How to Train a Norwegian Elkhound

The Norwegian Elkhound is a robust spitz type known for his lush silver-gray coat and dignified but friendly demeanor. The durable Elkhound is among Europe’s oldest dogs. They sailed with the Vikings and figure in Norse art and legend. Norwegian Elkhounds are hardy, short-bodied dogs standing about 20 inches at the shoulder. They have a dense silver-gray coat and a tail curling tightly over the back. The deep chest, sturdy legs, and muscular thighs belong to a dog built for an honest day’s work. The eyes are a dark brown and the ears mobile and erect. Overall, an Elkhound is the picture of an alert and steadfast dog of the north. Elkhounds are famously fine companions and intelligent watchdogs. Agility and herding trials are good outlets for their natural athleticism and eagerness. Reserved until introductions are made, an Elkhound is a trustworthy friend ever after. These strong, confident dogs are truly sensitive souls, with a dash of houndy independence.


Shipmate of the Vikings, guardian of remote farms, herder of flocks and defender from wolves and bear, a sometime hauler and a hunter always, and a companion to restless wandering men, the Norwegian Elkhound has survived more than six millennia with all his Nordic traits intact, a fearless and friendly dog, devoted to humankind.

The Elkhound looms in Norse history and myth. We read of him in the epic sagas of ancient times, we find his remains aside his Viking master along with the Viking’s sword and shield, proof of the high regard in which he was held; and in the Viste Cave at Jaeren, in western Norway, his skeleton was found among the stone tools in stratum dating from 4000 to 5000 b.c. Among the many oft-told tales associated with the breed is one from the 12th century, in which an Elkhound was named king in the land of Throndhjem.

The name Elkhound acknowledges the breed’s age-old quarry, the giant elk, or moose. Elkhounds specialized in following the scent trail of these magnificent and dangerous creatures over a distance and holding them at bay while dodging attack until the trailing huntsmen arrived. Elkhounds look nothing like the droopy-eared, sleek-coated scenthounds developed in warmer climes, but they are classified as hounds by virtue of their job description: trailing and holding warm-blooded quarry.

Quick Facts

Temperament: friendly / confident / dependable

Height: 19.5 to 20.5 inches 

Weight: 48 to 55 pounds 

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Hound Group


By and large this is a very healthy breed. The average life span is 12-14 years, with most owners losing their dogs due to cancer or heart issues. Negligible incidences of PRA have been found but can be traced to foreign dogs. hip dysplasia occurs, but by and large dogs that are checked usually get a ‘good’ or ‘fair’ evaluation from OFA, with many rating ‘excellent.’ There have been some bouts of renal (kidney) issues, but this seems to have been put out of the breed’s current state of health.


The Norwegian Elkhound has a ‘two-ply’ coat, with a top coat and an undercoat. Elkhound breeders warn potential puppy buyers of the inevitable’¿that during shedding season they will have ‘tumbleweeds’  of silver undercoat rolling around their house. The outer coat will shed as well, but not to the degree that the undercoat will. A slicker brush will help you keep the fur storm under control. Five minutes a day of ‘back-brushing’ (brushing in the opposite direction to which the coat lies) will take care of the problem for most of the year. Daily maintenance of just two minutes a day at other times will keep the coat beautiful, and will give your vacuum a new lease on life! Elkhounds do not have a doggy smell, due to the harshness of the coat. A bath two to three times a year for the family pet is perfect and helps the dead coat to fall out and new, healthy hair to grow in.


These are hunting dogs in their native Norway. They track and follow moose, ranging far ahead of the hunter, and they must be able to trot many miles for several days if necessary. Because they must make their own decisions when hunting, and by virtue of the way they hunt, they are independent and lovers of the woods and their freedom. For that reason, when exercising their Norwegian Elkhounds, owners should resist the temptation to allow them to roam the neighborhood or the park off lead. The instinct to travel and to inspect the world is intrinsic to the breed. Most love swimming (a required moose-trailing activity), and many enjoy agility as well as herding trials.


This breed does not tend to be a star performer in the obedience ring. The Elkhound learns very quickly, being highly intelligent, but after this learning process it becomes, ‘Didn’t we already do this 12 times’ The other difficulty in training this breed for activities is their independent nature, inspired by their hunting traits. As far as simple house manners, they are very clean and quickly respond to correctly managed housebreaking.


The Norwegian Elkhound should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Most Elkhounds are ‘food hounds,’  not picky eaters, and will develop pitiful faces in order to weaken their humans into giving them as many treats as can be mustered! A key to assessing whether the Elkhound is in good weight is to watch them when they eat. The area just behind the end of the ribcage should sink in when they eat.  Another indication of an overweight dog is a rolling motion on the dog’s back or sides when he trots. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.