Norwegian Elkhound Overview

Dog Breed:
Norwegian Elkhound
Breed Group:
Friendly, confident, steadfast, alert, and bold.
19-21 inches
48-55 pounds
Life Span:
12-15 years
Coat Colors:
Combinations of black, grey and silver
Area of Origin:
Best For:
Experienced Owners/Family looking for a more independent type of dog/Access to secure off-leash exercise area
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Norwegian Elkhounds
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Norwegian Elkhounds

Norwegian Elkhound Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Norwegian Elkhound

  • A powerful hunting dog

  • Immense stamina and can work all day long

  • Notorious for their need to bark, lots!


So, about the name, the Norwegian Elkhound was never designed for hunting elk, and they’re not hounds! The confusion over the name comes from the Norwegian name for the breed, Norsk Elghund, meaning Moose Dog. Add in that the German for moose is ‘elch,’ and then we can start to see where the confusion in the translation comes in.

That all said, this is a powerful hunting dog who can work for hours without letting up. They’re well known for their ability to hold moose, bear, or wolf in place, barking constantly, until the hunter arrives. With this fearless attitude and endless stamina, careful consideration is needed as to whether this is a good fit for your home. When you add in their notoriety for barking even when not hunting, it’s going to take a special owner and living environment to enjoy the Elkhounds traits.

Norwegian Elkhound Breed History

  • An ancient Nordic breed

  • Used for a range of roles including hunting and herding

  • Imported to the US in the 1900s

The Norwegian Elkhound took on several roles in the past. They were a dedicated hunter and shipmate to the Vikings. Then they were also a herder and guardian of livestock on remote farms. The Elkhound quickly developed a reputation for being both fearless and friendly.

The history of the breed can be difficult to untangle because it’s tied up in a mixture of Norse history and myth. Remains of Elkhounds have been found beside their Viking master together with sword and shield, confirming the high regard within which they were held. There are even tales from the 12th century where it is said that the Elkhound was pronounced King in the land of Throndhjem.

In the late 1800s, the Norwegian Hunters Association held its first dog show. It’s thought that this then provided the opportunity for the Elkhound to be seen as a show dog for the very first time. Records then began to be kept as breeders looked to develop and standardize the appearance of the breed.

Elkhounds were first imported to America in the early 1900s, and a translation of the Norwegian standard was adopted in 1935.

Norwegian Elkhound Size & Weight

  • Very standardized size of the breed

  • Males 20 1/2 inches and around 55 pounds

  • Females 19 1/2 inches and about 48 pounds


The breed standard, which is published by the American Kennel Club, is very precise about the size of the Norwegian Elkhound. The height for male dogs is 201/2 inches and 19 1/2 for females. The weight for dogs is around 55 pounds, and for females, about 48 pounds.

This does mean though that you’ll have a very accurate understanding of just how big your dog will grow to be!

Norwegian Elkhound Personality & Temperament

  • Generally, a very even-tempered breed

  • An independent thinker

  • Copes well in the cold but may struggle in hot climates


The temperament within the breed can vary, but they are known to be a dog which will avoid aggression at all costs, it would take extreme provocation for them to attack. This can make them a good watchdog for you and your family; they’ll undoubtedly bark to let you know if someone is around, but it’s unlikely they will go any further.

The hunting heritage needed the Elkhound to be an independent thinker, and this trait continues today. While they adore their family, don’t expect the slavish type of relationship you might get from some other breeds. This is an intelligent breed, though they can be challenging but not impossible to train.

The Elkhound can live with other dogs and even cats as long as there are carefully planned introductions, which were ideally done when they were pups. Do be aware that they will chase any imposter cats that dare to enter the yard. With the strength of the hunting instinct, a securely fenced yard is essential.

With their Nordic background, this is a breed that can cope well with cold conditions. In the summer, however, they will need carefully planned shade outside and aircon inside. Early morning and later evening exercise will need to be scheduled in the hottest months of the year.

Norwegian Elkhound Health & Grooming

  • A very healthy breed

  • Few genetically based health problems

  • Daily grooming needed


The Norwegian Elkhound is considered to be a very healthy breed. There are few of the genetic conditions which cause problems for other breeds. It’s important then for breeders to continue to screen their dogs before breeding to ensure that any issues that are found are not passed on to their offspring. There are two health tests which are recommended by the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Dysplasia: X-rays taken of the hip joints which are then checked for any problems with how the ball of the joint sits within the socket
  • Ocular Examination: An annual eye examination is recommended for all dogs which are being bred from to ensure they are free of any problems.

The breed has a double coat, so a soft downy undercoat and a harsher topcoat. Most of the year, a few minutes of brushing with a slicker brush is all that’s required. Come shedding season a good five minutes every day will help prevent your house from becoming covered in the discarded hair.

Norwegian Elkhound Training

  • High intelligence but training needs patience

  • Very capable of learning basic obedience and good manners

  • Strong prey and hunting instinct remain


The Elkhound is probably not going to be your first choice of breed if you have aspirations for competing in the obedience ring. However, they do learn very quickly, and they are very intelligent, they just lack the desire to repeat a behavior again and again.

So, this does mean that they are very capable of learning all the behaviors needed to be a well-mannered family pet. If you’re really committed, there is an opportunity to join the small band of owners who have successfully trained their Elkhounds to compete in a wide range of performance dog sports. With patience, excellent training skills, and a good dose of humor, it can be done!

The Norwegian Elkhound retains a strong desire to hunt, and that means that their prey drive can take over the moment they sense an exciting scent trail. While training can help, owners need to be aware that instinct may be stronger than their carefully trained and practiced recall command.

Norwegian Elkhound Exercise Requirements

  • High intelligence but training needs patience

  • Very capable of learning basic obedience and good manners

  • Strong prey and hunting instinct remain


Having been bred to hunt all day, it’s not surprising that the Norwegian Elkhound is no couch potato! This is a breed who will need at least an hour’s exercise every day, split into two walks, one in the morning and one in the evening. Without these opportunities to stretch their legs, they will become unsettled in the home and challenging to live with.

Finding a securely fenced area where they can safely run free is essential. Then you can relax and enjoy the time with your Elkhound without worrying whether they’re about to disappear on a hunting trip.

The Elkhound might bring the ball back once or twice or play tug for a few seconds, but most don’t find that highly repetitive type of game to be much fun.

Norwegian Elkhound Diet & Feeding

  • Chat with your vet if personalized feeding advice is needed

  • Select a specially formulated puppy food to support their development

  • Choose an adult food based on the dog's size, age and exercise intensity


For personalized feeding advice for your dog, chat with your veterinarian or pet nutritionist.

It’s essential that pups get all the necessary nutrients to help their bodies to develop. So, generally, youngsters are fed on a specially formulated puppy food until they’re around 6 months of age. After that, then their diet can be selected based on their age, size, and exercise intensity.

You may also be interested in:

Norwegian Elkhound Rescue Groups

There will be times when an Elkhound finds themselves in need of a new home. If you’re interested in offering a place in your family to a rescue dog, we recommend chatting to one of the following breed rescue associations –

Norwegian Elkhound Rescue –

The John Nelsen Moosedog Rescue Fund –

For further information on the Elkhound, take a look at the website of the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America –