Norwegian Elkhound


History & Origin

An extremely old dog breed, the Norwegian Elkhound’s history goes back for more than five thousand years.

The first dogs of this type were the Torvmosehund, i.e. peat or swamp dogs. Their remains have been found in the peat bogs of both Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden. It is believed Gypsies used these dogs to hunt game, both large and small.

The Torvmosehund is the forerunner of the northern Spitz dog breeds. Included amongst these are the Norwegian Elkhound, Chow Chow, Keeshond, Akita, Samoyed, and Alaskan Malamute. All these breeds have a common build, coat, and curly tail in common.

The Vikings, who favored these dogs, took them out to sea with them. Many of their skeletons have been found in old Norwegian shipwrecks.

One strain of the Torvmosehund became popular with Norwegian farmers. They would tend the flocks and went out with hunters, especially those hunting bigger game. These dogs were great at hunting bears and mountain lions and excellent at hunting wolves, foxes, birds, and rabbits. Their specialty, though, was moose hunting. The name Elkhound, in Norwegian, actually means ‘moose dog’. Norwegian Elkhounds are, in fact, the national dog in Norway.

By the time the 1800’s came around, the Norwegians started preserving certain breeds. The Norwegian Elkhound was one of these.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Norwegian Elkhound in 1913.

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Your Norwegian Elkhound puppy will grow up to be very friendly and outgoing. He loves people and adores children.

As far as strangers are concerned, he has the ability to tell who are welcome and who are not. This will make him a wonderful watchdog. He is not a great guard dog, though. These puppies are just too friendly as far as people go. They are not aggressive at all and get along well with other family pets.

This great family dog is curious, agile, and energetic, and devoted to the rest of his family. They are also very self-reliant and have a lot of common sense.

What motivates a Norwegian Elkhound is food. They love eating. While this can come in handy as a reward during training, watch out your dog does not become fat. Obesity is a problem with this breed. They will steal food if they can, and their large, begging eyes can soften your heart. Do not give in! They are manipulating you!

Your Elkhound puppy is very intelligent. Obedience training is necessary. If this is not done, he will soon try to become the leader of the pack. His dominance is usually shown towards children. He sees himself as their protector. Your puppy will try to train them, and you, to give him treats and pet him when he wants it.

Although they need a firm hand, they do not tolerate harshness. They have a tendency to bark a lot, so keep this in mind. It might not be okay with your neighbors.

This breed craves affection. Long periods away from his family cause separation anxiety. This, in turn, leads to destructive behavior.

norwegian elkhound


nutrition and feeding


Norwegian Elkhounds have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years if taken good care of!


The best food for a Norwegian Elkhound is real food. This means chicken, beef, turkey, etc. Adding yogurt, cottage cheese, and eggs to their diet now and then are also great. It gives them the vitamins they need. Fruit and vegetables are also good options, but certain foods should never be given to your dog. Examples of foods not to ever give a dog are caffeine products, raisins and grapes, sugar or artificial sweeteners, chocolate, and avocado. These make your dog very ill. Some are even poisonous.

Norwegian Elkhounds also do well on dry dog food. It has to be high quality, though. Make sure the food you pick is balanced and sees to all his nutritional needs. Cheap brands of dog food contain additives and fillers. These do nothing for your dog except make him feel full. You should stay away from them. Some are linked to cancer in dogs.

An adult Norwegian Elkhound does well on one meal a day. Some do better on two smaller meals. You need to experiment on this to see what your dog prefers.

Never do free-feeding. Free feeding is when food is always available for your dog to eat. Norwegian Elkhounds love their food and quickly become obese if not checked. Obesity leads to heart problems and diabetes, to mention but two health problems.

Always make sure your dog has a bowl of clean, fresh water available.


When feeding a puppy do so according to a schedule. This helps with potty training. Make sure his meals are balanced. Good quality food is important for his growing needs.

Food must be age specific and breed specific. You cannot feed a large breed puppy food that is suitable for small breed puppies. Food meant for an adult is also not good for a growing puppy.

Weaning a puppy takes three to four weeks. When you bring your new puppy home, feed him the same food he ate at the breeder. If you want to change his diet, do so gradually. Changing his diet immediately will give your puppy an upset tummy. This is messy.

A small puppy needs feeding three to four times a day. By the time he is six months old, two meals a day are fine. Mealtimes are early morning, mid-morning, early afternoon, and early evening. Don’t feed him too late in the evening. His tummy will want to ‘go’ while you might be asleep.

coat and grooming


Size and Coat

The Norwegian Elkhound is a grey-coated medium-sized dog. They are a member of the Spitz group of dogs. Their build is athletic and square. Stamina is their middle name. A tightly-curled tail is typical of their Spitz heritage. Erect ears round off their broad, wedge-shaped head and dark brown eyes. The ears are very mobile. This makes them great hunting dogs capable of hearing their prey in areas where it is difficult to see. They have deep, wide chests.

Male Norwegian Elkhounds are a little larger than the females.  An average male stands between 19” and 21” from the withers to the ground and weighs between 50 pounds to 60 pounds. The smaller females stand between 18” and 20” and weigh between 40 pounds and 55 pounds.

A Norwegian Elkhound has a lush, thick, gray, double coat. The breed is able to live in very cold climates. Their coats also withstand moisture and shrug off any dirt. The top coat is gray, while the undercoat is much lighter in color. They are seasonal rather than constant shedders.


Proper grooming is important for your Norwegian Elkhound’s wellbeing. Cleaning and grooming this breed plays a large part in their behavior patterns.

The most important part of this breed’s grooming routine is brushing. It allows your dog to bond with you, it improves his blood circulation, and it leaves him with a clean, shiny coat.

Dogs of this breed are not constant shedders, although they shed about three times a year. During this time, you need to brush your pet much more often than you would normally do. If you do not, you will find their hair all over the place.

The Norwegian Elkhound is a very clean breed. They do not need bathing too often and do not get a doggy smell as most dogs do. When bathing, use a good quality shampoo.

Nails need trimming about once a month unless it is a very active dog. Active dogs’ nails file down naturally most of the time. If he walks on a tiled floor and you hear his nails clicking, it is time for a cut. Long nails can tear, and is painful. If you do not want to clip his nails yourself, a quick trip to the doggy parlor or veterinarian gets the job done in next to no time. It is also not expensive.

Check his ears regularly. A bad smell or discoloration means he probably has an ear infection. At the same time, clean them with a damp cotton wool ball. Never stick anything into his ear canal. You can do serious harm if you do.



Exercise, Energy, and Activities

Norwegian Elkhounds are a high-energy dog breed. They need about an hour a day’s worth of high-level exercise. Their independent nature makes them prone to wandering. A home with a fenced backyard is needed for this boy. When walking, keep him on a leash. You do not want him wandering off to heaven knows where.

Where training is concerned, things can get tricky. These dogs worked independently when finding their prey. Training, therefore, should be firm and consistent. Never be harsh. These dogs do not take well to harsh treatment.

A Norwegian Elkhound owner needs to take charge of the situation. The dog has to know you are in control. If you do not, your dog may end up controlling you.

Besides physical exercise, mental exercise is also important. Without this, you end up with a dog that is highly strung. Enough mental and physical exercise as well as positive reinforcement leads to a happy, content dog.

Because of their stamina, these dogs are ideal for active families. Jogging with you is a favorite pastime.

Training and Sleep/Rest

Some Norwegian Elkhound puppies are difficult to potty train. Both normal housetraining and crate training work with this breed.

Crate training gives your puppy a safe place to go to when he wants a little alone time. It also teaches him to ‘hold’ it in until it is potty time outside.

Normal housetraining means you need to keep a constant watch for when it is ‘time’.

When housetraining your puppy, take him out to the potty area about fifteen minutes after a meal. A puppy’s digestive system takes about this long before he has to ‘go’. Other times he needs taking out are first thing in the mornings, last thing in the evenings, and about every 35 minutes to an hour during the day.

A small puppy does not have control over his bowel and bladder movements. This develops as he grows. In time, he needs to go out for his potty time less and less often.



Health Issues

All dogs, much like people, can get health problems due to their genes. This is why you should only ever buy a puppy from a reputable breeder. They will tell you everything you want to know about the breed and you puppy’s history.

The most common health problems are:

Patellar luxation – Also known as floating kneecap. The kneecap moves out of its normal position. Treatment is by means of surgery.

Hip dysplasia –It is a genetic problem but influenced by environmental factors. An example is a poor diet. Treatment is by means of surgery.

Fanconi Syndrome – This is a problem with the kidneys. They are not able to transport water, sodium, bicarbonate, amino acids, etc. The cause is unknown. It could lead to kidney failure. There is no treatment to reverse the damage, but further damage is preventable.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) – This is hereditary. PRA is the progressive loss of sight due to the degeneration of the retina. The condition is treatable if caught early enough.

To Sum Up

A great family dog that loves children, the Norwegian Elkhound is a very adaptable dog. It prefers a home with a large, enclosed yard although it can take to apartment living. There is one condition, though. It needs enough daily exercise. Their protective nature, especially around children, makes them excellent watchdogs. They do not make good guard dogs, however, as they are just too friendly with people for their own good!

A dog that has withstood the test of time, a Norwegian Elkhound makes a wonderful family addition for a family with an active lifestyle. They hate being apart from their family for long periods. This leads to a dog developing separation anxiety and who becomes incredibly destructive.

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