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How to Train a Karelian Bear Dog


About the Karelian Bear Dog

The Karelian Bear Dog is a medium-sized spitz with a dense coat. Bred to hunt large, aggressive game by himself, his build reflects his duties. He is a silent hunter, and only barks once the game is stopped or treed. Working with an experienced hunter, he communicates the type of animal he has located by the sound of his bark. Though he can demonstrate self-control around people, his fighting spirit surfaces around other dogs and can be difficult to handle. His spirit easily turns into aggression, as Karelian Bear Dogs love a challenge.

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Quick Facts

Origin: Finland
Temperament: Cautious, Tenacious, Independent, Loyal, Brave, Territorial
Height: Male: 21–24 inches, Female: 19–22 inches 
Weight: Male: 44–51 lbs, Female: 44–51 lbs
Life expectancy: 11 – 13 years

Want to learn how to train your Karelian Bear Dog to be one of the best trained dogs? Click here to find out how.


The Karelian Bear Dog is a Finnish breed that originated in northwestern Europe and was originally the dog of Russian and Finnish peasants, used for hunting and as a watch dog. Only the toughest survived fightings and the harsh conditions while hunting. Early dogs had red, red-gray and black and white coats. The Komi dog, also called the dog of Zyrians, is considered to be the origin of the breed, however, the basic stock dogs originated from the Lagoda’s Karelia, Olonets and Russian Karelia, where they were used for all different types of game hunting. The breeding was started in 1936 with the goal to create a sturdy dog which barks at big game. In further breeding, the progeny was selected to the Karelian Bear Dog type and only black and white dogs were preferred for breeding. It was then agreed that the name of the breed was to be the Karelian Bear Dog. The first standard was established in 1945. The first Karelian Bear Dogs were registered in the Finnish Kennel Club in 1946.

Today, the breed is one of the top 10 most common breeds in Finland. The Karelian Bear Dog is primarily a hunting breed, but can be trained for and compete in obedience trials, search and rescue trials, and sled dog trials in its native country.

Care and Training

The Karelian Bear Dog should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

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Beyond regular weekly grooming, the occasional bath will keep your Karelian Bear Dog clean and looking his best. Grooming can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your pet. The strong, fast-growing nails should be trimmed regularly with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting, and cracking. Their ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris, which can result in infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.


Karelian Bear Dogs are naturally aggressive towards other animals. They typically require deliberate socialization or acculturation with anything the owner is around often. They are very affectionate with their owners, but can be aggressive towards strangers. Proper socialization and training is necessary due to their aggressive disposition. Karelian Bear Dogs are very territorial and will alert their handler to the presence of any strangers or other animals nearby that they do not know.

They are silent but tenacious hunters and alert their handler only when they have the prey at bay. They will keep prey cornered there by barking in a very high, fast bark and running back and forth or around the animal until their handler comes and dispatches it. Karelian Bear Dogs have been known to hold an animal at bay for a very long time. If a bear tries to leave, the dog will nip at it on the backside and otherwise aggravate it to keep it from running away.

They don’t always have to hunt with their master, as they can be trained to work with other people. However, they are prone to separation anxiety due to their very social nature. It is very rare for a Karelian Bear Dog to bite a human, but it may kill another animal if it feels threatened or hungry.

They are very social hunting dogs that prefer an outdoor environment, and need plenty of space to run free and get sufficient exercise. In addition, they need a lot of mental and physical stimulation, as this working breed is used to having a job to do. These traits tend to prevent the breed from becoming popular companion dogs

Options for exercise include play time in the backyard, preferably fenced, orwalks several times a day. Exercise can also come in the form of indoor activities, like hide-and-seek, chasing a ball rolled along the floor, or learning new tricks. Certain outdoor activities like swimming, hiking, and retrieving balls or flying discs can provide a good outlet for expending energy. If you live in an apartment, even short walks in the hallways can give your dog some exercise, especially during inclement weather. Training for dog sports like agility, obedience, and rally can also be a great way to give your dog exercise.

Working with a responsible breeder, those wishing to own a Karelian Bear Dog can gain the education they need to know about specific health concerns within the breed. Good breeders utilize health screenings and genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies.

Want to learn how to train your Karelian Bear Dog to be one of the best trained dogs? Click here to find out how.