Raising a Karelian Bear Dog | Rover.com

(dog barking) (gentle music) – The name is Nils Pedersen and I’m from Fairbanks, AK. I’m the director of the
Wind River Bear Institute. Karelian Bear dogs are
a hunting breed of dog from eastern Finland and western Russia. These are dogs that are very primitive and used for hunting big game, moose, as well as some lines are known to be able to hunt brown bear, and we’re taking that innate
ability that they have and applying it for conservation, so, for using them both for detection but also for conflict scenarios with large and potentially
dangerous wildlife. – I’m Carrie Hunt and I’m the founder of the Wind River Bear Institute and Wind River Karelian Bear dogs. I’m a bear biologist with a
heart and a specialization in reducing and preventing conflicts between wildlife and humans. Our canine partners are the
Wind River Karelian Bear dogs, this is Akaela, he is my lead dog that I use when I’m working. He’s 13-and-a-half, so he’s beginning to be the mentor and teacher for the younger dogs. But, he’s still the dog
I put my life behind. – You know, you get the question a lot, like, how do the dogs work? How are they used? And the answer is, what do you
want to do with them, right? These dogs are the right dog for the job in particular, because they
work alone or in pairs, generally, so they’re good, kinda, one-handler, one-dog, teams. – And we teach bears how to be wild again when they’ve forgotten how to be wild, and we teach people how to
help theirs remain wild. And this dog is an ambassador
for teaching the public about how to get along better with bears and also teaching bears that they have to move away from humans. – They’re very intelligent dogs, very primitively intelligent dogs. They have strong
self-preservation instincts, they’re not gonna get themselves hurt, not gonna get themselves killed, in a situation like that, these dogs are able to
work with brown bear, grizzly bear, on the ground, which is pretty different than black bears or cougars, for that
matter, that’ll go up trees. So, these dogs have the
drive and the aggression to pursue them. They bark at them, but also to dance with them on the ground and not get themselves hurt. – So, we are pushing the bear out, shepherding the bear out of places with dogs that are dying to be off-leash and actually biting them, and the bear feels that, senses it, these dogs mean business. But we really are often
letting the dogs loose, we push the bear and that way the bear has the chance to do the right thing, which is to leave. We’ll hit the bear with rubber bullets, bean-bag grounds, that’s the bite. We don’t ask our dogs to bite the bear, we don’t want wounds, and honestly, over the
past 25 years of work where we do about 800
bear-shepherding actions annually, we’ve never had a bear hurt, never had a dog hurt, and never had a person hurt. – But the other reason
why we’re using these dogs in particular is that,
the third point there is that we can use them as
a non-lethal last resort. So, if we do have aggression out of bears, which we pretty much never do, we can always turn the
dogs loose on the bear. The dogs will, you know,
the Karelian Bear dog wants to bay the bear for you, is what they wanna do, which is to say that they wanna hold it. But they’ll also draw it away from you, so, rather than escalating the situation they’ll de-escalate it, so we will not have to use lethal force, in other words, in a
conflict-aggressive situation. – So, we take them from
what you saw today, teaching them, “come!” with treats, through this battery of experiences, where they learn to go through culverts, they love it because it’s fun. Learn to go in water, do you like water, Oh, this is interesting,
this dog doesn’t like water, this dog does, and that sticks with them pretty much their whole life. Which dogs want to deal with carcasses, big bear mouths, do they turn and run, do they stay? So, we go through all of
that, choose which dogs are going to do the bear work. And then comes the best part, we match them to these owners that are working within agencies, and that’s where we’re at in this time in Wind River’s history. We will then help those folks through the lifetime of that dog
as they run into problems that they don’t understand how to resolve with, say, some part of
the training of the dog. Well, we’ll do everything
we can to even get out there and do it with them. – And, so, we encourage people, as much as these are our family members, to think of these dogs as kinda like tools in the management toolbox. So, its like, what do
you need to do today? How can the dog be used for that? In some cases it won’t be
appropriate to use the dog, but in many cases, it is. They’re a very versatile tool, and I think, kind of as a goal of ours, since we’ve been doing this since 1996, the past 24 or 25 years of work we’re looking to expand our programs, have the use of these dogs be something that people understand, what the application is, how to do it. Develop the techniques, train people so that they can be empowered, locally, with the right tools and techniques to reduce human-wildlife conflict. – If an agency wants to buy the dog, that dog is still only, under contract, allowed to be with a lifetime handler. We want the dogs, and the men or women, to know that is their dog. So that the love is there. It’s a process, but it’s a great, fun, rewarding process, and all of us in over the world, from Japan, to Canada, to the U.S., that have dogs from our program are related by KBD.

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