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12 Dunker Temperament Traits: A Sweet-Natured Independent Thinker

The Dunker temperament is sweet, gentle, and affectionate. However, it is also strong-willed, high energy, and noisy.

The Dunker (also called the Norwegian Hound) is a skilled Norwegian scenthound with a very loving personality.

She can also make a very good family dog, but she needs the right kind of home. Without strong leadership, the Dunker is a training challenge.

Dunker Temperament and Personality

1. Intelligent

Like most hunting dogs, the Dunker is very intelligent. She learns quickly and easily, but that doesn’t mean she is easy to train.

2. Strong-willed

Also like many hunting dogs, stubbornness is a strong component of the Dunker temperament. Determination and tenaciousness in the hunt have been bred into her.

For this reason, obedience training will take more time and effort than with most dogs.

3. Gentle

Dunkers have kind and gentle dispositions. If she is raised with children and socialized to them early, she is very good with them.

4. Friendly

The Dunker temperament is friendly to nearly everyone. This includes other dogs. She’s usually indifferent to strangers but is rarely, if ever, aggressive.

She is too friendly to make a good watchdog.

5. Relaxed

When she gets enough exercise, the Dunker is calm in the home and happy to settle in with her people.

6. Energetic Dunker Temperament

As a hunting breed, the Dunker has a very high energy level. Meeting that need with plenty of exercise is one of the keys to dealing with the Dunker temperament.

7. Loyal

She is devoted to her family and forms very strong bonds with them. This applies to both adults and children.

8. Loving

The Dunker temperament is very affectionate. They love to give and receive physical affection. This trait makes them exceptional family dogs.

9. Social Dunker Temperament

The Dunker is a pack hunter. She generally gets along well with other dogs. She may even do best in a home with at least one other dog, but it’s not mandatory.

10. Stranger-aloof

The Dunker does not make a good watchdog or guard dog. She is friendly and generally not interested in strangers.

11. Noisy

Dunkers tend to bark a lot. They have a distinctive hunting bay that neighbors may find annoying.

12. Prey-driven

As a hunting breed, the Dunker will chase nearly everything. She needs early socialization to control this.

Even with that, this component of the Dunker temperament may be hard to train out of her.

Dunker History

The Dunker got its name from the man who created the breed in the early 19th century, a Norwegian sea captain named Wilhem Dunker.

Captain Dunker started with the Russian Harlequin, a hardy scenthound used to frigid temperatures. He crossed it with several Norwegian scenthounds. He was hoping to create a scenthound that could tolerate Norway’s harsh hunting conditions.

The result was the Dunker (or Dunker Dog). This new breed excelled at hunting small animals by scent.

It is hardy enough to tolerate the cold climate of Norway. The Dunker is also agile enough to do its job well on rough, rocky terrain.

Hygenhund Scenthound (Similar Origins)

In 1902, the Special Club for the Norwegian Hare Dog was established. This organization was a breed club for both the Dunker and the Hygenhund

The Hygenhund is another popular Norwegian scenthound with a similar background. It was also created by one man (Hans Fredrik Hygen) looking for a perfect scenthound for Norwegian conditions.

Later in 1902, the breeds were separated and the Norwegian Kennel Club officially recognized the Dunker.

Dunker Struggles – What caused so many (75%) Deaf Dunkers

World War II took its toll on the Dunker, just as it did with most European breeds. Their numbers declined sharply. After the war, the Dunker regained popularity for a brief time.

During the 1970s, Norwegian hunters began to try new hunting breeds that were imported to the region, and the Dunker once again was threatened.

Breeders trying to save the Dunker began inbreeding their dogs. This may account for the fact that up to 75% of Dunkers are deaf (see Dunker Health Issues).

Brighter Dunker Future

Today, the inbreeding has stopped. Dunker breeders are working hard now to increase the gene pool (and the health of the breed) by crossing with other breeds.

Their focus is to selectively breed to restore the Dunker while maintaining Dunker traits and abilities.

Today the Dunker is known as a rabbit hunter. Norwegians still use this dog mainly as a hunting dog, not so much as a companion animal.

However, it does make a very good family pet if it gets good training and plenty of exercise.

The Dunker was recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1996. However, it’s still a rare breed that is hard to find outside of Norway.

Dunker Training

The Dunker is a typical hunting breed. She is intelligent but also has an independent streak. This combination is an advantage for hunters, but it can make obedience training challenging.

She is certainly bright enough to learn quickly. Obedience doesn’t come naturally to her, though. You need to start training early and be firm in your expectations.

This breed needs a firm and consistent pack leader.

Otherwise, you are likely to have difficulty controlling her. Many Dunkers will be disobedient without strong training started early.

Early socialization is also important with the Dunker. She will need to be exposed to many situations, people (including children), and other dogs.

She has a social and friendly nature. With good socialization, she will likely get along well with all of these.

She may even be socialized to not bother smaller household pets. You might not want to push her on that, though. She is a hunting dog, after all, with a high prey drive.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Dunker dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

Dunker Appearance

Dunker Size

Average Dunker weight is 35-39 pounds. Dunker height averages 19-1/2 to 21-1/2 inches for males and 18-1/2 to 20-1/2 for females.

General Appearance

The Dunker is a medium-sized hound with an athletic, muscular build.

Her coat is hard and dense, straight but not too short. Dunker color patterns are distinctive. They can be blue, black, or brown, marbled or dappled, with white or fawn markings.

She has a long, slightly domed head. She usually has a white face, but she can have a black mask.

Her ears are set close to the head and medium width. They are hanging, wide, and flat. The eyes are large and dark. Her nose has wide nostrils. Its color varies with her coat color.

She has a long, narrow, square-cut muzzle. She has a scissor bite. Her neck is long and lean.

She has a deep, well-rounded chest and sloping shoulders. Her legs are muscular.

Her tail is thick at the base, tapered at the tip. It is straight but can curve slightly upward.

Dunker Must-Knows

Dunker Lifespan

The life expectancy of a Dunker is 12-15 years.

Other Names

  • Norwegian Hound.
  • Norwegian Rabbit Hound.
  • Dunker Dog.
  • Dunkerhund.
  • Dunkerstovare.

Dunker Health Issues

The Dunker is said to be a healthy dog with one major exception. As many as 75% of them are deaf.

Because of this dog’s rarity, there haven’t been many (if any) health studies done on the breed. It’s not certain what causes the deafness.

Some believe it’s a result of the inbreeding that was done with the Dunker after World War II.

In any event, it is currently the only known breed-specific health condition. As above, breeders are currently working to eliminate it.

However, like many large breeds and working dogs, the Dunker may also be prone to hip dysplasia. This is a malformation of a dog’s ball-and-socket joint. It can cause lameness, arthritis, and eventually loss of function.

Helpful Dog Health Resource:

Note: Don't let the many issues above scare you. The best way to approach health problems is to prevent them in the first place. The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health is a great place to start. Get a copy to keep at home. It will help you prevent the painful health issues that can plague your lovely dog from expressing his winning personality and maximizing his life expectancy.

Caring for the Dunker

Dunker Grooming

Dunkers shed at an above average rate, so they need brushing twice a week.

They need only occasional baths (when they get into something with a bad odor). You should always use a mild shampoo made for dogs to protect the natural oils in her coat and skin.

Other than that, like all dogs they need their nails clipped regularly. You will also want to brush their teeth routinely and check and clean their ears periodically.

Dunker Diet

The Dunker should do well on high-quality commercial food. However, because of their high energy level, you may want to consider a formula made for active dogs.

If you choose to do this, you will need to watch her weight carefully to be sure she’s burning the extra calories.

Dunker Exercise

These dogs were bred for endurance. Because of that, it takes a lot to tire them out. They need a lot of exercise.

Of course, hunting is the best possible exercise for a Dunker. If you don’t hunt, plan to provide her with an hour or more of vigorous activity every day.

This breed will only be happy with active families.

She is a good candidate for training and participating in canine sports such as flyball or agility.

She would also enjoy long jogs or running alongside for a bike ride. Dunkers also need to have a large enclosed space where they can run off leash.

Hikes are another good option. It’s a bad idea to walk your Dunker without a leash, however. With her high prey drive, she will likely run off to follow her nose.

When that happens, she probably won’t respond when you try to call her back.

The Dunker needs mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. She has an active mind and is easily bored.

When she is bored or not exercised enough, you will see negative Dunker behaviors. She is likely to be hyperactive and nervous. She may bark excessively, chew, or be destructive in other ways.

Finding a Dunker

Buying a Dunker from a Breeder

Because this is such a rare breed, it will be challenging to find a Dunker for sale outside of Norway.

An Internet search may be worth your while, though. Try searching for online forums and user groups on channels such as Facebook.

Another possible source is YouTube. Many dog owners and dog breeders post videos of their dogs. Often they will publish contact information as well.

If you can’t find a breeder of Dunker puppies, you may find an owner who can refer you to a good breeder.

It may also be possible to find a Norwegian breeder who will export a puppy. If you are lucky enough to find one who will do that, expect to be put on a waiting list.

Estimates of Dunker cost are from $500 to $700 for a Dunker puppy. We are not sure how reliable those figures are because there are so few Dunkers available. They seem low for a rare dog.

If you are able to arrange an import, of course, you would also have to pay for shipping.

Dunker Rescue/Adoption

If you would prefer a Dunker for adoption, you will almost certainly have to look to Norway for a purebred. Try searching for Norwegian dog rescue groups.

At the time of this writing, there is at least one rescue group in Norway that handles several Norwegian breeds. They may ship to North America.

You would be very unlikely to find a purebred Dunker in your local shelter. If you would consider a mixed breed, though, you may have more options.

The Norwegian Elkhound Rescue is located in Pennsylvania and serves the US and Canada. They work with both purebred Elkhounds and Elkhound mixes.

Because these are both Norwegian breeds, it is possible that you could find an Elkhound-Dunker mix that would have the Dunker temperament you’re looking for.

Choosing a Dunker mix would also lessen the high risk of deafness that comes with a Dunker.

Is the Dunker Temperament Right for You?

There is a lot to like about the Dunker. This is a gentle and affectionate breed that would make a great addition to many families.

However, this breed would prefer to be with a hunting family. A very active outdoor family that could keep it busy would also work.

This breed also needs a firm, experienced dog trainer to bring out its best. If there is no one in your household willing to take on that responsibility, the Dunker is not the right breed for you.

You could end up with an unhappy and badly behaved dog on your hands.

But if your family is the right fit for this breed, the sweet and devoted Dunker temperament will reward your commitment and effort many times over.