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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Karelian Bear Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Karelian Bear Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Care & More!

Karelian Bear Dog

With the right family, a Karelian Bear Dog can make a loving and loyal pet. These dogs are super brave, loyal, and active dogs. Used frequently by big game hunters, this dog is ideal for hunting families who want a dog that can keep up with the pace, aid in the sport, and love the family whenever it gets home.

Karelian Bear Dogs are not for the faint of heart. If you have other pets, small children, or little time and effort to dedicate towards the training of this dog, you will want a different breed entirely. For this reason, most households should shop for a different breed.

Breed Overview


19-24 inches


44-51 pounds


11–13 years


Black, black and white

Suitable for:

Hunting families with no other pets


Highly active and intelligent, loyal, brave

If you aren’t hesitant to bring a bear-catching beast into your home, you might be the right owner for a Karelian Bear Dog, though. With the right hand and owner, this dog can easily bring a lot of happiness, joy, and protection to a home.

Read on to learn if a Karelian Bear Dog is right for you and what to expect from its ownership.

Karelian Bear Dog Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.


Karelian Bear Dog Puppies

Karelian Bear Dog Puppy
Image By: Dlearn, Pixabay

Even though Karelian Bear Dogs are considered a relatively popular breed, these dogs are expensive. It is unlikely to find one of these puppies at an adoption or rescue center. Instead, you will need to find a breeder who specializes in Karelian Bear Dogs. Always ask for the health records of the puppy you’re looking to adopt and meet the puppy’s parents. This will give you an idea of the dog’s temperament around you.

Karelian Bear dogs are known for their adorable looks and are highly active. Their high energy levels are a good fit for active people and anyone who can commit enough time to give them enough physical and mental stimulation.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Karelian Bear Dog

Because Karelian Bear Dogs were primarily used for hunting purposes, it is no shock that these dogs are aggressive to other animals. Despite their animal aggression, the breed tends to be loyal and loving towards humans. Although they aren’t great for all homes, this breed makes a great companion for the right family.

As a whole, Karelian Bear Dogs are best for families that live in rural environments with a lot of yard and time to dedicate towards training and mental stimulation. More so, families should not have young children or other pets. Older children should be fine with this dog, especially if it is in a household that is active and enjoys hunting.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

If you are looking for a good family dog that gets along with other animals and people, the Karelian Bear Dog is not the breed for you. Although these dogs tend to be loyal and loving to their family members, they require a lot of early socialization and training.

For someone who is willing to work hard to socialize the Karelian Bear Dog, this can be a great breed. Especially if you want a dog to be a phenomenal guard dog or watch dog, the Karelian is a great choice.

If you have children in the household, you should be careful when getting a Karelian Bear Dog. These dogs tend to love and be overprotective with children, but they can accidentally injure the children just from being too rambunctious. So, it’s best not to have small children just because you don’t want the dog to accidentally hurt your child.

With these facts in mind, Karelian Bear Dogs are best for active families that have trained difficult dogs before, want a watchdog, and do not have small children in the home. Homes on farms and more rural locations will be best.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

If you get a Karelian Bear Dog, you should not have any other pets, aside from a fish or maybe a turtle. You should not have another dog, cat, small mammal, or bird in your home. Because these dogs are used for such intense hunting purposes, they have extreme prey drive.

You can try to socialize your Karelian Bear Dog from an early age for it to get along with other animals. If trained properly, the Karelian Bear Dog will likely not be outwardly aggressive unless provoked, but the dog still will do best in a household without any other pets.

The only exception to this is that Karelian Bear Dogs can get along with other similar dogs if they are introduced to each other at a young age.

If you want two dogs, we recommend getting two Karelian Bear Dogs, as opposed to one Karelian and one of a different species. This ensures that both dogs are compatible. Once again, make sure to get them at the same time so there aren’t any issues with dominance, territory, or suspicion.

You do need to be careful if you decide to get two or more Karelian Bear Dogs. These dogs are known to team up when they see prey, resulting in higher killing statistics. This may be an ideal scenario if you are a hunter, but you probably don’t want to deal with this if you are not a hunter.


Things to Know When Owning a Karelian Bear Dog:

Karelian Bear Dogs can be super loving additions to your family, but they require a lot of care, especially when you first bring it home. If you aren’t willing to invest a lot of time and money towards training and raising your dog, it is best to go with a different breed.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Given that Karelian Bear Dogs are super active, it’s no shock that they need a lot of food. That being said, these dogs still eat a lot less than other dogs of similar stature. It’s best to feed your dog high-quality dry dog food specifically designed for large, active dogs.

Because Karelian Bear Dogs can be so finicky about how much they eat, we recommend talking to your vet about the ideal food amount. This is the best way to ensure you are feeding your dog the proper amount of food based on its age, lifestyle, and health needs.

Exercise 🐕

One of the hardest parts of owning Karelian Bear Dogs is their extreme need for physical and mental exercise. At the minimum, these dogs need at least one hour walk a day in addition to regular playtime with family members.

Ideally, you should have a large yard that is fenced in for the dog to play in. Keep in mind that the yard should be fenced because these dogs make great escape artists.

In addition to physical exercise, provide mental stimulation for the dog. If you incorporate fetching games, hunting games, and other activities that require both physical and mental stimulation, you can kill two birds with one stone.

Training 🎾

Training is another difficult part of owning a Karelian Bear Dog. If you have never trained a dog before, this is the worst breed to start off with. You must be firm and consistent, all to show the dog who is in charge. If you fail to teach your dog properly, it easily can become aggressive to other animals and even people they deem a threat.

For best results, be firm and consistent, but use reward-based training. Even when you get frustrated, do not use negative reinforcement, or get angry. Instead, continue working with the dog by using high verbal praise and dog treats to train it to do what you want.

Don’t forget that training includes early socialization. Socialization is best during the puppy stage because the dog won’t be as aggressive yet. Introducing the dog to as many sites, places, smells, animals, and situations as possible is best. Be calm and controlled while doing so to train them accordingly.

Grooming ✂️

One positive side to owning a Karelian Bear Dog is that the breed doesn’t require intense grooming. That being said, the dog is not ideal for those who suffer from allergies because the dog sheds year-round with two major shedding periods.

Brush your dog once a week to keep shedding under control while also keeping its coat pretty. You may have to bathe the dog occasionally if it gets dirty, but it generally does a good job on its own. Make sure to brush the dog’s teeth regularly as well.

As for clipping its nails, only clip when necessary. Because these dogs are so active, their nails generally file down from play.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Karelian Bear Dogs are considered healthy, and they have a decently long lifespan given their size and activity levels. That being said, some health problems, especially if you purchase it from an irreputable breeder, can be found.

Minor Conditions
  • Eye injury
  • Eye infections
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia

Male vs Female

There is little difference between male and female Karelian Bear Dogs. They are about the same size and often have the same personality traits. It’s up to personal preference which sex you want. You won’t see any major difference.


3 Little-Known Facts About the Karelian Bear Dog

1. Karelian Bear Dogs date back to Neolithic times.

Karelian Bear Dogs are considered an old breed. In fact, they date back to the Neolithic period, which was when agriculture and bronze became widespread. This was around 2300 BCE. Although the Neolithic version of these dogs are different from the breed we see today, they are similar in a lot of ways.

For example, it is believed that ancient Karelian Bear Dogs helped people of northeastern Europe and Scandinavia who relied on hunting as their food source. It is believed that the dog primarily hunted hares, squirrel, and small game. However, they also hunted larger and more aggressive animals, such as wolves, boars, moose, and bears.

2. Karelians get their name from bear hunting.

If you were to first look up a Karelian Bear Dog, these dogs are adorable and don’t quite look like bears. That’s because their name does not come from their appearance. Instead, this breed gets their name from the bear hunting background.

Today, Karelian Bear Dogs are often used as great hunting dogs. Big game hunters especially love this breed. You can often find Karelian Bear Dogs at Yosemite National Park, Glacier National Park, and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife as part of their bear control methods.

In the native Finnish language where the breed is from, the breed is known as the Karjalankarhukoira.

3. The breed almost went extinct.

Even though the Karelian Bear Dog was around for thousands of years, it almost went extinct during and immediately after World War II. It is believed that only 40 Karelians were around during this time. Luckily, the breed was intentionally bred in Finland, the rest of Europe, and the United States to save it.

Today, the Karelian Bear Dog is the most popular dog in Finland and one of the most prized hunting and big game dogs in Europe and the United States as well.


Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Karelian Bear Dogs are not a good breed for most households. If you have young children, other pets, or live in a small home with limited access to outdoor space, this dog is not right for you. This excludes most families from owning Karelian Bear Dogs.

Luckily, these dogs are really loving and loyal to their families. They just need a lot of attention, training, and care. If you are a hunting family with no other pets or young children, a Karelian Bear Dog may be a great canine addition for your home. Just remember to spend a lot of time and effort training and socializing the dog from the time it is a puppy.

Featured Image Credit: 272651, Pixabay

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