Should You Own A Karelian Bear Dog?
The Wind River Bear Institute receives several calls each month from owners of KBDs wishing to find someone to "adopt" their dog. Why? Because they were told, by the breeder, that KBDs are good family dogs and/or would automatically be a good bear dog.
What they were NOT TOLD was the work it takes to make a dog of this breed a good pet.
Here at the Institute, we are sick at heart every time we receive one of these calls. Greedy breeders capitalize on the fame of breeds brought to the public's attention. Remember the plight of Dalmatians when a certain movie was released? What is true of the Dalmatian, another excellent working breed, is even truer of the Karelian Bear Dog.
The truth is:
These dogs do not always make good family pets and only a select few from each litter can face up to a bear.
The Karelian Bear Dog has been bred as an independent hunting dog. For over 100 years, they have been trained to leave their owners to find game.
If you are considering a KBD, consider the following...
You will need to work one on one with your KBD to create a ‘bond' that is crucial for a successful owner-KBD relationship. This is key to the becoming a good KBD owner and having a happy and fulfilled Karelian. This bond does not come automatically just because they are a dog and you are their owner. You must work hard to create this bond by dedicating many hours each day for one on one time training and enrichment of your dog. You cannot leave this breed all day, (nor any dog), every day and expect to return at the end of the day to find a happy dog. This does not cease as the dog gets older or more mature, the bond is something that continues to require your attention and devotion. This bond is essential and is one of the things that can sometimes be overlooked over time resulting in owners with a dog that they don't know, a dog that they cannot work with and a dog that doesn't work for them ….then they are looking to hand over the dog. That is not fair to anyone, most especially the dog!
Thousands of hours are required to teach this independent breed the concept of "come". They do not respond well to negative training as that can weaken the bond between owner and KBD. They require positive training with praise and food rewards and you must make their coming to you a very ‘good' thing. Because they were bred to leave you, this takes time and a significant training commitment from you for them to learn this concept. You will need to keep them on a leash at all times when they are not in a fenced yard, until you have your dog ‘coming' reliably. KBDs are working dogs and do not want to hang out around the house. Remember, their job was to seek out game away from their owners. If not occupied with a job they will happily create their own by barking at anything that moves, digging escape tunnels to freedom or practicing their high-jump skills as they leap over your fence. In truth, the KBD is not happy when confined. They need to work.
Please, do not be charmed by the beauty of the Karelian Bear Dog. They are a breed that needs a purpose in life. Extremely independent, intelligent, intense and sensitive, they are NOT a dog for the casual dog owner.
Be a responsible pet owner. Don't add to the dogs that are ending up in animal shelters by taking on a KBD unless you have the need for one, or are seriously committed to training the KBD so that you can have a well behaved ‘pet.'