Black Russian Terrier: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Standing side profile of a black Russian terrier dog

alazor / Getty Images

The black Russian terrier is a large working dog breed from Russia with a medium-to-long coarse coat that forms a beard and eyebrows. This is a big-boned, muscular dog breed that stands quite tall. Yet it still can move with good agility. Black Russian terriers were bred to have both brains and brawn as a working dog. They’ve been used for police and military work and have a strong protective nature. They need firm, consistent leadership and might not be ideal for a novice dog owner due to their size and smarts.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Working

HEIGHT: 26 to 29 inches (female), 27 to 30 inches (male)

WEIGHT: 80 to 130 pounds

COAT: Medium to long, curly double coat


LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 years

TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, courageous, calm


ORIGIN: Russia

Characteristics of the Black Russian Terrier

Black Russian terriers generally have a calm and collected temperament. High intelligence and the ability to learn different tasks also contribute to their personality. They are typically quite loyal to their family but can be wary of strangers.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Black Russian Terrier

The black Russian terrier can trace its origin back to the 1930s. The Soviet government set up the Red Star Kennel near Moscow where scientists and breeders worked to create the ultimate working dog that the Soviet army could use. They combined several breeds, including the giant schnauzer, Airedale terrier, Rottweiler, and Newfoundland. After World War II, breeds brought back from Germany were added to the mix as well. 

Eventually, the black Russian terrier took shape. It could patrol borders and prisons for the military, and its thick coat allowed it to work in the harsh climate. 

In the 1950s, the breed became more popular in Russia as a companion animal, guarding personal property and being loyal to its family. The Soviet Ministry of Agriculture first officially recognized the breed in 1981. And the American Kennel Club added it in 2004.

black Russian terrier competes in the Working Group at the 140th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 16, 2016, in New York City

Matthew Eisman / WireImage / Getty Images

Black Russian Terrier Care

Black Russian terriers don’t need a great deal of daily exercise. But early and consistent training and socialization are absolutely essential. Their grooming needs also are somewhat involved.


Despite its large size, the black Russian terrier only needs about 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day at minimum. These dogs like going for walks, jogging, swimming, and hiking. And they enjoy an exuberant game of fetch, as well as puzzle toys. Plus, dog sports, such as agility and rally, can exercise both their bodies and their minds.


Thoroughly brush your black Russian terrier at least once or twice a week to prevent tangles and mats from forming in the dense coat. A brushing session can take at least a half hour on this big dog, but it’s critical to keep its coat and skin healthy. You’ll also have to periodically trim around the beard and eyebrows to keep them tidy. Many owners opt for a professional grooming every couple of months or so.

Plan on a bath roughly every month, depending on how dirty your dog gets. And check its nails monthly to see whether they’re due for a trim. Also, look in its ears at least weekly for wax buildup and irritation. And brush its teeth every day.


Start training and socialization with your black Russian terrier from as young of an age as possible. This is critical to prevent its protective instinct from developing into aggression. These dogs also tend to be dominating, so you must counter that with consistent and firm commands. Always use positive training methods, not negative corrections. Black Russian terriers are highly intelligent and will learn quickly as long as you are kind and steadfast with your expectations. 

In terms of socialization, aim to expose your dog to different people and various locations early and often to boost its comfort level. This breed generally does fairly well with other dogs, especially when socialized at a young age. But there is potential for aggression with unfamiliar dogs.

Black Russian terrier on lure course
Mordolff / Getty Images
Two black Russian terriers
Maksim Kamyshanskii / iStock / Getty Images
Black Russian terrier on grass
DevidDO / iStock / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

The black Russian terrier is generally healthy but still prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water out for your dog. And feed a high-quality canine diet that’s nutritionally balanced. It’s typical to feed two measured meals per day. But you always should discuss both the type of food and the quantity with your vet.

Make sure to monitor treats and other extra food to prevent your dog from overeating. Keep in mind the size of this breed. It might be able to swipe food off a table or counter, so take measures to prevent it from getting items it shouldn’t have.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Black Russian Terrier

Black Russian terriers are a rare dog breed, so it might take some time and effort to find one. It’s still worth checking local animal shelters and rescue groups; ask whether they have a breed wait list that you can get your name on.

If you’re looking for a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $2,000 to $4,000 on average, though this can vary widely depending on bloodline and other factors. You also might have to wait for a puppy to become available and potentially travel a good distance to get it, depending on where you live.

For further information to help you find a black Russian terrier, check out:

Black Russian Terrier Overview

  • Loyal and affectionate with family

  • Generally calm demeanor

  • Good watchdog

  • Can be prone to aggressive behavior

  • Requires plenty of training and socialization

  • Somewhat involved grooming needs

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Do diligent research before bringing home a black Russian terrier to determine whether the breed is right for your lifestyle. Talk to breed owners, rescue organizations, quality breeders, and veterinarians. Spend some time around the breed too if possible.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are black Russian terriers rare?

    The black Russian terrier is a rare breed around the world. It didn't receive American Kennel Club recognition until 2004.

  • Are black Russian terriers good family dogs?

    Black Russian terriers are moderately tolerant of children. With proper training and socialization, they can be suitable for a household with older children. However, due to their large size, they might not be a good match for younger children.

  • Are black Russian terriers aggressive?

    Black Russian terriers have a strong protective instinct and are typically wary of strangers. When they are well trained and socialized from a young age, this shouldn’t translate to aggression. But it’s important to watch them in situations where they might be uncomfortable or perceive threats.

Article Sources
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  1. Black Russian Terrier. American Kennel Club.

  2. Black Russian Terrier Puppies For Sale. American Kennel Club.