Russian Toy: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Side profile of a Russian Toy dog outside on the grass

Nadezhda Braninger / Getty Images

Known for their exceptionally petite size and similarity to Chihuahuas, Russian Toys are fiesty, energetic, and lovable. Their existence dates all the way back to the Russian aristocracy and they've continued to be considered a rare breed, especially in the United States.

Breed Overview

Group: Toy

Height: 8 to 11 inches

Weight: Up to 6.5 pounds

Coat: Smooth and short

Coat Color: Black and tan, brown and tan, blue and tan, or red with or without black or brown

Life Span: 12 to 14 years

Temperament: Loyal, bold, lively, companionable, protective

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: Russia

Characteristics of the Russian Toy

For what Russian toy dogs lack in size, they more than make up for in personality. These feisty little pups are energetic, playful, and known for their larger than life temperament. Their favorite place is holding court on their owner's lap, and they are faithful companions that will never be far behind you whether you're on a walk or making dinner in the kitchen.

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

History of the Russian Toy

Russian toy dogs are bred from the English toy terrier, a tiny dog breed that members of the Russian aristocracy raised as companions. During the Russian revolution, the breed was transformed and almost eliminated. The resulting dogs looked entirely different than their English toy terrier predecessors, so they were renamed Russian toys.

Russian Toy dogs were originally all short-haired, but in the mid-1900s, a long-haired dog was also bred. This new variety not only has a longer coat, but also boasts fringe on its ears, tail, and the backs of its legs.

This breed wasn't really known outside of Russia until the 1990s, when it started making its way to other countries, including the United States. Since then, Russian toys have become increasingly popular in the United States, thanks to their close resemblance to the Chihuahua and their fun personality. The American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club both recognized this breed officially in 2008.

Russian Toy Care

Russian toys are a relatively low-maintenance breed, thanks in part to their petite size. Still, providing them with proper care—including diet and exercise—is of utmost importance in order for them to live a healthy and happy life.


Russian toy dogs are a high-energy breed, so plan to provide your pup with plenty of exercise and entertainment. Since these dogs are so small, you won't have to hike miles to tire them out, so meeting their exercise and mental stimulation needs isn't too challenging—you can even play fetch indoors with them! It's tempting to think that a Russian toy might make a good "purse dog," but these dogs are inquisitive and energetic. They'd much rather walk alongside you than ride in a purse.


Both smooth-haired and long-haired versions of this breed are easy to groom, but a long-haired dog will require more frequent grooming. Use a soft brush to brush out the coat daily to maintain the coat's health of a long-haired dog. A short-haired dog can do well with less frequent grooming and may benefit from a rubdown with a soft cloth to remove dirt and debris. Regular grooming is important in helping prevent mats, especially in longhaired dogs.

You'll also need to bathe your dog regularly. A monthly (or more) bath with a quality dog shampoo and coat conditioner can help to keep their coat in good condition. Regular nail trims and dental cleanings are also important in maintaining a Russian Toy's health. You should gently clean their ears once a week, making sure to take notice if their ears are red, smelly, or leaking in any way, as these can all be signs of a serious infection.


These dogs are intelligent and thus are relatively easy to train. It's best to start training them when they're young, especially since this breed can get a bit headstrong and stubborn. They respond well to training with help from plenty of treats and positive reinforcement.

Common Health Problems

The Russian toy is a relatively new breed, so there are few common health problems with the breed that have been documented. Because Russian toys are so small, they can be prone to bone fractures from incidents like falling off of a piece of furniture or jumping out of a car. It's important to keep this risk in mind when handling these small dogs and any children in the home also need to be taught safe handling techniques. If larger dogs live in the home, they could also risk the Russian toy's safety, so only supervised interaction is recommended. Beyond that, there are a few common health issues that the Russian toy may encounter. They include:

  • Leftover teeth: If your dog doesn't lose all their puppy teeth, the leftover teeth may need to be surgically removed, an issue that's common with toy breeds.
  • Patellar luxation: A common hereditary issue that causes the knee cap to slip out of place as the dog moves.

Diet and Nutrition

A Russian toy will need to eat quality dog food. These little dogs can be prone to obesity—especially when fed lots of treats—so it's important to choose a food and portion size that's appropriate for your individual dog. Feeding Russian toys small, low-calorie treats can also help with weight management, but regular exercise is important, too.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Russian Toy

Finding a Russian toy can be a bit of a challenge because of the breed's relative rarity in the United States. You may need to travel quite a distance to a breeder or have a dog shipped to you.

When buying from a breeder, look for one who is reputable and has a well-established program. A good breeder should be genetically testing their stock to eliminate potential health issues, and they should be willing to give you information and photos of the puppy's parents. A breeder should also be able to help you find a puppy with the temperament and characteristics that will best match your lifestyle. Prices for these puppies range between about $1,000 and $2,000. Make sure to also account for shipping fees if you aren't able to find a breeder locally.

Russian Toy Overview

  • Friendly and cuddly

  • Easily trained

  • Small size is ideal for apartment living

  • Can be stubborn

  • Rare in the United States

  • May need additional dental care

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before adding a Russian toy dog to your family, make sure you do plenty of research to ensure the breed is right for your home and lifestyle. Talk to owners, rescue groups, reputable breeders, and veterinarians in your area to get their advice and experience.

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 Russian toys good apartment dogs?

    Yes—due to their petite size and easy care requirements, Russian toys make for great apartment dogs. You still need to ensure they get enough exercise, but luckily that can even be done indoors.

  • Are Russian toys rare?

    Russian toy dogs are considered rare, especially in the United States, where it can be difficult to find breeders or dedicated rescues where you can source a puppy.

  • Are Russian toys aggressive?

    Russian toys are not considered an aggressive breed. That being said, they are protective of their owners, and may bark or even nip in defense of the "family" when in the presence of strangers.