the tail are also black. The under coat and underside of the dog is lighter gray to silver in color. The coat is naturally water and dirt resistant and the dogs are naturally very clean and do not have a strong dog odor.
The Norwegian Elkhound was originally a Viking dog and is believed to have existed since about 5000 BC. It has been used throughout history for a variety of purposes from hunting moose and big game through to herding and guarding. It is believed that the original dogs of the breed were skeletally very similar to the current breed and it is considered to be one of the oldest breeds of domestic dogs.
The Norwegian Elkhound hunts by scent and can actually smell game several miles away. They use their piercing and rather high pitched bark to alert the hunters, then scent track the game until they find it. The Norwegian Elkhound has been known to track for days at a time, barking to keep the hunter's aware of its position. They traditionally hunted in small packs, surrounding the moose or game animal and then barking to alert hunters that they had the game at bay. Despite what the name suggestions, the Norwegian Elkhound was originally used to hunt moose, which, in Norwegian, is pronounced "elg". The Norwegian Elkhound has also be used to hunt bear, badger, caribou, reindeer and rabbits.
The Norwegian Elkhound in more recent times has been used as a watch dog, guard dog and sled dog. In its homeland of Norway there is still a law that allows the Minister of Defense to draft all of the breed located in the country in times of war should they be needed for transportation purposes.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a combination of the traits found in both the spitz and hound breeds. As a northern type dog it has been bred for its ability to be outside and be on its own, and this independence is very noticeable in the breed, especially when they are young. They also have the fun-loving and playful personality of a hound and make excellent family dogs.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a great pet with children and is a natural watchdog and guard dog, protecting its territory. Historically used as both a hunter and sled dog, its role was to keep game in one spot until the hunter arrived. Norwegian Elkhounds will bark for long periods of time to let the family know that something is new or unfamiliar in the area. Although they are very affectionate and loving towards the family and people they know, they are rather aloof and distrustful of strangers.
The Norwegian Elkhound needs to be socialized at an early age to prevent it from becoming dog-aggressive. This aggression is most noticed in intact males so both socialization and neutering is strongly recommended before aggressive behavior starts. The best option for keeping a Norwegian Elkhound as a companion dog in multiple dog households is a opposite gender neutered or spayed dog as a companion.
The Norwegian Elkhound loves to be with people and does require daily attention, exercise and time with the family. They will love to play and run and do best in families that are on the go and busy, but can also adjust to quieter situations with lots of opportunities for exercise and to be outside. A northern breed, they love to be outside in cold weather but may have difficulty in adjusting to very warm climates.
The breed is highly intelligent and has a hounds natural hunting ability so need to be in a fenced yard to prevent wandering and roaming. They can have a very high prey instinct and may not do well with cats and other pets unless they have been raised together since the Norwegian Elkhound was a puppy.
The Norwegian Elkhound is not a dog that will follow every command from the owner as soon as it is given. They are independent and will often be distracted by other activities they find more interesting than what the owner has in mind. They are, however, very easy to train using positive, firm training methods and lots of petting and attention for a job well done. They love to work with people and do best if considered part of the family rather than left alone.
The Health conditions most often seen in Norwegian Elkhound are the same as many of the larger breeds. These include canine hip dysplasia and Progressive Retinal Atrophy, an eye condition found in most breeds. In addition some Norwegian Elkhounds will develop pyotraumatic dermatitis, more commonly known as Hot Spots. These painful and itchy lesions on the skin look moist and crusty and the dog will lick, scratch and bite at the skin causing hair loss. This can be treated by washing the area, clipping the hair, and consulting with a vet to track the source of the irritant. Fanconi Syndrome, a kidney impairment is very occasionally seen in the breed.
The Norwegian Elkhound has the same grooming requirements of most of the northern breeds. The coarser outer hair is rather stiff and not prone to matting however the softer inner hair can be. Brushing twice a week with a firm bristle brush, pin brush or rubber brush followed by a metal comb is the best possible grooming routine.
They are average shedders year round but have very heavy seasonal sheds when the downy undercoat is completely "blown". At these times the hair will come out in clumps, and the dead hair can mat into the outer coat if brushing is not regularly completed.
Since the breed is prone to hot spots and skin irritations regular grooming will help owners monitor these conditions as well as removing the old, dead hair and minimizing the irritants against the skin. The breed has no odor and so bathing should only be done when absolutely necessary and only with special dog shampoos and conditioners. Over bathing will strip the weather-resistant oils from the hair resulting in dry, damaged hair.
The area around the rump and the back where the tail rests can be particularly difficult areas to keep free from tangles and mats. When grooming pay special attention to these potentially problematic areas.
The Norwegian Elkhound breed requires a fair amount of exercise per day. They are the dog version of a distance runner, preferring longer walks and jogs to short bursts of activities. Many breeders recommend at least a solid hour of fairly intense physical activity per day. If the family has children a romp in the yard with the kids after school will be a perfect activity for fun, attention and exercise for the dog.
Since the Norwegian Elkhound was used as a hunting dog and has hound tendencies, it is always recommended that these dogs be on a leash or lead when outside of the yard. They will roam and wander and may become so engrossed in an interesting scent or in chasing a squirrel that they completely ignore the owners calls. The Norwegian Elkhound will play very will with other dogs that it is raised with and socialized, but should not be off leash when unfamiliar dogs are around as they can be very protective and somewhat aggressive.
They do need a place to run and exercise, although they can adjust very well to a small indoor living space and will be well behaved and calm indoors after exercise.
The Norwegian Elkhound is a relatively independent dog that needs early training and socialization to be friendly and well-behaved dogs. They do not respond well to negative types of training and are reported to actually remember any negative treatment or unfair or harsh punishment. They will bond very strongly with a family that treats them well and will work hard to protect and interact with the family.
As an independent breed a Norwegian Elkhound is not recommended for owners that want a dog that will immediately respond to all commands. The Norwegian Elkhound typically will respond to commands but tends to respond after considering the situation rather than upon the immediate command. This is likely due to their breeding which encouraged dogs to think and problem solve when they were chasing or holding game until the hunters arrived.
The Norwegian Elkhound requires high levels of socialization when they are young to prevent any possible dog aggression or wariness of strangers. They are a watch and guard dog breed and were bred to bark to alert people and need to be taught to only bark for short periods of time. When bored or alone for long periods they can become problem barkers very quickly.
A Norwegian Elkhound will need to be exercised before training sessions to ensure that the dog can focus. A good hour of exercise is usually sufficient to allow them to attend to what you need. Obedience training is ideal as it helps owners establish their command in positive and controlled settings as well as providing excellent socialization opportunities for the young dog. A very intelligent dog they are quick to learn with the owner expects of them and will need little prompting to learn a new trick or command. They should not be taught through highly repetitive training as they will become bored and non-responsive.
Since the breed can have a high prey instinct socializing with other animals, especially cats in the house, is critical at a young age. Norwegian Elkhounds that have not been socialized with other animals should never be left alone with the animals, even if things seem to be going well.