BLACK RUSSIAN TERRIER 101! Everything You Need To Know!


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Where does the Black Russian Terrier come from? The Black Russian Terrier is a relatively young breed that was developed after the end of the Second World War. Back in those challenging times, there were not many purebred dogs left in Germany. And yet, the Russian Military felt the need to create a brand-new service dog out of the remaining large guard dogs available. They began their breeding program by crossing a Giant Schnauzer with a Rottweiler, and that litter laid the foundation to the Black Russian Terrier we have today. Later, they introduced the Airedale Terrier, the Newfoundland and possibly various other breeds. The dog they created was an excellent military service dog who had both the drive and the physique to take down a man if asked to do so by its handler. Or if the dog itself saw fit to do so: These giant guardians often worked independently from the soldiers, protecting military installations, factories and prisons from intruders. In the decades to follow, breeders developed the Black Russian Terrier into a somewhat more “civilized” breed who would be safe to fit into companion roles. But this large, heavy dog who bears a strong resemblance to the Giant Schnauzer, is certainly not the best choice for any first-time owner. What is their temperament like? Black Russian Terriers come with an immensely high guarding instinct and working drive: Even though mixing in the docile Newfoundland has certainly contributed to mellowing down the fierce temperament of the breed, these are not easy dogs to work with: Extremely independent, they carry the combined strength of will and tendency to make their own decisions of the Rottweiler, the Giant Schnauzer and the Airedale Terrier. Therefore, they are not suited as pets who are expected to be quite in the house all day long.  However, these beautiful black giants are a good choice for active owners and for people interested in working their dogs in the context of a local club dedicated to training companion- and guard dogs. Socialisation is a must with these naturally wary dogs. Again, they have been selectively bred to excel in guardian- and protection roles, and should not be expected to “play nice” with people they do not know. Therefore, owning a Black Russian Terrier comes with a lot of responsibility.  How intelligent and trainable are Black Russian Terriers? Despite their stubborn streak and independent nature, these dogs are relatively easy to train. They are extremely intelligent, dependable and can be trained to similar levels of performance than their main ancestors, the Giant Schnauzer and the Rottweiler. Black Russian Terriers are quite versatile, although not all of them do well in tracking work. When it comes to formal Schutzhund-training in IPO-programs, their natural prey drive can be easily employed for training them to biting into a sleeve. However, if you only want to engage them in obedience training, that is fine as well and does not mean they will be less of a guard dog: Their natural instincts to protect are so strong that your Black Russian Terrier is almost guaranteed to jump into action should someone attack you or try to break into your home. With that said, formal guard dog- or personal protection training can be a huge help in strengthening the bond between you and your dog – and in giving you more control over them in any given situation.   Are Black Russian Terriers healthy dogs? Like most breeds that were developed in Russia, Black Russian Terriers are generally very healthy and robust. Thanks to their thick double-coats, they can easily withstand both the heat and the cold. And whilst there is the occasional eye- or heart condition in the breed, the biggest problem this large guardian has to battle with health-wise is hip- and elbow-dysplasia. Elbow-dysplasia is unusually common in these dogs due to their body structure: With their large, strong bones, considerable muscle mass, deep chest and big, strong heads, the elbows have to carry a lot of weight. All these factors make it advisable to choose a breeder who tests both for dysplasia and heart conditions.  The Black Russian Terrier’s Exercise and Grooming Needs Given the breeds they were created from, it should go without saying that Black Russian Terriers need lots of exercise – at least 2 solid hours of it per day. They absolutely need both physical and mental stimulation to stay balanced, and to keep these powerful, athletic dogs safe, you should surround your backyard with an extra-high and sturdy fence. Thanks to their high prey drive, they love to play and will readily engage in games of fetch – which you can easily use to tire them out. But play sessions cannot replace regular walks: Taking in new sights, sounds and smells as well as meeting other dogs and humans is quite important for this breed. Even more so than it is for your average breed, as Black Russian Terriers need to be socialised on an ongoing basis to remain safe dogs. As Black Russian Terriers have quite dense, shaggy coats, they do require more grooming than most other dogs. Which is why many owners take them to a groomer regularly, at least twice a year. If you decide you want to groom them yourself, make sure to be equipped with a good stainless steel comb, a sturdy pin brush and an undercoat rake. Also, to avoid eye infections, you want to regularly trim the hairs around your Black Russian Terrier’s eyes.  Overview Black Russian Terriers are absolutely incredible, natural guardians whose intelligence and tendency to work together closely with their handler makes them excellent personal protection dogs. But these adaptable dogs can also make amazing active companions – if led by an experienced, calm and consistent canine leader. 

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