Black Russian Terrier

  • Overview

    Black Russian Terriers are giant dogs with a sturdy build who stand up to 2 ½ feet tall and weigh between 80 and 130 pounds. Males can be much larger. These dogs were created as functional guard dogs who could withstand Russian winters by the Russian Military's Red Star Kennel. Technically, they aren't all terrier. In fact, the dog was created by breeding about 17 different dogs together, including the Airedale, the Giant Schnauzer and the Rottweiler, to make the ideal loyal working dog. Black Russian Terriers require some significant obedience training and attentive grooming. These dogs make loyal, involved companions for experienced dog owners who want to spend plenty of time bonding with an amusing large dog who has almost human-like intelligence.

  • Personality

    Black Russian Terriers strive to be people-pleasers. They're conscious of their giant size, but they don't always realize that sometimes it gets in the way. These large dogs love to be part of the action. Whether it means that they spend time constantly with their owners or immerse themselves in learning new tricks and tasks, they love to be busy. Their temperament has softened since they have become more popular companion dogs, so they often bond very closely to their family's children. Black Russian Terriers were bred to be protective working guard dogs in the Soviet military, and this natural protection instinct is still incredibly present. They can be aloof or suspicious around strangers, but they have a natural ability to discern whether or not a visitor is friend or foe. They might never warm up completely around people or dogs they don't know, but with socialization, they can become calm, reserved and polite around them.

    If you don't teach these large dogs the rules of your house from a young age, they will quickly decide that they are not obligated to follow them. Black Russian Terriers can be like big teenagers — if they want to jump on your bed with muddy paws, search all the cabinets for food or wander off digging holes in the yard, they will, unless they've been trained not to. Black Russian Terriers are incredibly smart, but if they trust and respect their owner's authority, they can be trained quickly. As soon as they've been taught polite manners, they will want to act accordingly.

  • Coat Care

    One of the most noticeable features of the Black Russian Terrier is his abundant broken coat. The coat appears tousled, but it isn't always particularly wiry or curly. The rough outer coat amply covers this big dog's body. The thick, soft under coat gives the coat its volume. Black Russian Terriers have distinctive facial furnishings, including a beard, mustache and eyebrows that hang down to cover their eyes. The hair adds a distinguished square-shaped silhouette to the Russian Terrier's already large head. In fact, their bushy heads make up 40% of their total body weight.

    The Black Russian Terrier stays true to his name — you will only find his coat in black. As dogs grow older, some develop gray guard hairs.

    Grooming the Black Russian Terrier can be a constant challenge. Maintaining their coat helps retain their distinct silhouette and prevent their long facial furnishings from becoming matted, tangled and dirty. If you don't plan to show your Black Russian Terrier, he should be clipped several times a year to keep his coat healthy. Clipping the coat is not difficult, but it will remove a lot of hair, so be prepared for some clean up. Grooming and clipping your Black Russian Terrier is an excellent way to bond with your dog and to teach them that you are dominant, but begin grooming these large dogs when they are puppies so they become accustomed to being touched. They can be slightly territorial and protective of their space, but grooming them at home is an excellent way to discourage that behavior.

Brushing

To help the Black Russian look his best, use a slicker brush to brush out the bushy hair around the legs and body, a metal rake to remove tangles from the under coat and a de-shedding comb to remove dead hair. The eyebrows, beard and mustache don't need to be trimmed, but they do need to be brushed and cleaned regularly, especially to avoid a big mess in the house.

Bathing

With preparation, perseverance and a positive attitude, bathing can become a fun and fulfilling part of the regular grooming cycle, while helping your dog avoid many diseases and infections.

The general rule of thumb for dog bathing is every three months but wire-coated dogs can be done with greater frequency, often within a four-to-six week range. The coat should end up fresh smelling, shiny, with no loose or shedding hair. First give the dog a good brushing to remove dead hair and mats. Place a rubber mat in the tub to provide secure footing and fill the tub with three to four inches of lukewarm water. Use a spray hose, pitcher or unbreakable cup to wet the dog, taking caution to avoid getting water in the eyes, ears and nose. Massage in pet shampoo, saving the head for last. Immediately rinse thoroughly, starting with the head to prevent soap from dripping into the eyes. Towel dry. The coat should be fresh smelling, with no loose or shedding hair.

Hair Clipping

It is recommended that Black Russian Terriers are taken to a professional groomer for clipping due to the nature of their coat.

Nails

Many dog owners are apprehensive about trimming their dog’s nails because they are nervous about cutting into the quick. But with the right conditioning and careful cutting, nail clipping can be a simple, stress-free activity for you and your dog.

Provide your dog with plenty of positive reinforcement and even treats to help associate nail clipping with a positive experience.  As you start to clip, gently press on your dog’s paws to help him become accustomed to the feeling of having his nails clipped. Then, work gradually, shaving down just a thin portion of the nail at first to make sure you don’t reach the quick. Clip one nail, reward your dog with a treat, and stop to give him some positive reinforcement before moving on. Gradually increase the number of nails you clip in one sitting to help your dog get used to the process. Never trim extremely long nails down to a short nail in one sitting, because this is an excellent way to accidently quick the dog’s nail. Instead, work gradually, shaving small portions of your dog’s nails off each time.

You can tell if you’re getting close to the quick by the texture of your dog’s nail. The nail is hard closer to the surface and becomes softer as you get closer to the quick. If your dog’s nail starts to feel softer, that’s a good indication that you’re getting close to the quick.

Eyes / Ears

Not all breeds and coat styles require routine trimming in and around the eyes and ears but all should undergo regular inspection and cleaning around these sensitive areas. Doing so will help prevent the development of infections that could seriously damage these amazing organs.

It is always important to routinely clean your dog's eyes and ears, and examine for potential infections. Wire coated dogs have sensitive ears covered in hair that  need to be checked weekly for infection and cleaned with a cotton ball. Gently wipe a cotton ball moistened with mineral oil, olive oil or witch hazel in your dog's ear, being careful to avoid the ear canal. Never use a Q-Tip, which could cause damage to the inner ear if your dog suddenly shakes or jerks his head. Bushy hair growth within the ear can be thinned with tweezers or blunt scissors. Use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around the eyes, ears and face. West Highland Terriers and other small terriers with white coats are prone to developing tear stains around the eyes, so clean around their eyes with a cotton ball or soft cloth and use a small trimmer to trim excess hair around their eyes.

Teeth

Many owners do not realize how important it is to brush your pet’s teeth on a regular basis. Some dogs are prone to dental problems and sensitive teeth, especially small dogs with tiny teeth and dogs with special diets. These problems can be easily combatted with frequent brushing.

Cavities are rare with dogs but gum disease caused by tartar buildup is not, which is why they require regular brushing with toothpaste and a toothbrush formulated specifically for dogs. While daily brushing is ideal, doing so on a weekly basis will be a big help in avoiding the need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a cleaning, which usually has to be done under sedation.