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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Cheerful, hard-working, and talkative, this former Norwegian farm dog with prick ears and a wedge-shaped head is making a name for himself not only as a companion but also as a hearing assistance dog and agility and obedience athlete. His medium size and easy-care coat make him an attractive proposition. Be warned: he barks, sheds, and is highly active.
In his homeland of Norway, the Buhund’s name means “farm dog.” He is also called the Norsk Buhund or the Norwegian Sheepdog.
It’s easy to picture this dog standing in the prow of a Viking longboat, waiting to be one of the first to disembark to the New World. The Norwegian Buhund has long been a partner to people, not only traveling with the Vikings but also serving as a multipurpose farm dog in his homeland of Norway. When you see him staring up at the sky, it’s easy to remember that one of his jobs was to ward off raptors, birds of prey that might carry off lambs or poultry.
Like all Spitz breeds, he is characterized by prick ears; a foxy face; a thick, off-standing coat; and a tail that curls tightly over his back. He is a medium-size dog, weighing 26 to 40 pounds.
The compact but sturdy Buhund is an alert and energetic chatterbox, communicating with his people through yips, chortles, barks, trills, and yodels. Confident and lively, he will alert you to anyone approaching the home and patrol the yard in big circles, reminiscent of his past as a herding dog.
The Buhund is active and needs plenty of daily exercise to keep him from becoming destructive or noisy in an attempt to entertain himself. He enjoys being the center of attention but is independent enough that he can be alone during the day while his family is at work or school.
This intelligent and highly trainable dog responds well to positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise, and food rewards. Keep training sessions short and fun, so he doesn’t get bored. For exercise, take him on long walks or spend time throwing a ball or flying disc for him to chase. He performs well in dog sports such as agility, obedience, and rally, and some have been trained as assistance dogs.
A people-loving dog like the Buhund needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Buhund who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
This Norwegian farm dog, who guarded property, helped herd livestock, and hunted or ran off predators such as wolves and bears, is thought to have a long history. The excavation of a Viking grave dating to the 10th century turned up the skeletons of six dogs of various sizes. They may be the forebears of today’s Buhund. Over the years, Buhunds have escaped the bounds of their herding past to be trained for certain types of police work and as hearing dogs, as well as participating in agility and obedience trials.
The dogs were first exhibited at dog shows in Norway in the 1920s, and a breed club was organized in 1939. The dogs were first imported to the United States in the 1980s.
The United Kennel Club recognized the Buhund in 1996 and classifies him as a Northern breed. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2009. He is a member of the AKC’s Herding group and ranks 159th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Typical of Nordic breeds, the Buhund is confident, energetic, and affectionate. He enjoys being with his family, but he’s independent enough to stay on his own during the day as long as he has toys for entertainment and a yard or other place to play. He gets along with children, cats, and dogs if he is raised with them. As with any breed, all interactions with young children should be supervised so that neither dog nor child accidentally gets hurt.
The Buhund’s alert nature makes him an excellent watchdog, but it also makes him highly vocal. His loud bark will let not only you but also all your neighbors know that a leaf has fallen, a car has passed, or a kid has whizzed by on a skateboard. Teach him early on to moderate his voice.
This is an active dog who enjoys walks and hikes, games of fetch, and chasing a flying disc. Fast and agile, he’s tops at dog sports such as agility, herding, and rally. He also has the potential to be an excellent therapy dog, visiting facilities such as nursing homes and children’s hospitals. As long as you give him at least one or two 20- to 30-minute walks or playtimes daily, the Buhund will be satisfied to then share the couch with you when you relax in the evening. He has plenty of stamina, though, and may be up for even more exercise if you are.
The Buhund is smart. He enjoys learning and is usually easy to train. Keep his mind busy with puzzle toys and trick training.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. If possible, get him into a puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, so you can start building a strong working relationship and socializing him. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Norwegian Buhund, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
That said, the Buhund is a pretty healthy breed. Hip dysplasia and cataracts are among the main health concerns. Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have hip scores of Excellent, Good, or Fair from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or a PennHIP score and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy.
The Norwegian Buhund Club of America participates in the Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Buhunds can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit a hip evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF), as well as participate in the OFA/CHIC DNA repository, which requires a blood sample. PennHip certification of hips is also accepted.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease. All test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents. Having a dog vet checked is no substitute for genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you get a new puppy home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Buhund at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life.
The Buhund has a thick double coat. Brush it weekly to keep it clean and remove dead hair. The coat sheds some all year round and more heavily once or twice a year. During shedding seasons, which are usually in the spring or fall, daily brushing will help to keep excess hair under control.
Regular brushing will keep the Buhund clean. It’s rare that he will need a bath. The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is most interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. And remember that breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical.
Look for more information about the Norwegian Buhund and start your search for a good breeder on the website of the Norwegian Buhund Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the NBCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Norwegian Buhund puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, sport titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Norwegian Buhund might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dogs of your dreams. An adult Norwegian Buhund may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Norwegian Buhund in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Norwegian Buhunds available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Norwegian Buhund. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Buhunds love all Buhunds. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. Norwegian Buhund Club of America's rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Buhund rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Buhund home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Norwegian Buhund, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with puppy lemon laws, be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Norwegian Buhund to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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