Where does the Karelian Bear Dog come from?
The Karelian Bear Dog was developed to hunt game of all sizes in the icy forests of Finland - including bears, wild boar and lynx. As its name suggests, the breed's forte lies in its talent for the bear hunt. No doubt these sturdy, medium-sized dogs have been hunting for centuries in the frosty forests of Finland. But the first official breeding effort was not made until 1936: Finnish breeders set out to create a strong, compact dog who would track and apprehend large game. The first standard for the Karelian Bear Dog was established in 1945.
The Karelian Bear Dog’s particular hunting style includes a team – or small pack – of dogs to harry the bear. Whilst apprehending, they would bark loudly to keep the animal distracted until the (human) hunter could catch up to shoot the bear. In recent times, Karelian Bear Dogs have been utilized for bear control in various large national parks in the US. And in 2004, they were introduced to Japan, where they have drastically reduced the number of bear incidents in a resort town.
What is their temperament like?
The ideal Karelian Bear Dog is very sweet-tempered and affectionate towards its owners, but wary of strangers. Unless these quite independent-minded dogs are socialised diligently, they can be aggressive towards strangers. And also towards other dogs and other animals in general: Karelian Bear Dogs are very territorial and will not take kindly to any intruder on their land. However, they are not overly vocal - and usually will only bark to alert their owner that someone is approaching the home. As these dogs are immensely social, they become quite attached to their owner. Which is nice on one side, but can lead to separation anxiety. Karelian Bear Dogs are quite playful and fun-loving. In combination with their gentle and affectionate behaviour towards any children in their household, this makes them wonderful family dogs. As they can be quite intense and play rough, they are best suited for families with slightly older children. And because Karelian Bear Dog can be aggressive towards other animals, socialization must begin at an early age. But even then, this breed is best suited for the role of the only pet in the household.
How intelligent and trainable are Karelian Bear Dogs?
Karelian Bear Dogs are quite smart and trainable. However, their strong-willed nature requires an experienced canine leader to bring out their full potential. With a balanced training approach that mostly uses positive reinforcement, these keen hunters can be motivated to perform obedience drills, follow tracks, and even compete in canine sports like rally or agility. When it comes to training Karelian Bear Dogs, their high prey- and play drive comes in quite handy: Even though some of them may not respond well to food-rewards, they will see play as an amazing reward for jobs well done. As these dogs have been bred to work, they thrive when given a task, which is why they absolutely should be engaged in some kind of training or dog sports.
Are Karelian Bear Dogs healthy?
The Karelian Bear Dog is a robust and healthy breed that suffers from next to no breed-specific ailments. Some Karelian Bear Dogs may, however, develop hip dysplasia or eye conditions. In general, this sturdy Finnish breed definitely benefits from the natural selection process it was submitted to over the centuries: Out there in the unforgivingly cold forests of Finland, only the strongest, healthiest dogs would survive - and get the chance to pass on their genes.
The life-expectancy of this robust Finnish breed ranges from 11 to 13 years.
The Karelian Bear Dog’s Exercise and Grooming Needs
Karelian Bear Dogs prefer an outdoor environment to living in the house, and they need plenty of space to run around in. They love to play and will readily retrieve balls, frisbees and other toys. But at the same time, these immensely keen working dogs need lots of mental stimulation, which is where regular heel-walks come in: Taking your dog out for at least one long walk a day (on a loose leash) is an excellent way of stimulating their minds. But exercise does not have to be restricted to the outdoors: You can also engage your Karelian Bear Dog in indoor games of hide-and-seek, or in teaching them new commands and tricks.
Karelian Bear Dogs have thick, plush double coats that protect them from the freezing temperatures of the Scandinavian winter. But when it comes to shedding, they are not too bad. And weekly brushing- and combing-session is usually enough to remove dead hairs and keep on top of shedding. As these beautiful dogs do not have “doggy odour”, they only need the occasional bath.
With its playful, sweet and outgoing nature, the Karelian Bear Dog is a joy to live with. And whilst these strong-willed dogs are best suited for experienced owners, they can make amazing family companions.