Karelian Bear Dog – Full Breed Profile

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Could Karelian Bear Dog be your next dog? Check this ultimate guide on this breed first. Read on and decide if Karelian Bear Dog is for you.
Dog Breed Group:
Working Dogs
19 to 24 inches
44 to 50 pounds
Life Span:
10 to 13 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The Karelian Bear Dog is a breed that originated in northwestern Europe.

These playful dogs were used for hunting which is why they are so independent even today.

This breed is persistent, well-balanced, and self-confident. They are so confident, that they are used in bear hunting.

They are usually territorial when it comes to other animals, but they are never aggressive toward people. However, they may be reserved toward people that they don’t know.

The Karelian Bear Dog is a medium-sized spitz with a beautiful and dense coat. In appearance, this breed may be similar to Samoyed and Siberian Husky. After all, this dog was bred to hunt large animals.

This is a silent hunter who only barks once the job is done. The Karelian Bear Dog is a breed for only experienced dog owners.

Only experienced dog owners will know how to act when Karelian’s fighting spirit kicks in the surrounding of other dogs. The spirit of this breed can easily turn into aggression, as this breed is all about a good challenge.

To keep Karelian’s coat fresh and shiny, regular/weekly brushing is mandatory.

Grooming should be seen as a bonding experience with your dog and serve as a mutual point of respect and care.

Provide proper nutrition and veterinarian check-ups if you want your Karelian Bear dog to have a healthy and happy life.

Quick Facts

Real name: Karelian Bear Dog
Other names: Karjalankarhukoira, Karelsk Björnhund
Origin: Finland
Breed type: Working Dogs
Weight: 44 to 50 pounds
Height: 19 to 24 inches
Lifespan: 10 to 13 years
Litter Size: 4 – 8 puppies
Color: Black, black and white
Coat: Fluffy and double coat

Karelian Bear Dog History

To truly understand a breed, it is important to know its history.

Where did the dog come from, were there any specific breeding-wise, what were the dog’s primary working positions – questions like these and many more will provide answers that will help you understand your Fido better.

Dog’s brain evolved through history so that they can understand people better. That’s how their ability to understand body language evolved as well. The Karelian Bear Dog is no exception.

To truly understand this breed’s needs and characteristics you should learn about Karelian’s history first.

This agile dog originated from the Komi dog, a stock dog originally from Karelia.

Breeding this dog started in 1936 when breeders wanted to create a dog who is sturdy and fit to bark at the big game. This dog was named the Karelian Bear Dog.

Originally from Finland where this breed is called Karjalankarhukoira, this breed is known as strong, alert, and fearless.

Even today they are used for hunting pr treeing small-to-large game. Chasing moose, bears, or wild boars is an easy task for this breed.

Is A Karelian Bear Dog Rare?

The Karelian Bear Dog originated in Finland, where they were primarily used for hunting.

When they were not busy hunting, these dogs were being busy fulfilling their watching duties.

Today, they are more of a household pet or watchdogs than hunting companions. Since they are recommended for more experienced dog owners, they cannot be found easily.

Across Finland, they can be seen across the country. As for the States, they are still rare.

Now, let’s see what you can expect from this breed appearance-wise.

Karelian Bear Dog Physical Appearance

Karelian Bear Dogs are agile, active, and energetic dogs who are built to support that energy.

These are medium-sized dogs with a dense and short coat that is perfectly designed to protect them from harsh weather.

Their heads are wedge-shaped while ears are always erect over small and soft eyes. These Spitz-like dogs have spitz-like tails that curl over the back.

As for the dimension they have between 44 to 50 pounds and stand between 19 to 24 inches.

Now, one look at this breed is enough to link them with the spitz-type dog, but is a Karelian Bear Dog a Spitz? Simply said, no.

The Karelian Bear Dog is a Spitz-type breed. Compared to males, females are slightly smaller and shorter, and with more elegant posture. Their hair should always be straight and dense, no curls are allowed.

Commonly they are black with white markings. The ideal color proportion should be 70% black and 30% white.

In dog shows, black markings within the white section are considered to be a fault.

Karelian Bear Dog Personality

Karelian Bear Dogs are energetic dogs who are always ready for some kind of action.

They are intelligent dogs who will love good training sessions.

Continually praised for their natural hunting abilities, these dogs will be wary of strange dogs unless they are introduced to a safe environment.

They are fairly good with children although older children are a better fit. Children must know how to behave around dogs and not to disturb them while they are sleeping, eating, drinking, or resting in their crate.

Children must know that dogs are territorial beings and that they should respect them.

On the other hand, dogs should know house dog rules, which home areas are forbidden, and how to interact with children.

No matter how well children and dogs get along, they should always be supervised. This is the best way to prevent accidents.

Overall, if you are on the lookout for a family dog, the Karelian Bear Dog is a breed to consider having.

They will be highly protective around a stranger which is why proper training and early socialization are a must.

They may also show aggression toward other dogs, so make sure that walks are always on a leash. Putting a muzzle on is also an option to have extra safe walks.

Karelian Bear Dog Training

Training should start as soon as you bring your Karelian home.

Did you know that dogs are more than capable of mastering basic commands at eight weeks of age?

This is why you should focus on creating a proper training structure from day one.

You don’t have to be super aggressive with training, but you should have a structure.

Make training short, fun, consistent, engaging, and packed with treats. Always reward a dog. Use only positive reinforcement methods.

No dog should ever experience any harsh training methods. If you feel like you need help with training, think about hiring a professional dog trainer.

Another option is to enroll your dog in puppy classes. This is commonly done to speed up the training and get some professional input.

Karelian Bear Dog Exercise

Exercise is a great way to keep your dog fit.

Dogs thrive in proper conditions. To achieve this you should provide the proper nutrition, regular training, and well-organized exercise time.

Proper exercise will keep your dog’s joints healthy and stronger, which will make his senior years more enjoyable.

Since the Karelian Bear Dog is an active breed they will need at least an hour-long walk every day, if not more.

Provide regular walks, additional and more intense walks, next to running sessions in the dog park.

If these dogs don’t get enough exercise, they may easily become bored and therefore destructive.

Karelian Bear Dog Grooming

Grooming is a biog part of a dog’s well-being.

If you want to have a dog that is neat, well-groomed, and overall clean, you should provide regular grooming.

To have a neat Karelian provide regular weekly brushing. Regular brushing should lead to a clean, fleas-free, and tangle-free coat.

Plus, brushing is a great way to bond with your dog further.

The rest is basic care:

  • Trim or gring nails monthly
  • Check gums weekly
  • Check eyes daily for any sign of eye discahrge
  • Clean ears when needed to remove wax

If your veterinarian recommends it, brush his teeth. Make sure that you use a toothbrush that is specially designed for dogs.

The same applies to bathing time. Use only dog-friendly shampoo that won’t harm the dog’s skin.

Dogs have different skin than humans do and they don’t need frequent bathe time as humans do.

Karelian Bear Dog Health

If you are working with a responsible dog breeder your Karelian Bear Dog should be a healthy pup.

Responsible dog breeders will always screen puppies for most common health issues and present you with medical documentation on dogs.

On top of that, they will share with you any possible future concerns health-wise, and provide inputs on proper care.

If you are adopting you can expect to get health records on the pup as well.

Overall, Karelian Bear Dogs are considered to be healthy and strong dogs, who will usually live over 10 years.

To help your Karelian reach his senior years, provide high-quality food, enough exercise, and regular veterinarian check-ups.

Prevention is the key when it comes to having a healthy pup.

Is Karelian Bear Dog For You?

As mentioned earlier, the Karelian Bear Dog isn’t for you if you are a first time dog owner.

These exceptional watchdogs do best with experienced dog owners who know their way around working and hunting dogs.

They are loyal and protective of their human families, which is why every walk should be on a leash.

They have a strong need to bark on anything suspicious and this is something to consider if you are building-based.

If you want a medium-sized dog who enjoys brushing sessions and regular exercise then this breed is for you.

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