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Norwegian Elkhound Information
Norwegian Elkhound

The Norwegian Elkhound is one of the ancient Northern Spitz-type breed of dog and is the National Dog of Norway. The Elkhound has served as a hunter, guardian, herder, and defender. In a land of subzero temperatures, deep snow, thick forests, and rugged mountains, only the hardiest of the breeds could evolve to perform the variety of jobs at which the Elkhound excels. Its Spitz courage is probably a by-product or residue of the fact that a significant number of them were used to hunt bear and other large game, like moose. The Norwegian Elkhound was first presented at a dog exhibition in Norway in 1877.

The AKC breed name "Norwegian Elkhound" is a mistranslation from its original Norwegian name "Norsk Elghund," meaning "moose dog." (In Norwegian, "elg" means "moose" and "hund" means "dog.") Despite its name in America, it is not a hound dog: It does not hunt like a hound dog nor is it physically or physiologically related to hounds in any way. The breed's goal in the hunt is to hold the moose at bay — jumping in and out toward the moose — until the hunter can arrive to shoot it.

Appearance

The dog stands about 52 cm (20.5") high and weighs up to 24 kg (52 lbs). Its grey, white, and black coat is made up of two layers: an underlying dense smooth coat ranging from black at the muzzle, ears, and tip of its tail; to silvery grey on its legs, tail, and underbody; and an overlying black-tipped protective guard coat along its back. An ideal Elkhound has a tightly curled tail, as the dog shown in the photograph on this page. The Elkhound is a medium-sized dog and extremely hardy.

Temperament

Norwegian Elkhounds are bred for hunting large game, such as wolf, bear and moose. The Elkhound has a very strong drive and it is not unheard of for an Elkhound to go through a plate-glass window when motivated by its quarry. Although the breed is strong and hardy, the dogs typically have an inseparable bond with their masters and are quite loyal. All Elkhounds have a sharp loud bark which makes them suitable as guard-dogs.

Norwegian Elkhounds are loyal to their "pack" and make good family dogs. It is bold, playful, independent, alert, boisterous, and protective. This is a dog ready for adventure and is happiest if that adventure takes place outdoors in cold weather. It needs daily exercise, lest it become frustrated or even destructive. It is friendly with strangers but may quarrel with strange dogs. It tends to pull when on leash unless trained, and it may bark a lot. Although each dog is an individual, they generally like children and can be very protective of those they consider part of their pack or family. This, combined with their loud bark, makes them a good watch dog.

Norwegian Elkhounds can be challenging to train because of their intelligence and deep independent streak. They are good obedience dogs and are good-natured in their disobedience — for example, failing to "come" because there is something of greater interest in the other direction. They can be wonderful in agility and are particularly good tracking dogs.

Grooming

Norwegian Elkhound's thick coats are well suited to Norwegian weather, and provide protection from the elements in two main ways. Their outer coats shed rain, snow, and sleet easily, while their under coats keep them warm in low temperatures. Because their coat is so thick, they moult twice a year, producing copious amounts of fur — in some rural regions of Norway, this fur is used to make sweaters.

Elkhounds tend to remain clean because their coat sheds most dirt and because they seem to keep themselves clean instinctively. However, elkhounds require regular brushing especially when they moult to avoid their oil glands becoming plugged and to help them stay cool in summer.

Walking

Elkhounds are truly an outside dog at heart and need to have an owner with confidence, due to running off and sometimes tracking down varieties of game. They may decide to ignore any calls or commands. Elkhounds were bred to track down game but not attack it, but it is not unheard of for the Elkhound to kill game.

Health

Norwegian Elkhounds sometimes carry a genetic predisposition to suffer from progressive retinal atrophy, or, like many medium and large breeds, hip dysplasia, renal problems and cysts, particularly in later life. Overall, however, they are a hearty breed with few health problems.

Elkhounds are very powerful animals, bred to hunt all day in cold climates, so they require plenty of exercise to feel satisfied and stay healthy. A 20–30 minute walk twice a day is recommended by many breeders.

Elkhounds are prone to rapid weight gain and must not be overfed.

They have a lifespan of 12–15 years

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