The Karelian Bear Dog, called Karjalankarhukoira in the breed’s native Finland, is a strong, alert, and fearless breed that is capable of hunting or treeing small-to-large game — even aggressive game such as bears, lynxes, wild boars, wolves, and moose. It makes the list of the ten most common dog breeds in Finland, where people consider them a national treasure.
Karelian Bear Dogs were bred to be naturally aggressive to other animals for hunting. For that reason, it takes a good deal of socialization and training to keep them as household pets. Also, they have high energy and exercise needs.
However, Karelian Bear Dogs, are extremely loyal to their human families and are very protective watchdogs. So, for an owner willing to put in the work, socialize, train diligently, and give plenty of open space and physical activity, the Karelian Bear Dog can be a calm, loving family member.
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn’t necessarily an apartment dog make. Plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash in public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Working DogsHeight:19 to 24 inchesWeight:44 to 50 poundsLife Span:10 to 13 years
More About This Breed
Confident, alert, and brave are all words that describe the Karelian Bear Dog, and those are necessary traits for a dog that was bred to help hunt aggressive, dangerous animals such as bears, lynxes, and wild boars. Karelian Bear Dogs have high exercise requirements, and they prefer large yards where they can run freely in addition to regular walks. They are intelligent and need human companionship, or else they may try to find their own fun by digging, chewing, and making a mess around the home.
All of this is to say that the Karelian Bear Dog is not a good choice for novice dog owners, apartment dwellers, or those who need to be away from home for many hours during the day. However, an owner that is willing to tackle the Karelian Bear Dog’s exercise, socialization, and training needs with enthusiasm and confidence will be rewarded with a fiercely loyal and protective companion for life that will love the whole family.
- Karelian Bear Dog is sometimes spelled “Carelian Bear Dog” with a “C” in Finland where the breed originated. It is also called Karjalankarhukoira in Finnish.
- The Karelian Bear Dog was bred to hunt even large, aggressive game such as bears, lynxes, wild boars, wolves, and moose.
- This breed is naturally aggressive to other animals, so it will take a good deal of socialization if it is to be kept as a household companion. These dogs may do best in a home with no other pets.
- In the United States, Karelian Bear dogs have been used at Yosemite and Glacier National Parks for bear control, as well as with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- Modern Karelian Bear Dog coats are mostly black with white markings, and some have brown highlights on their black fur.
- Karelian Bear Dogs are still prized by big game hunters, but for those that want a household pet, they also make excellent watchdogs.
- The ancestry of the Karelian Bear Dog can be traced to neolithic times, according to archaeological findings, when dogs similar to the modern breed followed human settlers to regions of Scandinavia and Europe.
The Karelian Bear Dog is a Spitz-type breed with an ancestry that goes way back. In fact, archaeological records suggest that dogs similar to the modern Karelian Bear Dog existed in northeastern Europe and Scandinavia as far back as Neolithic times, and they likely followed the first human settlers to the area thousands of years ago. People who lived in the region depended on successful hunts to eat and survive, and Karelian Bear Dogs were kept and bred to help with that task. They were most often used to hunt squirrel, hares, and other small game, but they were also capable of hunting large, aggressive animals, as well. Two Karelian Bear Dogs could easily tree a bear and bark at it until their human could catch up and bring the animal down. The breed needed to be hardy to withstand the climate and wildlife of the region.
These dogs are still used to hunt elk and other large animals in Scandinavia today. Originally, Karelian Bear Dogs’ coats came in many colors, including wolf gray, red, or black and tan, though modern breed standards have led to their coats being mostly black and white. Karelian Bear Dogs almost went extinct after World War II. In fact, all Karelian Bear Dogs alive today can trace their ancestry to 40 dogs that were saved during that time. Since then, the breed has grown more popular, and in addition to being one of the top ten most common breeds in Finland, Karelian Bear Dogs are also bred in North America and countries in Europe.
The American Kennel Club does not fully recognize the Karelian Bear Dog, though it is included in their Foundation Stock Service which helps keep records of the breed’s lineage and allows them to compete in some competitions.
Male Karelian Bear Dogs are larger on average than females, standing at 21 to 24 inches in height at the shoulder, while females are usually around 19 to 22 inches in height. Dogs of this breed tend to weigh between 44 and 50 pounds, though individual Karelian Bear Dogs may be larger or smaller.
Karelian Bear Dogs are energetic, intelligent, and intense. They are prized for their natural hunting abilities, though this can make them aggressive toward other animals and dogs. Socialization and training need to begin early. Their hunting instincts may also cause Karelian Bear Dogs to wander or chase after animals. They do best with a large, fenced-in yard that will keep them secure and prevent them from getting lost while allowing them to run and burn off energy.
As with many intelligent and energetic dogs, boredom is the enemy. A Karelian Bear Dog that isn’t mentally and physically stimulated can act out in destructive ways. A tired dog is a happy dog, and that’s especially true of this breed. Karelian Bear Dogs make excellent watchdogs, and even though they are not naturally trusting of strangers, they are highly loyal and protective of their human families. Their instinct is to bark and alert their humans to anything that may be a threat or anything that may simply be of interest. Karelian Bear Dogs require a dedicated, confident trainer who will rely on positive reinforcement. They are usually prized by hunters, but Karelian Bear Dogs can make loving family companions when their needs are addressed.
The Karelian Bear Dog breed is known to be fairly healthy with few of the genetic conditions that affect other purebreds. They may, however, be prone to hip dysplasia or eye problems. It is important for owners to watch out for these conditions and maintain regular vet visits to catch and address any health concerns.
Karelian Bear Dogs tend to have fast-growing nails that must be trimmed or ground down often to avoid cracking, splitting, and breaking. Their teeth should be brushed regularly as recommended by a veterinarian. Their ears should be checked for signs of infection, parasites, or debris and kept clean. Keep up with regular vet visits to maintain good health for your Karelian Bear Dog.
A Karelian Bear Dog diet should be formulated for a mid-sized breed with above-average energy and exercise needs, though they often eat less than other dogs of their weight and energy level. You should consult your veterinarian or professional nutritionist for advice on what to feed your Karelian Bear Dog and the correct portion sizes. Their dietary needs will change as they grow from puppyhood to adulthood and senior age. Stay on top of these nutritional requirements.
Coat Color And Grooming
Although ancestors of Karelian Bear Dogs had coats of wolf gray, red, or black and tan, modern breed standards dictate that their coat should be mostly black with white markings. Their black fur may be slightly tinted with brown highlights. Karelian Bear Dogs have an outer coat of straight, stiff hairs, as well as an undercoat that is soft and thick. Their coat protects them in all weather, though it is particularly suited to keep them warm through the Scandinavian winter.
Karelian Bear Dogs are average shedders, and they shed more heavily twice a year as their seasonal coat blows out. Weekly brushing should be enough to loosen dead hairs and keep the shedding under control. An occasional bath or bathing as needed should be sufficient, as most Karelian Bear Dogs do not have the usual “doggy odor.”
Children And Other Pets
Karelian Bear Dogs are fairly good with children, especially members of their own household. They are playful dogs, though they can be intense and play rough. Always keep an eye on children and dogs during playtime, even if a dog is well trained and not aggressive. Instruct kids on how to treat pets gently and appropriately. The Karelian Bear Dog is not overly trusting of strangers, so friends and young playmates that visit must be introduced, and the resident pooch must have time to relax and space to get used to the new person. The Karelian Bear Dog may not be the best breed for children who are very young and inexperienced with dogs, as they may be accidentally knocked over or injured by an overly enthusiastic pup during play.
When it comes to other pets and dogs, the Karelian Bear Dog can be downright aggressive. Socialization training must begin early if they are to overcome their natural tendency to fight with other animals. Even then, the Karelian Bear Dog may be best suited to a home where they can be the sole pet.
Though there are many breeders of Karelian Bear Dogs that occasionally help rescue dogs from shelters and place them in forever homes, there are few, if any, groups specifically dedicated to only rescuing Karelian Bear Dogs. If you are interested in adopting a Karelian Bear Dog, check your local shelter, or you can take a look at our adoption page that lets you search for adoptable dogs by breed and location.