black russian terrier

How to Train a Black Russian Terrier

The Black Russian Terrier is a large, immensely powerful worker of heavy bone and coarse all-black coat. BRTs are known for their courage, confidence, and intelligence. Bred to guard and protect, they are naturally aloof with strangers. What’s the word we’re looking for? Imposing? Massive? Majestic? How about just plain ‘big.’ This brawny guard dog of the Siberian steppes can tip the scales at 140 pounds and stand as high as 30 inches at the shoulder. They’re much taller when the huge, brick-shaped head is considered. The tousled, all-black coat is warm enough to allow BRTs to patrol some of the coldest habitable places on earth. The old expression ‘He moves well for a big guy’ applies to this nimble-footed giant.


At a secret location near Moscow, the Red Star Kennel was established in the 1930s by the Soviet government. There, a team of scientists and breeders worked to create a superdog for the Russian army. The project was fraught with steep challenges.
The indiscriminate slaughter of purebred dogs during the Russian Revolution was followed by a world war, economic disasters, and another world war. These upheavals decimated Russia’s best stock, painstakingly maintained over centuries. Importing quality dogs to Russia was near impossible’¿war and economic depression had ravaged kennels everywhere in Europe. Essentially, the Red Star team was starting from scratch. Some 17 breeds’¿Giant Schnauzers, Airedale Terriers, and Rottweilers among them, with a dash of Newfoundland to mellow the temperament’¿were incorporated into the genetic jigsaw puzzle.
The program was invigorated after World War II, when quality breeding stock was among the spoils of war brought to Russia from vanquished Germany. The result was the BRT: a tireless fence dog who could patrol Russia’s endless borders, swift and powerful enough to down and hold a prisoner at Stalin’s notorious prison camps, with sufficient coat to work a Siberian night shift. (The English breed name is, by the way, a misnomer. The Black Russian Terrier is no more than 15 to 30 percent terrier in its makeup.) The dogs were deployed successfully at border crossings, remote prisons, and military installations.
By the mid-1950s, when closings of Stalin-era gulags reduced the number of dogs needed, the army began selling excess litters to hobby breeders and exhibitors. Retired officers bringing their K-9 partners home to civilian life in the late ’50s further acquainted the Russian people with this endearingly steadfast guardian, which they would nickname the Black Pearl of Russia, or Blackie for short.
Today, BRTs are more likely to be guarding suburban lawns than political prisoners. In 1981 the BRT was officially declared a breed by the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture, and it was admitted to the AKC Stud Book in 2004.


The Black Russian Terrier is typically a healthy breed, and a responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as allergies, urinary tract stones, hip and elbow dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy, which can cause vision loss and blindness. As with all breeds, a Black Russian Terrier’s ears should be checked regularly, and the teeth should be brushed regularly.

Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Juvenile Laryngeal Paralysis & Polyneuropathy (JLPP) – DNA Test
  • Cardiac Exam
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation


The Black Russian Terrier’s tousled double coat’a thick, soft undercoat covered by a coarse, protective outer coat’needs regular maintenance to prevent mats from forming, with a thorough brushing once or twice a week. The owner will need to learn to scissor around the face, especially his beard and mustache, to keep him looking his best, or rely on a professional groomer to do the job. A trim with clippers every few months can be done by a groomer, but many owners learn how to do it themselves. As with all breeds, the BRT’s nails should be trimmed regularly.


The Black Russian Terrier needs at least 30 or 40 minutes of exercise every day. He is eager to take part in brisk walks, long runs, bike rides, swims, and hikes with his owner. In the backyard, he and his owner can play with a ball or a flying disc. A BRT who doesn’t get enough exercise will become unhappy and destructive, and one who doesn’t spend enough time with his human family can develop aggressive tendencies. Many BRTs excel at canine sports such as obedience, agility, rally, and Schutzhund (protection) competitions.

Big dog breeds like the Black Russian Terrier need a lot of exercise. We wrote an article about how to exercise your dog, too. 


An owner who is not willing or able to train a powerful, willful animal should not get a Black Russian Terrier. Socialization needs to start in puppyhood and continue throughout the dog’s lifetime in order to prevent aggressive behavior.  Obedience training also needs to start as early as possible and should continue well into adulthood. BRTs are dominating and will become pushy with anyone they can intimidate. Training must be firm and consistent, but always reward based, never punishment based. The BRT is intelligent and learns quickly, but only if he is treated with kindness and respect.


The Black Russian Terrier should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

We wrote an article about how to choose the best dog food for your dog.

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