Breed Type: Spitz
Country of Origin: Norway
Size: Medium
Height: 45 – 53 cm
Weight:  20-27kg
Exercise Requirements: Medium
Care Requirements:  Medium – High during spring
Life Span: Average 14 years

The Norwegian elkhound is an ancient breed of dog that has developed in Norway. There are perhaps one of the first ever breeds of domestic dog with skeletal remains of a remarkably similar dog found in Norway over 7000 years ago.

They are a sturdily rather than heavily built dogs that ethics are enhances their stocky appearance. They are medium in size and is squarish in confirmation. They were initially bred as hard as a big game and as such have excellent stamina and can play further along time without tiring. Typical of northern European cold weather bred dogs they have a double coat, the exterior coat is a distinctive grey on the top whilst the undercoat and underparts of the exterior coat a lighter in colour .They have black muzzle and ears as well is a black tail tip.

They have a typical Spitz broad wedge shaped head and powerful jaws. There is are permanently pricked but highly mobile. They have large dark brown eyes which are intelligent, alert and friendly. As with all of the Spitz type breeds their tail curls over the back. There are deep and wide chested with straight and parallel forelegs. Curiously though they have thick fur to have almost no discernible doggy odour with some enthusiasts claiming this as the most attractive feature.

History of the Norwegian Elkhound
For over seven millennia they have been bred in Norway as large game hunting dogs capable of tracking moves and elk over many kilometres even through snow.  They would trace the animal to exhaustion and then keep it at bay by barking which also notified the Hunter whether big game was. There have also been successfully used to hunt small animals such as rabbits as well is credited as such as badges, badges, even wolves bears and mountain lions. Their strength and ability to handle extreme cold has also seen them used as sled dogs.

Considering how ancient the breed is somewhat surprising that there was no recognise breed standard until near the end of the 19th century when the Norwegian hunters Association commenced holding shows the breed. Early in the 20th century the breed was recognised in the UK and the US though it was some time later that they became recognised in Australia perhaps because of our warmer climate making them a less popular breed to import and commence breeding and other breeds.

Bred to hunt they are equal parts bravery and friendliness. They have a strong pack sense and will greet family members with unbridled enthusiasm and excitement was being more reserved were strangers. They are reliable around children and make a great family pet. They are an intelligent, loyal and very affectionate dog.

Typical of hunting dogs they were bred to make their own decisions when tracking and hunting game over many kilometres per have an independent streak which is impossible to remove entirely with obedience training. Its important to ensure they are given obedience training early this train should be equal parts affection and firmness.  You’ll take many steps back if you try and achieve much with them with repetitive, military style training drills. Bred to bark when a corner their prey they have a tendency to do this even in backyards though it is a trait which training can modify. They usually good with other family pets assuming they are introduced as members of their pack.

Care and Grooming
Their coat is designed to protect them from cold weather  – in parts of Norway there is no all year round. Their fur is weatherproof being water and dirt resistant to they require irregular bathing which any case will strip natural oils from the skin which is undesirable. They do require regular brushing it should be done with a Robert Brush or a double rowed metal toothed comb.

In spring they will shed heavily as they lose their dense undercoat and during this time they will require brushing daily if not more often.

They do need a fair amount of exercise and will certainly enjoy long walks and rough housing in the backyard. Whilst they will also greatly enjoy off lead exploring understand that they may not choose to return when called so don’t do this if you are very close to a road or in some other area where refusal to immediately at a command to them to come could result in a bad outcome for them, another dogs or people. Don’t let them off around livestock. Cows look like loose in your dog will likely chase them, bail them up and bark at them.
They are a cold weather bred dogs and will grow winter coat even if you keep them in northern Australia so if you are considering keeping one in a very warm part of Australia are looking at keeping them as a pet as opposed to a show dog consider shaving them during the warmer months were sure they are not exercised during the heat of the day.(Editor’s note – which was some places includes the night)

As a purpose bred hunting dog created in an extreme environment only the strongest individuals survived, and the strongest of those were allowed to breed. As a result the breed is an extremely healthy breed with no known genetic problems either overseas or in Australia. They are generally extremely long-lived with an average lifespan of 14 years that some individuals living far passed this.

To note that regardless of their current hardiness they are still somewhat uncommon breed in Australia to the gene pool breeding is quite small. To date this has proved to be no problem in the breed is now sourcing more dogs from overseas it is unlikely to be one in the future that something worth noting. A limited gene pool is not ideal.

The only issue you’re likely to encounter with the Norwegian elkhound is obesity as they do like a feed so don’t give them access to an all day food bowl as is unlikely they will show moderation.

Veterinary Surgeon, London at Blue Cross UK | + posts

A London based Veterinary surgeon, Sanja is also an avid writer and pet advocate.