May 10, 2006

Norwegian Elkhounds Make Great Pet Dogs

Norwegian Elkhounds are an old breed, dating back to Stone Agetimes in Scandinavia. Fossil dating confirms its long use as adomesticated hunting companion of man. They are only moderatelypopular in the U.S., but as you’ll see, this breed has a lot ofdesirable traits that make it a good choice as a pet.

Physical Characteristics

Norwegian Elkhounds are beautiful dogs, with medium-sizedbodies, a distinctive Spitz curled tail, and strong, athleticlines. Bred to hunt a variety of prey, they possess amazingstamina and can go strong for days at a time. Like all huntingdogs, Elkhounds have powerful jaw muscles and ears that movearound the head to pick up sounds coming from many directions.They have wide, deep, muscular chests and front legs designedfor quick bursts of speed.

Not surprisingly, since they evolved in colder climes, NorwegianElkhounds possess a thick double coat that is darker gray on topand lighter underneath. It is superbly suited for heatabsorption and retention. They also emit no “doggie” odor -another common characteristic of hunting dogs. This works tomask its presence when stalking prey. For us as pet owners, thismakes the Elkhound a very clean dog, even in the hot summermonths when other breeds can become smelly from all theperspiration.

Elkhounds stand 18-22 inches tall and generally run between40-55 lbs. Pound for pound, they are one of the fiercest huntingdogs in existence and make excellent guard dogs for homes andbusinesses. They bark loudly and often, which is either a goodor a bad thing, depending on where you live and what job yougive the dog.

From a health perspective, Elkhounds are prone to hip dysplasia,dermatitis, and Fanconi Syndrome (rare, but can lead to kidneyfailure). You should also be careful not to overfeed this breed,as it gains weight quickly and doesn’t shed pounds efficientlyin a sedentary domestic environment.


The Norwegian Elkhound is both friendly and fiercely loyal. Thisis a great trait in a pet dog, but care must be taken toproperly socialize the animal to avoid aggression towardstrangers (both other dogs and humans). Having only occasionalvisitors can bring out the ‘guard dog’ tendency. Earlysocialization, such as taking the pup to crowded parks or havinglots of family and friends over on a regular basis, can instilla sense of ease around strange dogs and people that will lastyour dog’s lifetime. The key is to help your pet Elkhound learnearly on to associate your presence among others as a good thing- not a situation requiring his/her defensive posturing(barking, growling, aggressive movements).

Like all arctic dog breeds, Elkhounds have a definiteindependent streak. Intelligent and resourceful, they are one ofthe best breeds to have as an ‘only pet.’ They are a bitresistant to formal training, so you need to be firm (but nevermean) to teach them. They respond well to praise and rewards,but are very sensitive and will remain aloof for long periods ifyou treat them unfairly or punish too much during training. Thekey is to be firm, but give lots and lots of praise and love toreward him/her when the behavior you want to instill isexhibited.

The most common complaint about Norwegian Elkhound behavior isthe barking. Understand that hunting dogs need to hold the preyat bay and alert their masters to their location at the sametime. This means that the more boisterous dogs were better athelping their masters hunt, so they got bred more often. As anatural result, this breed now features loud barking almostuniversally. Don’t get an Elkhound if this will pose a problem.

Elkhounds as Pets

As you’ve probably discerned, Norwegians need a lot of activity.They are tireless runners and need to burn that energy off.Therefore, they are not good pets for apartment or condominiumdwellers, unless you can provide ample outdoor space for regularexercise. Ideally, a big fenced yard or local park with aregularly active owner is the perfect setting for these dogs.

Norwegian Elkhounds are also best suited for a cooler climate.They can overheat quickly in any region where the temperatureexceeds 90 in the Summer. However, they do very well during coldwinters, even when temps dip into sub-zero readings.

Finally, always exercise caution when taking your Elkhound outfor a walk or jog. Use a leash! They have an independent streakand are known to ignore their masters when they pick up aninteresting scent. Even trained dogs of this breed willsometimes defy their masters when a really enticing scent comesalong, so don’t get complacent!

Overall, the Norwegian Elkhound is an excellent dog to bringinto your home as a pet. Loyal, friendly, intelligent andenergetic, they make wonderful pets for active people or workingdogs for those with property protection needs.

John Schwartz (all rightsreserved)

About the author:

John Schwartz is a freelance writer and dog lover. He haswritten many published articles on subjects like safe dogtoys and supplies, pet health issues, and effective dogtraining practices. Visit his website at for more information and useful tips.

John Schwartz

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