What to Know About Norwegian Lundehunds

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on June 21, 2022
6 min read

The rare Norwegian lundehund is famous for many things: extra toes, flexible shoulder joints, and movable ears. But its most notable characteristic is its mild personality. 

They're a great pet for just about anyone with enough love. They aren't extreme in any way, so you know exactly how they'll be. 

Norwegian lundehund size and shape. Norwegian lundehunds are medium-sized dogs with slender frames. They typically weigh between 20 and 30 pounds.

Male Norwegian lundehunds are typically 13 to 15 inches tall. Females are slightly shorter, at 12 to 14 inches tall.  

Coat characteristics. Norwegian lundehunds are adapted to cold weather. They have a short double coat to regulate their temperature.

The standard colorations of lundehunds are:

  • Black
  • Gray
  • Reddish-brown
  • White
  • Yellow

They typically have white, gray, or black markings.

Distinct physical features. Norwegian lundehunds have many unique physical characteristics. The most noticeable features are their large pointed ears, spitz face, and fox-like tail.

Lundehunds have six functioning toes and toe pads on each foot. These extra toes helped them run, climb, and balance on the rocky cliffs of Norway.

They have highly flexible shoulder joints that allow their front legs to extend outward like wings. Moving their legs like this helped their balance on the rocky cliffs. 

Lundehunds have a flexible neck that lets their head bend backward and touch their spine. This added flexibility likely gave them a more extensive reach when hunting puffins. 

They have exceptional ear control to prevent dirt or water from getting in their ear canal when traversing burrows for their prey. Lundehunds can wiggle, fold, and close their ears. 

Norwegian lundehund temperament. Lundehunds are well-rounded, middle-of-the-road dogs. They have a moderate personality and can do well with many types of owners.

These dogs are affectionate without being clingy. They're friendly to others without befriending everyone.

Lundehunds are protective without being territorial. They enjoy playing without needing to play all day. 

Having a moderate personality doesn't mean they're aloof or indifferent. A Norwegian lundehund is a sensitive and well-mannered family member.

Coat care. Norwegian lundehunds have a short double coat. The outer coat is rough, but the undercoat is much softer and denser.

A lundehund's coat is low-maintenance most of the time, only needing a weekly brushing to remove dirt and hair. Your pup will likely need daily brushing during shedding seasons.

Most Norwegian lundehunds do well with a monthly bath. If they play outside in the dirt frequently, they may need a bath more often.

Don't shave your lundehund. Their double coat regulates their temperature all year. 

Tooth and nail care.Dental diseases are some of the most common conditions in dogs. More than 80% of dogs older than 3 years have some form of dental disease. 

Dental disease can become dangerous. The bacteria involved in a dental disease can lead to other diseases in your dog's heart, liver, or kidneys.

Cleaning your Norwegian lundehund's teeth will help prevent bad breath and dental problems. Keep their teeth clean by:

  • Brushing with a vet-approved toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Giving them dental treats and chews
  • Asking your vet or groomer for a professional cleaning

You, your vet, or your groomer should trim your Norwegian lundehund's nails monthly. Long nails are uncomfortable and can hurt you while playing.

Feeding and nutrition. Two meals a day are usually enough for a Norwegian lundehund. Their size, age, and health conditions determine how much food to feed them. 

Most high-quality, commercially available dog foods have enough nutrients for your lundehund. 

Dogs can eat an all-natural diet, but these diets need careful planning. Your vet should help you design a diet to make sure your Norwegian lundehund gets their necessary nutrients

You'll need to adjust your lundehund's diet as they get older. Before altering your dog's eating habits, talk to your vet.

Treats are an effective way to train your pup but can lead to weight gain. Treats shouldn't exceed 10% of your dog's daily calories.

Exercise and activity needs. Norwegian lundehunds have a moderate amount of energy and need daily exercise. An active 30-minute walk and some playtime are enough to keep them happy.

Flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. All dogs need lifelong protection from parasites, regardless of their lifestyle. Parasites like fleas and ticks can cause serious diseases.

Not all parasite-borne diseases have vaccines or cures. Prevention is the only way to keep your Norwegian lundehund safe.

Many medications are available that prevent fleas and ticks. You and your vet can decide which one is best for your lifestyle and your dog. 

Along with fleas and ticks, your Norwegian lundehund needs protection from heartworms. Infected mosquitoes transmit heartworm larvae through their bites, causing heartworm disease.

Your dog needs protection even if mosquitoes aren't in your area. Cases of infected mosquitoes and heartworm disease have been found in all 50 states in the United States. 

Many heartworm medications are affordable and easy to use. You can only get heartworm preventatives from your vet, so work with them to choose the best one for you and your pup. 

Your vet will test for heartworms at your Norwegian lundehund's yearly visit. Heartworms can be deadly, so take the extra preventive steps. 

Vet visits. Norwegian lundehund puppies need regular visits to monitor their growth, get vaccines, and be spayed or neutered. Your vet will decide how often your puppy needs to visit. 

Lundehunds need an annual vet visit once they're around 1 year old. They'll update their vaccines at these visits. 

Your vet will check their weight and any changes in their health. These vet visits can be a chance to catch early-onset diseases before they become serious.  

Senior Norwegian lundehunds need a vet visit around every 6 months. These checkups are vital to catch health problems early, so your vet will monitor your lundehund's symptoms of aging, like changes in mobility, sight, or hearing.

Norwegian lundehunds are healthy. The breed isn't likely to get many diseases, but responsible breeders screen for some hereditary conditions. 

Patellar luxation. Your pup's knee cap (patella) sits in a groove in the knee. Patellar luxation is when the kneecap dislocates from the groove.

The exact cause of patellar luxation isn't fully known. It sometimes results from a traumatic knee injury.

Patellar luxation typically comes from a congenital or developmental abnormality. Around 7% of puppies are diagnosed with patellar luxation.

Symptoms depend on the severity of the disease. The most common symptom is that your lundehund will lift their leg and skip for a few steps.

Patellar luxation without symptoms only needs monitoring. Once patellar luxation becomes severe enough, the knee typically needs surgical correction. 

Eye problems. Norwegian lundehund are likely to get eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, and primary lens luxation (PLL). Eye problems are hard to prevent since they're hereditary or happen naturally with age.

The following symptoms are common among many eye conditions:

  • Squinting
  • Watery eyes
  • Cloudiness in the eyes
  • Redness in the whites of the eyes

Eye problems can progress to blindness in severe cases. Early treatment is vital.

Periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is the most common dental disease in dogs. Gingivitis leads to an infection of the periodontium, the tissue around your dog's teeth. 

Periodontal disease typically affects adult dogs. Gingivitis starts earlier, before periodontal diseases sets in.

Many dogs don't show symptoms of periodontal disease. You and your vet need to check your dog's teeth for tartar and inflammation.

Professional cleaning is the primary treatment for periodontal disease. In severe cases, tooth extraction might be necessary.

Are they good with other pets? The Norwegian lundehund's moderate personality makes them OK with other pets. They won't be friendly right away, but enough socialization will make them open to other pets. 

Are they good with kids? These dogs are OK with children. They'll need supervision and socialization when around children.

Are they allergenic? The lundehund's double coat makes them heavy shedders. They'll likely cause problems for people with dog allergies.

Do they bark a lot? They're moderately vocal. Training can limit how much they bark.

Do they drool? You can expect little drool from a Norwegian lundehund.

The Norwegian lundehund has been working in Norway since the 16th century. The lundehunds were vital to the local economy for exporting puffins' meat and feathers.

Locals used the dogs for hunting puffins along the Norway coast. Their name comes from the Norwegian words for puffin ("lunde"} and hound ("hund"). 

New methods for catching puffins developed over time, and the popularity of lundehunds dropped. After an outbreak of distemper around World War II, the entire breed almost went extinct. 

In 1963, another distemper outbreak hit Norway. Only 11 dogs survived.

Careful breeding and standardization by Kennel Clubs led to the breed's revival. The Norwegian lundehund is still rare, but it became an official breed according to the American Kennel Club in 2011.