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Desna Training Progam For Elkhound Pups


A Young 16 week old son of Takoda

Young Desna above is who the program was named after. He is a son of Takoda and GAEDA. I have recently kept back a lovely full sister to Desna from the final litter of Takoda and GAEDA to continue this great lineage. Her name is Vida.

Takoda Just Over 7 Years
Desna 12 Weeks

Takoda sits here with his young son Desna. He is just over 7 years old in the image.


Jaegar doing some training

A bunch of happy pups doing some training, far left, Artemis a Leif and Tuva daughter, middle is Rigel, a Jaegar and Kamp son, and far right is Tikka, another Jaegar and Kamp daughter!


Tekla taking her turn training

Tekla takes her turn training her half sister Tikka.

Jaegar doing some training

Luna and MÅNE are skilled enough after completing the Desna to actually train. Here I have them with Bowen, a son of Kai and Hachi, and two brothers from Jaegar and Kalia, Rig and Gifford.

Luna and MÅNE are only 6 months old in this image.

Tuva helping with the Desna Program

Tuva is also highly skilled and is out giving us a hand as well. That is her daughter Artemis and her half sister behind, Phoenix.

Tora doing some training

And of course, Tora. I use her a lot in the Desna program, she is the top ranked female so has a lot of influence on the pups.

Young Mountain hiking Elkhound Pups

Young Mountain Hiking Norwegian Elkhound Pups.

Just a few of the pups that have been through the program below.

Desna and Merv

Desna and I above at the completion of his training, he is ready now for his trip, North to Alaska.

Rigel and Merv

Rigel and I above at the completion of his training, he is going to Winnipeg.

Annabelle and Merv

Annabelle and I above at the completion of her training, Utah Bound she is.

MANE and Moki

Young Moki with his brother MÅNE up on a high elevation hike toward the end of his program.

Kronos and his dad Takoda and I

Kronos and his dad Takoda and I, he is heading to Phoenix.

Bane, his grampa Takoda and I

Bane and his Grampa Takoda and I, he is heading to Illinois.

I will cover the details of the Desna Training Program for pups that we have initiated a while back.

The program was named after the very first pup I put through it, Mr. Desna himself, a total rock star young Elkhound.
Desna Moose SittingDesna sits here calmly waiting for somebody to help him bag one of these Moose. He knows his job is to stop them, hold them at bay, calmly we might add, while his handler comes to finish the job.

Is that a neat photo or what? I can tell you there are more photos than this of Desna and this cow Moose. They have actually become fast friends.

This spring she had a set of twin calves and allows Desna, and only Desna to play and hang around them, Go Figure.


So the program came about as a result of the changes to the importation rules for USA bound pups. The new rules require the pups coming in from out of country to USA to have all 3 sets of boosters completed and the full rabies protocol vaccination completed. This is required to be done no earlier than 12 weeks, and they have to complete a quarantine time frame of 4 weeks minimum. So the earliest a pup can have that completed and be ready to go is of course, 16 Weeks. A full International Health Certificate is also required, and also some additional border paperwork.

The 16 week time frame was of course why I decided to implement the training program as the pup was going to be here for an additional 8 weeks, I thought I might as well begin some basic training and offleash work. Desna was heading up to Anchorage Alaska and he just happened to be the first pup to go through the whole program.

Now I work a bit on leash work, not much as that is fairly easy for the new owners, I do some sit and stay, extended stay, some down and so on, but the primary work of the training is the off leash work. This is what I get the most questions on as it is the hardest for anyone getting a pup to do as in most cases they don't have another skilled dog to assist them in training. Thus with all the dogs I have available to assist me it makes training very easy.

I do all my own pups in the exact same fashion as I do all pups for other folks, so everything I would do for a pup I was keeping I would do for the Desna program pups, in fact, my pups are going through the program right beside them.

I have some videos to illustrate the program training underway and the one directly below is of young Rigel, an absolutely amazing son of Jaegar and Kamp.

Click To View the Desna Training Videos

In the video I speak of the use of our big dogs as training partners with me. I use a technique called modeling, which as you are most likely aware of is one of the fastest ways to train a young pup. Young pups watch and learn from older dogs at speed that is much faster than trying to comprehend what we are wanting them to do. By pairing them up from early on it instills all the reliability of the instinctive nature bred into them into real world working skills.

Takoda Elkhound Sire training some pupsNow I have found that I can reliably use almost any of my big dogs. Although I have to say that some dogs are "Better Trainers" than others. In this image I have of course my very best trainer of all, Takoda. As 'The Top Dog' in our pack of course all the pups instinctively know that what he does they do. Where he goes, they go.

The other thing with Takoda is that his response and skill level far exceeds all other dogs I have, even though each and every one of the others is astounding. You'll notice young MÅNE in the picture as well. I have used him a fair bit already as he is as good as any off leash Elkhound you'll probably come across, and only 6 months old. I put him through the Desna program ( alongside Pretty Boy Leif - more on that). But the pups really like MÅNE, he plays and has some wrestling matches and so the pups enjoy him. Takoda is all business of course, as it should be.

So a pack situation with different levels of rank is extremely valuable for pups to learn, the Desna program teaches pups all about social rank skills in a pack situation just by default. They automatically almost from day one get exposed to the "Pack" and who is who, what level and how to interact, how to behave and so on. Having sixteen weeks of this type of training is literally invaluable. A "Pack Atmosphere" is almost unheard of these days in breeding operations. Most breeders now a days have a pair, sometimes even using a male from somewhere else, so pups are almost never exposed to the real instinctive pack atmosphere except here. This leads to incredible mental stability in a much wider range of situations. It's a way more "Natural" way of socialization.

 Norwegian Elkhound Pups in Training

What I try to do is get the pups out and about as early as I can to a natural setting so they can begin to awaken the instinctive skills. It is absolutely fascinating to see a group of young pups who have only been walking for a couple weeks moving around the rugged landscape like proven little mountain dogs. Absolutely fascinating.

All the instinctive skills just come alive as they begin to learn and gain an understanding of how to work around the handler. By breeding instinctive working lines the pup starts out with a huge advantage over dogs where the instincts are buried or lost. Instincts rule all the time, and if your training to the instincts its very easy. If you don't have that, the time for them to learn is much greater as you have to "Train Everything" they are not acting instinctively. Training a little tiny pup in a group how to work offleash in the mountains would be an absolute fiasco if they did not have the built in instincts. It would result in total chaos. But for me, with my lines, I can take basically every litter I have on the ground at one time to the bush, all off leash, and they are responding and learning. Unbelievable really if a person stops to think about 20 plus little guys in a thousand square miles of range to travel in.

Now my goal is to have the pup set up in such a way that in the end the owner can have a totally reliable mature Elkhound hiking companion if they wish to continue a bit of the work. Tuva and Tekla are the stunning twins I have raised here, they are daughters of Bram and Kamp. In this next video they are helping me train the other two sisters they now have, Phoenix and Tikka, daughters of Jaegar and Kamp.

You will be able to see what you can end up with as the two big females are two amazing mountain dogs, and the two young females at 10 weeks are actually just as amazing. You'll be able to also see how you can get the young pup following the commands and responding to the commands by using the older dogs. In a couple instances in the video you'll see I had to actually stop the big girls from proceeding, which immediately stops the pups. Had I not had the big girls, at 10 weeks old the little pups would have almost no comprehension of stop yet, so I would have a tough time turning them around at a distance. Yet with the big dogs I can turn the pups around by default. The pups now are learning the commands, learning to return, all sorts of things by modeling.


I do some leash work, we focus primarily on the off leash but we do start the pup out knowing what the harness is, what the leash is, get them comfortable and so on. The next video is the very first time Max had a leash on, so it's neat to see. This is a son of Takoda and Tekla. Enjoy.


The Desna program vaccination section of course allows for all the vaccinations to be done by our vets, we also do a complete examination each and every visit. This will complete the entire regime of boosters and rabies and you'll be done for 1 year.

By us taking the pups in they are in a nice group, all siblings as a group, sometimes two litters even, this makes it very nice for them to get used to traveling first of all, and second get used to going to the vet with us.

Bowen 4th Generation ElkhoundFolks from any country can opt for the Desna program. This last round of litters I had quite a few from Canada and the USA going through the program at the same time. I was particularly excited of course to have young Bowen going through, he is shown toward the end of his program, down by the creek having a great off leash hike.

 As all of you who read my site know I have raised Tora, she is the daughter of Takoda and Mia, she had a daughter with Bram, who was named Kai. All of you who follow the site know Kai is a magnificent female, half sister to Tekla and Tuva. Now Kai's first litter there were 7 awesome Elkhounds and Bowen, a young male going out to Dallas and Ray and family, they wanted Bowen to go through the Desna program.

So it was a great honor for me to put Bowen through as he was the first 4th Generation Elkhound to go through the Desna program. I was so happy to work with Bowen, he is an amazing young fella. Here is a video of all four generations out working with me.


So we are really pleased with the program results to date. I have a ton of great feedback on the pups that have gone through it and we are looking forward to these upcoming litters as more pups are now slated to proceed through the Desna program.

The photo to the left is Daniel along with young Gifford. Gifford is a son of Kalia and Jaegar, he is a working GQ Elkhound male. Daniel and Alycia run a great forestry company in Washington state and needed a great companion dog to work alongside them in the bush each day.

No better dog exists in the world today for this job than Gifford. He has the genetic make-up from thousands of years of traveling this type of region with his handler and as Alycia will state, he is up for the job.

Gifford - Desna graduate

"Hi Merv,
I hope you're doing well up north!
I wanted to send you an update on Gifford, He's doing well in the field with Daniel and I. He averages at least a few miles a day exploring the PNW forests, and hes already barked at a big old boar black bear. He is a working GQ dog!" Alycia and Daniel


I will be adding more to this Desna section yet, I have a lot of great material on the pups that have gone through, and tons more feedback I want to put up on this program as well, so I'll be back with that.

If you have further questions on it by all means contact me about it.