Complete Guide: The Caucasian Shepherd

Are you looking for the ultimate guard dog? A large, strong, loyal, fierce dog to protect and love your family? We might have just the dog for you. Meet the Caucasian Shepherd, also known as the Russian Bear Dog.

These fluffy guys belong to the giant dog class, weighing an average of 135 pounds and standing over two feet tall! Like other Shepherd breeds, Russian Bear Dogs were bred to fearlessly guard sheep. But don’t worry, they are gentle giants when it comes to their family!

The Causasian Shepherd at a Glance

Unfortunately, Russian Bear Dogs are a bit misunderstood. Because they are so large and protective, they sometimes get an undeserved reputation of being dangerously aggressive. But in reality, they can be trained to have a more calm temperament.

They are happiest when they have a clear, well defined role in the family. For example, giving the Caucaisan Shepherd a job to do will make him much more manageable and happy.

What Does a Russian Bear Dog Look Like?

Similar to the Siberian Husky, Caucasian Shepherds have a fluffy double coat to keep them warm. They shed quite a bit and require a thorough brushing at least twice a week to stay mat-free! Other than this, the Russian Bear Dog doesn’t require much special grooming.

As a pure breed, the Russian Bear Dog is eligible for full kennel club registration and has a strict breed standard. According to the American Kennel Club, Russian Bear Dogs can be Black, Red, White, or just about any other solid color. They can be Sable or Piebald- even Brindle!

But contrary to positive belief, the Russian Bear Dog does not have to get their ears cropped in order to fit the standard. Cropping of the ears is an old practice from their historic days as shepherds.

Floppy ears are a weakness - predators like wolves can easily bite and cling to ears, causing great pain and surrender. With cropped ears, Caucasian Shepherds are no longer susceptible to this tactic.

The ear-cropping practice is considered animal cruelty in many circles, so be sure to consult with your breeder about this issue before making a decision to purchase.

Russian Bear Dog History

This dog is an ancient breed from Caucasia - a mountain range between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. There, the Russian Bear Dogs worked as livestock guardians.

They protected them against wolf attacks and courageously served their owners.

Europeans began to domesticate these Bear Dogs in the early 1920s. As the dogs learned to live with people, they transitioned from protecting sheep and cattle to protecting children and homes.

In 1995, the United Kennel Club recognized the Caucasian Shepherd as an official breed and they picked up a new found popularity with farm owners, military officials, and even prison administrations. Surprisingly, Russian Bear dogs have even have a place in dog shows across the world!

Ready to learn more about this fluffy four-legged wonder? Let’s dive into the specifics!

russian bear dogs are loyal and courageous

Caucasian Shepherd Breed Guide: Everything from Temperament to Training

Like we mentioned before, the Russian Bear Dog lives to protect his pack. This makes him a perfect guard dog, but it also means that he is not well-suited for a first time dog owner.

Unfortunately, the Caucasian Shepherds are notorious for sniffing out weakness and they will gladly take up the position as pack alpha. If this dog is going to be a family pet, it is crucial to establish dominance as soon as you bring the puppy home. This is best done by confident owners with experience in handling large dogs.

The Russian Bear Dog is also happiest with plenty of room to run and roam. They can easily run for miles without tiring and really thrive with large, fenced in yards. We do not recommend keeping this breed in an apartment - they will likely become anxious and may act out.

As a protector, the Caucasian Shepherd is always alert and is often suspicious of strangers. They rarely bark without reason so adding a Caucasian Shepherd to your life is like installing an alarm system! You can manage this trait by providing positive socialization experiences for your puppy early on in his life with you.

For example, when your Caucasian Shepherd is still a small puppy that cannot do much harm, you should introduce him to your family and friends who may visit you. If you wait to do this once he is already over 100 pounds, it is too late. Russian Bear Dogs do not like surprises and do not take kindly to strangers without proper training. And sadly, this is why these loyal dogs receive a poor reputation in some circles. But when they are given the healthy socialization necessary, Russian Bear Dogs can thrive as both companions and guardians.

We should note however, that because of their herding and protecting nature, Caucasian Shepherds are usually best kept in single-pet homes. If they ever perceive another pet as a potential threat, it could end in tragedy. Though they can learn to tolerate other animals if they are introduced early on, sometimes it is best to respect their inherent nature.

Training a Caucasian Shepherd

Like always, we recommend approaching training with a positive method. Dogs should never be punished. Not only does this tarnish your relationship with your dog, but it also leads to greater behavioral issues later on. Instead, use a reward method and watch your dog blossom!

As soon as your Russian Bear Dog comes home, start training off with short and simple activities. Use lots of verbal praise, affection, and even small treats. This will set the stage for more intense training sessions once he is old enough.

When a dog learns to associate a certain behavior of theirs with a reward, they will gladly repeat the behavior again and again. This is true of all dogs, no matter the breed or temperament. However, this is easier and more quickly accomplished with dogs that are very eager to please.

Russian Bear Dogs are known for their independence and confidence. Unlike the Labrador, these dogs don’t need the approval of humans to feel good about themselves. While this trait makes them great at protecting their pack, it does not serve them so well when it comes to training.  

Because of this challenge, you will have to work a bit harder at finding a reward that your Caucasian Shepherd really values. Loving on them and telling them they’re a good boy is not likely to work as well as it would with America’s sweetheart - the Labrador.

Rather than affection, treats and toys may work best for your Russian Bear Dog. But of course, lavish them in love too! It is very important that your puppy associates human contact with positive experiences. The last thing you want is a 150 pound dog, with the strength to fight off a bear, afraid of or threatened by humans.

And again, this example highlights the importance of early and frequent socialization! While he is still harmless, introduce your adorable Russian Bear Dog to children of all ages. But ensure that your puppy has a positive experience and learns to enjoy children. Do not let the kids be too rough as to scare the puppy. Make it fun!

Also introduce him to loud noises, a variety of places and people, as well as other animals. These experiences, along with his training, will make sure your Caucasian Shepherd is much more predictable and well-behaved.

Feeding the 100 Pound Russian Bear Dog 

As we have mentioned, this dog is one of the few true Giant breeds. So he comes with special nutrition and health needs. Like other large and giant dogs, the Russian Bear Dog is prone to a condition known as Bloat. We will discuss it more in the health section, but essentially this is a potentially deadly situation caused by gas in the stomach. To help avoid it, you must make sure your puppy’s stomach grows properly.

It is best to feed Caucasian Shepherd puppies about 4 times per day to avoid stretching their tummies, which is a risk factor for Bloat. At full maturity, around 21 months of age, your dog can eat 2 meals per day instead of 4. But we never recommend feeding only once per day.

A fully grown Caucasian Shepherd will weigh anywhere from 100 to 170 pounds! So it is no surprise that your dog may require more than 3000 calories per day. That’s a lot of food!

When deciding what to feed your Russian Bear Dog, it is important to consider their activity levels and nutrition needs. Most large dogs require about 2.5g of protein per kilogram of their total body weight. You can consult with your vet to determine the best type and brand of food to give your pup.

We should also point out that Russian Bear Dogs are prone to obesity. They are so large and require lots of exercise to maintain a healthy weight. It’s important to factor in the extra calories when you are giving him treats so that he doesn’t put too much extra weight on.

Exercising the Caucasian Shepherd 

When given free reign and room to roam, the Russian Bear Dog will keep himself active. Historically, these dogs patrolled the perimeters of farms, prisons, and fields for hours a day. They were bred to possess great stamina and endurance. But if you don’t have a large, fenced area for your Shepherd to run independently, you will have to make sure he receives plenty of exercise.

Early on in his development, it is best to follow the 5 minute rule. This rule says that a puppy should only exercise 5 minutes for each month of his age. So a six month old puppy should only exercise 30 minutes per day. This is recommended to avoid hampering your puppy’s skeletal and muscle development.

At this young age, your Russian Bear Dog is growing rapidly. Exercising too much could result in injuries from straining the developing joints. So following the 5 minute rule helps protect your Russian Bear Dog from hip and elbow dysplasia - which we’ll discuss in detail later on.

Once they are fully grown, around two years old, Caucasian Shepherds require a minimum of one hour of activity each day. If you don’t have a big yard to accommodate their needs, they make great walking, running, and hiking partners. So you can take 2 30 minutes walks or runs each day.

Health Considerations: Caring for a Caucasian Shepherd

When deciding to bring any dog into your life, you can never research too much! A key area to be aware of is health issues. And like most other large and giant dogs, the Russian Bear Dog is prone to a few key health problems like hip and elbow dysplasia, obesity, and Bloat. These dogs also have a higher risk of developing cataracts than some other, more common breeds.

Let’s start with Bloat - by far the scariest condition to deal with. Like we mentioned before, Bloat is a potentially deadly issue that arises when the stomach fills with gas. When this occurs, the stomach may flip or twist on itself, effectively cutting off the blood supply and causing a rupture. The condition develops rapidly and constitutes an emergency. To help avoid it, follow the feeding guidelines we outlined and avoid feeding human foods to your Caucasian Shepherd.

Likewise, following the feeding and exercise recommendations will help keep your dog from becoming overweight or obese. This is the easiest health condition to control and making sure your Russian Bear Dog maintains a healthy weight is one of the best ways you can contribute to the overall quality of his life.

As we briefly mentioned, hip and elbow dysplasia is a common condition when it comes to large and giant breeds, like German Shepherds and Labradors. It causes abnormal development of joints and causes immense pain and lameness in the affected animal. The best way to avoid this issue is by purchasing your Russian Bear Dog from a reputable breeder and following the 5 minute exercise rule.

When it comes to cataracts, there is not much you can do for your Caucasian Shepherd aside from providing a healthy lifestyle. Cataracts occur as a dog ages. Their lenses become foggy and they may eventually go completely blind. Thankfully, there is a surgery to avoid this. And as always, make sure your dog receives annual check ups with the vet!

Breed Summary: The Fluffy Russian Bear Dog

In the hands of a confident and experienced owner, the Russian Bear Dog can bloom into a wonderful family guardian. They are fiercely loyal and devoted to their flock, but are wary of strangers. This isn’t always a bad thing, but providing proper socialization is a must!

The Caucasian Shepherd is independent and content with his solitude. He has his own agenda, so training him is not easy. He is very smart, but very strong-willed. Positive reinforcement is a great tool for teaching him how to behave.

He does best with wide open spaces to run and roam on his own, but he can live comfortably in a home as long as you meet his needs.

So what do you think? Are Caucasian Shepherds a great dog? Let us know!

Fact: Detail:

Price:

$1000-2000

Life Expectancy:

10-12 years

Size:

100-170lbs; 23-30in

Temperament:

Loyal, Independent, Intelligent, Aloof, Fearless, Confident

Activity Level:

High energy, 60+ minutes exercise required per day

Health Issues:

Obesity, Bloat, Hip/Elbow Dysplasia, Cataracts

Color:

Solid, Sable, Piebald, Brindle

Trainability:

Stubborn, difficult to train

Overall Rating:

Best suited for dedicated and experienced owners

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