Complete Guide To The Black Russian Terrier: Personality, Health, Grooming and More

Large and powerful, the Black Russian Terrier is a relatively new breed of dog. Although it may seem like a big, hulking dog, the BRT is brilliant, loyal, and affectionate. This dog was created by mixing the best qualities of over 17 different dog types, making it the perfect, large, and loving dog for your family. 

If you haven’t heard of or seen this dog yet, I’m not surprised. As a veterinarian who sees a ton of dogs all the time, I’ve yet to put my eyes or hands on one. I can’t wait, however, because they look amazing! 

How Big Does A Black Russian Terrier Get?

Male27″ – 30″ at the shoulder100 – 130 lbs
Female26″ – 29″ at the shoulder80 – 110 lbs

What Do Black Russian Terriers Look Like?

This dog, despite its large size, moves remarkably well and is nimble and athletic. The dog has a trademark long, thick, black coat. The coat is usually solid black but can have some gray hair mixed in, even as a puppy.

The coat is a double coat with a thick topcoat that repels snow and water from the dog. This coat is long and wiry and can measure between 1.5 inches to 4 inches long. The undercoat is thick and wooly and is perfect for keeping the BRT warm in any weather conditions.  

What Is The Personality Of A Black Russian Terrier?

The Black Russian Terrier is not a true terrier but instead a mix of several breeds. This dog is confident, assured, and loyal. The dog loves people and thrives on human interaction and connection. Unfortunately, this dog is not well suited for kennel life and needs to be around its people at all times.

At about one year of age, this dog usually develops an innate ability to protect and defend people. However, this dog can become withdrawn and aggressive without the right socialization, the opposite of the BRT’s intended personality traits.  

Although this dog is a people-pleaser, he can be strong-willed. The dog must have careful training that begins at an early age. This dog needs firm and consistent training that rewards good behavior. Never use harsh training tactics with the Black Russian Terrier.

The dog is brilliant and can learn new behaviors very quickly. The BRT is not recommended for novice dog owners who can quickly be overrun with this dog’s size and intelligence.  

How Much Grooming Does A Black Russian Terrier Need?

All that thick and long fur on the Black Russian Terrier requires pretty heavy grooming. About three times per week, brush your BRT to remove any knots or mats. The long fur is exceptionally prone to matting which can lead to irritation and infection.

Regular brushing will also help to reduce shedding, which can be heavy during the changing seasons. Parts of the fur may be clipped short, especially around the face. Owners may elect to take their dogs to the groomers before learning to do this regular grooming at home.

Like all dogs, keep the nails trimmed short, especially if they are not naturally worn short by walking over rough surfaces.  

How Much Exercise Does A Black Russian Terrier Need?

This big dog needs plenty of exercise and is not one to grow to become a couch potato. The dog needs at least 40 minutes of exercise every day. This activity can be walking, long runs, biking, swimming, or hiking.

The Black Russian Terrier is happy to go on adventures, just as long as he knows that he will be spending time with his owner. It is essential to give this dog plenty of exercise, otherwise, it can become destructive and bored.

Because the Black Russian Terrier is so intelligent, he regularly performs well at canine sports. Try getting your dog into programs for obedience, rally, and agility. Although this dog is large, it is smart and athletic, making him a perfect dog to excel at these activities.  

What Is The Best Food For A Black Russian Terrier?

Personally I believe that most foods are fine for most dogs. Some dogs may not do well on some foods. However, as a rule I don’t blanket-prohibit any dietary ingredient from any breed at this time.

This is a breed that requires a large-breed puppy food to help control growth. Growing too fast can cause growing pains and potentially developmental orthopedic issues. For this reason, I recommend to my giant breed dog owners to switch to adult food at around 6 months of age.

Best Puppy Food For Black Russian Terriers:

Best Adult Food For Black Russian Terriers:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

It’s very important they remain at their optimal weight throughout their life. Have your vet go over with you exactly where to feel to know when your dog is too big.

How Long Do Black Russian Terriers Live?

10-12 years which is really good for a dog of this size

What Health Problems Do Black Russian Terriers Have?

The Black Russian Terrier has one real area of concern: orthopedic issues. Because of their size, their joints bear a lot of stress from a young age. The most common issues I see in my giant breed patients include:

  • Elbow/Hip Dysplasia
  • Arthritis in older age in any joint but especially the elbows, hips, back, and knees
  • ACL tears
  • Obesity

Where Can I Learn More About Black Russian Terriers?

Black Russian Terrier Club of America

AKC Breed Profile

Where Can I Find A Black Russian Terrier?

While this dog may seem like the ideal family member, they are relatively new and can be hard to find. Before choosing a breeder, always be sure to thoroughly do your homework to ensure the breeder is trustworthy and ethical.

The breeder should be knowledgeable about this new breed of dog and provide health certificates to ensure the overall health of your new puppy. Many undesirable traits have been bred out of this breed in recent years, making him healthy and long-lived.  

Rather than have a list of breeders, the national breed club has a rather extensive article on how to go about selecting the right breeder and BRT puppy for you. I highly recommend reading this and then contacting the breed club to find out how to progress further.

Of course, finding a dog at a rescue is the perfect way to not only get a purebred dog but help a dog in need of a home. The Black Russian Terrier is a rare breed of dog, but many people purchase this dog without fully knowing how much time commitment the dog needs. Try searching at specialized rescue groups, like the Black Russian Terrier Rescue Association, to locate a purebred BRT in need of a forever home.  

Fun Facts About the Black Russian Terrier

  • The Black Russian Terrier was created by Soviet Army scientists who were trying to create a perfect dog that was well-suited to military applications. While they didn’t set out to create a new breed, they ultimately are responsible for the Black Russian Terrier’s development.  
  • The BRT was developed at the Red Star Kennel. This kennel had the full support and financial assistance from the government to create a well-adapted military dog.  
  • This breed of dog results from mixing several dogs to create an ultimate dog with desirable traits. The dog began with a cross between Giant Schnauzers, Rottweilers, and Airedales. Over time, other dogs like the Ovcharka and Great Danes were added to the mix. Today, over 17 different dog breed traces can be found in the BRT.
  • The first Black Russian Terriers arrived in the US sometime between 1989 and 1990. Much of the dog’s prevalence in America can be attributed to the original kennel in Mississippi, which first started breeding this dog. Although the Mississippi climate is much different from the snowy Russian tundra, the dog does perfectly well in the hot and humid climate.