By Sergey Uhanov (Certified Veterinarian)Dr. Sergey Uhanov Last updated: 29th August 2023

Karelian Bear Dog


Sergey Uhanov (Certified Veterinarian) Dr. Sergey Uhanov
Last updated: 29th August 2023

The Karelian Bear Dog is one of Finland’s most prized breeds with its fearless nature, quick reflexes, and majestic coat. It has the typical features of Spitz-type dogs, with its curled tail, triangular head, small eyes, and dense fur. However, its distinctive black-and-white coloring distinguishes it from other Northern Spitz types.

It gets its name from the Karelia (or Carelia) region between modern-day Finland and Russia, where it was bred initially to hunt big game. It is still used as a hunting dog, though with the right amount of patience and training, it makes a loving, loyal, and protective family dog.

Karelian Bear Dog Pictures

Quick Information

Other namesKarjalankarhukoira, Karelsk Björnhund
CoatMedium-length double coat with a stiff upper coat and soft, dense undercoat
ColorBlack-and-white, with a few brown markings allowed
Breed typePurebred
Group Spitz, Working
Life expectancy11-13 years
Height19-23.5 inches
Weight44-49 pounds
Litter Size4-8 puppies
Behavioral Characteristics Independent, intelligent, energetic, tenacious, and loyal
Good with children Moderate; may hurt smaller kids due to their active nature
Barking Tendency Moderate; they tend to bark when excited.
Climate compatibilityHigh; it prefers cold weather due to its heritage but can live in hotter climates with proper grooming
Apartment compatibilityLow; they need large open spaces
Do they shedModerate
Are they hypoallergenicNo
TrainabilityPoor; they can be stubborn and unwilling
How much do they cost$1,400 – $1,700
Competitive Registration Qualification/InformationFCI, FKC, CKC

History and Origin

The Karelian Bear Dog originated in the Karelia region and was used for hunting larger, more aggressive games such as moose, wild boars, wolves, and Eurasian Bears. Its ancestor is the now-extinct Komi dog. However, the modern version came from Lagoda’s Karelia, Russian Karelia, and Olonets. The first breeding programs were started in 1936 in these regions to develop a hardy breed that could bark and corner larger game. This breed nearly got wiped out during WWII, with only 40-60 specimens left.

The Finnish Kennel Club was responsible for repopulating the Karelian Bear Dog and established the first breed standard in 1945. Their efforts proved successful, and this is now one of the most popular pets in Finland. Although not officially part of the AKC, it was registered with the FSS in 2005 and is reaching full recognition.

Temperament and Personality

Though its history as a hunting dog may suggest otherwise, the Karelian Bear Dog is rarely aggressive towards humans. However, it can be difficult around other dogs due to its instincts. Thus, experts recommend not getting other dogs if you own a Karelian Bear Dog. It is a sensitive, independent, energetic, and protective dog, making it a great family pet. Still, you should be careful around young kids as they play rough. It is incredibly loyal and alert, making it an excellent watchdog and guard dog.

Its strength and force might make it challenging to handle for inexperienced owners. It requires a lot of outdoor exercise, and loves to run, so be prepared to engage in a lot of playtime to avoid restlessness. Avoid leaving your Karelian Bear Dog alone for too long, as it will cause separation anxiety. Meeting these needs with early training will make your dog a joy to be around due to its lovable and intense nature.



As a hunting dog, this breed has lots of energy and a strong desire for work. Thus, adequate outdoor time is essential for mental and physical health. Daily hour-long walks and physically demanding activities like running, hiking, fetch, and Frisbee are good for expending excess energy. Karelian Bear Dogs love to swim, so indulge them regularly. Indoor activities like chasing a rolling ball, hide-and-seek, and learning new tricks provide mental stimulation, too. Dog sports such as obedience, scent work, rally, and agility are also recommended.


Despite its dense coat, this breed is an average shedder, and weekly brushing is enough to remove stray hairs. Bathe your Karelian Bear Dog occasionally, check for ear infections, clip its nails, and brush its teeth for proper hygiene.

Health Problems

Karelian Bear Dogs are a relatively healthy breed. Specific health problems like hip dysplasia, cataracts, and progressive retinal atrophy may occur. However, buying from reputable breeders and regular check-ups can help prevent many of these issues.


Karelian Bear Dogs have a smaller appetite for their size. You should feed them only high-quality dog food after consulting with your veterinarian. Their diet must be formulated considering age, general health, and weight. Avoid feeding them excess treats, as they can become overweight. Always provide clean, fresh water for your pet.


Their great strength and independent temperament can make them challenging to train. However, with the proper training, Karelian Bear Dogs make for calm, affectionate, well-rounded companions.

Socialization: Socializing your Karelian Bear Dog early in life is crucial to controlling aggression toward other animals and strangers. Otherwise, it may attack other dogs and hunt smaller animals. Even though it is attached to its owner, it can be trained to work with other humans. You must be firm with your dog and establish yourself as the family leader early to prevent unruly and dominant tendencies.

Leash: As with most hunting dogs, they tend to run off chasing smells, so leashing them in public is essential. Let them play off-leash in properly fenced areas, as they can quickly jump over weak fences.

Interesting Facts

  • Karelian Bear Dogs are used in many places to manage bear populations non-lethally.Some examples are the Washington State, Glacier, and Yosemite National Parks in the US and Karuizawa town in Japan.
  • They traditionally hunt in packs of at least two, cornering prey and using their loud bark to keep them at bay till their owner arrives.
  • Its name is spelled as “Carelian” in Finland, the country of origin.


1. How do you pronounce Karelian Bear Dog?

Karelian Bear Dog is pronounced as “Ka-reel-e-an Bear Dog.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our subscribers list to get the latest news, and updates delivered directly in your inbox.