The dog-human hunting team goes back centuries and has its roots, not only in hunting animals to use as food, but in hunting predators to protect settlements and livestock. Certain kinds of dogs are more useful for performing certain types of hunting jobs. The seemingly obvious answer to the question, “What kind of dog do you use to hunt bears?” is: a big one!
Many different kinds of dogs have been, and are currently used in different parts of the world to hunt bears. In the Canadian Arctic, Inuit have used Canadian Eskimo Dogs to hunt polar bear, hounds have been used in the southern US, the Great Pyrenees has been used in Europe, the Komodor in Spain, and the Akbash in Turkey. Karelian Bear Dogs, originally developed in Finland for bear hunting, are widely used in North America now. These dogs are adapted to their environments and possess physical strength, stamina, and scenting ability. Bears are difficult game to hunt due to their size and aggressiveness. Because bears have a tendency to encroach on human habitations where they can develop a taste for human food, mainly garbage, or livestock, they can easily become a dangerous nuisance. When this occurs, a problem bear may need to be destroyed or relocated, and hunting with dogs may be a useful way to locate and tree or hold a bear until handlers can reach the animal.
In the US, a pack of at least 6 dogs is required to hunt bear. Having this number of dogs allows the pack to overwhelm the bear, resulting in the bear retreating and usually going up a tree, where hunters can then shoot or tranquilize the bear. Smaller numbers of dogs would be in danger of being attacked and injured by the bear. Even with a large number of dogs, attack and injury by a frightened, angry bear are possible. Packs of bear hunting dogs locate bear scent, and then follow it to locate the bear, chase, and hound the bear until the animal is cornered or retreats up a tree. Dogs then stand their ground, and bark to notify handlers of their location. Handles must then be able to call the dogs off and have dogs respond so that hunters can shoot or tranquilize the bear.
Dogs being used for bear hunting should have excellent obedience and off-leash recall, so that they can be directed during tracking and called off once the bear is located and treed. Bear hunting dogs need to be comfortable being transported in off-road vehicles, usually in kennels, familiar with guns, and able to navigate a variety of wilderness terrain. They will need to be in top physical condition, with no health or orthopedic issues, in order to have the strength and stamina to hunt bears. Dogs used for hunting out in the wild are usually fitted with tracking collars so they can be located if they become separated. Different states have different regulations on hunting bears, and possibly additional training seasons where bears can be chased and then just be let go--check for regulations in your area. A pack of 6 dogs is generally required for hunting bear by law.