The Norwegian Elkhound


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Norwegian Elkhounds are not especially well known in the UK, though they are an ancient breed and the national dog of Norway. They are a little bigger than Keeshonds, and have shorter fur and longer muzzles, but otherwise look very similar. Norwegian Elkhounds are also friendly dogs with dignity, whereas Keesies are friendly and natural clowns, more outgoing and more likely to indulge in attention-seeking antics. Norwegian Elkhounds have been used for a range of activities, including hunting Elk (hence name) and herding. They are sometimes classed as 'hounds' but don't really fit into the 'hound' class. 'Hund' is just Norwegian for 'dog', but has been translated as 'hound' in their name in English. Elkhounds are closer to Finnish Lapphunds, also a relatively quiet spitz dog, and also used for herding.

Spitz dogs used for herding are relatively easy to train, but they are still spitz dogs, and need to be motivated during training - they will tend to turn off if they get bored. Spitz dogs learn in a different way from Border Collies or Golden Retrievers. They are like the employee, or the student, who says 'why?' rather than obeying you blindly. If this upsets you in people, don't get an Elkhound! Elkhounds can learn fast, and their devotees would say faster than the average Golden Retriever. They just don't always want to do what you ask. Learning fast includes learning what they can get away with, so you need to be very consistent about the rules you want your Elkhound to follow. Elkhounds pay more attention to their owners than non-herding spitz breeds, so can be upset by rough treatment, and they respond best to owners who can be calm, fair and patient with them. They also need to be active, and be given mental stimulation, or they tend to become difficult to live with. They like walks, and don't have the strength to pull you over, unlike a Malamute. Well-trained Elkhounds can generally be trusted off leash in safe areas well away from traffic, since they don't have the wandering tendencies of Malamutes and Sibes. They are independent, and their recall isn't always perfect if they find a good smell,.but they usually come back pretty quickly after investigating it. They are capable of doing far more than being good walking companions, however, and make good agility or sniffer dogs, for example, and have been used for sledding, herding and tracking. Norwegian Elkhounds and Keeshonds are the most trainable breeds on this page, and some people see Elkhounds as more trainable than Keeshonds. It's certainly true that Elkhounds have been used more as working dogs, so are more likely to have a serious attitude to work than Keeshonds, which have been bred more as pets, and which tend to clown more.

Elkhounds are quite vocal, but not as maddenly vocal as Keeshonds and Samoyeds. They were bred to hold large prey at bay and alert their owners by barking, and they will tend to use alarm barks. Owners can simply praise the dog for giving the alarm, and this is usually enough to tell the Elkie that he doesn't need to bark any more. They shed large amounts of fluff twice a year, when they need a lot of grooming, like the other northern breeds, but their coats need less attention than the longer-haired spitz dogs. Their thick, waterproof coats give them good protection when the weather is nasty, but they need protection from the sun in summer.

Norwegian Elkhounds are a gregarious breed, generally very tolerant with children, and with other dogs, though of course they need socialization. Reported health problems include hip dysplasia, eye trouble, and skin problems, including cysts.

This guide to Norwegian Elkhounds is one of the most comprehensive available, and will delight experienced owners, as well as newcomers to the breed. There is a lot on the illustrious history of Elkhounds, and activities that Elkhounds enjoy doing, as well as useful advice on general care and training.