What Is A Russian Bear Dog – Top Guide To Caucasian Shepherd


russian bear dog

The Russian Bear Dog, officially known as the Caucasian Shepherd, is famous for its imposing size and fearless nature. Extremely loyal and devoted, the Ovcharka is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to protecting the people it cares for.

Don’t let their good looks fool you; this independent, stubborn, and smart dog can prove a challenge to train and is one of the riskiest dogs to have! This breed is a good option if you have experience with large breeds; otherwise, you may be owned by instead of owning a dog.

In this article, we will tell you more about this guard dog and help you decide if you have all that it takes to handle a headstrong and stubborn Caucasian Shepherd.

Overview 

Classified as a working dog, the Caucasian Shepherd is a fierce and lifelong protector of people he cares about. However, this big, strong, and fearless dog can be intimidating, and it’s not the best choice for novice owners or those faint of heart!

What Is A Russian Bear Dog?

The Russian Bear Dog, officially known as the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, originated in the Caucasus Mountain region and is often found in Georgia, Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

The exact origin of the Caucasian Shepherd is still a mystery, but experts believe that it is one of the oldest and most ancient Molosser breeds. 

Wherever they originally come from, the Russian Bear Dogs have served shepherds in the Caucasus region as guardian dogs, protecting sheep from predators such as wolves, jackals, and bears. Even today, this breed is praised for its guarding skills and still used for this purpose in the Caucasus region, especially in Georgia.

During the 20th century, the Soviet breeders took notice of the breed’s ferocious and loyal nature and developed the Ovcharka we know today.

The Russian Bear Dog is recognized as a breed by major canine organizations, including Federation Cynologique Internationale and the United Kennel Club. 

However, while not fully recognized by the American Kennel Club, the breed is listed on the AKC Foundation Stock Service.

Aside from its official name, the Caucasian Shepherd Dog is also known by other names, including:

  • Russian Bear Dog
  • Caucasian Ovcharka
  • Caucasian Mountain Shepherd 
  • Caucasian Mountain Dog
  • Baskhan (Karachay) Pariy

What Does A Russian Bear Dog Look Like?

Although beautiful, this breed can be intimidating due to its muscular and robust appearance. Caucasian Shepherds have broad, heavily built bodies, and visible muscles. Their legs are a bit shorter than you would expect for a dog of this size, and sport large paws. And coming face to face with a full-grown Russian Bear Dog is an experience you are never going to forget!

What Does A Russian Bear Dog Look Like?

They have a large and broad face with a flat forehead. The Ovcharka’s powerful muzzle tapers gently to the nose, which is most commonly black but can also be brown, depending on the coat color.

The deeply set, medium-sized eyes are oval-shaped and are brown in color. 

This breed has highly set triangular ears, which were traditionally cropped short to prevent wolves and other predators from biting them. Nowadays, however, it is up to you to decide if you want to get your dog’s ears cropped or not.

Besides its imposing size, the Ovcharka is easily recognizable thanks to its thick double coat that consists of a soft underlayer and a coarse outer layer. 

Interestingly, the coat can vary in length and can be short, medium, or long. Long-haired Russian Bear Dogs sport a mane around the neck and feathering on the back legs and tail. 

The coat can be of any color except liver, blue, or solid black. Most commonly seen colors include:

  • Grey
  • Fawn
  • Red
  • Cream
  • Tan
  • Solid white
  • Piebald
  • Spotted

Why Is The Caucasian Ovcharka Called A Russian Bear Dog?

The giant size and ferocity of the Caucasian Ovcharka weren’t only utilized for protection; they were also used for hunting big game, such as bears. Since these bear hunting expeditions were popular in the Caucasus region of Russia, people started calling the Ovcharka the Russian Bear Dog. 

Is A Russian Bear Dog A Good Family Dog?

Caucasian Shepherds are, above everything else, fierce protectors and excellent guard dogs. While extremely loyal and devoted, they are best suited for all-adult homes and need an owner who has experience with large breeds.

If properly trained and socialized from a young age, the Russian Bear Dog could potentially be a great family dog. But even in that case, they are better suited for families with older children.

Even if they know how to play and interact with a dog, smaller children are unpredictable and may probe and poke the Ovcharka one too many times. Although they won’t purposefully be aggressive towards any member of the family, their size and strength can be intimidating for smaller children. So, while calm and devoted to their people, the Russian Bear Dog isn’t a good option for a family with small children. 

If you are set on getting a dog, consider one of the Retriever breeds that make excellent family dogs or wait until your children grow up to get an Ovcharka. 

Can You Ride A Russian Bear Dog?

Dogs, even giant breeds like the Caucasian Shepherd, aren’t horses and aren’t meant to be ridden!

While it may seem that your Russian Bear Dog is big and strong enough to support your child’s weight, the muscles on his back aren’t. Allowing your kid to ride your dog can result in muscle sprain, spinal injury, and paralysis, which may or may not be surgically reversible.

Aside from physical injuries, your dog can also develop certain behavioral problems. Like all other breeds, Russian Bear Dogs display dominance by elevating themselves higher than others. Hence, when a child climbs on your dog’s back, he may feel challenged, threatened, or confused, which can lead to a bite.

In the worst-case scenario, both your child and the Ovcharka may end up injured and develop phobias that can take years to be completely cured.

How Long Does A Russian Bear Dog Live?

Giant breeds such as the Caucasian Shepherd have a shorter lifespan than small breeds. On average, Russian Bear Dogs live 10 to 12 years, if properly taken care of. 

Regular vet checkups, vaccinations, and deworming, coupled with a healthy lifestyle, will ensure that your dog reaches senior years in tip-top shape and may even prolong his lifespan [1].

Are Russian Bear Dogs Legal In The US?

Although there are certain states in the US that ban certain dog breeds such as Pit Bulls, there are no limitations on owning Russian Bear Dogs in any state, county, or city in the US.

Keep in mind that the Caucasian Ovcharka is still a fairly new breed in the US and that things could change in the future.

If you are renting the apartment you are living in, make sure to check with your landlord about their particular policies regarding pets before you bring a Russian Bear Dog home. This way you will also get familiar with all the rules and regulations your landlord has regarding owning pets.

Where Can You Buy A Russian Bear Dog?

As with any other dog, finding a reputable Caucasian Shepherd breeder is a must! Since this breed is becoming increasingly popular in the US, you shouldn’t have a hard time finding a breeder.

However, you shouldn’t settle on the first breeder that crosses your path; instead, do a bit of research and check them out. 

Here are a few places you can check out if you want to buy a Caucasian Ovcharka:

  • Est-Alfa Caucasian Ovcharka Kennel (Pahrump, Nevada)
  • Loyal Caucasian Kennel (Alex, Oklahoma)
  • Esquire Caucasians (Chardon Township, Ohio)
  • Sila V Krovi (Troy, Ohio)
  • The Few Family Farm (Forest Ranch, California)

Note that breeders of the Caucasian Ovcharka can register through the American Kennel Club, making it a great source of information that can help you in finding a good breeder. 

While not all breeders have a website, most good breeders do, and there you can find valuable information and insight into how they operate. Furthermore, there will be actual pictures of dogs and additional information about the breed that may be of interest to future owners.

During your research, you should also check how long the breeder has been working with Russian Bear Dogs. Someone who has years of experience will know how to properly socialize puppies and can give you valuable insight on caring for an Ovcharka once you bring it home.

Once you have picked a breeder, schedule an appointment to see their home and how the dogs are raised. Run for the hills if a breeder refuses to give you a tour of his facilities or any evidence on how his puppies are raised. 

Meeting the dog in person is important since it will give you a chance to find out more about its personality and see how it interacts with his parents, siblings, and other people.

Be prepared to ask some questions and don’t be surprised if a breeder has some questions for you – every good breeder does! A good breeder will always be willing to take the dog back at any age or for any reason. He will also be more interested in placing it in a good forever-home than earning money from selling puppies. 

Once all these criteria are met, and you are sure that you have found a good breeder, it is time to place a deposit. Note, most breeders make puppies available at eight or 12 weeks, so you may have to wait a bit before bringing a Caucasian Shepherd home.

How Much Does A Russian Bear Dog Cost?

Since they are huge, fairly rare, and gaining popularity, the Russian Bear Dogs can be quite expensive. On average, you can expect to pay from $1,000 to $3,000 for a purebred Ovcharka puppy.

However, Russian Bear Dogs who are primarily sold as pets are cheaper and go for as little as $500. 

If you are looking for a high-quality dog for showing or breeding purposes, you can expect to pay around $4,000 or more. 

Keep in mind that cheap isn’t better and, that if you save some money now, you are probably going to spend a lot more on vet bills and medical costs in the long run!

Characteristics 

How Much Does A Russian Bear Dog Eat?

A dog as big as the Caucasian Shepherd has a big appetite and can eat an enormous amount of food in a week. However, the exact amount of food this breed needs will depend on your dog’s age, activity level, and size.

Generally, adult Russian Bear Dogs need 20 calories per pound of body weight. So, if you have a 110-pound dog, he will need around 2,200 calories per day.

Still, you shouldn’t take this at face value, and it is always a good idea to talk with your vet or a canine nutritionist. A professional will be able to tell you exactly how much your Ovcharka should be eating based on its health, activity level, and lifestyle. 

Knowing how much food your Caucasian Mountain Dog needs will prevent overfeeding, which can have detrimental consequences for this breed. Being overweight will put additional strain on your dog’s bones and joints, resulting in an array of health problems including mobility issues. 

A dog of this size usually continues growing till the age of two, which means that you will have to feed it puppy food for that long. During the puppy phase, divide your dog’s food into four smaller meals, and once he reaches adulthood, start feeding your dog two to three meals a day.

All puppies need high-quality food, but the Russian Bear Dog needs it even more because of its giant size and the risk of developing bone disorders. Thus, make sure that the food you are feeding him is designed for large breed puppies and has the right amounts of calories and calcium necessary for steady growth and development.

When your pooch is fully-grown, start feeding him high-quality food for large breed dogs, and consider using hip and joint supplements. As always, talk with your vet prior to changing your dog’s nutrition or starting him on a new supplement to achieve the desired results.

Are Russian Bear Dogs Easy To Train?

Caucasian Shepherds are smart, very independent, and headstrong, which means that training them can be a challenge. Due to this fact, this breed isn’t a good option if you are a novice owner, and instead of owning an Ovcharka, you will probably end up being owned by one!

Although challenging, training a Russian Bear Dog isn’t impossible and will require a lot of patience and consistency on your part.

Considering how headstrong and uncooperative this breed can be, you should start training your Caucasian Shepherd from day one. Keep the training sessions short, fun, and positive.

Using operant conditioning can get you a long way with this breed [2]. This principle works by rewarding good and ignoring bad behavior. So, when you tell your dog to sit and he sits, he will get a treat or praise, and he is more likely to do the same the next time you ask him to sit. 

Essentially, your dog will learn things based on consequences – when he obeys he gets a treat; when he doesn’t, he gets ignored. 

Since Russian Bear Dogs are very independent, you will have to find out what rewards your dog values the most. One way to do it is to scatter various toys and treats on the floor when your dog isn’t in a room, and then let him in and observe which one he picks first. Using a high-value reward will motivate your dog to behave the way you want him to and will make training a lot easier.

Using physical punishment in training is one thing you should never do with a Russian Bear Dog! This breed has a wary nature and anything bad you do to your dog will stay with him forever. Not only can your dog become scared of you, but it can also decide to retaliate, and trust me, you don’t want that to happen!

So, be patient and consistent even when your dog isn’t listening and it seems that things aren’t progressing. Saying a firm “No” and using obedience training techniques can help him make the distinction between good and bad behavior.

Early socialization is an important aspect of training, and you should start socializing your Caucasian Mountain Dog from puppyhood. This will help your dog accept other people and dogs and be friendly towards everyone when he is grown up. 

As a guard dog, the Ovcharka is naturally wary of strangers, even more so as it ages, so you will have to continue with socialization and make it permanent through your dog’s life. The best way to do it is to let your dog experience positive encounters with people, children, other pets, and even objects. 

Till your Russian Bear Dog is a puppy fill his life with other people and pets, and do it often. Take your puppy to see your friends and neighbors, and take him to doggy parks to get comfortable around other dogs and people. Observe your dog during these encounters to see how he reacts to different things, so you know when he is ready to explore more and learn when he has had enough.

Note, socializing your dog always has to be done in a safe and controlled environment. Properly socialized and introduced to children and other pets, the Caucasian Ovcharka makes a loyal and devoted member of the family.

Do Russian Bear Dogs Make Good Companion Dogs?

Although not the best choice for families with smaller children, Russian Bear Dogs are extremely loyal and devoted to their owners. While naturally distrustful of strangers, they are capable of being loving companions and fierce protectors.

Proper socialization can help a Russian Bear Dog to become more accepting of strangers. However, they form strong bonds with the people they are familiar with and will be a lifelong protector.

Size

How Big Do Russian Bear Dogs Get?

The Caucasian Mountain Dog falls under giant dog breeds and is one of the largest dog breeds in the world.

Males are quite imposing, usually between 28 to 35 inches tall. The minimal height for males in 27 inches, which is still a lot, and doesn’t make the Ovcharka any less imposing.

Although a bit smaller, female Ovcharkas are no less impressive and are also quite big. The minimum height for females is 25 inches, but the desired height is between 26 and 28 inches. 

How Heavy Is A Russian Bear Dog?

Besides being one of the tallest, the Russian Bear Dog is also one of the heaviest dog breeds in the world.

On average, male Russian Bear Dogs weigh from 110 to 180 pounds, but there have been some that tipped the scales at nearly 200 pounds.

Females are a bit smaller, but still quite heavy and on average weigh from 100 to 150 pounds.

Personality 

Can Russian Bear Dogs Be Left Alone?

The Ovcharka’s sole purpose as a guard dog was to keep sheep in line and protect them from predators. Being that guarding sheep is a solitary job, it comes as no surprise that Russian Bear Dogs are quite independent and can spend a fair amount of time alone.

However, while your Caucasian Mountain Dog won’t mind staying at home and patrolling the perimeter while you are at work, you need to ensure that he will stay there safe. This means having a properly fenced yard and a high fence that will prevent your dog from patrolling the neighborhood. 

Keep in mind, while they can be left alone, a Russian Bear Dog needs a committed owner who will train and interact with him daily. 

Temperament

Are Russian Bear Dogs Aggressive? 

Since it is bred to have a strong guarding instinct, the Russian Bear Dog will not hesitate to deal with anything it perceives as a threat. And like any other breed of this size, the Ovcharka has the potential to be dangerous - especially in the hands of an inexperienced owner.

Aggression in dogs is strongly associated with fear and mistrust [3], and in the Caucasus region, mistrusting strangers was a trait that was encouraged by the shepherds. Russian Bear Dogs spent centuries being encouraged to trust no one except the hand that feeds them, so it is challenging for them to adapt to situations we expect of a pet dog.

Any dog will show aggression and be dangerous if not properly raised, trained, and socialized, and the Ovcharka is not an exception. Hence, it is imperative that this dog is in the hands of an experienced owner and properly socialized at a young age.

This breed is used to lead, so you will have to take on the role of alpha and always stay in charge if you want to prevent aggressive behavior.

Are Russian Bear Dogs Smart?

As a working dog, the Caucasian Shepherd is required to possess intelligence, concentration, and decision-making skills to get the job done. While not the smartest dog breed out there, Russian Bear Dogs are very smart! While at times it may seem that your Ovcharka isn’t overly smart, know that it’s not because it lacks intelligence but because it’s as stubborn as an ox.

A dog smart as an Ovcharka has to have its mind occupied at all times; otherwise, it will easily become bored and destructive. Interactive toys, puzzles, agility courses, and obedience training are good ways to give your dog a mental workout and keep it out of trouble.

Do Russian Bear Dogs Bark A Lot?

Excessive barking is one of the biggest nuisances of being a dog parent, and besides making you deaf, it can put you in real trouble with your neighbors. Luckily, Russian Bear Dogs aren’t big barkers and you won’t have to worry about investing in earplugs any time soon!

The only time your Ovcharka is going to bark is to alert you when someone is on its territory or if it feels that you are in danger.

Health

Do Russian Bear Dogs Have Any Health Problems?

The Russian Bear Dog is a generally healthy breed and, unlike other purebred dogs, they are prone to just a few inherited health issues. 

Common health problems seen in this breed include:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Eye issues (medium risk of developing cataracts)
  • Obesity

The good news is that you can minimize the risk of genetic health issues by getting your dog from a good breeder. There are genetic screening programs for diseases such as hip dysplasia, and a trustworthy breeder should provide you evidence that his puppies have been screened and are healthy.

We would strongly urge you against buying an Ovcharka puppy without the necessary health certificates since there is a big risk that your puppy will develop any of these conditions when he grows up. In time, vet bills and medical costs will pile up, not to mention that these conditions will affect the quality of your dog’s life.

Obesity is a big problem for this breed and can lead to an array of other health problems that can put your dog’s life at risk. So, no matter how much your dog begs or stares at you with puppy eyes, don’t cave in and avoid overfeeding at all costs!

Grooming & Care

Do Russian Bear Dogs Shed A Lot?

The Caucasian Shepherd is a heavy shedder and a high maintenance breed as grooming goes.

The tick and dense double-layered coat comes in three lengths – short, medium, and long – and helps regulate the dog’s temperature. Despite the length of coat, all Ovcharkas go through an annual heavy shed known as coat blowing. This process happens in the summer and helps a dog adapt to the new warmer weather.

You will need to brush your Russian Bear Dog two to three times a week to remove loose hair and prevent tangles from forming. On the other hand, if you own a long-haired Ovcharka, daily brushing is a must! 

To avoid being buried under all those loose hair, use a slicker brush or a wire pin brush for regular grooming. Furthermore, it is a good idea to invest in a fine-tooth comb that will help you deal with persistent mats and tangles. 

Also, besides regular grooming tools, a de-shedding tool is a must during summer, and you should also consider investing in a strong pet hair vacuum cleaner if you want to keep your house clean.

How Often Should You Bathe A Russian Bear Dog?

How Often Should You Bathe A Russian Bear Dog?

Bathing a Caucasian Shepherd is not an easy thing to accomplish, and luckily, it doesn’t have to be done often. Generally, bathing once every two months works for most dogs. However, how often you bathe your dog will depend on the place you live and how long it takes for your dog to become smelly and dirty.

Keep in mind that bathing a dog of this size can be challenging to say the least, and you will need a lot of water and shampoo to do it right. If you have the means, taking your dog to a professional groomer may be easier and cheaper for you in the long run. 

If you decide to bathe your dog at home, you should know that Ovharka’s double coat doesn’t dry quickly and that you may need to blow dry it. In this case, use the lowest setting to avoid causing skin burns and damage to the coat.

How Often Should You Walk A Russian Bear Dog?

Even though it is bred to be a working dog, the Caucasian Shepherd is a low-energy breed. This means that your Ovcharka will only need an hour-long walk every day. 

Generally, two half-hour walks, one in the morning and one in the evening, should meet your dog’s exercise needs. However, you can opt for several shorter walks if that is more convenient for you.

It is essential that you keep your Ovcharka on a leash at all times, since you never know when your dog may become aggressive towards others. Keep the leash on even if your dog is properly trained and socialized since many people can be intimidated by its sheer size and power.

If you aren’t able to control your Russian Bear Dog on the leash, find things that will keep him occupied in your backyard. Designing an obstacle course or training your dog to patrol the perimeter will help him to stay exercised and mentally stimulated and prevent boredom and destructive behavior.

Conclusion 

Bred to be a fierce protector and a working dog, the Caucasian Shepherd isn’t a good option for novice owners and is generally wary of everyone except his immediate family. Independent and headstrong, the Russian Bear Dog needs an experienced owner who will start training and socialization early to help him become more friendly and accepting of other people and pets. The breed’s selling points are:

  • Fierce guard dog
  • Loyal to a fault
  • Generally healthy

Owning a Russian Bear Dog is a huge responsibility, so make sure that you have the necessary means and experience before you bring one into your home.

Resources:

  1. Pet Helpful, 5 Easy Tips to Increase Your Dog’s Lifespanhttps://pethelpful.com/dogs/dog-long-life
  1. Chad Culp, Classical and Operant Conditioning in Dog Training.http://www.thrivingcanine.com/classical_operant_conditioning
  1. Cesars Way, Understanding Dog Aggression.https://www.cesarsway.com/understanding-dog-aggression/

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