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Black Russian terrier in a forest

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Working group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 26-29 inches (female), 27-30  inches (male)
  • Weight — 80-120 pounds (female), 100-150 pounds (male)
  • Coat length & texture — Double-coated with a wiry topcoat
  • Coat color — Black Russian terriers can have black, black and white, sable, blue, or black and tan or white coats. Saddle patterns are acceptable for the breed standard, according to the AKC.
  • Exercise needs — High
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 10-12 years
  • Temperament — Protective, playful, and highly trainable
  • Hypoallergenic — Yes
  • Origin — Russia

Black Russian terrier fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Black Russian Terriers Blu and Shadow. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Black Russian Terriers love Fina and Vera equally.

  • These are true working dogs. Bred to be the perfect working dog, Black Russian terriers thrive when they have a task, whether guarding livestock or running in dog competitions.
  • They have a few names. For some, “Black Russian terrier” may be a mouthful. They are also called Chornyi terriers, Blackies, Tschoirny terriers, or simply BRT.
  • BRTs are aloof with strangers but not with family. These dogs can take a while to warm up to company, but when it comes to their family, they are social and affectionate (and prone to separation anxiety).
Black Russian terrier lying in fall leaves

Black Russian terrier temperament and characteristics 

While every Black Russian terrier (BRT) is different, Black Russian terriers are typically courageous and have an excellent instinct for protecting and guarding their family. To strangers, their large, powerful build can be intimidating. For their family, though, they are lovable and thrive when they can be in the middle of family time. As a matter of fact, time away from the family can have a negative impact; these dogs are prone to developing separation anxiety if they go too long without their favorite people.

For multi-pet households, it’s best to look at your puppy’s parentage and overall health to determine if it will be a good match with other pets. Typically, they do well with other non-dominant pets, but it depends on the BRT you’re bringing home and what pets you already have.

Common Black Russian terrier health problems 

Blackies are a healthy breed due to their careful breeding. But, like all dogs, there are some conditions that Black Russian terriers are more susceptible to. Plan annual visits to the vet’s office to watch for the following conditions.

  • Hip dysplasia. Larger breed dogs, like BRTs, are susceptible to elbow and hip dysplasia. Dysplasia occurs when the leg and hip bones no longer fit together properly.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Some dogs are born with progressive retinal atrophy , while for other dogs, the condition develops. PRA occurs when the parts of the eye responsible for detecting light begin to fail, leading to blindness.
  • Allergies. Just like people, dogs have allergies, too. Whether it’s food allergies or seasonal ones, Blackies are more likely to develop allergies than some other dog breeds.

Cost of caring for Black Russian terrier

Given that Black Russian terriers are, for the most part, a healthy breed, there aren’t a lot of expenses related to their healthcare. Owners should invest in preventative measures, as well as pet health insurance. To offset the costs of any unexpected expenses, pet parents should also consider creating a pet savings account and budgeting for costs.

History of the Black Russian terrier

The Black Russian terrier breed can trace its origin back to the Cold War. The Soviet Union wanted the perfect working dog and charged scientists with breeding it. Scientists used dog breeds like Schnauzers, Rottweilers, Great Danes, and Airedale terriers to create the Black Russian terrier. BRTs were well suited to guarding during intense Russian winters. Whether it was walking alongside their prison guard handlers or active military service, scientists did an excellent job at developing the perfect working dog.

Over the decades, dog breeding hasn’t been as much of a priority. During the 1950s, the army began making puppies available to the public, and while a few changes were made to the breed by enthusiasts, they are essentially the same. In 1981, the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture recognized the Black Russian terrier as a breed, and shortly after, Blackies made their way to the United States.

In 2001, the AKC officially recognized the breed initially in the miscellaneous group then in 2004, in the working group.

Black Russian terrier on leash

Caring for your Black Russian terrier

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. We can even help you puppy-proof your home and prepare for teething. No one likes to think about losing their new dog, but FidoAlert provides a free Fido ID and tag, so you’re ready just in case. Here are some other basics specific to Black Russian terriers.


Due to their size and intelligence, exercise is vital for this breed. Owners should provide at least half an hour of playtime a day. And, while these dogs can adapt to apartment living, they thrive best with a large, fenced-in backyard and plenty of activities to keep their mind and body occupied.

Despite being bred to tolerate harsh, cold weather, these dogs aren’t exceptionally sensitive to hot or cold weather. But it’s still important to keep in mind that their paws can blister on concrete and that they can overheat.

Black Russian terrier playing


Generally, grooming a Black Russian terrier is low-maintenance. Weekly brushings are enough to remove loose curly hair and prevent matting. Occasionally, your Blackie may need a bath.

Be sure to do grooming tasks, like nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing, to maintain your dog’s health and monitor for things like gingivitis and ear infections. For new dog owners who don’t have experience grooming a dog, consider treating your dog (and yourself) to a dog spa day and ask if you can observe your dog groomer as they work on your BRT.

No breed is truly hypoallergenic. Allergic reactions occur due to the protein found in a dog’s dander, hair, and saliva. Dogs that are considered hypoallergenic simply shed less, and thus have a smaller effect on those with dog allergies.

Diet and nutrition

Like any other dog breed, always choose a high-quality dog food for your Black Russian terrier. It’s important to consult your dog’s veterinarian about their dietary needs. Larger breeds and dogs at different stages in life need food specifically formulated for them. Additionally, dogs with certain medical conditions (like food allergies) may need special food.

While you should always determine how much to feed your dog according to your vet’s advice, most Black Russian terriers eat three to five cups of food daily. Food should get divided into two meals, and it’s important for pet parents to monitor as their dog eats to prevent bloat.

Training your Black Russian terrier

Black Russian terriers need owners who are willing and able to provide training from day one. Early socialization helps ensure your BRT can be around other animals and people while training later in life can make travel and vet visits easier.

Like many dogs, positive reinforcement is essential to successfully training a BRT. Consult with a professional trainer or explore tips from trainers to learn how to properly train your Blackie. Above all, approach your dog with kindness, love, and respect.

Black Russian terrier sat on bridge

Breeds similar to the Black Russian terrier

Not quite sure that a Black Russian terrier is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Giant schnauzer. The giant schnauzer is an excellent alternative for dog enthusiasts looking for a smaller version of a Black Russian terrier.
  • Airedale terrier. A great option for those who love terrier breeds, the Airedale terrier is a smaller version of the Black Russian terrier with numerous coat combinations.
  • Labradoodle. A mix between a Labrador retriever and a poodle, labradoodles are popular hybrids for those looking for a loyal and loving family dog.

Frequently asked questions

What are the cons of a Black Russian terrier?

Black Russian terriers can be difficult and willful, making training challenging for new or inexperienced dog owners. For those who want a Black Russian terrier, providing consistent and firm training using positive reinforcement is important.

How much exercise does a Black Russian terrier need on a daily basis?

Black Russian terriers should get at least half an hour of exercise a day, but more is better. An active family and fenced-in backyard are best for this adaptable and highly intelligent working dog.

What kind of care and grooming does a Black Russian terrier require?

Beyond routine needs, like nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing, Black Russian terriers need to be brushed weekly to remove loose hair, which can lead to painful matting for the breed. A bath may be needed a few times a year, or when a BRT gets particularly dirty.

Are Black Russian terriers good guard dogs?

For the most part, Black Russian terriers make excellent guard dogs while also maintaining a good relationship with their family.

Is there an easygoing breed of terrier?

Unless trained otherwise, typically, Black Russian terriers are easygoing when socialized early. While they are still a guard dog at heart, they are loving, laid back family dogs at home. Outside of the home, though, and with visitors, they may be more protective.