This confident, friendly breed was bred to withstand cold weather and to hunt or work for days at a time. Norwegian Elkhounds are spitz-type dogs that look and act very similar to Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes. Like these other breeds, Elkhounds have an energetic and independent spirit and shed an incredible amount of fur all year round. However, they are slightly smaller than huskies and malamutes and as an all-purpose breed, they have worked in a variety of fields over the millennia.
Norwegian Elkhounds are, as you might imagine, from Scandinavia (particularly Norway) and are one of the oldest breeds with a history that goes back thousands of years. The rest of their name also speaks to their dog breed group and, in a way, their jobs! Elghund means “moose/elk dog” in Norwegian and elch means “moose/elk” in German, a reference to their jobs as hunting companions. However, these dogs don’t just hunt elk. Because of their great noses, size, and thick coats Norweigan Elkhounds have been used as hunting companions, flock guardians, watchdogs, and sled dogs in cold climates for centuries. While they have worked in all sorts of jobs, they’ve especially been known for their help hunting badgers, bears, wolves, reindeer, and rabbits.
For folks who like having a clean house, a Norwegian Elkhound might not be the best dog because of how much they shed. Like huskies, these dogs have a thick double coat that excessively sheds all year round and more during the spring and fall. Their coats do come in some combination of black, grey, white, and silver. They also tend to shed dirt, which is great for their coats but that dirt can often end up on you, in the house, or any other inconvenient place. Like any dog with a double coat, Norwegian Elkhounds shouldn’t be shaved unless medically necessary (like if there are mats or for surgery), as their double coats help them regulate their temperature all year round. Those weather-resistant and thick coats are why elkhounds do so well in colder, snowy climates.
As mentioned, Norwegian Elkhounds aren’t quite as big as malamutes or huskies (but they do love colder climates and snow just as much as those breeds!). Elkhounds stand roughly 19-20 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh 45-60 pounds, making them bigger than a Border Collie but not quite as big as a husky. But like many other spritz-type dogs, this breed can be rather independent and like other hunting or sled dogs, can also be very energetic and active. These traits are great for dogs with opportunities to work, run, or hike every day but if you’re looking for a couch potato canine, a Norwegian Elkhound is probably not for you.
While Elkhounds are active dogs that can do well in dog sports, they aren’t usually great off-leash and many have been known to follow their nose instead of listening to their owners. Any yard they have regular access to should be securely and fully fenced for a Norweigan Elkhound and exercise should be much more than just sniffing around the yard a couple of times a day. 40-60 minutes of exercise, be it a walk, run, sports, or the like, every day should help keep this breed both happy and healthy.
These dogs are also very adaptable and affectionate with their families. That means they generally do well in apartments or with children, provided they get enough exercise and consistent training! However, they still have a fairly high prey drive and tendency to make noise, which means they might not be great in a house with cats or around neighbors who mind the occasional bark or howl. Of course, every individual dog is different and those raised with cats could be great with them while training could help with excessive barking. Genetics and breed development both play a role in a dog’s temperament but it’s not always a guarantee that a specific dog will turn out a certain way.
If you’re looking for an affectionate watchdog that will love to come with you on hikes, walks, or runs, a Norwegian Elkhound might just be the dog for you! Of course, that also depends on how you feel about fur being everywhere in your life, as elkhounds tend to shed like there’s no tomorrow! Ultimately, even with their intense shedding and independent personalities, Norweigan Elkhounds are great dogs for active people or families looking for a medium-sized and loving canine companion.