Russian Toy: Dog Breed Profile

Characteristics, History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Young Russian Toy dog looking up playfully.

Unomat / Getty Images 

The Russian Toy may be one of the smallest dog breeds that you'll find, but these dogs have plenty of personality to make up for their small stature. Their history dates all the way back to the Russian aristocracy, and their petite stature closely resembles a Chihuahua. This breed is far rarer than a Chihuahua, though, and if you want to add a Russian Toy to your home, you'll probably have to search for a bit to find a breeder in the United States.

Breed Overview

Group: Toy

Height: 8 to 11 inches

Weight: Up to 6.5 pounds

Coat: Smooth and long

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

Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

Characteristics of the Russian Toy

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

History of the Russian Toy

Russian Toys are derived from the English Toy Terrier, a tiny dog breed that that 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, starting this new breed.

Russian Toy dogs were originally all smooth-haired, but in the mid-1900s, a longhaired dog was bred. As a result, the breed developed both short-haired and longhaired varieties. The longhaired variety not only has a longer coat, but also has fringe on its ears, tail, and the back of its legs.

This breed wasn't largely known of outside of Russia until the 1990s, when it started making its way to other countries, including the United States. It's become increasingly popular in the United States since its introduction, thanks to its close resemblance to the Chihuahua and its fun personality, but it's still a rare breed here.

The American Kennel Club and United Kennel Club both recognized this breed in 2008. The American Rare Breed Foundation also recognizes these dogs.

Russian Toy Care

This breed is a higher-energy breed, so plan to provide plenty of exercise and entertainment. Since these dogs are so small, you won't have to hike miles to tire them out, and can even play fetch indoors, so meeting their exercise and mental stimulation needs isn't too challenging.

Because of their size, it's tempting think that a Russian Toy might make a good "purse dog," but these dogs are inquisitive and energetic. They'd rather walk alongside you than ride in a purse.

Both smooth-haired and longhaired versions of this breed are easy to groom, but a longhaired dog will require more frequent grooming. Use a soft brush to brush out the coat daily to maintain the coat's health of a longhaired dog. A shorthaired dog can go 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 to prevent mats, especially in longhaired dogs.

You'll also need to bathe your dog. A monthly or more regular bath with a quality shampoo and coat conditioner can help to keep the coat in good condition. Regular nail trims are also important in maintaining a Russian Toy's health.

These dogs are highly intelligent and 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 often respond well to training with the help of plenty of treats and positive reinforcement.

Common Health Problems

Because the Russian Toy is a relatively new breed, few common health problems have been documented. In most cases, the biggest concern with Russian Toys is their teeth. Some dogs don't lose all of their puppy teeth, and these teeth may need to be surgically removed, an issue that's common with toy breeds.

Since the Russian Toy is so small, it 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 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 would be best.

Like any dog, Russian Toys can be subjected to genetic health problems. Patellar luxation is a common hereditary issue that can affect most breeds, causing the knee cap to slip out of place as the dog moves. Buying a dog from a reputable breeder who genetically tests their stock can help to minimize this risk.

Diet and Nutrition

A Russian Toy will need to eat a quality dog food. These little dogs may 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 the individual dog. Feeding small, low-calorie treats can help with weight management, but regular exercise is important, too.

Pros
  • Friendly and cuddly

  • Easily trained

  • Small size is ideal for apartment living

Cons
  • Can be stubborn

  • Rare in the United States

Where to Adopt or Buy a Russian Toy

Finding a Russian Toy can be a bit of a challenge because of their 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 a breeder who is reputable and who 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 on 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. Be sure to also account for shipping fees if you aren't able to find a breeder locally.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

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!