Black Russian Terrier

Gina Phillips, DVM
By Gina Phillips, DVM on Jan. 26, 2024
large black russian terrier profile standing outside

In This Article

General Care

Originally developed in Russia during the late 1940s and 1950s, the Black Russian Terrier is a massive dog breed created to be a versatile working dog. The breed was developed through crossing several large dog breeds, including the Rottweiler, Giant Schnauzer, Airedale Terrier, and Newfoundland, among others. The goal was to create a robust and intelligent dog capable of performing a wide range of tasks.

The Black Russian Terrier’s size is, perhaps, what the breed is best known for. They typically stand 26–30 inches at the shoulder and weigh 80–130 pounds. Despite the name, this breed is not a true terrier—instead, Black Russian Terriers are members of the working group.

Caring for a Black Russian Terrier

The Black Russian Terrier is known for a calm and confident temperament. While they may be aloof with strangers, Black Russian Terriers are typically devoted to their families and can form strong bonds with their humans. Early and consistent socialization is important for this breed to be comfortable around new people, animals, and situations.

While not a hyperactive dog, Black Russian Terriers do require regular exercise, like long walks and interactive playtime to keep them mentally stimulated and physically fit. 

Grooming a Black Russian Terrier can be a significant commitment due to their dense double coat. Regular brushing is necessary to prevent matting and to keep their coat healthy. Additionally, they require periodic grooming sessions, including trimming around the ears, beard, and paws. Despite all that fur, the breed does not shed excessively.

Black Russian Terrier Health Issues

In general, the Black Russian Terrier is a healthy and robust dog. But like many large dog breeds, they may be predisposed to certain health conditions such as hip dysplasia and heart issues. Their lifespan is typically 10–12 years, about average for dogs their size.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are common orthopedic conditions in large breeds. They both occur when the joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and discomfort. While hip and elbow dysplasia have a genetic component, factors like diet and exercise also play a role.

Maintaining a healthy weight, providing joint supplements, and getting regular exercise can help manage symptoms.

Bloat and Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)

Gastric dilatation-volvulus is a serious and potentially life-threatening form of bloat in dogs where the stomach fills with gas and twists. It is more common in deep-chested breeds like the Black Russian Terrier.

Emergency veterinary care is needed if you notice symptoms of bloat and/or GDV in your dog, including:

  • Retching without producing anything

  • Pacing/inability to get comfortable

  • Distended stomach

  • Excessive drooling

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Black Russian Terriers may be prone to progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), in which the retina breaks down. This can lead to a decline in vision and eventually blindness. There is no cure.

Hyperuricosuria

Black Russian Terriers can develop hyperuricosuria, a condition in which uric acid accumulates in urine; this can lead to crystals or stones forming in the bladder and cause inflammation or a urinary blockage. Pet parents may notice their dog straining to urinate or having frequent urination, and the urine may be noticeably blood-tinged. The bladder wall will become very thick as well.

A prescription diet and medication can help with this condition. But if your dog develops urinary stones, surgery may be needed.

What To Feed a Black Russian Terrier

Ensure your chosen dog food provides a balanced and complete diet that meets the nutritional needs of a large and active breed like the Black Russian Terrier. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement on the packaging indicates if the food meets these standards.

Monitor the caloric density of the food to prevent overfeeding, which can contribute to obesity. Adjust feeding portions based on your Black Russian Terrier’s age, weight, and activity level. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the dietary needs for your dog.

How To Feed a Black Russian Terrier

The feeding routine for Black Russian Terriers should be tailored to their specific needs. These change throughout their life stages

Leaving food out continuously can lead to overeating, especially for puppies. It is best to stick to scheduled meals. Black Russian Terrier puppies need to eat three to four meals, evenly spaced throughout the day, to support their rapid growth and development. Twice-a-day feedings, in the morning and evening, is typically OK for adult dogs.  

Because Black Russian Terriers are susceptible to bloat, avoid strenuous exercise right before and after mealtimes. You can also use a slow feeder bowl to keep them from eating too fast, and to further reduce the risk of bloat and GDV.

How Much Should You Feed a Black Russian Terrier?

Measure each meal to ensure your Black Russian Terrier gets the appropriate amount of food. A dog’s energy level, activity level, age, and overall health can all play a role in how much they should eat.

Most dog food packaging includes recommended feeding amounts based on weight to help you find the correct amount. Still, some adjustments may be needed. Monitor your Black Russian Terrier’s body condition, and adjust their food intake as needed to maintain a healthy weight.

Regular veterinarian visits can help ensure your dog is receiving the right type—and the right amount—of food.

Nutritional Tips for Black Russian Terriers

Supplements can play a supportive role in maintaining the overall health of a Black Russian Terrier. However, it's essential to consult with a veterinarian before giving supplements to your dog.

Supplements commonly considered for this breed include:

  • Joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil

  • Probiotics

Behavior and Training Tips for Black Russian Terriers

Black Russian Terrier Personality and Temperament

close-up of a black russian terrier out on a walk
Photo credit: Adobe/sergo321

Black Russian Terriers can be reserved with strangers but are affectionate with their family members. They need to spend lots of time with their family and be socialized early and consistently throughout their life. The breed can live well with other dogs and cats when well-socialized and introduced properly, and they can be good with children when supervised.

They’re adaptable dogs that can thrive in many living environments—as long as you have room for a 100-plus-pound dog and are dedicated to meeting their needs.

Black Russian Terrier Behavior

The Black Russian Terrier is a confident dog that, thanks to the breed’s history as a herder and guardian, has a strong desire to use their intellect and abilities. Pet parents should aim for at least two walks a day and plenty of play time in between. Black Russian Terriers enjoy games like fetch, frisbee, and tug-of-war, and activities like hiking or swimming can be great outlets for their energy.

Black Russian Terrier Training

Black Russian Terriers are smart dogs that do well with consistent positive reinforcement training. Training and socialization must be started as soon as you bring home your puppy, as these skills are essential for helping them grow into a well-adjusted dog.

Without the proper attention, training, and socialization, Black Russian Terriers can develop undesirable behaviors and be fearful around strangers.

Fun Activities for Black Russian Terriers

  • Agility

  • Swimming

  • Obedience trials

  • Hiking

  • Walking

  • Playing fetch

Black Russian Terrier Grooming Guide

One of the dogs’ most distinctive features is their dense double coat. The outer coat is coarse and wiry, while the undercoat is soft and provides insulation. Despite their double coats, this breed is not a heavy shedder.

The dense coat requires regular brushing to prevent matting and to keep it in good condition. Additionally, they may need professional grooming, including trimming around the ears, beard, and paws. 

Skin Care

The Black Russian Terrier does not typically require special skin care. However, routine checks for signs of skin issues (such as redness, dryness, or unusual lumps) are recommended. Regular grooming practices, including proper coat care, are recommended.

Coat Care

Due to their dense coat, matting can occur if your Black Russian Terrier isn’t brushed regularly. Use a slicker brush and brush your dog at least a few times a week. Focus on areas prone to matting, including behind the ears and under the legs.

Professional grooming may be necessary, especially for tasks like trimming the coat around the ears, beard, and paws. Some pet parents choose to handstrip the coat (a process in which the hair is removed from the root) to maintain its texture.

The dense coat requires regular brushing to prevent matting and to keep it in good condition. Additionally, they may need professional grooming, including trimming around the ears, beard, and paws.

Eye Care

The Black Russian Terrier does not have bulging eyes, reducing the risk of eye injuries. However, regular eye checks are still important. While tear stains are not a prominent issue, wiping the area around the eyes with a damp cloth can help prevent staining.

The breed's coat does not typically obstruct vision, but regular grooming around the eyes is necessary to prevent hair from irritating or obscuring their sight.

Ear Care

Regular ear cleaning is important to prevent ear infections. Check the ears weekly for signs of redness, wax buildup, or a foul odor. Use a veterinarian-recommended ear-cleaning solution.

Ensure that hair does not accumulate in the ear canal, as this can contribute to ear issues. Pluck or trim excess hair around the ear opening as needed.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Prospective Black Russian Terrier parents should be prepared for a loyal companion that thrives in a loving and active environment. The ideal home offers consistent socialization opportunities to help this breed feel comfortable, no matter the situation.

Regular exercise and mental stimulation are necessary to prevent boredom. Grooming demands are moderate to high: Brush regularly to prevent matting, and schedule occasional professional grooming. Additionally, a commitment to basic obedience training is crucial due to the breed’s history working as guardians.

Overall, understanding the breed's characteristics and meeting their needs will contribute to a rewarding relationship between pet parents and their Black Russian Terrier.

Black Russian Terrier FAQs

Is a Black Russian Terrier a good family dog?

Black Russian Terriers have the potential to be an excellent addition to a family that is committed to meeting the breed’s training, socialization, grooming, and exercise needs.

How much does a Black Russian Terrier cost?

The cost of a Black Russian Terrier can vary widely based on factors such as the breeder, the location, and the dog’s pedigree. On average, expect to pay between $1,500–$3,000, or more, for a Black Russian Terrier puppy.

Are Black Russian Terriers calm?

Black Russian Terriers are generally calm and confident dogs.

Featured Image: Adobe/Rita Kochmarjova

References

Karmi N, Safra N, Yon A, Bannasch D. Validation of a urine test and characterization of the putative genetic mutation for hyperuricosuria in Bulldogs and Black Russian Terriers. American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 71(8), August 2010.

The American Kennel Club. The Complete Dog Book. 20th Edition. Ballantine Books. 2006.

 

References


Gina Phillips, DVM

WRITTEN BY

Gina Phillips, DVM

Veterinarian

Dr. Gina Phillips completed her undergraduate education at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, where she earned a Bachelor of...


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