Characteristics of the Black Russian Terrier
The Black Russian Terrier is classified as a large breed (not a giant breed).
In 2004, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Black Russian Terrier as a member of the Working Group.
Height and Weight
Males: 27 – 30 inches
Females: 26 – 29 inches
12 – 14 years
Black Russian Terriers are at home wherever you are. They thrive in large and small living spaces, including apartments. Provided a BRT receives daily exercise and mental stimulation through training, play, sport or walking, they don’t need much space. The BRT is not suited to a life of isolation, living in a kennel or alone in a yard. The BRT must be near its people, sharing living quarters and daily activities.
BRTs are extremely loyal and closely bond with their owners and family members, more so than many other breeds. They are generally good with children and other pets. As ambassadors of service, BRTs also make good service dogs, therapy dogs, K-9 police units, and increasingly, search and rescue dogs.
BRTs are courageous ambassadors of the working dog world. They protect families, homes and properties, and just as readily relax with their people, participating in family fun and activities. Many are highly driven to sport, while others are content to interact with their people and monitor surroundings. Mature BRTs are known to be aloof toward strangers.
Early training and socialization are essential. In the words of one expert, “A companion dog is not going to act aggressively without extreme provocation. A working dog is going to have a much lower threshold for aggression.” While this is true, a variety of traits are found in different BRT lines around the world. Diversity is neither surprising nor unexpected, given the many breeds that were used to create the BRT. See our History page to learn more.
Through training and socialization, the BRT's protection instincts are channeled into proper and reliable behavior.
Black Russian Terriers compete worldwide in the exhibition/show ring, where their size, countenance and commanding presence rarely fail to turn heads and win ribbons. These athletic dogs participate in many other canine sports, including rally obedience, agility, lure coursing, dock diving, cart pulling, K-9 nose work, tracking and more.
Coat, appearance and structure
The Black Russian Terrier exudes strength, power and agility. The ideal BRT has large bones, a large head, thick neck, pronounced chest and prominent musculature. Since ancestral traits of several foundation breeds live on within the modern BRT, the body type can vary from line to line.
Most breeders around the world try to conform to established breed standards and physical traits. More detailed information is available in the American Kennel Club (AKC) Standard.
The BRT is a double-coated breed with a wavy, wiry topcoat, a dense undercoat, and long facial furnishings, including a fall over the eyes and a lengthy beard. The standard color is black. Many BRTs have light gray hairs interspersed throughout the coat. The BRT is included on many lists as a non-shedding breed, but there is really no such thing. This is a low-shedding breed. Rather than raining fur, the coat type tends to produce small fuzzy clumps, which can be minimized or eliminated with a good brushing a few times a week.
Medium to High Maintenance: The BRT coat and facial furnishings grow long and are subject to matting. To keep the coat and skin healthy, the BRT must be brushed at least once a week, and preferably every two to three days. A long-pinned slicker brush is a must. A grooming rake for a double-coated large breed also removes dead hair and excess undercoat.
While show dogs are groomed on an ongoing basis, most regular pet owners fully groom their BRTs every three or four months, with more frequent bathing, nail trims and spot grooming in between. Since this is a rare breed, many professional groomers are not familiar or experienced with the BRT grooming pattern, which is very distinct; however, most groomers are eager to learn new patterns. We think this is one of the better resources available to help owners learn how to groom a BRT or share with a groomer: BRT Grooming
It’s important to familiarize a BRT with the grooming process as a puppy, including basics like nail trims.
We suggest owners make a point to handle puppy paws a lot to desensitize them for nail trimming. Fur on the pads and between toes of a BRT also tends to grow thick and long, and must be trimmed and checked to remove debris, and prevent clumping. Neglecting this can cause infection, pain and lameness.
Some BRTs also produce a lot of inner ear hair. This must be monitored to avoid clogging and infection, and maintain healthy ear canals. Early and ongoing grooming experiences lead to a lifetime of acceptance from a BRT, making it easy to maintain a luxurious and healthy BRT coat.
More on training and socialization
We require that all puppy buyers commit to early training and socialization, beginning as early as 3 months of age and ongoing. This builds the puppy’s confidence and familiarity with the world, and creates a foundation for both owner and dog for the mature BRT psyche. Hereditary guarding instincts kick in between 12 and 18 months of age, with periodic indications exhibited sooner. Often, the transformation from sweet puppy to guard dog can seem to happen overnight.
As with most working and guardian breeds, training and socialization as a puppy, with knowledgeable guidance as a dog reaches maturity, are necessary to prevent a BRT from becoming overly protective. Guarding and protecting are what the BRT was bred to do. These instincts are expected and desirable, but they must be nurtured and evolving behaviors properly channeled so that the BRT matures into a reliably obedient dog that uses its instincts in acceptable ways, and becomes a balanced member of the family and society.
Black Russian Terriers do not respond well to heavy-handed correction or severe discipline. This highly trainable breed possesses extremely high intelligence, strong desire to learn and please, fierce loyalty to its owner, and the ability to put two-and-two together with lightening speed. Good training requires that the owner is firm, fair, gentle and consistent. The BRT must be treated with respect.
Is the BRT for a first-time dog owner? It depends.
Many breeders and enthusiasts maintain that the BRT is not a good match for first-time dog owners. This is common across many working and guardian breeds due to their size, power and instincts to protect their people and property at all costs.
Raising and owning a BRT does require an experienced hand and knowledge of the working dog intellect. We think intelligent people, including some first-time dog owners, can raise a well balanced BRT – as long as they are willing to invest time and resources into educating themselves, consulting a professional trainer, and making a commitment to ongoing training.
BRT owners must be mentally strong to maintain authority over the dog – yet respectful of its intellect, consistent in training, and fair in working with a BRT at every life stage.