THE NORWEGIAN ELKHOUND
By Mike Stockman
Hounds come in all shapes and sizes and they have one thing in common – they hunt. And, depending on what they hunt, so they differ in size and shape. The elegant Saluki is a gazelle hunter; the vast Irish Wolfhound obviously copes with Irish wolves (and they’ve obviously been pretty good at the job, because Ireland doesn’t have any wolves any more!); and Dachshunds go to ground after badgers and foxes. And, as his name suggests, the Elkhound sets his sights in Norway on elks. In the States and Canada the elk is known as a moose, but whichever side of the Atlantic you bought your dictionary, the elk (or the moose) is a whole lot of animal.
Any dog which was selected to confront such a monster of the deer-type,
has got to be plucky, solid and compact, and nimble too. The Elkhound is
all three, a dog for the enthusiastic and hardy owner. The breed needs
exercise, not necessarily in vast quantities every day, but if you don’t like
the open air and plenty of ‘weather’, you might find that an Elkhound is
not for you.
A member of the spitz family, prick-eared and curly-tailed, the breed standard
says ‘grey of various shades’ and at first reading that could sound a bit on the
dull side; but, the lighter shading on the underparts and on the tail, coupled
with harness-markings and an alert expression, produce on of the most
attractive and athletic looking dogs imaginable.
Afraid of nothing, the Elkhound can put on the ‘guard dog’ bit if he thinks owner or property is threatened, but it’s a great deal of basso-profundo barking and very little likelihood of him utilising his most impressively white teeth. He’s basically a fun dog, enjoying a romp with the family, but he is not a clown. And he needs companionship. If your lifestyle requires long periods of loneliness for the dog in your house, the ‘Elk’ is not for you. To be honest, if you can’t be around for a fair bit of the day, should you be contemplating any dog at all?
The Elkhound stands around the 20 inch mark at the shoulder and he is not the sort of dog for the average person to pick up and carry very far, as he weighs 50 pounds plus. He’s fairly good at polishing off any food offered, so under exercise and over indulgence can put him on route for Weight Watchers.
Elkhounds are basically healthy and have a tendency to live on into a very ripe old age. I well remember entering veteran classes at dog shows with a venerable old Keeshond bitch of mine only to find myself exhibiting alongside
an even more venerable Elkhound dog. He was still showing his head off years later when I had decided that my beloved golden oldie was looking a bit rusty round the edges. That old dog has only just died at the age of 16-plus.
Grooming is as easy as you could wish. The Elkhound sports a weatherproof mixture of a coarse topcoat and a woolly undercoat. As a result he is a dab hand at dripping dry, needing only a very quick towelling before he is allowed back into the family home. If he’s a bit on the muddy side, let him get thoroughly dry and get at him with a really stiff bristle (or wire) brush and the dirt will come off him in no time at all.
In the past the breed has had troubles with eye disease, but breeders are usually very conscientious at having their breeding stock’s eyes checked by one of the acknowledged ophthalmic experts, so you can ask about eye status and will get a sensible and honest answer. The same goes for hips; the breed has been in the forefront in checking on the soundness of hip structure through the British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club Hip Dysplasia Scheme. In fact I’ve always regarded Elkhound breeders as among the most ethical.
You really should be safe if you buy direct from a reputable breeder. The best way of finding such a breeder is by enquiring for names and addresses from the Secretary of the Norwegian Elkhound Club of Great Britain (name and address supplied at the back of this booklet). Just occasionally an Elkhound falls on hard times, so you might just consider rescuing a more adult dog or bitch, in which case you should contact Robert Greaves, Three Corners, 2 Priory Close, Dudley, West Midlands, DY1 3ED, telephone 01384 455564.
But don’t imagine that you will often find an Elkhound which will turn into an obedience champion. Being a hound he is an independent chap and he needs to find that your will is every bit as strong as his. Get the relationship right from the start and you’ll be away.
Always buy a puppy from a reputable breeder!
First published by the British Veterinary Association in the Winter 1992 edition of ‘You & Your Vet’ and reproduced with their kind permission and the Author