The black Russian terrier (BRT), once used to guard grassland regions of Siberia, is a hardy noble giant of a dog. With a square, almost brick-shaped head similar to a giant schnauzer, these are imposing canines built for the elements with shaggy jet black and sometimes blue fur. These dogs were bred to guard and protect.
Like most working dogs, this breed needs mental stimulation — even a job — and is consequently easier to train. Despite being large dogs, they can be surprisingly agile and can be found participating in obedience, agility, and rally events. However, thanks to an interesting history, their dominant personality doesn't make them ideal for inexperienced dog owners.
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Black Russian terrier history
In the late 1940s under the leadership of Colonel G. Medvedev of the Central Military School of Working Dogs at the Red Star Kennel, the breed was developed in the then USSR (now Russia, thus the dog's name). The intention was to create a breed of super dogs tough enough to serve Stalin's Soviet Union Army and patrol the country's borders. Gradually, the black Russian terrier spread to the Baltic Countries, Ukraine, and Siberia.
As this purebred dog grew in popularity, they spread further abroad to Finland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia and eventually to the United States, where this dog breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 2004 in the working group. The black Russian terrier has impressive strength and endurance — in fact, a noticeable self-assurance is a breed standard. The head must be in proportion to the body to create the appearance of power and strength.
Black Russian terrier characteristics
Black Russian terriers, also called chorny terriers, are formidable dogs with an unmistakable presence thanks to their size. They can weigh as much as 140 pounds. Males stand as high as 30 inches at the shoulder, with females being 26 to 29 inches. Their life span is 10 to 12 years. The black Russian terrier has a mix of Rottweiler, Airedale terrier, and giant schnauzer in his lineage.
These large dogs have a thick, completely black double coat, which is why they survived as military dogs in some of the coldest places on Earth, like the former Soviet Union. Large-boned and well-muscled, black Russian terriers are equipped with a physique that is ideal for performing their traditional duties as reliable guard dogs and military dogs.
Black Russian terrier temperament & training
Black Russian terriers are not known to be instantly friendly. These large dogs can be reserved with strangers yet very attached to and protective of their family. While breed is not always a reliable indicator of personality, their temperament is considered to be calm, confident, powerful, and courageous. Typical of their character, black Russian terriers are moderately active and bark only when necessary.
Black Russian terriers are generally fast learners but are known to be stubborn by nature. This dog breed is often described as being territorial, as they have been bred to protect, so they often guard their yard and people. However, with training, they can be very affectionate and sociable dogs who want to be around their people, including kids.
However, size is an issue, and they should be introduced to children slowly and should be carefully monitored. Like other large dogs, black Russian terriers benefit from early positive reinforcement training. In fact, obedience training is imperative for this breed.
Black Russian terrier grooming
Although the black Russian Terrier is a double-coated dog who sheds, they still require grooming and some upkeep thanks to their distinctive schnauzerlike face. The characteristic beard and mustache needs regular scissoring, preferably by a professional groomer. The terrier's thick black coat has a soft undercoat covered by a coarser protective coat. Regular brushing to avoid matting is a good idea.
Like all dogs, BRTs need regular nail trims to avoid health issues associated with walking incorrectly on their paws. Regular nail trims also help if the BRT suffers from hip dysplasia.
Black Russian terrier exercise & health
Generally a healthy dog, the black Russian terrier can have some health issues. Specifically, the Black Russian terrier can suffer from hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia like many other big dogs. Also, some BRTs tend to have excess inner ear hair, which can lead to infection if not trimmed or cleaned regularly.
Otherwise, there are no health problems specifically linked to this breed. A black Russian terrier is not the highest-energy dog but does require at least 40 minutes of exercise per day. Destructive tendencies can result when these dogs don't get enough exercise or are separated from their people for too long.
Black Russian terrier puppies
Similar to other dog breeds bred to perform protective duties, black Russian terrier puppies require early training and socialization. Litter sizes vary from six to 12 puppies. Because they are not a common breed, black Russian terrier puppies tend to be more expensive than other dog breeds.
In North America, both the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club can be a source for finding purebred dogs from reputable breeders.