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Norwegian Elkhound Information: Breed Facts, Traits & More


Last Updated: November 21, 2023 | 8 min read | Leave a Comment

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Has a Norwegian Elkhound made it to the top of your list as your next possible family dog? Let’s look at all the information you need to decide whether they are the right pet for you. We cover it all and more, from their fun, bold, and loving nature to their intelligence and exercise requirements.

Norwegian Elkhounds are intelligent and independent. They are affectionate, fun, and family-friendly. Before welcoming one into your home, you should know their quirks because although they are lovely, they aren’t suitable for every household.

The breed is known as the “Moose” Dog. Although they are named Elkhounds, they are not hounds at all. Let’s learn whether this breed will be your next family companion.

Norwegian Elkhound
    • weight iconWeight48-55 pounds
    • height iconHeight19.5-20.5 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-15 years
    • color iconColorsGray and black, black and silver, white and silver
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

Breed History

The Norwegian Elkhound originated in Norway. Their name in Norwegian means “moose,” which is how they are referred to in Norway, their country of origin. His exact origin details are unknown, but evidence suggests the breed may have been around since 5000 BCE. He can be traced back roughly a thousand years.

Vikings used the breed to guard and hunt. They would guard herds, flocks, and homes. They would also hunt large game such as bears and moose. They weren’t necessarily used for killing the prey but more so for alerting the hunter. They would first track down the prey and then keep it in place by barking until the hunter could arrive to kill the animal. Norwegian Elkhounds are still used in their original capacity as hunting dogs today. However, this savvy Elkhound has become more of a household companion than a hunter. He is a staple in Norwegian culture.


These doggies are affectionate and loving. They will be devoted and loyal to their families. True to their nature, they are also protective. They are natural guard dogs and will be sure to bark if an intruder trespasses. Barking is also part of their nature. Training can help control the barking, but they will still bark. Barking is a quality to consider when deciding if the Elkhound will be your next companion.

Since they are highly intelligent, they can be free-spirited and independent thinkers. This can make them fun and exciting. Yet, if not held to family standards and rules, they can be rambunctious. Training and socialization will be beneficial for this smarty.

Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class will be a great start. Early socialization, such as exposure to different people, sights, sounds, and experiences, will help the puppy develop social skills.

Size And Appearance

Elkhound Dog Outside
He averages about 19.5-20.5 inches in height.

The Norwegian Elkhound is a robust, medium-sized dog. Males average about 20.5 inches tall and 55 pounds, while females are about 19.5 inches tall and 48 pounds. They have dark brown eyes and ears that stand erect. They have a lush silver-gray coat with a tail curling over their back. They can come in various color combinations.

Coat And Colors

The Elkhound is usually medium gray with black and silver, often called silver-gray. They can also have variations such as black and gray, black and silver, white and silver, silver, gray and black. They tend to be darker gray on their backs and have black tips on the ears and tail. Their chest and mane are a lighter gray.

Most of the year, Elkhounds don’t shed too much. However, two or three times a year, they blow their coat. During these times, they will shed a lot. You will find their fur around, so this is something to consider when choosing this pup. They should be brushed weekly or more to help the dead fur come out, especially when shedding their coat. Brushing will also make shedding more manageable.

Exercise Requirements

Dog Exercising running on tennis court
Elkhounds should be walked a minimum of 30 minutes twice a day.

These doggies require daily exercise of at least 30 minutes two times each day. They are high-energy dogs that love to run and chase, and if their energy is not burned, they can become destructive at home. Be cautious letting them be off-leash as they may chase after small animals that catch their attention.

If you want to try your Elkhound in dog sports, you might consider flyball, freestyle, tracking, guarding, herding or sledding. They do well in these sports and enjoy the high intensive exercise.

Living Conditions

Elkhounds can live in both a house and an apartment. If the house has a yard, it should be fenced. They love to chase and can get easily distracted by smaller animals passing by. They can do well in apartments, but they do bark, so that is something to consider. Either way, make sure they get enough exercise and are not cooped up inside too much during the day.

They can live with children and other pets. It would be best to be cautious with smaller pets as they can activate their hunting instinct. Early socialization with exposure to smaller animals will help keep their urges at bay.


Norwegian Hound with handler Patricia Trotter
Norwegian Elk Hound at 2017 Westminster Kennel Club Best in Show with handler Patricia Trotter

Intelligent and independent, these pups will try to have their way if you let them. They view themselves as equals with you and not as members that need to obey. This can make training difficult. Enrolling them in puppy training classes will start the process. They will understand the commands perfectly but question the need to repeat and obey them. If you’re firm, consistent, and patient, they will oblige with the chain of command.


Norwegian grey Elkhound dog on a walk
Walking your dog regularly is a way to make sure they stay healthy.

Norwegian Elkhounds are generally healthy but can be prone to certain health conditions. Your Elkhound may not develop any of these diseases. Still, it is essential to be aware of them to maintain his health, especially if you consider the breed for your next companion.

  • Fanconi Syndrome: Fanconi Syndrome is a serious, inherited kidney disorder caused by the defective transport of nutrients and water back into the body. Since the body cannot absorb the nutrients, they are eliminated. This can cause imbalances in essential nutrients such as calcium, glucose, sodium, phosphate, and amino acids. This imbalance or lack of nutrients can cause serious harm to the health of an Elkhound. Symptoms can begin between the ages of one to seven. Usually beginning with excessive urination and thirst. As the disease progresses and the kidneys start to fail, symptoms include weight loss, muscle wasting, muscle pain, lethargy, loss of appetite, and vomiting. If untreated or not diagnosed, the disease is fatal. If caught early and treated, dogs can do well. Management includes medication, change in diet, and a constant freshwater supply.
  • Hypothyroidism: hypothyroidism is a thyroid disorder. It occurs when the body does not produce enough thyroid hormone for the body to function normally. Symptoms include weight gain, lethargy, hair loss, behavioral changes, etc. It can also lead to secondary health problems such as epilepsy, pyoderma, hyperpigmentation, eye conditions, and obesity. Once diagnosed, hypothyroidism can be managed with a daily hormone supplement and diet.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic disease that degenerates both rod and cone type Photoreceptor Cells of the Retina, leading to full or partial blindness. Unfortunately, Norwegian Elkhounds are more likely than other dogs to have this condition. There is no cure, but dogs can adapt well to vision loss. A genetic test can determine whether your pup is prone to PRA.
  • Sebaceous Cysts: Sebaceous cysts are pimple-like bumps that form underneath a dog’s skin. Sebaceous cysts can form when sebum clogs the skin pores and hair follicles. Sebum is an oily substance that keeps the fur shiny. The clogged oil glands will develop small to large pimples on the dog’s skin. They will occasionally burst open, expelling a thick, white cheesy fluid. Most of the time, these cysts are harmless, but they need to be treated to resist infection. Treatment can include the application of medicine at home or surgical removal.


Elkhound checking out the grass
Norwegian Elkhounds are highly motivated by food and will become very clever and good at asking for food.

The recommended feeding amount for an Elkhound is 2 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry food a day. Feeding amounts will depend on his size, age, build, and activity level. The feeding should be divided into two meals. Be cautious with table food and extra meals as they can become obese.


Norwegian Elkhound dog after swimming in the river, walking near forest pond.
Their coat naturally sheds dirt and is weather-resistant.

The Elkhound has a double coat: a top and an undercoat. The topcoat is short and thick and lies smooth. The undercoat is woolly and soft to the touch. During shedding season, the undercoat will shed, so expect fur around the house. Daily brushing for five minutes will help maintain the shedding. The topcoat also sheds but not as much as the undercoat.

The Norwegian Elkhound does not have much of a doggy smell. A grooming bath two to three times a year should suffice. Baths will help the dead and old coats fall out so that new, healthy hair can grow. When you bathe him, it’s important to use high-quality dog shampoo.

Brush your Elkhound teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria inside it. Daily brushing is even better for preventing gum disease and bad breath.

Nail and ear grooming are vital to the health of your Elkhound. Trim nails once or twice a month and check ears weekly. Take notice of odor or redness.

Get your Elkhound used to being brushed and groomed when he’s a puppy. Play with his paws, so he feels comfortable having his paws handled. Some dogs are finicky about having their paws touched, so the earlier you get used to having their paws touched, the better. Also, start looking inside his mouth and getting accustomed to brushing and examining. Since they love food, giving them treats will help them associate grooming with a positive activity. You can make the experience fun and rewarding.

Breeders And Puppy Costs

A great place to start your breeder research is the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America. The price depends on several factors, including pedigree, lineage, breeder experience, proximity to the breeder, and mode of delivery. The average cost for a puppy typically falls between $750 and $950.

Be wary of bargains or discounts. A lower price in the beginning, may mean higher costs in the future. Some breeders may not properly screen for medical conditions or socialize them enough.

As you prepare for your new puppy, also factor in the cost of supplies, food, toys, and medical expenses. Additionally, you may need to puppy-proof your home and yard.

Rescues And Shelters

Norwegian Dog laying in grass
Consider adoption if you’re looking to make this loveable Elkhound your next doggy.

These rescue organizations are a great place to get started on your adoption journey.

As Family Pets

Norwegian Elkhounds adore being with their family. They are highly affectionate and eternally loyal. Elkhounds tend to bond very tightly with family members. These doggies love to play and enjoy fun activities. However, they may not be too fond of toys. Since they are independent thinkers, they will probably not bring back the ball in fetch.

Elkhounds are great with children. They enjoy playing with them and will also be protective of them. They need to be socialized early to get used to being around children. Owners must also be firm with these intelligent pups. If not, they will assume the role of alpha, especially with kids. Training will help establish ground rules and boundaries.

The Norwegian Elkhound gets along well with other pets, but owners should be careful with smaller pets. They are chasers by nature and can be tempted to chase smaller pets. Socialization with family pets at an early age will be beneficial in building these relationships.

Final Thoughts

The Norwegian Elkhound is a vivacious, intelligent, and affectionate doggy. He will make a loyal and devoted companion. This beauty will require owners that will be firm yet loving. They must be attuned to his need for daily exercise and mental stimulation, but the bathing needs are minimal. As with any pet you consider adding to your family, it is best to learn as much as you can about the breed and their needs. Bringing a dog to your family is a long-term commitment. You will want to ensure that you make the right decision for your family and the puppy.

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