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Karelian Bear Dogs


F.A.Q.wildlife k-9s in action

KBD Breed History

Exerpts from “Hunting Laikas” written by A. T. Voilochnikov and S. D. Voilochnikov

Translated by Vladimir Beregovoy

In 1936, Finnish and Scandinavian kennel clubs recognized this breed [Karelian Bear Dog]. In the appearance, the Karelian Bear Dog is very similar to the Russo-European Laika.  This similarity is not accidental.  Original breeding dogs used for the development of the Karelian Bear Dog were dogs from Karelia. Laikas of Arkhangelsk Province certainly took part, because hunters imported them many times into Karelia. Therefore,  because the Karelian Bear Dog and the Russo-European Laika have common ancestors, they are extremely similar in the appearance and genetically and to a certain extent may be considered as one breed.  Perhaps, it would be not a big mistake to consider the Karelian Bear Dog a peculiar and well developed type of the Russo-European Laika.  Differences are a result of selection of Russo-European Laikas to the type conducted by Finnish cynologists under conditions of isolation and some other factors. Therefore, Finnish cynologists have a reason to consider this dog a separate breed. The Karelian Bear Dog is a middle size dog with slightly extended body, sturdy built, strong and bold.  Males are 54-60 cm at withers and females are 49-55 cm at withers. Coat color is black (black with brownish shade is preferred over shiny black), usually with white spots and markings on the head, neck, chest, belly and legs. White and black, gray and gray with white coat colors are still allowed by the breed standard, although now such dogs almost never occur. The head of the Karelian Bear Dog resembles a blunt cone. The muzzle is with powerful jaws, lean, slightly shorter than the skull, tapering to the end, but not pointed. Forehead relatively broad and slightly rounded. Cheeks are well developed. Ears are of medium size, set wide apart and slightly tilted forward and tips of ears are rounded. Eyes are brown, relatively small and rather straight set. Expression is alert and fiery. Body is well developed, slightly longer than height at withers. Forequarters and hindquarters are lean and strong. Hind legs are slightly straightened at hocks. Tail curving over the back or pressed to the thigh. It is desirable so the curving part of the tail formed a complete ring. It should be pointed that among Karelian Bear Dogs there are individuals naturally bobtail or shortened tail with length about 4-5 cm resembling tail of a lynx. Number of puppies born without tail or abnormally short tail is 10-15%. Short tails are still allowed by breed standard, but is considered not desirable. Coat of the Karelian Bear Dog is formed of dense, soft undercoat and long coarse and close guard hair. The Karelian Bear Dog is characterized by a bold, excitable and somewhat stubborn character. Aggressiveness against humans is not typical, although these dogs are cautious and aloof with strangers. They are devoted and affectionate with their owners. Karelian Bear Dogs are aggressive towards other dogs and often become engaged in fights. Hunting qualities of the Karelian Bear Dog are typical of a hunting big game dog. In Finland, it is used mainly to hunt moose. Task of the dog is to find a moose and bay it. The Karelian Bear Dog keeps frequent contacts with the hunter and does not run away from him too far while chasing game. In the past, best of these dogs were used to hunt bears, henceforth the name of the breed. It is difficult to judge how good Karelian Bear Dogs at bear hunting. In Finland, bears are rare and, evidently, only a few dogs can be used to hunt bear. For Soviet cynologists and dog breeders, the Karelian Bear Dog may be interesting for breeding.

Frequently Asked Questions

should I own a kbd?
Karelian Bear Dogs do not make great pets. They are high-energy working dogs that are bred to go out and hunt. They are generally considered to be difficult dogs to train and they do not do well in urban settings. KBDs need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. It is important that they are thoroughly socialized with both people and dogs to ensure that they are not fearful or aggressive. KBDs are notorious in some areas for running away and harassing wildlife and livestock. It is important that KBDs have a loving home with lots of fenced in area to patrol in order to prevent them from becoming a nuisance to neighbors, both human and animal. KBDs are best suited for rural settings with owners that are familiar with the breed and willing to spend an above-average amount of time training and socializing their dog. They are very loyal to their owner and can be good family dogs.
Can all KBDs work bear?

No. The Karelian Bear Dog is a primitive hunting breed that is used primarily for hunting small game and moose, with specialty working lines able to bay brown bear. Traditional knowledge on the breed indicates that approximately 20% of a litter produced from a lineage of brown bear hunting lines will have the ability to safely and effectively “dance” with bear. It is crucial that we test every litter of puppies that we produce from proven lines of bear hunting KBD to ensure that we are selecting the best possible dogs to be placed and trained as “Wildlife K-9”. Since the WRBI has helped to popularize the breed in North America, breeders of KBD have begun marketing their dogs as “bear protection” or “bear deterrents”. This is a marketing ploy that is both dangerous and irresponsible. The WRBI is the #1 source of working KBDs throughout North America and Japan due to our rigorous testing procedure and high-standard for our “Bear Conflict” level working dogs.

What is a Wildlife K-9?

Wildlife K-9s (WK-9) are specially trained working dogs, predominantly Karelian Bear Dogs, that assist our Human-Wildlife Conflict Specialists to work safely and effectively with large and potentially dangerous wildlife. Wildlife K-9s are able to track and alert on the presence or sign of target wildlife, pursue and push large game, act as a non-lethal last resort to deter aggressive wildlife, and act as ambassadors for the animal kingdom in outreach and education events. Our WK-9s are exclusively used for conservation purposes and applied management. They are unique in that they are able to both detect and indicate on scent, but also push large and potentially dangerous wildlife away from human-occupied space in a safe and effective way. Our WK-9s are especially friendly towards people and are forbidden to be used for arresting or detaining human subjects. WK-9s are an incredible tool for wildlife conservation in that they can go from pushing a grizzly bear off of a school playground to visiting with the children at the school to promote bear safety and awareness!

How do you train Widlife K-9?
The WRBI has developed a specialty working dog aptitude test for wildlife application through the production of 18 litters over the past 24 years of operation. Over the course of two weeks, our pups are tested for working potential and personality traits for appropriate placement as “Bear Conflict” “Bear Protection” or “Companion” dog to match the needs of their owners. Throughout our testing process, no dogs “fail” but we are very selective about which dogs we qualify as showing the correct genetic traits for placement for Wildlife K-9 Training. We build boldness throughout the testing process for every one of our pups so that, by the end of the testing process, each pup is more confident than they were before. We begin initiating field command training and we evaluate each pup’s future training needs for transfer to their new owners. Each puppy comes with training and health recommendations, our holistic vaccination schedule, and guidelines for effective training and socialization of KBD. Our pup’s come with our life-long support and professional advice. There is a reason why the WRBI produces the best working KBDs and the most socialized dogs around; We begin socializing our pups at a young age to ensure that they are trusting of both people and children. We place our KBDs with qualified applicants. Contact us today to begin your adoption process!
Do you sell kbds?
Upon receiving a sufficient pool of qualified applicants, we breed our top “Bear Conflict” level KBDs to produce a litter. We rigorously test each litter through our two-week “Bear Test” in which we separate our dogs into “Bear Conflict”, “Bear Protection”, and “Companion” Dog categories. Bear Conflict dogs are to be placed in a working capacity with wildlife professionals for training to become “Wildlife K-9.” Bear Protection dogs are placed with people living or recreating in bear country for bear protection purposes. Companion dogs are placed with individuals that are not interested in using their KBD for application with bear. If you are interested in becoming part of our Program, fill out our KBD Placement Questionnaire and begin the ownership process today!


working dogs for wildlife conservation

WRBI Introduces the "Wildlife K-9"


Karelian Bear Dog as

Wildlife K-9

The founder of the Wind River Bear Institute, Carrie Hunt,  first became interested in the possibility of using dogs to deter bears in 1982. She soon found the perfect breed for the task—the Karelian Bear Dog (KBD). Unknown in most parts of the world, the KBD has been bred and used by brown bear and moose hunters and farmers in Finland and western Russia for centuries. Just as a Border Collie has an instinct for moving sheep, some KBDs out of each litter enter the world with an instinct for handling bears safely. Karelian Bear Dogs weigh about 40-65 pounds when grown and are black and white with a raccoon-like black mask around their eyes. Their body is similar in shape to that of a husky dog with larger bone structure. The KBD is highly intelligent, sensitive, independent, and purposeful, with an innate love for people and children. Since KBDs are intense, independent hunters, they do not make good pets, as in Russia and Finland they would not be bred if they did not go off and leave their owners to hunt. Under Hunt’s direction, the Wind River Bear Institute (WRBI) raises, selects and specially trains KBDs to serve as partners for bear-management specialists and people that live in bear country. Hunt has successfully trained and used KBD as Wildlife K-9 (WK-9) for Bear Shepherding since 1990. For the purposes of Bear Shepherding, the WRBI uses WK-9s for deterrence, aversive conditioning, monitoring, tracking, patrolling, investigation of conflict scenarios, finding food attractants, capture, den detection, early warning, as a safety net during conditioning of bears, added “volunteer man-power”, and for public education. We actively use our WK-9s for these purposes and develop our techniques based on our experiences in the field. If dogs are to be used for aversive conditioning of wildlife, they and their handlers must be highly trained by a qualified practitioner. The WRBI developed the Bear Shepherding technique using KBDs, and is currently considered the only source and trainer for WK-9s and their handlers. A full course of training and instruction by the WRBI is required prior to their use. The WRBI offers workshops, courses and clinics in: Basic Aversive Conditioning, Bear Shepherding, and WK-9 Training and Handling Techniques.

Wildlife K-9s in Action

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Wind River KBDs on!


WRBI on The Wild Podcast!

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