Breed Type: Spitz
Country of Origin: Norway
Popular Names: Grey Norwegian Elkhound, Small Grey Elk Dog, Norwegian Moose Dog, Harmaa norjanhirvikoira, Norsk Elghund, Grå Norsk Elghund, Elkhound
Height: (At the withers) Males 48 – 53 cm, Females 46 – 51 cm
Weight: Males 23 – 27 kg, Females 18 – 25 kg
Best suited as: Pet or watch dog with an active owner or family. May be used as a herding or hunting dog
Lifespan: 12-15 years
This National dog of Norway is an ancient Spitz-type breed once used as herder, hunter, defender, and guardian.
The squarely built, muscular, sturdy medium-sized dog has a typical spitz appearance. It has a deep chest and long ribcage, a strong neck, a tightly-curled tail, and triangle-shaped prick ears. The dog’s dark brown eyes look alert, intelligent, and clear.
These dogs are double-coated, with a light-coloured inner coat under a longer, darker outer coat. The dense fur is weather- and dirt-resistant. The stand-off coat means the fur stands out from the body, which makes the dog look larger than it is. The body, muzzle, end of the tail, and ears are usually black, while there is dark grey on the body and light grey or silver over the sides and legs. There is shorter hair on the dog’s head. All pups are born black and their fur lightens as they grow.
These dogs were developed by ancient Scandinavians over 6000 years ago. They were used to pull sledges, to herd, to hunt bear and moose, and to protect the clan and animals. The Norwegian Elkhound is possibly one of the oldest domestic dog breeds. Fossilized remains dating to between 5000 and 4000 BCE were recovered in western Norway.
Traditionally, the Elkhounds would hunt in groups and would scent-track the moose, deer, bear, or other game and surround the game animal(s). The dogs would then bark to let the hunters know the game was held at bay. These hunting trips would sometimes take days, and so stamina was an important feature.
The Norsk Elghund gained in popularity beginning in the late 1800s and the dogs spread throughout Scandinavia and all across the world.
This breed exhibits traits found in both hounds and spitz. They are fun-loving and playful family dogs like hounds, but also enjoy being on their own and outside like spitz. Even young dogs like being alone.
They do well with children and are very protective. They make wonderful watchdogs and will bark if they notice anything unfamiliar or untrustworthy in the vicinity. They are distrustful and aloof around strangers but are very loving and affectionate with family and friends.
To prevent dog-aggression, these dogs must be socialized at a young age to all other types of dogs. Males should be neutered if you don’t intend to breed them; this helps reduce aggressive behaviour. If you have another dog in the house, it is best to have both dogs spayed and neutered and to have opposite genders to reduce aggression issues.
Because these dogs were originally meant to be in cold northern climates, they enjoy being outside in cool winter weather. They have a harder time adjusting to warmer, humid climates.
These independent dogs are very easy to train but are sometimes distracted and choose to do something other than its latest command. They are independent and this can sometimes translate into the dog not doing everything its owner tells it to do. They love being with people and should be considered part of the family and prefer to be included in family activities.
They must be kept in a fenced-in area when off-leash, to avoid them going off in search of something to hunt. They do not do well with cats or other household pets unless they have been raised with them.
Care and Grooming
The dog’s coarse outer hair is not prone to matting but the dense undercoat needs brushing twice a week. Use a pin brush, firm bristle brush, or rubber brush and then a metal comb to make sure you reach all the fur. They are prone to skin irritations and hot spots. Keeping dead hair brushed away will help prevent this, and will allow the owner to notice any areas that need attention before they become problems. Areas prone to developing mats are where the tail rests on the back and the rump area.
They shed individual hairs year-round but “blow” their undercoat a couple of times a year with changes in the seasons. The fur comes out in clumps and during this time, the dog should be brushed daily to prevent mats. Their coats are naturally weather-resistant so bathing should only be done when absolutely necessary. This helps to protect the coat’s natural oils.
Like all other breeds, the Norwegian Elkhound needs to have its toenails clipped once a month if necessary, plus weekly tooth brushing and ear inspections. If there is earwax build-up then use a safe vet-approved cleaner and a cotton ball to clean the ears.
This breed is very active and needs a lot of exercise to prevent boredom and destructive behaviours. They need outdoor space to run and play, and enjoy games of catch. At least one to two hours of vigorous exercise is best. They make great Rollerblading, cycling, and jogging companions. They have excellent stamina and love to hike and camp. Most enjoy agility training.
These dogs are mostly hale and hearty and live 13 to 15 years. Health conditions to which they are prone to include hip dysplasia, cataracts, renal problems, cysts, progressive retinal atrophy, thyroid problems, chondrodysplasia, glaucoma, entropion, lens luxation, Fanconi syndrome, and infundibular keratinizing acanthoma.
Suitability As A Pet
The Norwegian Elkhound is best for someone with some dog training experience. They get along great with children of all ages and so make a wonderful family companion, guardian, and watchdog. They may also be used as working sledge dogs, herders, pack dog, or flock guard.
These dogs are not suited for sedentary people. They need to play, run, and walk on a daily basis. They can adjust to living in small apartments as long as they get plenty of exercise outside every day, but do keep in mind that they are very boisterous barkers and will bark at every noise and visitor. They will also bark when they are bored or anxious about being alone. It is important to teach them commands to stop them from barking so you don’t irritate your neighbours, or perhaps choose another breed if you are concerned how a barking dog would affect your relationships with your neighbours.
Norwegian Elkhound Organisations in Australia
Norwegian Elkhound Club of New South Wales
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