Developed by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in the 1930’s, the Black Russian Terrier is a fairly new breed in the long history of dogs. Known by many names throughout its short history, the Black Russian Terrier has been called the BRT, Sobaka Stalina (Stalin’s Dog), Black Terrier, Chornyi, Russian Bear Schnauzer, Tchiorny Terrier, and the Terrier Noir Russe. Although most often referred to as a Terrier, the breed is not always true to the Terrier type; it is suggested that as many as twenty different dog breeds were used in the development of the Black Russian Terrier. Therefore, the Black Russian Terrier, although a newly developed type, claims lineage to such ancient breeds as the Eastern European Shepherds, the Airedale Terrier, the Giant Schnauzer, and the Moscow Water Dog (now extinct), just to name a few. Although the future for the Black Russian Terrier breed may now look promising, its creation did not occur under such optimistic circumstances.
In the early part of the 20th century, following the Russian Revolution, the future of many purebred native dogs in Russia was bleak. Many Russian breeds had been slaughtered during the revolt, and many more would die during World War I (WWI). The USSR had been devastated by these conflicts, and many suffered including the native dogs of this region. It is well documented, that after WWI the extinction of all purebred Russian dogs was forthcoming. In 1924, in order to prevent such a tragic outcome for the native breeds, the Russian Military Council decreed that every department in their military would now include dogs and dog trainers among their soldiers and security forces.
As a result of the edict set forth by the Russian Military Council, a school was created to train these new canine soldiers. This school developed training facilities, including military and sports departments, as well as laboratories to prepare and train the dogs for military service, and to successfully carry out their objectives as guard dogs, attack dogs, and even mine dogs. These canine soldiers would prove useful to the Russian Red Army, during World War II (WWII). Many dogs would lose their lives fiercely defending their homeland from the Nazis. Replacement dogs would be required by the Red Army after the loss of so many of its canine soldiers. Realizing their value, the Red Army decided to develop a dog breed specific to the needs of the military. The new breed would fulfill the various jobs that had previously been performed by canine soldiers, as well as be developed further to address the specific needs of the military.
At this time, the Red Army controlled The Central Military School of Working Dogs, also known as the “Red Star” kennel; a state owned dog training school which was the only facility capable of taking on such a large-scale breeding program. Colonel G. Medvedev was commissioned, in the 1950’s, to direct this new breeding campaign for the Red Star Kennel. As the objective was to develop a completely new type of dog, bred to meet the specific needs of the Red Army, the standards were quite precise. The army desired a large dog that could perform guard-dog and watchdog duties. The breed would need to be aggressive, as well as being capable of withstanding the harsh and ever changing climate of Russia. The new breed would also need to be highly trainable, as the dogs would be tasked with working alongside police and border units, as well as being required to guard facilities like prison camps, military installations, and other important sites. Therefore, these dogs needed to work well with the soldiers and be easy to handle in order to successfully assist in their guard duties.
The result of this breeding campaign by the Red Star Kennel would be the creation of the Black Russian Terrier. As previously mentioned, there were many breeds that went into the development of this new dog. The first generation of cross-breeding included several important breeds, with the goal being to develop a “war dog” that was large and strong, with an unassuming but aggressive nature that could be trained with ease. The most influential members of the Black Russian Terrier’s lineage would be those breeds that brought specifically useful physical and temperamental qualities. At this time, little concern was paid to appearance apart from size and weatherproofing the coat for climate concerns. With these precise needs in mind, the Giant Schnauzer would have a significant influence on the Black Russian Terrier breed. The Giant Schnauzer was known for its large size, dominant personality, intelligence, and trainability. The Airedale Terrier was another breed that had a strong influence on the Black Russian Terrier’s development. Valued as a confident, courageous, and fearless dog, the Airedale Terrier possessed much desired characteristics in a military breed. The Rottweiler was also used in the development of the Black Russian Terrier, because of its nature as a large, self-assured breed and a competent guard dog.
The focus of the Red Star Kennel’s breeding program was to develop consistent behavior and temperament, while maintaining good working ability. Therefore, these initial breeding efforts would produce some physical faults in the early Black Russian Terrier breed. Characteristics like a short coat, imperfections of the teeth, testicles that did not descend, and spots were seen in the early specimens and were deemed undesirable in the breed standard that the Red Army was looking for. Experimentation with the breeding of the Black Russian Terrier continued until 1955, when the Red Star Kennel first showed the Black Russian Terrier at the National Agricultural Exhibition; after which refining of the breed would of course continue.
In 1957, the Black Russian Terrier would cease to be a state-controlled and specifically military breed. The Red Star Kennel began to sell second and third generation Black Russian Terrier puppies to private breeders in this same year. Breed fanciers and hobby breeders were now able to obtain specimens of this newly fashioned native breed. As these new breeders began to develop their own lines of Black Russian Terriers, the breed stock became more varied. The Russian military continued to work on the Black Russian Terrier throughout the Soviet Union and the Bloc countries, however, through the efforts of the public breeders, the Black Russian Terrier began to spread to countries like the Ukraine, Siberia, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Baltic countries, Finland, and even as far west as the United States.
In 1958, the first breed standard for the Black Russian Terrier was published in “Regulations and Requirements for Training and Usage of Military Dogs”. After this official standard was made known, breeders attempted to further refine and standardize the appearance of the many diverse lines of Black Russian Terriers that had been developed. Over time, and due to the differing breeding lines of the Black Russian Terrier, two distinct types occurred within the breed; one a short haired dog, the other a long haired type. No preference was made in the coat length as long as the desired working qualities were present and consistent.
From 1957 to 1979, Red Star Kennel continued to breed Black Russian Terriers, and to experiment with their development, until finally, in 1979, the kennel approved a standard for the breed. By the time that standard was approved by the Red Star Kennel, 800 litters of Black Russian Terriers had already produced 4000 members of the breed that conformed to this standard. In 1981, the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture accepted the breed standard and officially recognized the Black Russian Terrier as a unique and specific breed. In 1983, the Black Russian Terrier (or Black Terrier as it was known at the time) was further recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). In 1992, the Black Terrier was officially renamed the Black Russian Terrier. The breed is also listed with the Canadian Kennel Club, but as of yet has not been fully recognized with them.
The breed has taken hold in America as well. The Black Russian Terrier Club of America (BRTCA) was formed in 1993 to promote the breed. They are currently listed as the parent club for the breed with the American Kennel Club (AKC). The AKC finally admitted the Black Russian Terrier to the Miscellaneous Group in 2001. The Black Russian Terrier was allowed full breed status and recognition as with the AKC in 2004 as a member of the ‘Working Group’. The Black Russian Terrier was placed in the Working Group as opposed to the Terrier Group by the AKC due to the fact that its size and structure are inconsistent with the typical Terrier type. Although the Black Russian Terrier has had a successful history since its original inception not so many years ago, it still remains a relatively rare breed of dog, that is not often seen outside its homeland of Russia. AKC registration statistics for 2010 place the Black Russian Terrier in 135th position out of 167 total breeds in total number of dogs registered that year.
Bred to work in the Russian military, the Black Russian Terrier is large, athletic, powerful, and robust. It should always appear strong and rustic, with well developed muscles. The male dogs should be larger and more masculine in appearance than their female counterparts. Males stand at 27 to 30 inches at the withers and weigh roughly 110 to 132 lbs. with females standing 26 to 28 inches and weigh 99 to 110 lbs. The Black Russian Terrier breed should be proportionate, but be faintly longer than it is tall. The Black Russian Terrier should have large bones and substantial structure.
The Head is proportionate to the body and is roughly the same length as the neck. The skull is slightly wide and flat at the back, with rounded cheekbones. The occipitals bones are slightly expressed, with a moderate stop. The medium sized ears are triangle in shape and sit high on the skull. The ears hang close to the head and stop at the middle of the cheek. The oval eyes of the Black Russian Terrier are medium in size and always dark in color, with tight black rims. The broad muzzle tapers moderately toward the tip of the nose, which is large and black. A mustache and beard are present adding volume and giving the muzzle a squared appearance. The lips are tight, black, and thick. The teeth of the Black Russian Terrier are large and white, displaying a scissors bite with incisors straight at the base.
The impression given by the body should be one of power and strength. Set at a 45 degree angle with the back, the neck of the Black Russian Terrier is thick and muscular. It leads into broad and sloping shoulders with straight forelegs that are strong and well-muscled. The elbows are close to the body. The Black Russian Terrier has a deep, oval shaped chest, with a pronounced front chest. The withers slope slightly into a straight back. The abdomen is tucked up and tight. The slightly arched loin is strong and wide. Set just wider than the front legs, the back legs are straight with muscular, with thick thighs. The tail may be docked or natural. When left natural it resembles a saber in shape. The feet on both the front and hind legs are large and round; dense with black nails. Dewclaws should be removed.
The Black Russian Terrier is only allowed to display a solid black coat, with some scattering of gray hairs being accepted. The breed sports a double coat, making it weather resistant. The undercoat of the Black Russian Terrier is soft and gives way to an outer coat comprised of longer, harsh guard hairs. The coat should not be wiry or curly, but should be slightly wavy in texture. A moustache and beard occur in the breed, as well as longer hair that cascades over the eyes. A long dense coat is present on the legs. For show purposes, the Black Russian Terrier’s coat should be trimmed and clipped in order to display its shape and structure definitively.
Due to its breeding as a police and military dog, the Black Russian Terrier has a natural instinct to guard and protect its “pack” and its property. Many guard dogs will take an offensive approach and aggressively strike out at intruders. The Black Russian Terrier does not; their defensive strategy has been compared to that of the Colonial Minutemen, in that both the soldiers and the Black Russian Terrier use defensive protection techniques. Instead of seeking out the offender, the Black Russian Terrier will wait for the perpetrator to come within a few feet and then attack. The breed is quick to protect its home and family, and just the size and appearance of the Black Russian Terrier may deter anyone from approaching you or your yard and property. The Black Russian Terrier will become defensive when it believes that danger is eminent, but will quickly relax once the threat has passed.
Taught early in the breed’s history to bond closely with its master, the Black Russian Terrier is intensely loyal. The breed will seek out people and other animals to form close relationships with. The Black Russian Terrier has a strong desire to be with people and therefore should never be left in a kennel or fenced in a backyard alone. When left on its own for long periods of time, the Black Russian Terrier may become defensive and protective of its perceived territory, guarding it fiercely even from its owner. Because of the Black Russian Terrier’s highly protective nature, it will warn you of any unusual activities in the area, but generally the breed is soft-spoken and will only bark when necessary. Although the breed does not make a habit of uncontrolled barking, it is still recommended that the Black Russian Terrier be taught a stop bark command. While the Black Russian Terrier is known to be easily trainable, you may find the breed quite difficult to retrain, therefore any bad behavior should be addressed immediately and early on in the dog’s training in order to prevent it from becoming a habit.
The Black Russian Terrier, despite its size and strength, is known to be the easiest of the Terrier breeds to train. Intelligent and reliable, they are eager to please and when properly trained, they are consistent in temperament and behavior. Black Russian Terrier pups exhibit the breed’s inherent intelligence even at their young age. They are quick to learn, adaptive, and playful. Black Russian Terrier pups are very curious little creatures, supervision is therefore recommended at this early stage in their development as they will poke their little noses into just about anything while exploring. The breed is a quick study and will learn from other pets in the household as well. The Black Russian Terrier is easily housebroken, especially if bunking with a dog that has already learned this lesson. As pups, the Black Russian Terrier should be treated firmly; precise training is necessary for the dog to understand boundaries and proper behavior so as to prevent their mutiny of the home in adulthood. It is also advisable that an owner does not get into the habit of allowing the Black Russian Terrier pup to sleep in bed with them, as they develop habits early on and will still desire to continue to sleep in bed with you as a large adult dog.
When training the Black Russian Terrier breed, firmness, fairness, and consistency are absolutely necessary. The breed should never be treated harshly when being trained. The Black Russian Terrier loves people and therefore will bond quickly and firmly to its owner. The breed has a strong desire to please and when treated fairly, you will find the dog to be a willing and able pupil. The breed learns quickly and can form bad habits if allowed to act poorly as a pup, early training is recommended for the Black Russian Terrier. During training, constant supervision and leadership are necessary to ensure that the dog develops into a confident and obedient member of your household.
Due to the Black Russian Terrier’s specific breeding, it is highly intelligent, with an excellent memory which allows the breed to absorb ad retain commands and training quickly. The Black Russian Terrier excels at obedience and agility trials, as well as being a superb jumper. Once a Black Russian Terrier has mastered the basics of obedience training, it is suggested that the dog be graduated to advances obedience and agility training. Obedience and agility training help to establish “pack order” in the mind of the Black Russian Terrier, and assists in establishing leadership so the dog will properly understand its place among its human companions. The breed can display dominance and this advanced training and the establishment of leadership from puppyhood will prevent the dog from displaying this dominant behavior.
The Black Russian Terrier thrives on its close relationships with its family members, and consistent close contact with its human companions will bring out the best in this breed. As puppies and even as adults, the Black Russian Terrier adores children. It is an excited and enthusiastic playmate. Females of the breed are known to bond very strongly with children. The Black Russian Terrier is a large dog, but with a strong and balanced temperament making the breed extremely patient with children. Often the Black Russian Terrier will allow the children in its family to climb on it and play rough without any defensive behavior. The Black Russian Terrier is not only patient, but gentle and understanding of small children, often tolerating ear and tail pulls from them. The breed has great endurance and will regularly play for long stretches of time with older children engaged in outdoor fun. The Black Russian Terrier has been known to sleep inside the bedroom of the children in its home, or just outside their doors, acting as a guardian and watchdog.
An active breed, the Black Russian Terrier requires at least one thirty minute walk a day. Although happy to snuggle on the couch with its family, the Black Russian Terrier does require some exercise daily to keep it physically and mentally stimulated. Because of the breed’s strong desire for human companionship and its training as a military guard-dog any exercise that it participates in should be interactive with its human companions. Walks, hikes, and playing ball with the Black Russian Terrier will easily meet the dog’s exercise requirements. Activities should always include people in order to retain the interest of the dog. It is always recommended that a dog be walked on a leash, however this is one breed for which that rule is somewhat lenient. The Black Russian Terrier is unlikely to run off in pursuit of something, however the dog is a very large breed and strangers may be put off when seeing such a large dog off a leash.
The Black Russian Terrier was trained to guard; therefore it is always on the look-out and has a natural tendency towards suspicion as well as being aloof with strangers. Early exposure to new people, new places, new experiences, and other animals will assist in the dog’s progress toward becoming a well-adjusted adult. With proper training, the Black Russian Terrier will not be overly protective or unnecessarily suspicious of strangers. The Black Russian Terrier’s nature when threatened is to wait until the offender is close and then quickly strike without warning; this should never be forgotten. The breed’s tendency toward this type of defensive behavior makes proper socialization extremely important for the Black Russian Terrier. When correctly trained, the Black Russian Terrier will be docile and considerate of most other animals. The breed gets along well with other pets in the home such as cats or smaller dogs. Male Black Russian Terriers may try to dominate other unneutered male dogs in the home, but generally the breed is a well behaved and respectful housemate to people and other animals.
As with many breeds, the Black Russian Terrier will have its faults. The breed can develop separation anxiety fairly quickly, leading to destructive or nuisance behaviors. Also the dog can be a messy drinker due to its beard and can leave little water puddles around the home. The Black Russian Terrier is notorious for being an extremely loud snorer as well.
The Black Russian Terrier breed is rare, but if you can find one, the dog is an ideal family pet. It is a loyal companion that is eager to please, protective of its family and home, reliable, consistent, even-tempered, behaves well with other animals and children, and does not require much exercise to maintain its physical and mental well-being. The Black Russian Terrier is an adaptable breed; it adjusts well to its surroundings making it able to live happily in a large house, or an apartment. A well trained and properly adjusted Black Russian Terrier is a joy to own.
The dense coat of the Black Russian Terrier does not shed much but it is rather long, therefore it should be brushed twice a week to ensure that it stays clean and does not get tangled. A coat conditioner can be used to assist in removing any knots that may have formed. Trimming of the coat of the Black Russian Terrier will only be required about two or three times a year. Stripping the coat of a Black Russian Terrier is also a grooming option. The Black Russian Terrier should be bathed only occasionally, and as needed to prevent the waterproofing of its coat from being damaged. Professional grooming may be needed for dog show purposes as there are several intricate grooming styles in which the Black Russian Terrier may be shown.
As with most dog breeds, there are other grooming requirements to maintain the health of the dog. These include trimming the dog’s toenails and the hair between the pads of its feet, as well as cleaning the ears and teeth, and checking them regularly to detect and prevent infection or disease.
The Black Russian Terrier is a generally healthy and robust breed, living an average of 10 to 14 years. As with many other breeds, the Black Russian Terrier does have some hereditary health concerns found commonly among members of the breed. The most commonly occurring conditions found in Black Russian Terriers are Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) and Elbow Dysplasia. These are conditions seen often in larger dog breeds. Hip and elbow dysplasia is a developmental condition in which abnormal cartilage or bone growth may occur in the hip and elbow joints causing pain in the effected individual, even in some cases making it difficult for the dog to walk.
Other less common health concerns seen in the Black Russian Terrier are: