Norwegian Lundehand

Norwegian Lundehand
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Popularly known as the “puffin dog”, the Norwegian Lundehand was originally bred to hunt Puffin birds that nestled in the icy Norwegian cliffs. Physically, it is the only dog breed that has six toes on each of its triple or double-jointed foot, enabling it to effortlessly climb and crawl into small fissures.

Additionally, it has a long, elastic neck that can flexibly bend backward until it touches the spine—a unique characteristic that allows it to turn around and retrieve birds.

Also, this dog breed is easily identifiable because of its agility and a peculiar gait. However, being the curious breed that it naturally is, owners need to supervise it as it hunts in unfamiliar grounds because it is vulnerable to creeping into small, dangerous holes.

As a household pet, this dog breed is quiet and reserved when it is surrounded by strangers. While it possesses outstanding characteristics, it is not an advisable breed for first-time owners because it can be extremely difficult to train.

Breed characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health IssuesAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsHighest

Dog Breed Group:Working Dogs  
Height:Around 1 foot – 1 foot and 3 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: About 13 – 16 pounds
Life Span: Approximately 10 to 12 years

Bred to wrestle and retrieve Puffin Birds in the Icelandic cliffs in Norway, the Norwegian Lundehand has unique characteristics that enable it to become a vicious bird hunter.

Aside from being small, light and physically capable of crawling into small holes, it has 6 toes on each foot—a characteristic that allows it to climb on difficult, icy cliffs. Also, its nape and shoulders are also extremely flexible. In fact, it can bend its neck backward until it touches the spine.

Because of its one-of-a-kind gene pool, this dog breed is tough on the hunting grounds. But aside from that, it also stands out in the heart of its human companions because of its love for fun and adventure.

Hard-wired with a high level of curiosity, it will fearlessly creep into small holes and dark crevices, making tight supervision important for this dog breed.

Athletic and agile, this dog breed necessitates play and daily exercise. If you are considering this breed, make sure that you allot time for its 30-minute daily walks. Otherwise, it can act destructively inside your home.

Lastly, given its extra toes, it can effortlessly dig its way to the other side of your fence. As long as it sees crevices and creaks, it will cease the opportunity and create its own passageway. Hence, early training is important so this dog breed can draw the line between positive and negative behavior.

Main Highlights
  • This dog breed can be relatively difficult to train, making it not ideal for first-time pet owners.
  • Tight supervision is crucial especially when this dog breed is in its hunting grounds as it is vulnerable to creeping into small, dangerous holes.
  • Because of its unique physical characteristics, it can effortlessly dig and create bigger holes in crevices.
  • The Norwegian Lundehand has a high barking
  • Protective to its human companions, this breed will bark at any signs of suspicious activities as a warning to its household. Nonetheless, it is not aggressive in nature.
  • Fun-loving and devoted to its family members, this breed is ideal even for families with young household members.
  • This breed is usually quiet and reserved when it is surrounded by strangers.
  • It is ideally raised in a home with a fenced backyard.
  • Since it is athletic and acrobatic in nature, it should be provided with daily exercise and regular training.
  • While this breed is friendly and fun-loving, early socialization is still crucial to ensure that it grows up to be a well-rounded breed.
  • If you are considering the Norwegian Lundehand, you may have to wait in line as it is already considered a rare breed.
Breed History

Originally bred for hunting purposes back in the 1500’s, the Norwegian Lundehand stands out because of its unique physical features. Belonging to the spitz family, its small size and flexibility allow it to sneak into small holes and crevices.

According to history, it originated in Northern Norway in the earlier centuries. Because it is physically equipped to climb steep cliffs, it was mainly used for wrestling and retrieving Puffin Birds. An important companion for early hunters, this dog breed proved its viciousness in the hunting arena.

However, during the 1800s, the Puffin Bird became rare until it was enlisted as a protected species. Because of this, hunting became illegal, and the Norwegian Lundehand was no longer used by farmers and hunters.

As a consequence, breeding dramatically declined until this breed was near extinction.

Luckily, concerned breeders continued the fight for this breed’s survival. In the year 1943, this dog breed became categorized as a distinct breed. In addition, it was recognized by AKC in the year 2008.

While there are a few breeds available from reputable breeders at present, it is still considered one of the rarest breeds.


Male Norwegian Lundehands typically stand at around 13.75 to 15 inches tall at the shoulder, while their female counterparts’ height ranges from 12.50 to 13.75 inches. Also, while males weigh around 15.50 pounds, females are approximately 2.25 pounds lighter.

Personality and Character

A small dog breed that loves snuggling and playing with its human companions, the Norwegian Lundehand is a friendly breed that can socialize well with young and old members of the household.

Even if it is tough on the hunting grounds, it has a big spot for its family members. However, when it is surrounded by strangers, it can be suspicious and reserved, making early training crucial for its holistic development.

In the household, it is outgoing, friendly and alert. It will bark at anything suspicious, but it will not act in aggression against unfamiliar people. So if you are considering this breed, bear in mind that although it is capable of watching over your home, it is not an ideal guard dog.

In the hunting grounds, this dog breed is agile, curious and alert. Because it loves exploring, it is vulnerable to sneaking into small, dangerous holes, making supervision necessary for this breed.

In addition to that, since it is a primitive breed, the Norwegian Lundehand loves digging and stacking food. It can dig and create new tunnels and hide objects, as if it is preparing for a calamity.

So if you find food under your furniture, don’t be surprised as this small spitz loves hiding small treats.

Lastly, it has a high barking tendency, making it difficult to raise this breed in a condo or an apartment setting. Plus, it can be extremely difficult to housetrain. Because of these factors, first-time pet owners should not consider this dog breed.

Health and Potential Problems

Like other dog breeds, the Norwegian Lundehand is also predisposed to a number of health disorders. While not all Lundehands may have to deal with these medical conditions, it is crucial for owners to be aware of the conditions that can affect their canine pals.

Most importantly, if you are considering this breed, find a reputable breeder that can provide documents that serve as proof that the puppy, along with the parents, is cleared from genetically acquired disabilities.

To help you become a better steward of this breed, below are some of the health conditions common to its bloodline:

  • Leaky Gut Syndrome: A medical condition common to Norwegian Lundehands, the Leaky Gut syndrome is a disorder where the intestinal lining is damaged. As the lining becomes more permeable, it allows toxins to enter the bloodstream. As the disease progresses, physical manifestations like allergic reactions begin to appear. While proper diet and nutrition can help prevent the progression of this disease, it is important for owners to consult their veterinarian for proper treatment.
  • Lundehand Intestinal Syndrome: A condition that can result in nutrient malabsorption and a continuous drop in the dog’s protein levels, the Lundehand Intestinal syndrome is a lethal combination of intestinal and stomach disorders. Its physical manifestations include weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite and swollen abdomen. Once early signs appear, owners are advised to immediately take their canine pal to the veterinarian.
Care Features

Even though this dog breed is friendly and highly sociable, it can be shy and timid once it is not provided with early socialization. So if you are considering this breed, make sure you expose it to positive stimuli at an early phase.

In addition to that, this breed should not be raised in a condo or an apartment setting since it has a high barking tendency and it can be extremely challenging to train. Ideally, it should be raised in a home with a fenced backyard.

When keeping this breed off leash, owners should provide strict supervision since Norwegian Lundehands are expert excavators. Given the chance, it can dig and create holes to escape high fences.

Also, this dog breed is energetic and agile in nature, making regular exercise and proper training a must. Once it becomes bored, it can act destructively inside the home. So if you are planning to adopt this breed, make daily 30-minute walks a habit.

Feeding Schedule

Just like other breeds, the Norwegian Lundehand also has nutritional requirements which can vary depending on its size, metabolism and amount of physical activity. The more active the breed is, the more food it will require to sustain its body’s needs.

Food should be divided into two equal feedings. Aside from size and physical activity, the quality of food also greatly impacts the amount required. The more high-grade the food is, the lesser the dog needs to consume to maintain its holistic health.

Lastly, owners should always be proactive in looking for signs of intestinal or stomach problems since this breed is vulnerable to these conditions. Once early symptoms appear, owners should immediately take their pet companion to the veterinarian.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Norwegian Lundehand has a double coating. While the dense outer coating protects it from the harsh environment, its soft undercoating mainly functions to provide warmth and comfort during extreme weather conditions.

The color of the coating, on the other hand, is quite distinct. Typically, it has a reddish-brown or fawn coating, which is accompanied by its black hair tips. Also, while some breeds have black coatings and white markings, others have white markings matched by dark markings.

In terms of grooming, this small dog breed sheds heavily, making regular brushing necessary to keep its shedding off household rags and furniture. When brushing its coating, owners are advised to use a firm, brittle brush. With regular brushes, the Lundehand can look perfectly posh even without regular baths.

Additionally, owners who would like to prevent gum disease and bad breath can brush their dog’s teeth on a daily basis. Tartar build-up, on the other hand, can be inhibited by brushing the teeth at least 3 times a week.

Also, avoiding painful tears and other problems can be done by cutting the dog’s nails regularly. Owners who are inexperienced in cutting their dog’s nails must ask guidance from professional groomers.

Lastly, looking for signs of impending health conditions is crucial as owners groom. For instance, the bloated abdomen is a sign of an intestinal disorder. By being knowledgeable about some of the most common danger signs, owners would be able to ensure the overall wellness of their dog as it ages.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Popular for its friendliness and sociability, Norwegian Lundehands are perfect companions for little children. However, educating the child on the proper ways to interact and play with their pet companion is crucial.

By teaching your child the appropriate way to approach and socialize with dogs, you would be able to ensure a long and fruitful relationship between your dog and your child. Nonetheless, as a precaution, no matter how friendly your pet is, you should always closely supervise child-pet interaction as accidents can always happen during playtime.

In terms of pet compatibility, this dog breed is highly sociable to other household pets. As long as it is provided with early training and socialization, it can be raised with other domestic pets.

However, since it was bred for hunting purposes, owners must always keep it away from caged birds and other small, furry animals since its instinct to wrestle and retrieve small animals is innate. As a tip, supervision is required when it comes in contact with animals that it can potentially perceive as prey.

Athletic, active and intelligent in nature, the Norwegian Lundehand is suitable for experienced owners who know how to train and handle their dogs properly. Although it is difficult to train, it is a friendly and loyal pet companion to young and old members of the household.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.