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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Black Russian Terrier Dog Breed: Pictures, Info, Care Guide & Traits

Black Russian Terrier Dog Breed: Pictures, Info, Care Guide & Traits

Black Russian Terrier_Shutterstock_Livanich

The Black Russian Terrier, or the BRT, is a large dog with a shaggy black or salt-and-pepper colored coat. Although they may not look it, Black Russian Terriers are very powerful dogs that were originally bred as military dogs for the Soviet Army. They are also very athletic dogs and make wonderful running and hiking companions for active owners.

Breed Overview


26 – 30 inches


80 – 130 pounds


10 – 12 years


Black or salt & pepper

Suitable for:

Experienced dog owners, those looking for low-shedding dogs, families with a fenced-in yard


Confident, intelligent, courageous, powerful

You may not have heard much about these dogs; developed in the 1950s, they are a relatively new breed and are still quite rare. In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about these dogs.

Black Russian Terrier Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Black Russian Terrier Puppies

Black Russian Terrier puppy_Shutterstock_Anna Tronova
Image By: Anna Tronova, Shutterstock

When determining whether you have the budget to purchase one of these dogs, you should also think about other costs associated with caring for a pet such as the cost of quality dog food, grooming, and any medical costs. These dogs are on the expensive side since they are quite rare. You should make sure that the breeder you work with has done their homework regarding your pup’s ancestry and health history so that you aren’t blindsided by medical problems and expensive treatments down the road.

The Black Russian Terrier is a good option for experienced dog owners since training and socialization might take more time and effort with these breeds compared to other dogs. These dogs require a lot of time commitment and attention since they will need a lot of exercise and playtime.

Temperament & Intelligence of the Black Russian Terrier

black russian terrier by brick wall
Image By: DragoNika, Shutterstock

Black Russian Terriers are extremely smart dogs who learn very quickly. As long as they are socialized from an early age, they are very fond of their human families and want to spend time with their owners. They do not do well in kennels for long periods of time, but they could adapt to apartment living as long as they get enough time outdoors.

These dogs are less friendly with strangers, but they aren’t aggressive. They will likely be aloof around new people and will need time to warm up to them. If they sense you are in danger, they will lose no time trying to defend you; after all, BRTs are guard dogs at heart.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Despite their military background, BRTs can be great family dogs as long as they are properly socialized. However, training and socializing these dogs will take more time and effort than other breeds. Your Black Russian Terrier needs to understand that you are the leader of the pack, so you have to be firm and confident with him.

When properly trained, BRTs are lovable, people-oriented dogs that are happiest when spending time with their human families, including children. Because of their guard dog instincts, you can expect them to be very protective of you and your kids.

One thing to think about if you are considering bringing home a Black Russian Terrier is his size. The biggest BRTs tip the scales at up to 130 pounds, which means he will probably be at least twice as big as your kids, if not more when they are young. Even if your BRT means no harm, he could accidentally knock over or otherwise harm your child as a result of his energy level and sheer size. It goes without saying that you should always supervise your dog and your kids when they are playing together.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Generally speaking, Black Russian Terriers get along well with other pets. They can be socialized to get along with other dogs or even smaller animals such as cats or rabbits. However, be mindful that your Black Russian Terrier could get aggressive with other dominant dogs, and he may not like strange dogs as much as those in his household.

Black Russian Terrier_Shutterstock_Brezhneva.od
Image By: Brezhneva.od, Shutterstock


Things to Know When Owning a Black Russian Terrier:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Large dogs like the Black Russian Terrier need a lot of food, but keep in mind their age and developmental stage when determining what and how much to feed them. Larger breeds such as the Black Russian Terrier take longer to mature than smaller breeds—up to 24 months for some dogs. If you overfeed your puppies, it can cause them to grow too quickly and lead to bone and joint problems down the line.

Be sure to feed your dogs high-quality puppy or adult food that is formulated for their specific needs. Generally speaking, large breed puppies need to consume foods that contain at least 30% protein and 9% fat. Adults need food that is high in protein but relatively low in fat and calories. An adult dog’s diet should be comprised of 18% protein and 5% fat, at minimum. The amount of food your dog needs depends on how much he weighs; on average, dogs need about 30 calories per pound of bodyweight a day, but some large breeds may only need around 20 calories per pound of body weight.

Make sure you are watching your BRT’s food intake, as these dogs are prone to overeating. Treats can be helpful when training your dog, but be sure to limit them because too many treats can lead to obesity.

Exercise 🐕

Surprisingly, these former military dogs don’t need too much exercise to stay healthy; just about 30 minutes will do. That being said, they are work dogs at heart who love having a job to do, so you should ensure that your BRT receives adequate mental stimulation.

Training 🎾

Black Russian Terriers are highly intelligent, which means they are very easy to train. However, they can also be stubborn. As discussed earlier, you need to make sure your BRT knows who’s in charge.

If you’re looking for a dog that you can bring to performance competitions, the Black Russian Terrier is a great choice. They tend to excel in obedience, agility, and Schutzhund, which is a sport that tests a dog’s tracking, obedience, and protection skills.

Grooming ✂️

Contrary to what you may think based on the Black Russian Terrier’s shaggy coat, these are low-shedding dogs that don’t need a lot of grooming. Brushing their fur about once a week should be plenty to maintain a shiny and mat-free coat. You should count on clipping their fur about twice a year unless they are show dogs, in which case they will need more frequent grooming.

Health and Conditions 🏥

Generally speaking, Black Russian Terriers are healthy dogs. Like all dogs, however, there are certain health conditions that they are prone to. As discussed, it is important to do your homework about a particular dog and his pedigree before you bring him home.

Minor Conditions
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Allergies
Serious Conditions
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Hyperuricosuria
  • Juvenile laryngeal paralysis & polyneuropathy

Male vs Female

There appear to be minor differences between males and females that you should note before purchasing a Black Russian Terrier.

The biggest difference that BRT owners have reported is that females may be more gentle than their male counterparts. Females may also be more willing to play with children than males. If you are looking for a dog that will be a good playmate for your kids, you might also want to keep size differences in mind. Both male and female BRTs are large dogs, but females tend to weigh in at the lower end of the spectrum than males at about 80-130 lbs. Overall, female BRTs may be less likely to roughhouse with your children, but if they do, they are not as large as males and are less likely to cause inadvertent harm.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Black Russian Terrier

1. Despite Their Name, Black Russian Terriers Are Not True Terriers

They do have some terrier blood, in fact, a total of 17 breeds were used to create the BRT. However, they are classified as working dogs by the American Kennel Club.

2. The Russian Revolution Posed Challenges for Creating This Breed

During the revolution, many purebred dogs were killed. As a result, it took about 20 years to perfect the BRT breed.

3. They Are Nicknamed The “Black Pearl Of Russia”

With an impressive pedigree that took two decades to perfect, it’s not hard to understand why!


Final Thoughts

Overall, Black Russian Terriers make great pets. However, they aren’t for everyone. Since they are so rare, you should be prepared to spend a significant amount of money if you are in the market for one of these dogs. You should also know that these dogs require attentive and persistent training. If you are willing to put in the work, you will be rewarded with an affectionate pet who will do anything for you and your family.

Featured Image Credit: Livanich, Shutterstock

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