Norwegian Elkhound Breed Information Guide: Quirks, Pictures, Personality & Facts

Written by: Casey Estorque

August 23, 2019

Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.

Intro / Overview

(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)

With a Norwegian Elkhound, you get the best of both worlds. This breed is wolflike with a doggy spirit. They’re fearless, yet friendly; independent, yet loyal; protective, yet non-aggressive. As the name implies, this breed falls into the Hound group. This medium-sized dog is strong, hardy, and energetic. They are also very playful and have a cheeky sense of humor!

The Norwegian Elkhound has been a devoted companion for over six millennia! Their rich history as hunters and guardians contribute to the loyal, active, and protective traits in today’s Norwegian Elkhound. Read on to learn more about this ancient breed!

Also Known As…

Sometimes, Norwegian Elkhounds are simply referred to as “Elkhound.” In their homeland, they are called “Norsk Elghund.”


The Norwegian Elkhound has been man and woman’s best friend since ancient times, making it one of the oldest European dogs. Skeletal remains from this breed date back to 4000 to 5000 BC! The American Kennel Club boasts that the Norwegian Elkhound “survived more than six millennia with all their Nordic traits intact.”

The Norwegian Elkhound is a prominent figure in Norse history, art, and legend. The Vikings held the breed in very high regard. In fact, Norwegian Elkhounds were the Viking’s shaggy shipmate of choice as they sailed across seas.

While Norwegian Elkhounds are cute and cuddly, they are also brave and mighty dogs. The breed’s “Elkhound” title derives from their role as giant elk hunters. They specialized in tracking giant elks (also called “moose”) over long distances. The relatively petite Norwegian Elkhound held these enormous creatures “at bay” and dodged their attacks until the huntsmen arrived. This courageous companion even fended off wolves and bears. Understandably, today’s Norwegian Elkhounds make excellent guardians!

Fun fact, the country of Norway gifted President Hoover with a Norwegian Elkhound to show thanks for their help in World War I.


Male Norwegian Elkhounds typically stand at 20.5 inches tall at the shoulders while females typically stand at 19.5 inches.

Weight Range

Female Norwegian Elkhounds weigh 48 pounds on average while the males weigh 55 pounds on average.


The Norwegian Elkhound is the life of the party! This breed is playful, outgoing, and humorous. A Norwegian Elkhound is always down to clown.

This breed’s longstanding history as companions has made them incredibly devoted dogs. They are very attached to their human companions from whom they need consistent affection and attention. Norwegian Elkhounds are committed to protecting those they love. Their energetic and protective nature makes Norwegian Elkhounds a stellar guardians and watchdogs.

While Elkhounds are notably loyal, they are also notoriously independent. This derives from their past as independent hunters, during which they tracked and herded big game independently for many days until their huntsmen arrived. Thus, this breed relishes liberty and control.

Intelligence / Trainability

It’s unlikely a Norwegian Elkhound will graduate top dog from training school. These pups are highly intelligent and quick learners. However, their strong sense of independence interferes with their trainability. They grow bored easily and tend to see humans as their equals, rather than their superiors. Therefore, they’re not the most obedient dogs. Also, they can be easily distracted by smells due to their hunting-hound noses.

Norwegian Elkhound parents and trainers need to establish themselves as the “alpha.” They should be firm and consistent, but never harsh. Since this breed craves affection and food, shower your Norwegian Elkhound with praise and treats when they exhibit the desired behaviors.

Ideal Environment

Hailing from Northern Europe, this double-coated breed fairs fantastically in cold weather. Yet, this makes them susceptible to overheating. Pup parents should be mindful of the signs and causes of overheating when in hot or humid climates.

The Norwegian Elkhound is an energetic dog with considerable activity needs. A Norwegian Elkhound would love a home with a yard where she can roam and track to their heart’s desire. Due to their independent nature and roaming instinct, it’s very important that Norwegian Elkhounds are only let loose in securely fenced yards.

No yard? No worries! Norwegian Elkhounds can adapt to apartment-style living, as long as they are properly exercised every day. Despite their outdoors hardiness, the loyal Norwegian Elkhound prefers to live indoors near their humans!

As mentioned, Norwegian Elkhounds make excellent watchdogs. This protective nature manifests in lots of barking. While training may possibly reduce barking, its effectiveness is never a guarantee. Therefore, those living in close quarters to others should be mindful of Norwegian Elkhound’s barking before adoption or moving.

Good For Families And Kids

These undoubtedly devoted dogs love to be part of a family! There are mixed reviews on whether Norwegian Elkhounds are kid-friendly. Some sources report that this affectionate dog is terrific with children, while others advise that they do best in families with well-behaved older children, or none at all.

Average Lifespan

Norwegian Elkhounds typically live 12 to 15 years.


Rejoice Norwegian Elkhound lovers, this is a very healthy breed with a relatively long lifespan! Most Norwegian Elkhounds pass away due to cancer or heart issues. Minor concerns include hip dysplasia and kidney disease (renal dysplasia). However, the American Kennel Club reports that kidney disease has recently “been put out of the breed’s current state of health.”


Norwegian Elkhounds are playful, active dogs. Due to their background as endurance hunters, these dogs need substantial exercise to feel satisfied. Engage your Norwegian Elkhound with a jog, long walk, or vigorous play session daily to do the trick. Getting your dog sufficient exercise not only keeps them healthy and happy, but also prevents distress and destructive behaviors.

In their early days, Norwegian Elkhounds roamed for many miles and days to track moose. While your Norwegian Elkhound may not be on a mission to hunt elks, she still holds that independent spirit, love for freedom, and roaming instinct. Because of this, Norwegian Elkhound parents should refrain from letting this pup off leash.

Friendly With Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?

While Norwegian Elkhounds are not inherently aggressive, they are protective. Proper socialization is important to ensure your dog is amicable towards other dogs, strangers, and pets. Without this, Elkhounds may domineer over weaker dogs. This hunting breed also has a strong prey drive. It’s important to keep Norwegian Elkhounds separated from small pets or supervise with great caution when they are around small pets.

Though Norwegian Elkhounds love people, there is variation in how each Elkhound greets strangers. Some are reserved when meeting a new human, while others are eager to meet this new friend.

Coat & Grooming

The Norwegian Elkhound is a silver-grey pup with lush, voluminous, enviable hair. This is because their “two-ply” coat consists of a top coat and undercoat. These seasonal shedders release a considerable amount of undercoat hairs during shedding season.

Not a fan of furry tumbleweeds and dust bunnies around the house? Proper grooming can help control shedding, such as regular brushing with a slicker brush. The American Kennel Club recommends taking five minutes a day to “back-brush” (brush in the opposite direction to which the coat lies) during shedding season. At other times, a mere two minutes a day will keep your Norwegian Elkhound’s coat beautiful (and your floor less furry).

Good news, Norwegian Elkhounds only need two to three baths a year! Due to the coat’s harshness, this breed does not have the typically pungent doggy smell.


The Norwegian Elkhound has an adorable tail that curls over their back! If that isn’t quirky, we don’t know what is!

Toys Norwegian Elkhounds Would Like Best

Norwegian Elkhounds are typically not the type to obsess over a cuddly toy (though of course, as seen above, they’re certainly capable!). Instead, treat your Norwegian Elkhound to a toy that caters to their high energy level. Bouncy balls are excellent for an unpredictable game of fetch that won’t bore a Norwegian Elkhound!

Check out BARK’s Best Balls Ever for tennis balls with crazy bounce power, or Tug Toys for interactive play time between the two of you, or Super Chewer Toys to keep them going for hours.

Recommended Diet Or Supplements

Norwegian Elkhounds are foodie Fidos! Like other “food hounds,” Norwegian Elkhounds have a serious love for food. They’ll put on their best puppy dogs for an extra bite of whatever you’re eating. However, it’s important to resist overfeeding your Norwegian Elkhound and monitor them for weight gain. To assess whether Norwegian Elkhounds are in good health, the American Kennel Club notes that “the area just behind the end of the ribcage should sink in when they eat.”

While these dogs are known to be very healthy, they may benefit from vitamins/supplements. As always, consult a veterinarian first.

Daily Multivitamin

BARK’s Multivitamin Daily is a tasty, all-natural supplement that is packed with over 25 nutrients. ($12 for thirty chews.)

Glucosamine Supplement For Hip & Joints

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is AMAZON_SUPPLEMENTS_JAX-LIFESTYLE_0521_HIP-AND-JOINT.jpg

This supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Elkhound with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)

Recommended Products

If your Elkhound spends a lot of time playing – or if they just enjoy a good lie down (because really, who doesn’t?) – it’s probably a good idea for them to have their own very comfortable bed.

Orthopedic Ultra Plush Memory Foam Dog Bed

orthopedic dalmatian bed

This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed provides support for active and lazy dogs alike! The combination ergonomic memory foam and gel foam relieves pressure points, and helps ease body aches caused by hip dysplasia, arthritis and other orthopedic issues. It offers the best therapeutic support for your Elkhound. ($27.99-64.99.)

Notable Rescues To Find The Norwegian Elkhound Of Your Dreams

Notable Instagram Norwegian Elkhounds

Oliver @oliver_the_elkhound!

Kara @kara_the_elkhound!

Lupus @elkhoundlupus!

Lola @elkhoundlola!

Leif Erikson @leiferikson_the_elkhound!

***Looking for a gift to blow your Norwegian Elkhound’s mind? Spoil them with a Super Chewer BarkBox! Every month Super Chewer delivers 2 super-durable toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and 2 (!!!) meaty chews. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month.

Dog With Super Chewer Viking Sword

Featured image via Oliver_the_elkhound/Instagram

Want More Breed Guides Like This?

Alaskan Klee Kai Breed Information Guide

Foxhound Breed Information Guide

Akita Breed Information Guide

Australian Cattle Dog Breed Information Guide

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Written by: Casey Estorque

August 23, 2019


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.