Have You Heard About The Big, Beautiful Russian Bear Dog?
Did You Know There Is A Dog That Looks Like A Bear? With A Fluffy Coat That Turns Heads, And Perhaps A Personality To Match?
The Caucasian Shepherd Is Commonly Know As The Russian Bear Dog. And With Good Reason!
But Does This Beautiful Pup Also Make A Good Pet? Would You Be The Right Home For A Russian Bear Dog? Let’s Find Out!
What’s the definition of tough?
How about a dog that’s even today working hard to defend shepherds’ flocks from wolves?
The Russian Bear Dog is so nicknamed because it looks like a bear. But from the size of him, you could be forgiven for thinking it was bred to hunt them too.
This huge courageous animal cuts an almost primal image.
His incredibly thick coat looks almost mane-like.
But does his personality match his fierce appearance?
Can a Russian Bear Dog also be a cuddy family pet?
We’ll look into these questions, and more besides right now.
Let’s dive into the wonderful world of the Russian Bear Dog!
What is the Russian Bear Dog breed?
‘Russian Bear Dog’ is a commonly used name for the Caucasian Orchavka.
Orchavka is a Russian term meaning ‘shepherd dog’. And Caucasian signifies the birthplace of this breed.
The Caucuses are a region comprising of mountains and expansive hilly plains.
Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia all have regions in the caucuses.
This dog has only recently been fully recognized in the western world; it was recorded in the foundation stock service in 1996.
Despite this, the long standing eastern love of the Russian Bear Dog is moving over to us fast.
The AKC breed standard lists the country of origin for this dog as Russia. As a result the term ‘Russian Bear Dog’ is commonly used, but this is possibly erroneous.
This dog is just as widespread throughout the caucuses and it’s history is not limited to one country.
His eventful history is possibly even more closely linked with countries like Georgia and Armenia.
Working Caucasian Shepherds
The Caucasian Shepherd is a working dog that still finds itself in active use today. Unlike many of the sheepdogs we’re familiar with, it generally is not used to herd sheep.
The principle purpose of this Russian Bear Dog is to guard a flock from potential dangers.
Typically this does not come in the form of humans, but wolves.
Wolves roam freely in the Caucases and regularly take down unguarded sheep. These dogs protect them to take some of the load off of the shepherds.
This is the reason they have been bred so large and strong.
They always work in teams, as a group of dogs stands a much better chance against a wolf.
It also allows them to be more vigilant, as they sleep around the shepherds campsites they can encircle and prevent wolves from sneaking in.
So just how big is the Russian Bear Dog in order to fight a wolf?
Caucasian Shepherd size
The imposing Caucasian Shepherd cuts an imposing figure.
This powerful dog can be upwards of 30 inches tall at the shoulder.
Caucasian Shepherd height does vary with sex though, and females tend to be a little shorter.
The Russian Bear Dog weight backs up their tall stature, with the AKC breed standard specifying that males are at least 110 pounds.
Although a dog at the taller end of the height scale will certainly be heavier than this.
It’s important to remember that the size of the Caucasian Shepherd dog is a result of us breeding them to be big enough to take on wolves.
In their human allocated working state these dogs would still need to be physically fit and strong, not burdened by their large frames.
As this breed becomes more popular domestically it’s entirely possible that their size may be exaggerated. This could very well be to the detriment of their joints and general wellbeing.
So what are Caucasian Shepherds personalities like?
Russian Bear Dog temperament
Essentially being a guard dog breed, there’s a bit of a reputation surrounding Caucasian Shepherd dog temperament.
The shepherds who bred these needed this dog to be calm and gentle with them and their flock, but able to aggressively repel intruders.
Caucasian Shepherds are considered to be very loving of their close family.
In historic times dogs like this would have been present while shepherds raised families, so would need to be good with the kids as well.
Ideally we’d have dogs that were only aggressive towards genuine threats, but there is always the potential for a misunderstanding.
Many dogs fawned over as ‘protective’ are simply terrified and untrusting of strangers. If we could perfectly control our dogs encounters with everyone this would be fine, but that is rarely the case.
In the foothills of the caucuses, it’s not an issue for a dog to mistrust strangers.
The shepherds that own him may rarely come across other people while herding their sheep, and they’re also unlikely to wander into other dogs.
The only dog like creature they will come into contact with is a wolf, and shepherds have good reason to coach aggression in this circumstance.
But what about in a more urban setting?
Fortunately, with appropriate training and socialization, we can overcome fear of strangers to an extent through training and socialization.
Russian Bear Dog Socialization
Raising any large dog is invariably more of a responsibility.
A small dog might injure somebody, but a large powerful dog like the Ovcharka has the potential to do much worse.
It is therefore of paramount importance that we do everything in our power to make this dog confident, tolerant, and gentle.
Socialization is the first thing you should think of, and also what will probably have the biggest impact on your dog’s future temperament.
Taking your dog out into public while he’s still a fearless puppy and exposing him to people and dogs will have a tremendous impact on how he sees strangers and strange dogs.
Puppy classes, or simply bringing him to see friends, will go a long way in cementing his confidence.
Without a proper introduction to lots of people and dogs, he may view everyone unfamiliar as a threat.
This is not a great way for any dog to be; you may want to have friends over, or need work doing in your house, and have to remove your dog simply for this to occur.
Russian Bear Dog training
Training in the more conventional sense should also be started early, and there is a lot of evidence that this helps dogs’ confidence and willingness to follow commands in the long term.
Advocates of ‘traditional’ punishment based training might be wary to attempt these methods with a dog of this size or power.
Aside from the ethical dilemmas presented by hitting your dog, he might realize just how big and strong he is.
Luckily there’s an alternative, one that doesn’t pit you and your dog in a physical contest (a physical contest most of us would lose).
By using positive reinforcement based training, you can obtain results faster in a way that doesn’t make your dog nervous.
But what sort of physical activity should we engage in with Russian Bear Dogs to help them stay happy and fit too?
Russian Bear Dog exercise
Overweight dogs in general experience higher instances of diabetes and generally live shorter lives.
Dogs love to run and jump around, and anything that inhibits this is bound to impact their quality of life negatively.
The Russian Bear Dog is already around the limit of how tall and heavy a dog can be without experiencing issues.
It is therefore extremely important that we don’t add any more stress to its frame in the form of excess weight. Apart from a proper diet, we can help keep our dogs in shape with regular exercise.
A huge breed like the Caucasian Shepherd will likely appreciate a significant amount of outdoor time anyway.
They are capable of dealing with a range of climates, and often sleep outdoors to guard flocks. This is not an excuse to chain this dog up outside, however.
Though they sleep outdoors in the caucuses, they are free to roam around and take part in regular excursions with the shepherds and flock.
Dogs benefit hugely from regular activity, and it will stop them from becoming restless and agitated.
Taking your Russian Bear Dog out for walks and runs will help you to bond, and also improve his wellbeing.
Caucasian Shepherd health
Health is many of our first concerns when it comes to getting a new dog.
The Caucasian Shepherds working history certainly works in its favor, as medically compromised dogs simply wouldn’t have been able to carry out their job.
But as the dog is now recognized as a pedigree breed in a number of countries, including the USA, line breeding to adhere to a ‘standard’ appearance may jeopardize their health.
Sadly, as it currently stands, the Caucasian Shepherd is prone to a few concerning health issues.
Hip dysplasia seems to be very prevalent in the Russian Bear Dog.
This condition is passed from parents to their puppies fairly frequently, much more so if both parents suffer from it.
Hip dysplasia is to do with the way a dogs hip forms as it grows.
In dogs with hip dysplasia, their malformed hips put extra stress on their joints.
This can lead to long term pain and reduced activity.
A study of dogs in Croatia found that 43% of Caucasian Shepherds x-rayed had the condition. The resulting effects of hip dysplasia will invariably be made worse by the considerable weight of this breed.
Both your Russian bear dog puppy’s parents should have good hip scores to reduce the chances of him suffering too.
Caucasian Shepherds also suffer more frequently with eye problems than some other dogs. Ophthalmic conditions and uveitis could present an issue for a Russian Bear Dog later in life.
When dogs have issues with their vision it can cause confusion, and certainly doesn’t make their quality of life any better.
Your puppy’s parents should both have clear eye tests, carried out within a year of his birth.
Russian Bear Dog lifespan
Although neither of these issues are likely to dramatically shorten your dog’s life, Russian Bear Dog lifespan is around 12 years (pretty average for a dog), they’re no fun at all to go through.
If dysplasia causes a drop in activity, this could lead to weight gain, which will only make things worsen.
Some other breeds definitely have it worse, and to some extent all pedigree breeds come with their own raft of genetic complications.
With all this being said it’s best to know what your up against and what might cause complications and vet bills to arise in the future.
So where do I go to get a Caucasian Shepherd puppy?
Caucasian Shepherd breeders
This breed has been well known in the west for long enough now that finding a breeder shouldn’t be too difficult. Finding the right breeder however is always challenging.
Your breeder must produce certificates for both parent’s hip scores and eye exams.
You must also ask to see the parents to gauge their temperament and general health.
The parents will probably not be overly friendly like you might expect of a Labrador for example, but they should be comfortable in your presence and have a clear bond with their owner/s.
Let’s take a look at how we go about raising the perfect Russian Bear Dog.
Russian Bear Dog puppy
Getting a new puppy is exciting and fun, especially an exotic breed like the Russian Bear Dog. It’s also hard work, though.
You’ll need to get stuck in straight away, and doing things right the first time will save you a lot of grief in the long run.
We’ve mentioned training and socialization, and these both start from day one.
Diet is also especially important for a growing pup. Dogs are at their most vulnerable when they’re little puppies, and using a well rounded purpose made puppy food is an excellent and safe way forward.
The very first thing you should do, though, is get your puppy checked by a vet for your peace of mind, so that you know there are no medical surprises down the road.
So while vet bills can be hugely variable, how much does a Russian Bear Dog cost up front?
Russian Bear Dog price
How much is a Russian Bear Dog?
Caucasian Shepherd price will depend largely on the breeder. I’ve seen them advertised for anywhere from $500 to $2000.
Be wary, however, of suspiciously cheap dogs.
It’s quite possible in these situations that breeders may have cut corners, or could be compensating for health issues. The most important thing is to get the happiest and healthiest pup that you can find.
The Russian Bear Dog cost in the long run will include vets bills, so you might end up paying more for a cheaper pup.
Is the Russian Bear Dog a good pet?
The Russian Bear Dog, if handled right, could make an excellent family pet.
To achieve this you’ll need to pour time into socialization to quell any fear your dog may have of strangers.
Once your dog is confident and trusting you shouldn’t have any issues from this proud breed of dog. You’ll also have an amazing piece of history, as most of our modern breeds are fairly far removed from their working roots.
If you have sufficient outdoor space and time to commit to your dog, and are interested in a Caucasian Shepherd, then I say go ahead!
With love and affection you could well have the coolest dog in town.
This is a dog you can take for a walk in virtually any weather, as long as it’s not too hot. If you live in a constantly warm climate you will need to keep his coat clipped at all times.
Happy to comit to training, socialization and exercise? Have a big house and back yard, and are around during the day?
Then a Russian bear dog puppy from friendly, health tested parents could make a fun new addition to the family.
- The first experience of livestock guarding dogs preventing large carnivore damages in Finland T. Ostavel et al
- Prevalence of hip dysplasia in dogs according to official radiographic screening in Croatia D. Stanin
- RETROSPECTIVE STUDY ON THE PREVALENCE OF UVEITIS IN DOGS S. Kristen
- Livestock guarding dogs: their current use world wide R. Ring
- Dog training methods: their use, effectiveness and interaction with behavior and welfare E. F. Hiby