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Karelian Bear Dog | Breed Info: Pictures, Personality & Facts

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Karelian Bear

Height: 19 – 23.5 inches
Weight: 44 – 49 pounds
Lifespan: 11 – 13 years
Colors: White and black
Suitable for: Active families, those looking for a low-shedding dog
Temperament: Loyal, willful, affectionate, intelligent, spirited

You may not have heard of the Karelian Bear Dog here in the United States. However, this breed is quite popular in Finland, where it is one of the most popular dogs in that country. This pooch is appropriately named because of his fearless and courageous nature. It’s a must-have trait with a pup whose purpose is big game hunting.

The breed is an ancient one, going back over 2,000 years. The Karelian Bear Dog traces its origins to a Komi Hunting Spitz. Like others of this type, this pooch is sometimes aloof, a characteristic you may notice with other pups like the Chow Chow. He is an independent canine, that not surprisingly, tolerates the cold quite well.

The Karelian Bear Dog carries himself well and exemplifies confidence. He is a muscular canine with the energy and stamina for the hunt. He also has a stubborn streak that his job and lifestyle encouraged. This pup has an unmistakable presence that is evident when you meet him for the first time.

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Karelian Bear Dog Puppies

karelian bear dog puppy
Photo Credit: Pxhere

The description of the Karelian Bear Dog provides some valuable clues about what you can expect if you choose to get one. His independence makes him a poor choice for the novice pet owner. He needs someone who can take control of training and build trust in the relationship. Like many hunting dogs, the Karelian Bear Dog is often vocal, especially when he gets excited.

However, this pooch is something of a softie, being sensitive and needy for attention. He’s not a dog to leave alone in the backyard. Puppies can be nippy, so you must work on their canine manners from the start. The Karelian Bear Dog has a strong prey drive, which is expected in a pooch with his history. He also has high wanderlust potential. Remember that he is a fierce hunter and will follow the chase.

This pup isn’t fond of strangers, making early socialization imperative. Owners should introduce the Karelian Bear Dog to other people as a puppy to cultivate his social skills. Surprisingly, he won’t rush up to greet others, even as a pup. That’s the Spitz background in him. However, he is affectionate and loyal to his family.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Karelian Bear Dog

1. The Karelian Bear Dog lives up to his name.

It’s tempting to think that the name of the Karelian Bear Dog is all-show. However, don’t tell that to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The agency recruited this breed to control nuisance mountain lions and bears in the state. In his native Finland, he also goes after elk. Talk about a tough pooch!

2. The Karelian Bear Dog signals the presence of prey vocally.

Some hunting dogs will point or flush game out of the brush, not so with the Karelian Bear Dog. He prefers to let his companions know by barking. Being vocal is instinctive for this fearless canine.

3. The Karelian Bear Dog almost became extinct.

World War II was a terrible time for everyone, including dogs living in Europe. The Karelian Bear Dog, along with other breeds like the Vizsla, was hit hard. The pups we see today are the result of the breeding of the 43 out of the 60 that remained.

Karelian Bear Dog Red coat
Photo Credit: Viktoriia Drobotova, Shutterstock

Temperament & Intelligence of the Karelian Bear Dog 🧠

As you’ve probably surmised, the Karelian Bear Dog takes a special individual or family. He may prove challenging to have as a pet if you can’t give him the attention he needs. This pup needs activity for both his physical and mental health. That’s the price of owning an intelligent canine. He is a playful pooch that takes the game seriously.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The Karelian Bear Dog can farewell with a family with kids, especially older children. We suggest teaching the little ones to respect his space and leave his food alone. However, he is an affectionate pet, nevertheless. Taking the time to build trust and bond with your pet will yield welcome rewards. Early socialization is the key to a healthy relationship.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Many hunting dogs get along with others because they work in a group. That’s not the case with the Karelian Bear Dog, unfortunately. He is not dog-friendly. However, you can try socializing him, but understand that you may have limited success. This pooch does best in a single-pet household. That includes cats, too.

Karelian Bear Dog puppy on grass
Image Credit: Pikist

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Things to Know When Owning a Karelian Bear Dog:

Owning a Karelian Bear Dog is a rewarding experience. His unique personality will make every day different. His independence helps. He takes care of his needs to some degree, making it more manageable for you. However, there are a few more things you should know upfront before inviting this captivating pooch into your home.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Make sure to feed your Karelian Bear Dog a food meant for medium-sized breeds. It’s essential to ensure proper development and adequate nutrition. Luckily, the high energy of this pup reduces his risk of weight gain. However, monitor his size and diet. Obesity is one condition where prevention is significantly easier than fixing the problem.

Exercise 🐕

The Karelian Bear Dog needs plenty of exercise to stay healthy. A daily walk will give you the chance to keep him active and cement your relationship with him. We urge you to keep him on his leash because of his keen prey drive. Unfortunately, he’s probably not the best pup to bring to the doggie park. Instead, a game of fetch will satisfy his desire to run and burn off some energy.

Training 🦮

The Karelian Bear Dog is intelligent and capable of learning. However, his willful streak will likely rear its ugly head. Avoid harsh reprimands and use positive reinforcement. This pup is quite sensitive. You can put his athleticism to good use by teaching him agility sports. It will give him enough mental stimulation to keep his mind occupied.

Karelian Bear Dog puppy
Image Credit: Tiina Tuomaala, Shutterstock

Grooming ✂️

The Karelian Bear Dog does shed, but he manages to keep his coat clean on his own. Weekly brushing with the occasional bath covers the basics for this pooch. This breed is prone to gum disease. Therefore, you should brush his teeth regularly for sound oral health. Also, check his ears and clean them as necessary. We also suggest trimming his nails frequently as they typically grow quickly.

Health and Conditions ❤️

The Karelian Bear Dog is a relatively healthy pooch. The primary concerns are issues that affect any breed of his size. We suggest only buying from responsible breeders who do the recommended health screening as a puppy with the follow-up tests done as he grows into an adult.

Minor Conditions
  • Heat intolerance
  • Ear infections
Serious Conditions
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)
  • Gum disease

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Male vs Female

You will have a delightful pet no matter what sex of Karelian Bear Dog you choose. Both are equally affectionate and willing to share their love. The size difference between males and females isn’t significant, either. Whichever one you get, we recommend spaying or neutering your pooch, following the advice of your veterinarian regarding the timing.

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Final Thoughts

The Karelian Bear Dog is probably one of the most confident canines you’ll ever meet. His courage is evident in his independence and reserved manner. While he’s intense in play and hunting, he’s also a calm pooch that will enjoy spending time with you, whether you two are taking your daily walk or cuddling together on the sofa. This pup will make a wonderful pet for the right family.

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Featured Image: Louise Ekeblad, Shutterstock

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