The Characteristics of a Karelian Bear Dog

karelian bear dog in snow

The Characteristics of a Karelian Bear Dog

The Characteristics of a Karelian Bear Dog

Now that you have heard me tell a few tales about my Karelian Bear Dog, Kintla, you might be wondering if you should get one too. In this post, I’m going to dive into the characteristics of a Karelian Bear Dog so you can decide if they are a good fit for you or your family!

I stumbled on this wonderful breed after I encountered a bear on a hiking trail. I went home that night and searched for the best hiking dog, and the Karelian Bear Dog came up. I had never heard of Karelians, so I did further research. My search led me to a Karelian breeder, and the first question they asked me was:

“Are you okay with prolific barking that will never stop no matter what you do? No amount of yelling or any type of shock collar will stop them from barking.”

I said “Yes” and my journey began lol. My breeder then informed me that Karelians love to dig. As with prolific barking, profuse digging is on their dog-day agenda. My breeder made sure I was also okay with plenty of holes in my backyard—over the course of a year, Kintla dug many holes in my yard. During the interview with the breeder (yes, they interviewed me!), they made sure my yard had space for a puppy to roam. They also required an avid outdoorsperson who would take a dog on outdoor adventures.

They said: “It would sadden my heart if a Karelian only lived within the constraints of a backyard and never got to adventure in the great outdoors.”

After a year with Kintla, I understand their statement wholeheartedly, as it saddens my heart thinking of a Karelian locked in a fenced yard. Their spirit is intertwined with the grandeur of NATURE—the forest woods, blazing meadows, running rivers. This magnificent breed should never be left in an enclosure to wonder what the outside is like.

Karelian Bear Dogs are hunting dogs.

They even make different barking sounds to indicate the type of creature they are facing. Digging allows them to use their nose and explore the depths of the ground for prey. When I’m walking or hiking with Kintla, she’s never by my side; she’s off in the fields sniffing and digging about. She’s not your average Golden Retriever—two steps away the entire hike. Kintla MUST explore and hunt to work her mind.

Karelian Bear Dogs are working dogs.

They require a lot of training! They go, go, go! Kintla is constantly moving, and I mean CONSTANTLY! She saunters around the yard and is never doing nothing. She patrols the perimeter, digging, sniffing, and is always into something! Due to the working nature of Karelians, they require abundant exercise. I take Kintla on invigorating walks or hikes every day, sometimes twice a day. Karelians do not prosper sitting around idle; they must move! A Karelian is perfect for me because I love hiking, and I go every chance I get! If I sat around the house all day and never ventured out, Kintla would have a sad life. When I say “outdoors,” I mean to the forest where hiking trails run over hills and weave through meadows! Karelians are not dog park dogs or simple sidewalk dogs, they need more.

Last summer during a walk with Kintla, a man approached me asking about her breed. I shared how amazing Karelian Bear Dogs are, how much I love Kintla, and what a great experience my breeder put on. He told me his 12-year-old granddaughter had to get rid of her dog because she moved into a city apartment with limited space. He said a Karelian seems like the perfect dog for her because Kintla is small, and his granddaughter would love a new dog! My heart sank and my stomach grew sick—a Karelian would NOT be a good fit, and they just gave away their dog because of limited space, so why get another? WTF?

I tried telling him NO, but he wouldn’t listen! He said he would call the breeder and lock in a Christmas surprise puppy for his granddaughter. I got his name, politely ended the conversation, and rushed back to my car. I messaged my breeder, telling them about the granddaughter in the city. They said “Don’t worry. I do extensive research on any family buying one of my puppies.”

Months later they told me this man had reached out, but when asked: “Are you okay with a prolific barker?” he decided a Karelian wasn’t for him, or his granddaughter in a city apartment.

Call me a tattletale, I don’t care lol. I’m adamant about owners getting the right breed, so animal shelters don’t become inundated with pets that don’t fit a home.

Karelian Bear Dogs are prolific barkers, profuse diggers, hunting and working dogs, and they require extensive exercise and the great outdoors! One more thing: Karelians are a cold climate dog. They come from Finland and Russia, so being in the cold runs in their bones, like calcium. My breeder shared with me how someone from Tennessee reached out to them about buying a Karelian puppy. We both shuddered thinking of a Karelian stuck in the hot, humid south.

If you can’t meet the needs of a Karelian, don’t get one!

If you do meet their needs, enjoy the many adventures you and your Karelian embark on! I’m here to educate readers about this primitive breed. Karelians may seem unique and edgy, but only get one if you are responsible and can handle it! That statement goes for any breed, really, as they all have special needs.

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The Characteristics of a Karelian Bear Dog