Norwegian Elkhounds

The Norwegian Elkhound has a long history in Norway as a watchdog, flock guardian and big-game hunter. He’s built tough for rugged terrain and a cold, unwelcoming climate, with a thick, protective gray coat, a broad head topped with prick ears and a tail that curls tightly over his back. The Elkhound is a medium- size dog, weighing 48 to 55 pounds. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering bringing an Elkhound into your home.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

Yes, if you like a spitz breed with a bold and boisterous outlook on life. This is an active dog in need of daily exercise that will challenge him physically and mentally and prevent him from becoming destructive or noisy. Plan to exercise him for 20 to 30 minutes twice a day. He also performs well in dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally.

Speaking of noisy, he does bark a lot. That's just how he communicates. In some instances, that's a good thing. The hardy, good-natured Elkhound is friendly in general, but he will alert you to anyone approaching the home and his deep bark will make intruders think twice about coming onto your property. If you're not home during the day to prevent him from barking unnecessarily, he may drive the neighbors barking mad.

This intelligent and highly trainable dog responds well to positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise and food rewards, but he is an independent thinker. Don't expect unquestioning obedience from him and you won't be disappointed. Keep training sessions short and fun so he doesn't get bored. Spend extra time practicing the "Heel" command. He tends to be a puller.

If the presence of Elkhound dust puppies would make you crazy, reconsider your decision to get this breed. He's not difficult to groom, but he does shed a lot of hair. Brush his double coat weekly to keep it clean and remove dead hair. During spring and fall shedding seasons, daily brushing will help to keep excess hair under control. In addition, trim his nails as needed, brush his teeth, and keep the ears clean to prevent infections.

Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Elkhound needs to live in the house. It's an unhappy Elkhound who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.

Health Issues Common to Norwegian Elkhounds

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Elkhound has some health problems that can be a concern, especially if you aren't careful who you buy from. They include hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, autoimmune hypothyroidism, a renal disease called Fanconi syndrome, and skin cysts. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have hip scores of Excellent, Good or Fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or a PennHIP score and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy.

The Norwegian Elkhound Association of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Norwegian Elkhound to achieve CHIC certification, he must have an OFA or PennHIP evaluation for hips, an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, and OFA thyroid and kidney evaluations.

Additional certifications that are recommended but not required are OFA for patellas (knees) and elbows and a genetic test for Fanconi syndrome. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Hypothyroidism Medium $200-$1,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Norwegian Elkhound Puppy

A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. To find a list of breeders, visit the websites of the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America. Choose a breeder who is committed to following the NEAA's guidelines for breeders, which prohibit the sale of puppies to pet stores or wholesalers and outline the breeder's responsibilities to the breed and to buyers.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Elkhounds aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, an Elkhound can live 12 or more years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Elkhound to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Norwegian Elkhounds

Pet insurance for Norwegian Elkhounds costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Norwegian Elkhounds are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Norwegian Elkhounds are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Norwegian Elkhound is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.