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Norwegian Dunker Dog

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Dunker Dog

The Dunker is a medium sized purebred from Norway bred to be a scenthound and also known as the Norwegian Dunker and the Dunker Dog, and sometimes referred to as the Norwegian Hound, Norwegian Rabbit Hound, Norwegian Scenthound along with a few other breeds. It has a life span of 12 to 15 years and is known amongst Scandinavian hunters for its great scent-trailing ability. It is uncommon in Scandinavia but known, whereas elsewhere it is almost unknown. It has a strong hunting drive and is also friendly and bonds closely with its owner.

The Dunker at a Glance
Name Dunker
Other names Norwegian Dunker, Norwegian Hound, Norwegian Rabbit Hound, Norwegian Scenthound, Dunker Dog
Nicknames DD
Origin Norway
Average size Medium
Average weight 30 to 50 pounds
Average height 18 to 21 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Straight, hard, dense
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black or blue marbled with pale fawn and white markings is most desirable
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Average
Tolerance to heat Low to moderate – can over heat easily
Tolerance to cold Very good to excellent – handle the cold well
Shedding Heavy – will be a lot of hair in the home
Drooling Moderate to average
Obesity Above average to high – obesity can be a problem so make sure you measure its food and give it daily exercise
Grooming/brushing High – require regular brushing to control loose hair
Barking Frequent – barks often so training to control with a command is a good idea
Exercise needs High – needs active owners
Trainability Difficult – due to being independent thinking and stubborn
Friendliness Good to very good
Good first dog No – needs to be with experienced handlers
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization – requires supervision with small toddlers
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization – pack dog
Good with other pets Moderate, socialization is needed, it sees non canine pets as prey
Good with strangers Very good with socialization – most scent hounds are bred to be accepting of strangers
Good apartment dog No – excessive barkers and need a home with a yard
Handles alone time well Moderate – prefers not to be alone for long hours
Health issues Fairly healthy breed, some things to look for though include hip dysplasia, deafness and eye problems
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $270 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $250 a year for toys, basic training, miscellaneous items and license
Average annual expenses $1005 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $700
Rescue organizations None breed specific, check local rescues and shelters
Biting Statistics None reported

The Dunker's Beginnings

The Dunker is named after its breeder, Wilhelm Dunker a Norwegian captain who wanted a dog that was great for hunting hare with. In the early 19th century he developed his scenthound by crossing Norwegian scent hounds with the Russian Harlequin Hound. The goal was to have a dog able to hunt small animals like hare, squirrel and rabbit. It was developed to hunt by scent not sight and to be very hard to the weather there, as Norway is a very cold place and working dogs can perish from it. It also needed to be able to follow the trail over lots of different terrain types.

By the mid 1800s it was a popular dog in Norway and in other Scandinavian countries. Hunters liked its sleekness, intelligent, robustness, ability to detect scents and its strength and speed. Owners also loved its unique looking coat, it is often marbled or dappled. It remained so into the 20th century and in 1902 a club was founded for two breeds, the Dunker and the Hygenhund called the Special Club for the Norwegian Hare Dog as both dogs were often closely associated together. The same year though the NKK (Norwegian Kennel Club) recognized the Dunker and separated the two breeds. The FCI also gave it recognition and the numbers of the Dunker breed carried on growing until World War II came.

Norway was unfortunately occupied by the Germans in World War II and while that was not as disastrous as for other countries like France it did have a big effect. Dog breeding was greatly reduced, a lot of dogs died from neglect or due to the fighting and Dunker numbers dropped dramatically though it was not quite facing the kind of extinction causing losses that many other breeds were hit with.

New Lease on Life

After the war the Dunker's popularity rose once more and breeders were once again able to increase its numbers, all the way until the 1970s. In the 1970s there were a few foreign hunting dogs brought to Norway and hunters opted to use them over the Dunker. In ten years the numbers had dropped and it had become a rare breed that was being heavily inbred as a result. In the late 1980s breeders of the Dunker petitioned the FCI and NKK to let them cross the Dunkers they had left in order to broaden the gene pool. At first they were refused but then two years later permission was granted with provisions. A limited number of out-crosses were permitted with other dogs that were scenthounds. It has improved the health and diversity of the Dunker. It is still a rare breed that is under threat but it is doing better than it was in the 1980s. While there are few if any in the US the UKC has given recognition to them in 1996. Most Dunkers today are kept as working dogs with few being kept only as companion dogs.

Dunker Dog

The Dog You See Today

The Dunker is a medium sized dog weighing 35 to 50 pounds and stands 19 to 21 inches tall. It is rectangular shaped being a little longer than it is tall and is a muscled and athletic looking breed. It has power but is not overly bulky and its tail is long, with a little curve and carried straight. It has a level top line and straight forelegs with strong back legs. It is very similar in looks to other similar sized scenthounds but stands out because of its interesting and attractive coloring. The coat itself is straight, rough, dense and hard and common colors are white, blue/black, tan, brown with marbled or dappled coloration. White faces are preferred but black masks do happen.

The head is noble looking and the skull is a little domed. The muzzle is long and squared and it ends with a black and large nose that has wide nostrils. It has round and large eyes but there should not be any protrusion and colors can vary from dark to to light to blue even. Its long ears hang down, are set low and are wide and flat and lie close to its head.


The Inner Dunker


Dunkers are calm and relaxed dogs when they are well exercised and raised. It is a very affectionate dog and in fact can be overly so, if you do not want a dog desperately needy for lots of attention and wanting to lavish its affection upon you this is not the right dog for you! It is actually not good as a watchdog or as a guard dog. It will be somewhat aloof or uninterested with strangers, they are not suspicious as they are bred to be able to deal with strange handlers and hunters. It is not an aggressive dog apart from the high prey drive.

With good socialization and training it is a friendly dog and should be well behaved also. It is very loyal to its family keeping in mind it tends to be kept as a hunting dog and then brought home to the house afterward, it is rarely just a companion dog. When it is on a trail it becomes incredibly focused and impossible to distract. It is a noisy dog, it will bark frequently and may need training to control that when in the home, especially if you have neighbors close by. This is not a good dog for new owners and it can be strong willed so needs firm and clear leadership.

Living with a Dunker

What will training look like?

It is important the Dunker is trained early and given good socialization too. When being trained to hunt it takes to it very easily and quickly. It is a stubborn dog though and obedience training is difficult and needs experienced handling. It takes a lot of patience and acceptance that this will be a gradual process as just as it can be tenacious in the field on a hunt, it can be the same in refusing to obey you! It takes a committed and confident owner who can be the pack alpha at all times. This is not an impossible to train dog but it will take more time, patience and effort. Dunkers are bred to make baying noises when going after a prey so hunters can follow and they will make their noises in the home too. Training to stop on command can help but will never eliminate this part of them. Early socialization will involve making sure it is used to different places, sounds, people, animals and locations.

How active is the Dunker?

Dunkers can chase after their quarry for hours in cold weather over harsh terrain. They have a large amount of stamina and endurance and as a result need a large amount of exercise and stimulation mentally. It should be hunted with, it loves to do it. If it does not go out on a hunt it will need at least an hour a day of vigorous activity probably more. It will also need mental stimulation. It can join you for a jog, a hike and such but what it will especially want to do is run off leash somewhere safe. Make sure when taking a walk that it is on a leash as it will chase after things and is almost impossible to call back. If it does not get the activity it needs it will become destructive, louder, hyperactive, nervous and hard to live with. It should live in a home with a yard that is well fenced.

Caring for the Dunker

Grooming needs

In terms of maintenance and grooming the Dunker is fairly low to average in its needs and the commitment it will take. It will not need professional grooming but it does shed very heavily so should be brushed at least a couple of times a week if not more if you want to limit the loose hair around the home. This is not the right dog for people who are clean freaks and do not want hair in the home. Bathe it just when it needs one as too often can damage its natural oils. For the same reason only use a dog shampoo when cleaning it.


Other needs will include nail trimming, ear care and oral hygiene. The latter means brushing its teeth two to three times a week at least with a dog toothbrush and toothpaste. Its nails should be trimmed when they get too long, though very active dogs do sometimes naturally wear down their nails. Use only dog nail scissors or clippers and do not cut too far down the nail into the section where there are blood vessels and nerves. Cutting into them would have hurt and caused bleeding. Its ears can be checked weekly for signs of infection and they should be cleaned too using a damp cloth or dog ear cleanser and cotton ball. Drooping ears and being out on the hunt means they easily pick up particles, dirt and food that can cause irritation.

Feeding Time

Expect to feed the Dunker about 2½ to 3½ cups of a good quality dry dog food a day split into at least two meals. The amounts vary from dog to dog because of things like size, health, metabolism, level of activity and age. It should also always have access to water that is changed for fresh regularly.

How is the Dunker with children and other animals?

The Dunker can be accepting of children being easy going with them and affectionate towards them especially with good socialization and if raised with them. Toddlers though should be supervised and it is really important to teach children how to touch and deal with them in a kind and appropriate manner. It is a pack dog so can get along very well with other dogs and with good socialization and training it has very low levels of dog aggression. It does not need doggy companionship as much as some other scent hounds but most generally prefer to have at least one other dog around. However it is not good with non-canine pets because of its high prey drive. When raised with them some can be okay with them, but there are some Dunkers that are never accepting of them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Dunker has an average life span of 12 to 15 years and is somewhat healthy though there are some issues it has. Deafness is a significant issues, from one health survey done on them it appears that almost three quarters of all Dunkers have partial or complete loss of hearing. Other issues that can come up include hip dysplasia, ear infections, eye problems, mange, obesity and heat intolerance.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks doing bodily harm in North American in the last 35 years, there have been none that identify the Dunker as the dog responsible. It is not an aggressive breed but then there are not many in the US or Canada anyway. All dogs have the potential to be drawn into something or to have an off day. A good dog owner can lessen the risks by giving it good socialization and training, making sure it is well exercised and has mental stimulation and that it gets the attention it needs too.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Dunker puppy will cost about $700 from a trustworthy breeder, one from a show breeder is going to cost a lot more than that. You will also have to pay for transportation costs if you opt for a Scandinavian breeder. Do not turn to puppy mills, pet stores or backyard breeders as their dogs are a mystery in terms of health and lineage, and some are neglected and even mistreated. Another option is to look at rescues and shelters and adopt a dog for around $50 to $400. There are a lot of dogs that have a lot of companionship to offer, though it is possible that you are less likely to find a puppy aged dog, and of course finding a purebred Dunker is even less likely.


Once you have found the dog you are ready to bring home you will have to get some items for it. A crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls and other such items will cost about $230. Initial health tests and procedures like a physical exam, micro chipping, deworming, spaying or neutering, shots and blood tests will come to about $290.

There are then ongoing costs to be prepared for. Basic health needs like check ups, vaccinations, tick and flea prevention and pet insurance will cost about $485 a year. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost another $270 a year. Miscellaneous costs like basic training, miscellaneous items, license and toys come to about $250 a year. This gives an annual starting figure of $1005.


Looking for a Dunker Name? Let select one from our list!

A Dunker is a rare dog even in its own country and Scandinavia, but elsewhere it is even more rare. Should you be really set on this breed you need to make sure you are going to hunt with it, this is the thing it was bred for and needs to do. It is not a dog that can be kept just as a companion dog by most people. It needs a lot of activity and it needs experienced and confident handling.

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