Thursday, October 18, 2007

Karelian Bear Dogs

Somebody asked me why I got a Karelian Bear Dog as the breed, compared to others, is rather obscure.When I decided that I wanted to have a dog again I put a lot of thought into the kind of dog I wanted to get. There were a few qualities that I knew that I was looking for. First I needed a dog that wasn't a wimp. I could have just gone to any number of places in town and picked up a local Alaskan know, the kind you see in the Iditarod.
Kotzebue is full of them. Unfortunately thousands of years of self preservation instincts have produced a dog that when faced with danger runs and hides under the cabin. I needed a dog with a little more guts than that. Second, needed a dog that was nimble and not to heavy. It would need to be able to jump in and out of a boat on it's own and jump on and off Snow amchines and ATVs. And third, I needed a dog that could handle cold weather, preferably a nordic breed. I like Alaskan Malemutes. They are beautiful dogs, but they are HUGE and it's hard to be nimble when you weigh as much as a small pony.
I decided that maybe a Siberian Huskey might do so I started looking around for one of those. Then I remembered Karelian Bear Dogs. I had heard about them in an article about the management of problem bears in areas of high bear populations. I started looking for more information. KBD's don't attack bears, they harrass them. They bark and lunge and run away and lunge some more. They also like to do that with just about any animal, moose caribou etc. I also found that these dogs come with a lot of warnings. Responsible breeders want you to know what you are getting into. Karelians are aloof with strangers, they are wanderers, they are challenging to train, etc. I decided that these dogs had the qualities I was looking for and that I was up for the challenge, now I just had to find a breeder.
My search led me to a breeder in Soldotna, Alaska, Bearunoff Kennels . I contacted them to see if they had any pups available. They didn't, but someone who had a dog from them did have puppies and they referred me to her. Kaija was sent to Kotzebue in a cargo jet on March 31st 2007. She was 10 weeks old. She really is a great dog, but a lot of what they say about Karelian Bear Dogs is true. They are challenging to train....that's not to say that they are untrainable. You just have to work consistently with them. KBD's are aloof with strangers. The older Kaija gets the more aloof and suspicious she becomes, and this is even after consistent socialization from an early age. I take her to work with me so she is around people all the time. Still, she likes who she knows and the rest can jump in a lake as far as she is concerned.
Kaija also needs a LOT of exercise. A walk around the block is not enough for her. She can run for MILES, needs to run for miles. I take her out on the four wheeler (atv) and run her next to it on her leash. When we get outside of town I set her loose to run around and hunt squirrels and bugs and whatever else she can find. They want to hunt....need to hunt. She's very alert. She sees, hears and smells everything. There isn't much that gets past her. She has never seen a bear yet, but I'm sure that when she does she will think it is great fun to chase and bark.

So that is how I ended up with a Karelian Bear Dog. They are great dogs, and I will probably never own any other breed of dog than a Karelian, but they are definately not for everyone.


Dana said...

oh very sweet pictures! your dog is so cute! happy ww

Anonymous said...

I would like some information on your Karelian. We have a five month old and she is a little skitish around other dogs and strange noises. I was wondering if this is normal for her age. She is definitely comfortable in the woods, but the city noises seem to freak her out. Too much stimulation maybe. What do you think.

Cathy said...

When I first got Kaija she was 9 weeks old. For at least the first month that I had her she was scared of everything. Any kind of noise, the wind, cars, litter on the street, other animals, other people she didn't know. I was very concerned by her behavior. It seemed that even taking her for a walk was a terrifying experience for her. I was so concerned I even called the breeder.

Anyway, this is what I did. Whenever she could spook I wouldn't stop and bend down and try and console her. I would just say cheerfully say "Come on, Let's go" and keep on walking. I didn't want to reward her for spooking but I wanted to encourage her with a calm cheerful voice. Eventually she started to get over her fear....probably by the time she was 4 months old

Kaija just turned a year this last January. She is very friendly and playful with people she knows. She loves to run out on the tundra. She is the mighty killer of fat arctic ground squirrels...well at least she thinks she is. She is no longer scared of any of those things she used to be. She is, however, VERY wary and suspicious of people she doesn't know....especially men. She won't try to bite them (at least hasn't yet) but she will bark at them and growl. If they try to touch her she will jump back and snort at them. She is a bit more tolerant of women. If you knocked on my door you would think there was a vicious killer on the other side the way she barks and growls. She loves kids and other dogs.

If you have any other questions you can email me at I would love to hear more about your dog.