Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Russian Black Terrier
Average Cost to keep/care for a Russian Black Terrier
The Russian Black Terrier is a large and impressive looking dog and one that was specifically bred by the Russian army to track down fugitives and guard properties. Also known as the RBT, these attractive dogs have been highly prized in their native Russia as well as other countries, but more especially in Italy. However, the Russian Black Terrier is less popular in the UK although they make wonderful companions and family pets thanks to their kind, loyal and affectionate natures.
The Russian Black Terrier or RBT as they are often called was first developed by the Russian Army at the end of World War II when they needed a dog that would be able to work and track down fugitives in harsh conditions. The three main breeds used to create these large and impressive looking dogs were Giant Schnauzers, Rottweilers and Airedale Terriers with many of the dogs being imported by the Russian military to be used in their breeding programmes and the RBT was originally bred solely by the state-owned Red Star Kennels. However, some puppies were sold to non-state breeders who then began to develop the breed both in Russia and outside of the country.
They have always been highly prized in Russia not only as being highly skilled and courageous working dogs, but as faithful, loyal companions and family pets too. They also found a big fan base in Italy during the late eighties for the same reason and the breed was eventually recognised by many international breed clubs which included The Kennel Club. However, there was a lot of debate as to what the breed should be called and in which group these large dogs should be placed. They were eventually given the name of Black Russian Terrier and put in the Working Group.
Anyone wishing to share their home with a Black Russian Terrier would need to register their interest with breeders because so few well-bred pedigree puppies are available every year, but the wait is well worth it.
Height at the withers: Males 64 - 70 cm, Females 66 - 72 cm
Average weight: Males 45 - 68 kg, Females 36 - 59 kg
The Black Russian Terrier looks very much like the Giant Schnauzer only they are a lot bigger. They are strong, courageous and athletic looking albeit quite imposing. With this said, they are well proportioned with strong, robust frames and virtually square bodies. They have nicely proportioned heads with broadish skulls and rather full cheekbones. Their eyebrows are a little pronounced adding to a dog's charming looks. Their skulls are flat and dogs have moderate stops with the top of their muzzles being in line with the top of their skulls. Muzzles taper slightly towards a dog's nose and boasts having nice whiskers and beards which squares off their muzzles nicely. Noses are large and black in colour with dogs having thick, black lips.
Their eyes are oval in shape, moderately large and dark in colour being set obliquely and wide apart on a dog's face. Their eyelids are tight fitting and dark too. Ears are set high and pendant being triangular with the inner edge touching a dog's cheekbone. The Russian Black Terrier has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
They have quite long, well-muscled and powerful, clean cut necks that merge smoothly into a dog's shoulders which are nicely laid back. Front legs are straight and muscular. The Russian Black Terrier boasts having a compact, powerful looking body with clearly defined withers and nice, muscular level backs. Chests are deep and ribs well sprung with bellies being moderately tucked up which adds to their athletic appearance.
Loins are short and wide being slightly arched and well-muscled. Their back-ends are well developed and large with a slight slope towards the tails. Back legs are straight and set wider apart than a dog's front legs having well developed and muscular thighs. Their feet are large and round with well arched toes and firm, thick pads with strong black nails. Tails are set high on a dog's croup being thick which dogs can carry curled over their backs.
When it comes to their coat, the Russian Black Terrier boasts having a very weather resistant double coat that's neither soft nor is it wiry. Their undercoat is very dense with dogs having lots of furnishings on their faces which forms their eyebrows and beards. Their legs are nicely furnished too. The accepted breed colour is as follows:
The Russian Black Terrier was bred to guard which is a trait that's deeply embedded in their psyche. They are highly intelligent and therefore in the right hands and environment they are easy to train, but they are not the best choice for first time owners. They are best suited to people who are familiar with the particular needs of this type of large and intelligent dog and who therefore know how to handle them.
They are known to be lively and confident, even-tempered dogs that are naturally wary of people they have never met before. However, although they have a strong instinct to protect and guard their owners and their property, rarely would a Russian Black Terrier show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards a stranger, preferring to keep their distance and let their owners know there are people about.
Puppies need to be taught the basics as soon as they arrive in their new homes so they understand the boundaries and limits. It's easier to teach a puppy than it is a very large dog. Their socialisation also has to start early and it should include introducing puppies to lots of new situations, noises, people, other animals and dogs once they have been fully vaccinated so they mature into well-rounded adult dogs. A good way of socialising a dog and starting their training in earnest is to enrol them into puppy classes where they get to meet lots of other dogs and people in a safe and controlled environment.
Russian Black Terriers form strong bonds with their owners and although they can be strong willed at times, they are usually obedient and like nothing more than to please. However, it's important for the RBT to know their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household or they may take on this role which can make it a lot harder to manage such large dogs. They do not like to be left on their own for any length of time and if they are, a RBT could well suffer from separation anxiety which could lead to them becoming neurotic and stressed out. As such, they are best suited to households where at least one person stays at home when everyone else is out of the house so they are never left on their own for longer periods of time.
Being so intelligent, they are quick learners with the downside being a RBT is just as quick to pick bad habits and behaviours which is why their training has to start early and it has to be consistent throughout a dog's life so they know what their owners expect of them. They love having something to do and are never happier than when they are kept busy. As such, they are best suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and ideally live in a more rural environment. Blackies boast having a high prey drive so it's important to only let dogs off their leads in safe and secure environments and preferably away from livestock and wildlife.
Black Russian Terriers are intelligent, athletic, active dogs and as such they learn new things very quickly. With this said, they are independent thinkers which means their training not only has to start early, but these large dogs need to be handled with a firm, fair and gentle hand right from the word go. They do not answer well to any sort of harsh correction or heavier handed training methods, but they do respond very well to positive reinforcement which always brings the best out of these smart and quick thinking dogs.
Training sessions should be kept as interesting as possible because if things get too repetitive, a Blacky would quickly get bored which can make training them more of a challenge. Shorter and more interesting training sessions will keep these intelligent dogs focussed, especially if they know they are going to receive a high value reward for getting things right. It's important to pay particular attention to the recall command right from the outset of their training so that when a RBT is let off their leads there's a better chance of them coming back when called. In the right hands and with the correct amount of training, a Russian Black Terrier excels at all sorts of canine sports which includes activities like obedience, agility and tracking which they thoroughly enjoy.
Black Russian Terriers may be large dogs, but they are gentle when they are around children of all ages. However, due to their size it's essential that any interaction between toddlers and a dog be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with child being knocked over, albeit by accident. They can be a little over protective of children which is something that needs to be gently curbed when dogs are still young. It’s essential to keep a watchful eye on them when the kids have friends over to play.
They can be a little "off" with other male dogs which is why it's so important for a Russian Black Terrier to be well socialised from a young age. With this said, they are generally fine around smaller dogs. If they have grown up with a family cat in a household, they usually get on well together, but if they would think nothing of chasing off any cats they don't know. Care has to be taken when an RBT is around smaller animals and pets because they might just see them as "fair game". As such any contact is best avoided.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Russian Black Terrier is between 10 and 11 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The RBT is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Blackies need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
The Russian Black Terrier boasts having a double coat that consists of a harsher, coarser and very waterproof top coat and a much softer and denser undercoat which makes them quite high maintenance in the grooming department. Their coats need to be brushed every day to prevent any knots and tangles from forming. It's important to pay particular attention to a dog's muzzle because food tends to get stuck in a dog's whiskers and beards when they eat.
They shed steadily throughout the year although they are considered to be low shedders. However, they tend to shed the most during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming is usually necessary to stay on top of things and to remove dead and shed hair from a dog's coat. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
The Russian Black Terrier is an active, energetic, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need at least 2 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible, but only is safe and secure environments. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a RBT would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they are feeling and not necessarily because they are being naughty.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must with as much off the lead time as possible. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing has to be extremely secure to keep these large and energetic dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape and could get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Russian Black Terrier puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a RBT puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be given a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a RBT, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £1500 for a well-bred pedigree puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Russian Black Terrier in northern England would be £59.01 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £105.50 a month (quote as of July 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of all of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an RBT and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1400 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Russian Black Terrier would be between £100 to £160 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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