Black Russian Terrier – Complete Breed Info

Black Russian Terriers are graceful dogs with an interesting history. They were bred to be working dogs that would protect Russian borders from intruders alongside their soldiers. However, when the need for working dogs decreased, the Army decided to sell Black Russian Terrier puppies to public. And that's how this elegant breed gradually became more and more popular throughout Russia and the rest of the world.

Black Russian Terriers are strong, confident dogs with an ability to endure strenuous activities in the cold Russian winters. They were primarly bred to be working dogs that could be great companions to Soviet Army soldiers in their missions and tasks. However, today they make loving dogs that are a great choice for families with kids.

This graceful dog won’t only be a great guard dog for your home, but he will also love spending time with you and your family members. If you’re thinking about getting one for yourself, it might be wise to learn more about this breed in order to be sure if you’re the right match for him. Read more and discover all you need to know on this special breed.

Quick Facts

Real name: Black Russian Terrier
Other names: Blackie
Origin: Russia
Weight: 36-59 kg (79-130 lb) – female, 45-68 kg (99-150 lb) – male
Height: 64-70 cm (25-27 in) – female, 66-72 cm (26-28 in) – male
Color: Black
Coat: Medium-Long Length Double coat

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History

This graceful breed was created for the purposes of the Soviet Army scientists during the Cold War. They were looking for the perfect working dog that could endure harsh Russian winters, and be reliable enough to patrol the borders with soldiers.

The breeding of Black Russian Terrier started in the Red Star Kennel, that was the kennel established under the Red Army and had all the support in resources of the government. However, the idea of creating a dog breed that would fit their needs perfectly came in a somewhat difficult situation. The breeders at that time didn’t have much homebred stock available at the time due to economic difficulties that came after the Russian Revolution and the World War II.

Since they were trying to develop a dog who could run long fence lines, chase and stop intruders they needed to cross a number of dog breeds that had the traits they were looking for. So, they started crossing Airedales, Giant Schnauzers, and Rottweilers, but there seem to be 17 different breeds in the gene pool of Black Russian Terrier. Namely, Great Danes, and Ovcharka dogs were used in the crossing as well.

The result of the crossbreeding was a dog that could work alongside soldiers at rail crossings, prisons and gulags. However, when gulags started shutting down in the 1950s, there were more dogs in the Army than necessary, so the Army decided to sell puppies to the public. However, since the first version of the breed they obtained was a perfect working dog, and not an entirely appropriate dog for families, they decided to cross it with Newfoundlands in order to add stability to the general traits of the breed.

And that’s how in 1958, Soviet Army created the first breed standard for this breed. The Black Russian Terrier’s fame slowly increased because of its numerous desirable traits. For instance, they were good guard dogs, enduring companions for all sorts of outdoor activities, and sociable and affectionate friends to their owners and their children. And above all, they had an elegant appearance with a graceful poise.

This stunning breed came to the United States between 1989 and 1990 when an immigrant Russian couple started a Black Russian Terrier kennel in Mississippi.

Physical Appearance

Black Russian Terriers are strong, large-sized dogs whose weight ranges between 80 and 140 pounds. The average height of a Russian Blackie is the one of 29 inches, males reaching 27 to 30 inches of height, and females reaching 26 to 29 inches.

Their coat comes in all black color which can sometimes also have some scattered gray hairs. Black Russian Terriers have a double coat with a coarse outer layer of hair and a softer undercoat. The texture of the coat is hard and dense. A Black Russian Terrier’s hair should be regularly trimmed to 2-6 inches in length. Their coat also forms a beard and bushy eyebrows on the face, as well as a particular mane around the withers.

Although they are not considered as a hypoallergenic breed, these dogs have a coat of low-shedding properties that enables an easier maintenance around the dog and inside the home as well.

Personality

When it comes to personality of Black Russian Terriers, they seem to excel in all important areas. They are outstandingly stable, confident, and calm. Being bred by the army, they are made to be loyal, obedient companions, that will effectively protect their home and family. The calm endeavor this breed has is due to Newfoundland breed genes, that counterbalanced the other parent breeds’ more dominant features.

The addition of the Newfoundland dogs into the gene pool of Black Russian Terriers, made this breed the epitome of tranquility.

Since Black Russian Terriers were used in many Soviet Army activities, it is quite obvious that this breed is highly intelligent and quite easy to train. They grow to be well-behaved dogs when socialized and trained early, and they prefer a rather firm direction and good leadership from their owner. Although they are made to handle well harsh winters, they prefer to live indoors with the family.

When they are not given enough attention and security they can become reserved towards their family members. However, if a Black Russian Terrier puppy is socialized on time and given a good guidance from the beginning, they tend to be highly sociable creatures that will enjoy human interaction and playing with children.

A proper socialization of every young dog should include exposure to different people and dogs, sounds, surroundings and experiences, and it’s no different for Black Russian Terriers either. Involve your Blackie in your outdoor activities, make sure you keep him safe and secure by preventing any traumas from happening that could lead to fear-induced behavioral issues.

Grooming

The non-shedding type of coat Black Russian Terriers have has its advantages and disadvantages. The biggest advantage would be that you won’t have to deal with a lot of shed hair in your home, but it comes at a price. In order to maintain their coat to be shiny and healthy, they need to be brushed regularly.

A Black Russian Terrier should be brushed at least once a week with appropriate brushes. It is important to choose correct grooming tools for your dog, because not all brushes are equally efficient with different coat types. Therefore, to keep your Black Russian Terrier well-groomed, you will need a slicker brush, an undercoat rake, and a stripping comb.

When not brushed on a regular basis, dogs with non-shedding coat can have mats and little clumps of hair that won’t be easy to brush off. Matting doesn’t only look bad on a dog, but it could also lead to health problems. Because clumps of hair will collect dust and debris through time, it could result in a skin infection under the matted hair which will cause your dog’s skin to itch excessively and can potentially lead to open wounds due to intensified scratching of the affected area.

Their coat needs to be trimmed occasionally, every 4-5 months. Their eyebrows, mustache and beard shouldn’t be trimmed.

When groomed according to their needs, Blackies don’t need to be bathed a lot. However, if your Black Russian Terrier gets dirty, that will be a sure call for a good bath. Make sure you also find an appropriate dog shampoo for your dog’s coat type, or make a homemade dog shampoo yourself.

If your dog has enough of outdoor activity, his nails will wear down naturally and won’t require frequent trimming. However, if that’s not the case, remember to trim his nails at least once or twice a month. Not trimming nails can lead to other problems that include pain, but do not do it by your own the first time you have to trim your dog’s nails. If done incorrectly, you could end up injuring your dog. Therefore, ask your vet or dog groomer to show you how it’s done properly and be very careful to remember all the instructions.

What’s equally important in keeping your Blackie healthy is to brush their teeth at least two to three times a week and clean their ears from time to time.

Exercise

Being primarily bred as a working dog, Black Russian Terriers can endure long, straining activities. They are not used as working dogs anymore, but their requirements for exercise are nearly the same as before. Therefore, dedicating a significant amount of hours to exercising your Blackie will be a duty of every responsible owner. When not exercised enough, and not given enough time “to let them be dogs”, in words of Dr Nicholas Dodman, dogs tend to develop some forms of behavioral issues such as aggression, anxiety, depression.

Not only, but these dogs also need enough daily mental stimulation. Enough exercise will definitely provide a good source of mental engagement for your dog, but it is always wise to know some other ways of making your dog’s brain stay active (which also help your dog stay calm). So, make sure you provide your Black Russian Terrier with enough toys, including chewing toys, interactive toys, etc. It will also help if you introduce some games that you will be able to play with your dog, such as fetch, disc games and so on.

However, there is one thing that you should be aware of when raising a Black Russian Terrier puppy. Puppies of large-sized dog breeds shouldn’t be exercised too much or forced to run a lot on concrete, because too much exercise might affect their still-developing skeletal system. So keep your Blackie puppy running on grass or on other softer surfaces until he’s 12 to 18 months old.

Training

Training a Black Russian Terrier shouldn’t be a hard task to do. Don’t assume that because they are bred for the Army that they need a strict approach to training. They respond best to a positive reinforcement approach, but the owner of a Black Russian Terrier should have a firm hand that will clearly show which rules have to be respected in the house. Show him that you’re in charge, be a good leader and praise him with treats whenever he’s been a good boy.

Feeding

The amount of food a Black Russian Terrier has to eat throughout the day depends on several different factors. Puppies and adult dogs don’t have to be fed the same amount or the same type of food because of the nutritional requirements they have at the specific age. Also, if your dog is more active he will need more food than a dog that has a slow paced life.

However, the recommended daily amount of dog food for Black Russian Terriers is from 3 to 4.5 cups divided into two meals. Some owners prefer their dogs to have a raw diet, while others stick to the dry dog food and include some vegetable or fruit treats that are safe to share with canines.

Dogs love to eat, and there are not many situations in which a dog will refuse to eat what you’re offering to him. But it is important not to exaggerate with feeding portions because dogs can easily become overweight which can lead to further health issues.

Health

Black Russian Terriers are a general healthy breed, but just like other dog breeds, they might be more susceptible to certain health conditions. Being more prone to these issues doesn’t mean that your Blackie will develop it trought time, but it will definitely be wise to monitor your dog regularly for any potential signs of these conditions.

The most common conditions seen in Black Russian Terriers are:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease
  • Thrombopathia

Bear in mind that breeding is an exceptionally important factor that determines a puppy’s future health. So, when you’re contacting a breeder, ask for the medical health record of both parents, and ask to see the mother. Usually, when both parents are healthy, the litter has small chances of inheriting some of the genetic disorders.

Make sure you bring your Blackie to the vet for regular check-ups, and you will be able to recognize potential problems on time and prevent and treat them accordingly, protecting your dog’s health and overall well-being.