Over the years the Elkhound has been known by a variety of names, some less accurate than others. Although it is officially placed in the "Hound Group" for show purposes, it is not a hound. The Elkhound is a member of the Spitz or Nordic group of dogs - a group which includes a range of breeds from Pomeranians to Siberian Huskies. Each member of this group has its own distinct breed characteristics.
While the Elkhound is still used for hunting moose (elg) in Norway and, where legal, in North America, it has not been developed as a specialized or "prima donna" breed. The Elkhound today is the same dog that travelled with the Vikings. As a result, its own strong breed traits or "type" comes through consistently. This is an important factor in choosing a dog that will become a part of your family and be with you for 10-15 years.
An Elkhound has a bold and energetic personality; it is confident and outgoing. Although it is cautious in new situations, the Elkhound is neither shy and submissive nor domineering and aggressive. Elkhounds will show assertiveness when they MUST be protective of people or property; they DO NOT pick fights, look for trouble, or show overly bossy behaviour around other dogs or people. The true ELKHOUND temperament makes it reliable around other animals. Its intelligence and gentleness make it an excellent companion for people of all ages, especially children.
Because the Elkhound is a very intelligent breed of dog, it does not slavishly follow orders but rather uses its intelligence to make decisions. Both the males and females are easy to train since they learn very quickly; however they will not always "perform" for you. The routine training that is required is easy; formal obedience trails can be a challenge; and "tricks" are out of the question unless the Elkhound sees a worthy purpose to them!
The body of an Elkhound is square in profile - it is about as long as it is tall. Although the leg length is slightly more than half the height of the dog, body hair gives it the appearance of being half body and half leg.
The short back/short loin allows the dog to concentrate its body strength and power for quick movements such as jumping and turning in the air or in small spaces.The Elkhound is a medium sized dog; 20.5 inches at the shoulder for males; 19.5 inches at the shoulder for females. Its overall build gives the Elkhound endurance and stamina to travel easily for many miles over different types of terrain. A "sound" Elkhound moves freely, light on its feet with an effortless changing gait to match whatever speed it is travelling.
An Elkhound is often called a grey dog, since it tends to look grey. However, this grey appearance is caused by the fact that the Elkhound has two coats, and they are different colours. The undercoat is silver-white. The topcoats or guard hair is "banded" each hair is black at the base, silver in the middle, and black at the tip. Variations in the so-called darker or lighter coloured Elkhounds is due to the length and density of the guard hairs. This agouti topcoat also provides the distinctive "harness mark" and "saddle" that are part of an Elkhound's true colour.
The Elkhound's coat is one of the densest of any breed. This is both a strength and a problem. The coat is thick and weather resistant, insulating the dog against heat, cold and moisture. This makes the Elkhound an excellent companion. Elkhounds enjoy hiking, mountain-climbing, cross-country skiing and many other outdoor pursuits as well as lying in front to the fire and /or babysitting the kids. The Elkhound does, however, have to shed its undercoat about once a year. When the shedding starts, be prepared for several hours of vigourous brushing over the next two weeks. A bath at the end of this seems to stimulate new coat growth. The consolation for all your efforts is that Elkhounds do not shed all the time, the way many short-coated breeds do.
At one time Elkhounds were found in many colours: black, brown, red, white, parti-colour and "grey". This grey colour was chosen both for its beauty (the harness mark and saddle; black ears, muzzle, and tail tip; mascara lines and beauty spots on the head) and the fact that they were the better hunters at the time. Red Elkhounds still show up now and again, as does the parti-colour (evident in white patches on the toes and chest.) Colour variation does not indicate quality/lack of quality in a dog unless the dog is very dark because of a lack of proper undercoat or very light due to lack of adequate guard hair.
The unique characteristics of the Norwegian Elkhound make it an excellent choice for many different families/lifestyles. The majority of dog owners now live in urban areas; giving the Elkhound the opportunity to consistently demonstrate that it is an all-purpose dog: pet trusted companion and family guardian. In fact, if it does not excel in all these areas, it is not a “true” Elkhound.