The Russian bear dog is a large working dog from the Caucasus mountain region in Southern Russia. These dogs are also commonly referred to as Caucasian shepherd dogs, Caucasian mountain dogs, and Caucasian ovcharka (meaning “livestock guardian”) dogs.
Russian bear dogs are giant dogs that weigh between 99 and 170 pounds and measure 23 to 30 inches tall.
These dogs are energetic, confident, strongly protective of their family members, and wary of strangers. Due to this breed’s large size, the dog is unsuitable for apartments and small homes.
Russian bear dogs typically cost $1,200 to $3,000.
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Russian Bear Dog Characteristics & Overview
|Common names:||Russian bear dog, Caucasian shepherd dog, Caucasian mountain dog, Caucasian ovcharka dog|
|Origin:||Southern Russia, Caucasus|
|Breed group:||Working dog|
|Colors:||Brown, gray, black, cream, white, brindle, fawn, apricot|
|Coat:||Double coat, medium-to-long length|
|Life expectancy:||Intelligent, but can be difficult to train|
|Temperament:||Loyal, alert, aloof, energetic, confident, protective|
Origin & Purpose
The Russian bear dog originated in the Caucasus mountain region in the twentieth century. The dog was originally used as a livestock guardian dog to defend sheep from predators like bears, wolves, and jackals.
Today, these dogs work as prison guard dogs in Russia and are also popular companion dogs.
The average lifespan of the Russian bear dog is 10–12 years.
Factors affecting the dog’s lifespan are its health status, activity level, diet, and genetics.
Russian Bear Dog Appearance
The Russian bear dog was bred to be big and strong enough to fight predators, like wolves. This breed is one of the largest dog breeds.
The dog’s thick, fluffy fur comes in solid, piebald, and spotted color variations.
Height and Weight
Russian bear dogs are considered large dogs, with a height at the withers of 23–30 inches, and a weight of 99–170 pounds. The height and weight of the dog depend on its diet, activity level, and the size of its parents.
Males are bigger and have larger heads than females.
Commonly, Russian bear dogs are a combination of two or three colors, typically white, black, or brindle. Other colors include brown, gray, cream, fawn, and apricot.
Many dogs of this breed have black muzzles and white chests. Solid-color black or white dogs are rare.
The Russian bear dog was bred to have a thick, coarse double coat to withstand freezing temperatures. The dog’s undercoat is soft and fluffy, and the outer coat is wiry and medium-to-long in length.
These dogs are heavy shedders and shed their old coats in the spring in preparation for warm weather. They are not hypoallergenic.
Head and Facial Features
Russian bear dogs have a broad, bear-like face with a short, powerful muzzle that tapers off to a black nose. The dog has dark, deep-set, oval eyes, and pointy teeth that resemble fangs.
Originally, the Russian bear dog’s ears were cropped to prevent predators from biting them. Now, although ear cropping is still supported by the American Kennel Club, many veterinarians consider cropping dogs’ ears unnecessary mutilation.
Russian Bear Dog Temperament and Personality
The Russian bear dog is a confident, loyal, high-energy dog that’s fiercely protective of its family and wary of strangers. The breed is independent, intelligent, and alert.
The dog is known to be challenging to train. A first-time dog owner or person inexperienced with canine behaviors shouldn’t own a Russian bear dog.
Although Russian bear dogs have protective guarding instincts, the dogs’ barking tendencies are low. The dogs bark when they sense a threat, such as strangers entering their home, but the breed isn’t known to bark excessively due to boredom or anxiety.
Socialization from a young age should prevent excessive barking at strangers.
Russian bear dogs are large dogs with high exercise and food requirements. Taking care of the dogs is challenging and expensive.
The Russian bear dog needs 8 to 10 cups of good-quality kibble per day. To reduce the risk of bloat, puppies’ food should be divided into four meals per day. Adults should eat two or three separate meals per day.
The dog’s size and activity level affect its food requirements, so speak to your veterinarian if you’re unsure exactly how much food your dog needs.
The Russian bear dog’s long, thick coat should be brushed at least twice a week, or up to once per day during shedding season. Use a slicker brush to detangle knots in the undercoat, gently brushing in the direction that the fur grows.
Wash the dog every four to six weeks, or when the coat looks dirty and begins to smell unpleasant.
Russian bear dogs need at least one hour of exercise per day, divided into a minimum of two separate walks. This dog is unsuitable for apartment living because it needs constant access to a backyard to stretch its legs between exercise sessions
To prevent skeletal development abnormalities in this breed, exercise the dog while it’s still a puppy. The duration of exercise for a puppy is five minutes for every month of age.
For example, a five-month-old puppy should be exercised for a maximum of 25 minutes.
The Russian bear dog needs at least 30 minutes of mental stimulation per day to maintain its great intelligence. Games like fetch, frisbee, and find-and-retrieve are stimulating for this breed.
Puzzle toys are a good way to keep the dog entertained while you’re busy, but finding a suitably-sized toy for this large dog can be difficult.
Common Health Concerns
Common health issues the Russian bear dog faces include:
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
As a large dog breed, the Russian bear dog is prone to elbow and hip dysplasia. These conditions cause the hip and elbow joints to form incorrectly, resulting in lameness, limping, pain, stiffness, and a “wobbly” walk.
Avoid hip and elbow dysplasia by buying a puppy from a breeder who has cleared the parent dogs of these conditions. Hip and elbow dysplasia is treated with exercise therapy, a controlled diet, weight loss (if necessary), and surgery.
Bloat, or gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), is the accumulation of gas or fluid in the stomach, and primarily affects large dog breeds like the Russian bear dog.
Signs of bloat include a swollen, hard belly, retching but not vomiting, drooling, excessive panting, and restlessness.
Reduce the risk of bloat by feeding the dog multiple small meals instead of one large meal, avoiding elevated food bowls, and restricting exercise immediately before and after meals. Bloat is life-threatening and causes death if not treated immediately with surgery.
Russian bear dogs are easy to train but can be stubborn, so they need to be trained from a young age with reward-based training and positive reinforcement.
The dogs have a wary nature, so they should never be trained with punishments.
Begin training and socializing this dog at eight weeks old, starting with leash and toilet training. Then, teach the dog important commands, like “sit” and “heel.”
Introduce the dog to a variety of people, other dogs, and situations in a safe, controlled manner.
Russian Bear Dog Price
Russian bear dogs are expensive. Adopting an adult dog is much cheaper than buying a puppy, but the dogs are rarely available for adoption.
How Much Is a Russian Bear Dog?
A Russian bear dog typically costs $1,200–$3,000. The cost of the dog depends on several factors including age, where the dog is bought or adopted from, and if the breeder is reputable.
Puppies cost about $800 more than adults. The cost of adoption is around $200, while buying a dog costs more than $1,000.
Reputable breeders charge more than lesser-known breeders and will provide proof that the puppy’s parents are healthy
How Much Does it Cost to Own a Russian Bear Dog?
The monthly cost of owning a Russian bear dog is $80 to $150. Food is the biggest recurring cost of owning this dog.
Grooming, healthcare, new toys, and exercise supplies are other costs to consider.
Training classes, dog boarding or dog sitting, and professional grooming are additional monthly costs that may be necessary, depending on your situation.
Is a Russian Bear Dog Right for You?
The Russian bear dog is a beautiful, intelligent dog. However, due to its large size and protective nature, the dog isn’t suitable for some people or lifestyles.
Who Should Get a Russian Bear Dog?
Russian bear dogs are protective, loyal, and loving. These are ideal dogs for families with older children. The breed is intelligent but stubborn, so it’s best suited to experienced dog owners who have the time and patience to train their dogs.
This large dog breed is suitable for a home with a backyard that the dog can access at any time. Active, outdoorsy people living in rural or semi-rural areas are the best owners for energetic Russian bear dogs.
Who Should Not Get a Russian Bear Dog?
Russian bear dogs are large and powerful, so they’re not suitable for people with mobility issues or people who don’t have the strength to control a dog on a leash.
Due to the dog’s large size and high energy requirements, it isn’t good for living in a small home or apartment and is unsuitable as a pet for inactive people or for people who can’t walk their dogs several times a day.
Russian bear dogs are naturally aloof and don’t take well to strangers, so people who don’t have the time to train and socialize the dog from an early age shouldn’t consider this breed.
They have thick, fluffy, heavy-shedding coats, so they’re not suitable for people with pet allergies or people who can’t keep up with daily grooming.