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What dog protects against bears?

How These Fearless Dogs Help Keep Grizzlies On Their Toes

Airedale Terrier puppy Hilda wanders across Gene Swanson's driveway. Swanson relies on Airedales to help prevent conflicts with grizzly bears at his ranch near Augusta, MT.

Grizzly bear populations across the state are growing, as is talk about how to minimize human-bear conflict. A Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks report released in April showed wildlife officials in northwest Montana received about 150 calls related to grizzly conflicts last year.

Some people, like residents of the Rocky Mountain Front, have dealt with the bears for a long time. MTPR’s Rosie Costain reports on one of these conflict-reducing methods: dogs.

Rancher John Long, his wife, and three daughters live on a paved, house-lined street in Choteau. A park is just down the block, and Spring Creek flows nearby. In the summer, Long regularly gets calls from a system set up to warn Choteau’s residents of uninvited neighborhood visitors: grizzly bears.

«The majority of the bears are right over there. Not here at the park but like three streets down on the first street in town. They’re over there messing around.»

Long has lived in Choteau since he was a kid. And grizzlies have always been a part of that life, both when he’s out in the mountains and even when he’s at his house. It’s not unheard of for a bear to wander through town.

«I’ve lived here my whole life so it isn’t like I’m walking around on eggshells by any means. But yeah, it’s something that we think about, we think about with our kids.»

The park in Choteau, Mont. at the end of the street John Long lives on.

Living with grizzly bears is something people have to deal with on the Rocky Mountain Front. And Augusta rancher Gene Swanson is especially familiar with these creatures.

«Thirty years ago I could have told you how many different bear I seen in the whole spring to fall season around here. Anymore, you just kind of lose count. They’re a pretty common experience,» Swanson says.

It’s hard to live much closer to the Front than Swanson. His cattle ranch sits along a stretch of creek bottom in the foothills of the mountains, about 10 miles outside of Augusta. The town isn’t far from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which holds the largest population of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states.

A view of the Rocky Mountains from the dirt road on the way to Gene Swanson's house outside of Augusta, Mont.

But the slender 70-year old has figured out how to deal with grizzlies, to an extent. When he’s out working, or in the house, he has a warning system, different from that in Choteau, that tells him when a bear is nearby.

Swanson has four Airedale Terriers. When I pulled up to Swanson’s, one of these dogs, Wiliker, leaned against my legs as Swanson, in a cowboy hat, worn blue jeans, sunglasses and a kerchief around his neck, stepped out of a tractor. Another Airedale, just a puppy, sat in the tractor’s passenger seat.

«They can be a hunting dog or a cow dog, and they can take care of the kids for you,» Swanson says.

These wire-haired black and copper-red dogs weigh about 60 to 70 pounds. Despite their small size, these Airedales are able to take-on adult grizzly bears. And with little training. Swanson says he doesn’t teach his dogs much more than how to come and how to go after something. But the dogs have a special tactic.

«I’ve had them get after them bear pretty serious. The one dog, he always goes to the head, and I’ve got another dog that goes for the heels. Whether they’re after a bear or a cow they’ll do the same thing. One of them getting the head and the other getting the heels. And that gets them — bears or cattle — when something goes really aggressively at both ends, they want to leave.»

That doesn’t mean they always get away unscathed. His dog Mordecai has a scar across his snout. And Swanson spoke of a couple incidents of dogs being attacked when a single one was left outside alone at night.

Gene Swanson shows a feed barrel smashed by a grizzly bear trying to break into it.

But for the most part, Swanson’s Airedales are able to help him avoid conflict with bears. Their most important role is letting Swanson know when a grizzly is wandering near his house, along with his barn, other outbuildings and cattle pens. The same goes for when he’s out working on the ranch.

«The major thing with these bears is the fact they’re like a rattlesnake. It’s the fear of stepping on top of one that bothers you. Once you know where they’re at, you know what to do,» Swanson says.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Bear Management Specialist Mike Madel says a lot of ranchers have modified their operations to deal with growing bear populations that are expanding further from the mountains. Some have moved their calving operations away from creekbeds or have changed how they store feed. Others have installed electric fences.

Madel, who’s based out of Choteau, says these changes are necessary in order to conserve the bears and get them removed from the endangered species list. But he says he’d like to see more ranchers have dogs as a way to deal grizzlies.

«They’re great at having them go after both grizzly bears and black bears, off leash and chasing bears away from campgrounds or away from ranch buildings. And when you’re out in the field yourself, whether you’re backpacking — in my case I’m doing bear management work — in detecting bears that might be behind you or around you, and letting you know where they’re at and what direction they’re at.»

Madel says that only applies as long as the dog knows what it’s doing, and won’t bring the bear back. Some of that knowledge comes through training, but part of it can come with a certain breed. He personally has a Karelian bear dog that helps him in the field.

«They’ve helped me a lot. So I can imagine with Gene and his Airedales, you know, they really do help to keep bears in and away from his buildings.»

Madel has known Gene Swanson’s family for years. He says Swanson lives in some of the best wildlife habitat in the state. And the way Swanson has dealt with his surroundings has given Madel a good impression of what an Airedale can do.

«There’s not too many breeds that I think are really good dogs for moving bears away, but Airedales are just unafraid. So they run right at the bear.”

Again, John Long from Choteau. «I have a little girls and we’re in the mountains non-stop and this is the perfect breed to have because they are going to tangle.»

Rancher John Long's Airedales Terriers wrestle in his backyard. Ranchers along the Rocky Mountain Front are using the Terriers to help prevent conflicts with grizzly bears.

Long has two Airedales, including one he got as a puppy from Gene Swanson.

«If something were needed, if defense was needed these dogs would gladly get into a scuffle. That’s no problem. They haven’t needed to prove that yet, but they’re just right for that. And then you couple that with the fact that you can have hem in the backyard and they’re not barking and keeping everyone around you furious with you.»

He says whenever he and his family are in the mountains or anywhere a grizzly might be, they bring their dogs. Because of the bear sightings around town, Long sends his dogs with his two younger daughters when they play in the park down the street near the creek. It gives him some peace of mind about living with grizzlies.

«You like ’em, you respect ’em, you enjoy seeing ’em. You just want to keep ’em on their toes more than you have to keep yourself on your toes, that’s all.»

Long says a good dog can help do just that.

10 Dog Breeds That Look Like Bears

Jennifer Lesser

Jennifer Lesser is a pet health and wellness expert and writer with over a decade of experience covering pet behavior, health, and news. Her work can also be found in Whole Dog Journal, Health, Dogster, Catster, and Animal Sheltering.

Updated on 07/13/22
Fact checked by


Sarah Scott is a fact checker with more than 16 years of experience in researching, writing, and editing digital and print media. She has verified and edited articles on a variety of subjects for The Spruce Pets, including pet behavior, health, and care as well as the latest trends in products for animals in the home.

chow chow close up

If you’re looking for a dog that reminds you of a cuddly teddy bear or a woolly, wild bear, you’re in luck. Several dog breeds with thick coats and bulky builds that almost appear bear-like. Some of these dogs are incredibly large, but some small dog breeds bear a resemblance to bears. They range in personality types, coloring, markings, and activity levels.

Here are 10 dog breeds that resemble bears.


Many bear-like dogs with thick, shaggy coats require brushing on a nearly daily basis to prevent knots and remove loose fur. It also can be helpful to use a detangling shampoo to keep them looking their best.

01 of 10


Akita dog lying on pavement

Often referred to as a «silent hunter,» the Akita is a quiet yet temperamental dog that can often be difficult to train. It is the largest Japanese spitz breed and has a subtle bear-like quality with its thick coat and rounded ears. As a high-energy breed that also tends to be fiercely loyal, Akitas have long served as guard and hunting dogs and require vigorous daily exercise.

Breed Overview

Height: 24 to 28 inches Weight: 70 to 130 pounds Physical Characteristics: Triangular head; curled tail; thick double coat in colors including black, fawn, and red

02 of 10

Great Pyrenees

Great Pyrenees headshot

Named for the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, the Great Pyrenees makes the list because it can be mistaken for a polar bear at first glance due to its lush white coat and huge build. Bred as herding dogs, their job was to defend flocks from predators, such as wolves and actual bears. These dogs are gentle giants and make for intelligent, family-friendly pets that serve as loyal and protective guardians.

Breed Overview

Height: 25 to 32 inches Weight: 85 to 100+ pounds Physical Characteristics: Large and strong physique; lush weatherproof coat that’s either all white or white with markings of gray, tan, reddish-brown, or badger

03 of 10

Chow Chow

chow chow dog outdoors

The chow chow is a breed hailing from ancient China. A thick mane (or ruff) makes these dogs appear particularly cute and cuddly (and bear-like), and they are also muscular and deep-chested with an overall furry coat. These dignified dogs can be both serious and aloof and are known to be particularly clean canines.

Breed Overview

Height: 17 to 20 inches Weight: 45 to 70 pounds Physical Characteristics: Ruff around the head and shoulders; deep-set almond eyes; blue-black tongue; stiff-legged gait; coats can be rough or smooth in colors including red, black, blue, cinnamon, or cream

04 of 10


samoyed in front of a garden

The Samoyed is a spitz breed that originated in the Siberian area of Russia. Strong and intelligent, these dogs were bred to pull sleds on polar expeditions. Today, they make affectionate and playful family pets that look a bit like small polar bears with their thick, white coats and equally fluffy tails.

Breed Overview

Height: 19 to 24 inches Weight: 35 to 65 pounds Physical Characteristics: Alert expression; thick double coat; colors include white, cream, and biscuit

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05 of 10


Newfoundland dog headshot

Newfoundlands are very large dogs, but they are also gentle, patient, and trainable. Bred as working dogs for Canadian fishermen, Newfoundlands are often referred to as “nanny dogs” because of the way they watch over and protect children. Their huge heads with a relatively short snout and thick fur give them a distinct bear-like appearance.

Breed Overview

Height: 26 to 28 inches Weight: 100 to 150 pounds Physical Characteristics: Flat, long, and coarse coat; colors include gray, brown, black, or black and white

06 of 10


Keeshond plays with a ball

Affectionately dubbed the “people’s dog,” the Keeshond became the symbol of the Dutch Patriots Party in the 18th century as it fulfilled the role of both guard and companion on early Dutch vessels. The Keeshond resembles a teddy bear, with its extremely furry face and small, upright, slightly rounded ears. It’s known to be an energetic, intelligent breed that’s personable and easy to train.

Breed Overview

Height: 17 to 18 inches Weight: 35 to 45 pounds Physical Characteristics: Upright ears; plush, abundant coat; plumed tail; spectacles (shadings and markings around the eyes)

07 of 10

Caucasian Shepherd

Caucasian shepherd dog

Named after the Kavkaz (Caucasus) mountains of Eastern Europe, the Caucasian shepherd’s massive size almost rivals that of a small bear. Their thick coats and muscular build give these dogs quite a bear-like look. These fearless dogs were tasked as guardians of herds and homes in harsh conditions, and they remain loyal protectors today. While they’re large and strong dogs, they’re also loving and affectionate toward their families.

Breed Overview

Height: 23 to 30 inches Weight: 99 to 170 pounds Physical Characteristics: Ranges from short to long coat; colors include fawn, gray and red with markings that can be white, piebald and/or brindle

08 of 10


Leonberger dog puppy resting in the yard

Hailing from Germany, Leonbergers were originally bred as majestic companions fit for royalty. Given their impressive size and strength, Leonbergers were famously adept at pulling carts. But despite their huge stature and thick fur that gives them a bear-like appearance, these dogs are gentle and serene by nature. Still, they do make excellent watchdogs.

Breed Overview

Height: 25 to 32 inches Weight: 90 to 170 pounds Physical Characteristics: Medium-long waterproof coat; lion-like mane around the neck and chest; bushy tail; triangular ears; black face

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10


eurasier dog lying in grass

A dog that’s considered to be of both European and Asian descent (hence its name), the Eurasier is a confident and well-balanced dog that loves nothing more than being around its family. Although this dog is not the largest of the bear-like breeds, the Eurasier is yet another muscular canine with thick fur, especially around its head. It tends to make an excellent guard dog.

Breed Overview

Height: 19 to 24 inches Weight: 40 to 70 pounds Physical Characteristics: Thick, medium-long coat in an array of colors; purple, pink, or spotted tongues; can have dark face masks or light «reverse» masks

10 of 10


Pomeranian on furniture

While they don’t quite resemble actual bears, Pomeranians are pint-size pooches that have a definite teddy bear-like quality thanks to their rounded ears and puffy fur. They are confident and curious dogs. And they’re consistently one of the most popular toy breeds, even though their ancestors were bred from much larger sled dogs.

Breed Overview

Height: 6 to 7 inches Weight: 3 to 7 pounds Physical Characteristics: Fluffy and abundant double coat with frill extending over the chest and shoulders; can be found in up to two dozen colors (orange or red are most common); various patterns and markings

The Russian Bear Dog – Guide To The Caucasian Shepherd

Russian Bear Dog

The Russian Bear Dog, often known as the Caucasian Shepherd or the Caucasian Mountain Dog, was originally bred to protect a flock from wolves. Therefore, these pups are known for being a predator and are sometimes controversial as pets. That being said, these gentle giants are also very loyal and devoted, protecting their flock and keeping them calm.

Because of this, these dogs do actually make great family members, but they’re a large dog with a number of requirements that you’ll need to be able to meet! Take a look below to see if one of these pups could be for you.

History Of The Russian Bear Dog

The Russian Bear Dog was an invaluable tool to many farmers due to the fact they could guard flocks of sheep. They were strong, intimidating and fearless, warding off anything that could harm. They were hardy and could stand the cold, too, which was beneficial. Today, these dogs are mainly companion dogs, watchdogs and property guardians, though they are still used by shepherds to tend to flocks.

These dogs are known to still carry some of the aggressive, cautious and standoffish traits that the original Russian Bear Dogs did, but with socialization they can become very loving members of the family. With the popularity of the breed growing, too, breeders are creating dogs with less and less of these unwanted traits.

Breed Origin

The origin of the Russian Bear Dog is largely unknown but it is thought they are one of the oldest breeds of working dogs. They come from the Caucasus Mountain region and are thought to have been around for roughly 2000 years. Some people think they were bred from wolves, while others believe they were bred from Mastiffs and other breeds. There are also researches that believe the Caucasian Shepherd Dog is descended from sheepdogs that migrated from Tibet.

Russian Bear Dogs became companions to the shepherds of the Caucasus region for centuries. These shepherds bred the qualities they needed from their sheepdogs and, therefore, there are many different variants of the Russian Bear Dog breed. The Caucasian Shepherd dog that came to Georgia became the breed standard that is recognized by most Kennel Clubs today.

It is not known when the Russian Bear Dog arrived in the US, but they became a member of the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1995. They are also recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Caucasian Shepherd

Characteristics Of The Russian Bear Dog

The Russian Bear Dog is often thought to be a very aggressive dog due to their working background, but with the right training and socialization, this could not be further from the truth. They are still powerful, but they are very devoted to their families, too.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $1000 and $2000 for a Russian Bear Dog puppy. They are an expensive dog, but this price ensures they are healthy. Remember, always buy from a reputable breeder.


It is not secret that Russian Bear Dogs are big dogs! They usually weigh between 100 – 170 lbs and stand between 23-30” in height, with males bigger than females. Males also normally have a much larger head. They also look a bit like a teddy bear, which is where they get their name from!

Some Russian Bear Dogs have cropped ears. This was and still is done to many livestock guardian dogs due to the fact that it eliminated the opportunity for predators to bite and cling on to the dog.


The Russian Bear Dog has a thick, coarse double coat. This is due to the fact they were bred to be hardy animals that could withstand any temperature, even the freezing cold. Unfortunately, this means that they shed a lot and are, therefore, not the pet for those with allergies. We will go into more detail about grooming later on.


The Russian Bear Dog can come in any solid color, piebald or spotted. However, you will never see one of these dogs in a black of diluted black color — this is against the breed standard.


Due to their history of protecting sheep, the Russian Bear Dog is a natural protector who will protect their family. This means they can be wary of strangers, but are extremely loyal to their owners and will love you more than anything. They will not like strangers turning up at the home and will see them as a threat, so these pups do require a lot of socializing when they are young. However, this is also means they are great watchdogs and guard dogs, although they are not known to bark.

The Caucasian Shepherd is an active dog, but after their daily walk they do not require much more. What they really like is having space outside to roam, just like they would have had with their sheep, so they are most certainly suited to country life with a large area of land and will not do well with city living.

These dogs are very intelligent but it dos not mean that training them is easy. Due to their independence and alertness they can become distracted, so you will have to work to ensure they understand following commands.


The Russian Bear Dog has a life expectancy of between 10 and 12 years.

Known Health Issues

The Russian Bear Dog is a generally healthy breed thanks to the fact that many unwanted issues have been bred out. However, they are, like every dog, still susceptible to some health problems.

Due to the fact they are a giant breed, the Russian Bear Dog can develop hip dysplasia. This is when the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia.

They can also be prone to cataracts. You might suspect your dog has cataracts if they are constantly bumping into furniture. Cataracts can be cured with surgery.

Regular vet checkups and keeping an eye on your dog will ensure you can catch any of these issues before they become untreatable.

Remember — buy from a reputable breeder and the chances your dog will suffer any health conditions will be greatly reduced.

Caucasian Mountain Dog

Daily Life

Now we understand the traits and characteristics of the Russian Bear Dog, it is time to take a look at what life with one of these dogs is like on a day to day basis. We will cover their food and diet, their exercise needs and their grooming requirements.

Food And Diet

The Russian Bear Dog has, unsurprisingly, quite a big appetite! They require around 20 calories per pound of body weight per day. Of course, you should always double check the back of the food packet to see the exact amount of a certain food you should be feeding your dog based on their weight. You should always be feeding them high-quality food that meets their nutritional requirements.

One thing to remember with the Russian Dog is that, because they are a large breed, they are more prone to bloat which can be dangerous. Smaller, more frequent meals will reduce the risk of bloat. This should be around two meals a day as an adult, and four as a puppy.

It is very important not to overfeed these dogs as puppies. Overfeeding and excessive protein levels during skeletal development can be detrimental. They can also be prone to gain weight, so you should watch out for this and never let them free feed. At the correct weight you shouldn’t be able to see a waist and you should be able to feel but not see their ribs without pressing too hard.

Best Dog Food For The Russian Bear Dog

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Large Breed Dog Food

We recommend the Life Protection Formula for large breeds from Blue Buffalo for your Russian Bear Dog. This food is formulated with protein-rich chicken as the first ingredient, ensuring your doggie gets all the nutrients they need to keep their muscles healthy and strong.

Designed specially for large dog breeds, this food contains glucosamine and chondroitin to help support joint health and overall mobility of bigger dogs. There are also antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to support immune system health, life stage requirements and a healthy oxidative balance. Even better, there are no artificial flavors or preservatives in this recipe, only good, wholesome ingredients that’ll keep your Russian Bear Dog healthy.


The Russian Bear Dog is a large breed and therefore does have somewhat high exercise needs. They are actually described as low energy dogs, but they were bred for their stamina and endurance which can mean that they are excellent hiking buddies. While they are out in public, it is best to keep them on a leash as their size can be intimidating to others.

As an adult, they will require upwards of 60 minutes of exercise a day. However, after this exercise, they are happy to fit in with everyday life and go back to their low energy ways. Remember, they like to wander in large open spaces around the home as you go about your daily life, too.

Because they are a large dog breed, it is very important that you don’t overexercise them when they are young. Exercising too much when they are little can put unnecessary strain on their joints and can cause more problems later on in life.

While they are growing, they should only be exercising for 5 minutes per month of their age. You should also not let them jump in and out of cars or climb the stairs until they are fully matured (2 years old).

Family Compatibility

The Caucasian Shepherd can make an excellent family dog in the right environment. Certainly not for first time owners, this dog needs a family who understands their herding and guarding background and will let them continue with these behaviors. Of course, you can socialize these dogs and teach them not to be as scared of strangers, but they can still be aloof and will want to protect you.

Due to this protective nature, the Russian Bear Dog makes an excellent guard dog. They are very loving towards their family and those who they know and trust, which is why socializing is so important. They are an intelligent dog but training can be a challenge because of their independence, so this is something to note.

When raised with children and other animals, this Russian Bear Dog should have no issue becoming a devoted member of the family. Of course, they are a large dog, so you will need to watch them when they are around very young children!


The Russian Bear Dog can be a little difficult to train because of their independence, but it is not impossible. You will need to use reward based training and positive reinforcement techniques when training these dogs. This includes verbal praise as well as treats.

You should never punish your Caucasian Shepherd, especially as they are already wary of humans. By giving them a treat when they do something good and ignoring negative behavior, they will soon learn that the positive behavior is more beneficial.


We have mentioned above that the Russian Bear Dog can be very aloof with strangers due to their guarding and protective nature. They will want to protect their owners at all times and so socialization from a very young age is imperative if you want your pup to tolerate those who don’t live at the home.

You should introduce them to new sights, sounds, places, smells, people and animals in a safe environment so that they learn there is nothing to be afraid of. They also need to have positive experiences with humans, otherwise it will confirm the idea in their head that all humans are a threat.


The Russian Bear Dog has a thick, double coat that is quite coarse. They do shed a lot, so they are not for those with allergies. This thick coat means that they do need to be brushed often — at least twice a week to prevent matting and tangling of the fur.

They can be taken to the groomers if it is easier for you. The groomers can also help with clipping their nails. You should also try to brush their teeth as often as you can to prevent dental decay and disease.

Russian Bear Dog FAQ’s

How much does a Russian Bear Dog cost?

A Russian Bear Dog can set you back between $1000 and $2000 for a Russian Bear Dog puppy. They are an expensive dog, but this price ensures they are healthy. Remember, always buy from a reputable breeder.

If this is out of your price range, you can always check your local shelter. You may find a dog there that is looking for their forever home!

Is a Russian Bear Dog aggressive?

It is often thought that Russian Bear Dogs are aggressive because of their protective nature. This is not true, however, and when raised in the right environment, they are very sweet dogs. They bond very quickly to their owners and are very loyal, but this does mean they can be aloof with strangers. Proper socialization as a young age will help to fix this.


The Russian Bear Dog is a loyal and protective large breed of dog that can make an excellent family pet. With strong defensive natures passed down from their sheepdog days, these pups can be a little wary of strangers and animals they do not know, but socialization can help. While these are certainly not for first time dog owners, the Russian Bear Dog fits well into an experienced family and is known for being an excellent companion dog and exercise buddy! If you’re thinking about getting another dog, why not make it the Russian Bear Dog?

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