With its majestic size, fur, and reputation, the Russian Bear Dog is known as one of the riskiest pets to have. Although it looks like the perfect cuddle buddy, this canine is not for the faint of heart.
But you’re here because you’re interested in finding out more about this devoted protector. So keep reading our guide to see if you’ve got what it takes to handle such an independent breed.
Table of Contents
The Russian Bear Dog’s Origin
The original name of this breed in Russia is Caucasian Ovcharka. It means “the Sheepdog of Caucasus” because of its purpose and where it originated – the Kavkaz/Caucasus Mountain Range.
Those mountains are home to a lot of ancient Molossers, and the Ovcharka is the oldest living descendant of those dogs.
The Russian Mountain Dog was used to protect flocks, herds, and homes from predators like bears and wolves.
Then in the 1920s, the Soviet breeders noticed this canine’s ferocity and used them to guard government facilities and factories.
The Ovcharka got more popular and found its way to Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Germany, and other places in Europe.
By 1930, the mountain dog got so famous and debuted in its very first official show ring.
This breed is specifically listed on the AKC Foundation Stock Service (FSS).
Aside from the name Caucasian Ovcharka, the Russian Bear Dog is also known by other names depending on the region or location:
- Ovcharka – the native Russian word for “Sheepdog.”
- Caucasian Mountain Shepherd or Caucasian Mountain Dog
- Baskhan (Karachay) Pariy
- Russian Bear-hunting Dog
Before we move on to the impressive features of the purebred Russian Bear Dog, let’s have a little background about this breed’s ancestors – the Molossers.
What is a Molosser?
It’s a group or category of large, sturdy canines that includes scenthounds, sighthounds, mastiff breeds, and mountain dogs.
The name came from Molossia, a subregion of ancient Epirus of Greece.
The first known record of a Molosser-type of dog was in 1121 BC – a trained Tibetan Mastiff used for hunting that was gifted to a Chinese emperor and was eventually exported.
While some Molossers are great for a search and rescue job, most of the breeds under this category serve as guard dogs because of their natural guarding instincts and deep voices.
Hence, their very first task – protecting livestock from predators.
Molossers typically have dense bones, a compact and well-muscled neck, a short muzzle, and pendant ears.
Breed Appearance: What does a Russian Bear Dog look like?
Caucasian Shepherds will have you staring with its muscular and robust appearance.
They have a broad face similar to a bear and a deep-set of dark, oval eyes.
Historically, this breed would depict cropped ears to avoid predators from biting and clinging on to them.
But nowadays, it’s up to the owner if they want their mountain dog’s ears cropped or not.
The Ovcharka has a powerful muzzle that tapers off to their black nose. They also have sharp, pointy teeth that resemble fangs and are very useful when tearing the skin of predators.
The Caucasian Mountain Dog’s Coat and Color
This canine has a thick double coat that consists of a soft underlayer and a coarse outer layer. It’s a feature bred into them to withstand freezing temperatures in the mountains and prairie.
Once the Russian Bear Dog is full grown, its fur can vary in length. Depending on your preference, your giant pooch can have a long, medium, or short hair.
Those with long hair are the only ones who have a bear-like mane and feathering found at the back of its legs and tail.
The Russian Bear Dog’s coat comes in different colors, too. You can see them in black, white, gray, cream, fawn, or a rusty red-brown shade.
And with all their hair, this breed is not hypoallergenic.
How big does a Caucasian Shepherd get?
This breed can weigh around 110 to 200 pounds (50 to 91 kg) and grow up to 30 inches (76 cm) tall.
It’s no wonder that this gentle giant makes the top list of the biggest dogs out there!
So it’s best if this mountain dog stays in a rural home that has a secured backyard that it can freely explore. This breed would need and occupy a lot of space.
Just look at Titan, one of the largest Russian Bear Dogs in the world, with his partner Frida, and their puppies!
Like Frida in the video, female Ovcharkas are usually smaller than males. But regardless of the gender, this dog is bred to be a guardian, so its size and strength are essential for its purpose.
The Russian Bear Dog’s height and weight, along with its massive fur, creates an imposing figure and a primal impression that is simply remarkable.
The Characteristics of a Russian Bear Dog
Strong, powerful, and fearless – these are the most common words used to describe this breed.
Although this independent dog looks like a giant teddy bear, the term “cute” isn’t quite fitting for the Ovcharka. But what are they like when they’re not on duty?
Do Caucasian Shepherds make good family pets?
They are suitable for families with older kids who have experience with large breeds, but they are best with an all-adult home.
Even though your children understand canine behavior and body language, never leave them unsupervised with any dog, especially with the Ovcharka.
The Russian Bear Dog is territorial and very protective of its family, and it can be wary of strangers. Aside from that, they are calm and devoted to their humans – a personality that will melt your heart.
If you’re worried about this breed making noise, Caucasian Shepherds aren’t known for excessive barking, but they won’t hesitate to alert their owner to any kind of potential threats.
Temperament: Are Russian Bear Dogs dangerous or aggressive?
Because of its origin, the dominant yet faithful Ovcharka will not hesitate to deal with anything or fight back as long as they feel it’s a threat.
Any dog will show aggression or would be dangerous if their human parents were not able to raise and train them properly, or if they were mistreated.
It is vital for this alert dog to have an experienced owner. They need a leader that will teach them to socialize from a young age so they can learn how to be with anyone outside of their family.
Since the Caucasian Ovcharka was bred as a guard dog who’s always in charge, this is the same behavior that you’d expect if you decide to get a puppy of this breed.
101: Interesting facts about the Caucasian Mountain Dog
Do Russian Bear Dogs hunt bears?
Some people would think that this breed’s name is like a term of endearment because they look like bears, but it’s because they were actually used for bear-hunting in the Caucasus region of Russia!
After all, their powerful physique is bred into them for practical purposes like guarding and hunting, or fighting off predators.
Are Russian Bear Dogs used in prisons?
Russian prisons are notorious for having some of the most violent prisoners, and the Russian Bear Dog has no problem keeping them in line.
In fact, you can see this breed keeping guard in a lot of correctional facilities in the US, and they’re very good at doing their job.
With its ferocity and unwavering dedication, the Caucasian Shepherd is the ideal police and guard dog. Who would even dare to try their luck with this canine?
Exercising a Caucasian Mountain Dog
Even if they are bred for stamina and endurance, Ovcharkas are a low-energy kind of dog. So 60 minutes of exercise every day is enough for this Bear.
For a Caucasian Shepherd puppy, limit their exercise to 5 minutes per month of their age.
But thanks to its history of wandering properties and territories for hours as a job, the Ovcharka is the perfect walking or hiking buddy!
Just make sure to keep your mountain dog on a leash whenever you take him out. Not only to be safe, but most people and pets would also be very intimidated by the size of your Caucasian Mountain Shepherd.
Even when there’s no one around during your walks, don’t dare remove its leash because this is a breed that is quite fast despite its weight.
While indoors or within the fenced yard, you can already give your Ovcharka at least 15 minutes of exercise with fetch!
You can let him chase a toy that has his favorite treats in it. The important thing is encouraging your Bear to stay fit.
The Caucasian Mountain Dog’s Training
This breed is smart but confident, but only because they are incredibly independent. The Caucasian Shepherd can pose to be a challenge to train, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Since they can be headstrong and uncooperative, start training your Russian Bear Dog around 7 to 8 months of age, so he can understand that not everything is a threat.
Make training sessions short, fun, and positive. And do it in an open area since this breed loves to roam around big spaces.
Also, avoid enrolling him to a puppy school. Ovcharka’s aren’t known for tolerating other canines very well, and things can get out of control quickly.
If you have experience with owning large or giant breeds, then you can extensively train a powerful dog such as the Caucasian Mountain Shepherd on your own.
It is advisable to use operant conditioning. It means your dog will learn to do something or behave based on positive consequences so they would repeat the good behavior.
Watch how Hugo do an excellent job at obedience training!
For rewards, you would have to find out what prize(s) your mountain dog places a high value on.
One trick you can try is scattering different toys and treats on the floor without your Russian Bear Dog in the room, then let him in that area to observe which one he picks or goes to first.
With most canines, it is advisable that you start socializing them from puppyhood. It will ensure that your pooch will grow up friendly or accepting of people outside the family and of other pets. But with the Caucasian Mountain dog, you’d have to do it continuously.
Your Ovcharka’s socialization should be persistent throughout his life. Do it by letting your mountain dog experience positive encounters with different people, pets, and even objects.
A quick visit to the neighbors or playtime in the yard with the other pets is a good start. He’d be able to see birds or even cars passing by, too!
Observe how your Bear reacts whenever you introduce someone or something new, so you’d know if your furry buddy is ready to explore more. As pups, Caucasian Shepherds are fearless, but they get fearful of strangers as they mature.
And since the Russian Bear Dog has a wary nature, punishment is out of the question.
Anything bad you do to your Ovcharka will stick to his mind, and he’d think that all humans would harm him. Not only that, but it can also create problematic behaviors, and worse, he might fight back.
So even if your mountain dog wouldn’t listen and gets disrespectful, be patient and continue setting boundaries. Use obedience training techniques, such as saying a firm “No,” to correct him between bad and good behavior.
How to care for a Russian Bear Dog
You’ve seen how majestically large this breed is, and its overall care would take a whole lot of time and dedication.
How to groom a Caucasian Shepherd
This breed is high maintenance as far as grooming goes.
You need to brush its coat two times a week to make sure that the undercoat remains knot or tangle free. For long-haired mountain dogs, you would need to brush their coat daily.
Brushing will also keep your Russian Bear Dog’s fur healthy and minimize shedding.
While combing your mountain dog’s coat with a slicker or wire-pin brush, mist his hair a bit to prevent them from flying all over the place.
You can also use a fine-toothed brush to catch all the loose fur.
Since the Caucasian Ovcharka’s coat helps it adapt to the cold weather and regulate his temperature, make sure his hair isn’t too short and that his skin is not exposed. The shorter the fur to protect him may also cause skin problems.
When it comes to bathing, you shouldn’t wash your Russian Bear Dog not unless it’s necessary. But depending on where you live, you should take him to the groomer once every two months or as needed.
If you want to do it yourself, you have to know that the Caucasian Shepherd’s double coat doesn’t dry quickly. And imagine all the shampoo and water that you’re going to have to use!
The Russian Bear Dog goes through an annual heavy shed which is known as blowing coat.
This process happens when the seasons are changing, and the coat is switching so your Ovcharka can adapt to the new weather.
It’s the right time to give your bear-hunting dog a warm bath and frequent brushing twice a week. Doing so would help shed the old coat faster and reduce the amount of fur on your furniture and floor.
Don’t forget to brush your dog’s teeth 2 to 3 times a week, and clip his nails regularly to avoid breakage or painful ingrown.
Make sure his ear is clean and dry during a weekly check to avoid infection.
Food & Diet: How much does a Russian Bear Dog eat?
The amount of food this breed needs would depend on size, age, and activity level.
The Caucasian Shepherd would need about 8 to 10 cups of quality dry dog food every day, and split it into two to three meals.
Since this mountain dog is not very active, they can easily become overweight or have digestive problems like bloating.
Overfeeding your Ovcharka can cause problems to his bone development.
To make sure your mountain dog is not obese, you should be able to feel his ribs without the need to apply pressure. You should also see a waistline through his coat.
Give your Caucasian Shepherd a dog food that gives him balanced nutrition and the proper level of calcium to support healthy bones and joints.
The Caucasian Ovcharka’s Health
The Russian Bear Dog is a relatively healthy breed, but it is also predisposed to some health concerns such as:
- Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
- Eye Issues Medium risk of developing cataracts)
- Heart Conditions
Do not let your Russian Bear Dog jump in and out of your car, and keep him from using the stairs all the time. All those movements can lead to problems like hip and joint issues that can easily develop in giant breeds.
With proper care, your Russian Bear Dog can spend his lifespan of 10 to 12 years with you. Who knows, maybe he can exceed his life expectancy and live longer!
Now it’s time to see where you can get a vast and bold canine, such as the Caucasian Shepherd.
Where to buy or rescue a Russian Bear Dog
You can get your very own mountain dog from a breeder, but you also have an option to adopt.
But since this is a giant breed which can give other people the impression that they are generally aggressive or dangerous, is anyone allowed to own this kind of dog?
Are Russian Bear Dogs Legal in the US?
Although there are places within the US where it is illegal to own specific breeds like Pitbulls, no laws are forbidding this mountain dog in any state, county, or city in America.
It’s probably because the Caucasian Ovcharka is relatively new to the country.
If you are renting the place you’re currently living in, and you specifically want this breed, ask your landlord first about his or her policies about weight limits of dogs. As well as other rules they may have with regards to pets.
How much do Ovcharkas cost?
The Caucasian Mountain Shepherd can cost between $1,000 to $3,000. But the price range can vary depending on the breeder, the quality of the puppy, and your location.
Some breeders would even offer Russian Bear Dog puppies for a price of up to $4,000 if the litter came from a good lineage.
Just keep in mind that cheap isn’t better. It can even be more expensive because of all the vet bills that you would have to pay if your very affordable dog turns out to have a lot of health problems.
Caucasian Shepherd Dog Breeders
Before taking out your wallet, the people selling this pooch should be following the Caucasian Ovcharka Working Dog Club of America’s (COWDCA) guide for ethical breeders, who has a goal to promote the versatility of this canine.
The breeder should also be eager to provide you essential details about their dogs, like temperament, breed and family history, and health.
Take a look at these sites where you can buy a Russian Bear Dog puppy:
- Est-Alfa Caucasian Ovcharka Kennel (Pahrump, Nevada)
- Loyal Caucasian Kennel (Alex, OK)
- Caucasian Shepherd Kennel (Voronezh, Russia)
Russian Bear Dog Adoption
Aside from checking your local dog shelters if they have a Caucasian Ovcharka available, you can also ask from the nearest vet clinic, groomers, and pet supplies shop for potential rescues.
If you’re lucky and you find a mountain dog you want to take home, ask important questions before filling out those adoption papers.
You should ask how old the dog is, if it had any health problems and if they have any information about the dog’s family background.
Also, ask if the Caucasian Shepherd does well with other dogs or pets. Has it ever shown aggressive tendencies? And if it had any prior training?
If you think everything is up to your standards, take your adopted fur baby to a trusted vet for a check-up before taking him home.
You can check these links to see if there are Russian Bear-hunting dogs that need a new home:
- Thunderhawk Caucasian Shepherd Puppies
- Esquire Caucasians (Chardon Township, Ohio)
- Caucasian Shepherd Society of America/CaSSA (North America)
Comparing the Russian Bear Dog to other breeds
If you think that the Ovcharka is not the breed you’re looking for, there are similar dogs that are hard workers and great for cuddling!
Aside from thinking about what you want in a dog, you should keep in mind if this is a pet that you can take care of, spend time with, and can fit in with the whole family.
Here are some of the breeds that you can consider if you want a big, working, or active canine that can protect you and your loved ones.
The Caucasian Mountain Dog VS The Leonberger
Compared to the Ovcharka who kind of looks like a bear, the Leonberger resembles a lion in appearance.
Also known as Leo or Leonbergi, this gentle lion can grow up to 31 1/2 inches (80 cm) in height and can weigh as heavy as 170 pounds (77 kg).
Leonbergers are a popular German breed that is known for being active. It participates in a lot of activities such as agility, competitive obedience, search and rescue, herding, and more!
Aside from that, the Leonberger is friendlier than the Russian Bear Dog, and it’s more suitable for families with kids and other pets.
One of the similarities between the two dogs is that they are both alert and exhibits a very protective behavior.
They would both do what they have to do to protect and guard their family. But the Ovcharka responds quicker when it feels threatened.
The Caucasian Ovcharka VS The Pitbull
Unlike the Russian Bear Dog, the American Pitbull Terrier is the most friendly to humans, and they are more focused and patient. Pits are also affectionate and playful.
A Pitbull is way easier to groom and is a better option if you live in an apartment.
And comparing their sizes, Pitties are much quicker because they are lighter.
Pits can grow to about 17 to 19 inches (43 to 48 cm) tall with a weight that can range from 30 to 85 pounds (14 to 39 kg).
But if you would have the two breeds face to face, the Pit is no match for this mountain dog. The Ovcharka has a bite of 550 to 700 PSI and can really tear up its opponent
The Caucasian Shepherd VS The Tibetan Mastiff
These two are very similar in a lot of ways. The Tibetan Mastiff was also built for the cold weather and made a great livestock guardian.
They are also not suitable for new or inexperienced owners.
Also known as the Tibetan dog, this canine has a height of 24 to 26 inches (61 to 66 cm) and a weight of 70 to 150 pounds (32 to 68 kg).
But the Tibetan Mastiff is friendlier and loves playing with kids, easier to groom despite its double coat, and doesn’t bark or howl as much as the Russian Bear Dog.
Although they’re both independent and strong-willed dogs, the Tibetan Mastiff loves attention and affection. It doesn’t tolerate being left alone and can be stubborn at times.
Is a Russian Bear Dog a good fit for me?
It will depend on your lifestyle and knowing what you’re looking for in a canine companion.
If you’re still unsure, you can discuss anything about the breed you’re interested in with a reputable breeder. Who knows best than the people who’s been raising Caucasian Ovcharkas for years, right?
But generally, if you have experience with large dogs and you have the perfect environment where a Caucasian Shepherd would thrive in, then that’s great!
It’s also crucial to think about the cost of this dog, not only purchasing a puppy but all the expenses of owning and raising one for its entire life with you.
No matter how cute they are, the Russian Bear Dog’s personality is as big as their size, so they would need a strong and confident parent to establish an alpha role.
If you don’t train him properly, the Ovcharka can be disastrous in your home, and anywhere else they go.
And remember that Caucasian Ovcharkas are working dogs. Even if they are not that active, they would need to keep busy throughout their day.
That means this dog is perfect for homes where they have a lot of space to move around or exercise on their own.
And if you won’t be able to devote your time to him because you’re always away due to work, this breed is not for you.
A Caucasian Mountain Dog is a huge responsibility to take in as a pet, so you have to be sure about your decision before buying one.
Have you seen this massive dog in your neighborhood or the park? What are your thoughts about the Caucasian Shepherd? If you had an Ovcharka or you currently own one, share your thoughts, questions, and even advise at the box below.
If you love large and giant dogs, here are a few more breeds that you might love: