Black Russian Terrier
The Black Russian Terrier (BRT), also referred to as the Black Pearl of Russia, may seem as rare as a precious jewel. Truth be told, while it is a rare breed, it is known and affectionately accepted on many continents despite not being formally recognized by the AKC as a member of the Working Group until recently in 2004. Today’s contemporary BRT is also a guarding, sporting and companion dog. He makes an excellent candidate when selecting guard dogs. There is an interesting story to tell of the origination of the BRT, and it starts with where it got its name: In Russia.
A New Breed Out of Necessity
The Soviet Army had already realized the significance of the military dog coming out of World War II. By then, the purebred dog in Russia had been all but wiped out. By the late 1940s and into the 1950s, it was the former USSR’s Red Star Kennel that set out to establish the next breed of canine soldier only, this time, it would surpass the value and performance of the previous protection and guard dogs that were nearly obliterated by the war.
There was a list of imperatives. The traits of the new breed had to be:
3. High intelligence
4. High trainability
5. An imposing profile
6. Devotion to handlers
8. A balanced temperament
The breed had to be fit to serve in the most adverse conditions. It had to be able to both reliably protect and guard in a variety of settings, whether that was in the military, for the police or as a prison guardian. These qualities have proved the BRT also to be a useful cattle driver, herder, sled dog and to perform as guard dogs.
The Evolution of a Breed
Breeding dogs requires a calculated scientific approach. Such a program calls for studying and carefully choosing the foundation breeds that are believed to represent the superior stock. What follows is a method of refining the results to keep the best qualities while rejecting undesirable traits until eventually, the ancestral inheritance produces a true breed.
Due to the secrecy of military operations, there is much speculation as to how many breeds were originally used in the development of the Black Russian Terrier. Most commonly mentioned among at least 17 breeds, though, are the Airedale Terrier, Caucasian Ovtcharka, the Giant Schnauzer, the Moscow Water Dog, the Newfoundland and the Rottweiler. The breeding stock were mostly imported from those countries the Soviet Union had liberated during the war.
Despite the name, the Black Russian Terrier is not a true terrier, and the BRT of today is but a mere resemblance of the build and coat type that represented the first breeding attempts. The focus was solely on working ability and the ability to tolerate the cold, harsh weather in Russia. It wasn’t until 1957 that Moscow’s state-owned kennel allowed some of guard dogs for sale as puppies. Without the same military constraints, civilian breeders began to breed for looks while maintaining the working ability. This is also when the breed began to spread throughout the USSR reaching into Europe and eventually crossing the seas to the U.S., Canada and Australia.
A Dog by Any Other Name
It is after the breed reached other lands that the Black Russian Terrier gained a variety of monikers. In Russia, it has always been known as the Tchiorny Terrier. In the U.K., the name was rearranged as the Russian Black Terrier, or RBT, and more affectionately, just Blackies. After reaching the West, it was simply shortened to the BRT. With yet more variations of names around the world for the simple convenience of accommodating a multitude of native languages, the Black Terrier was officially renamed the Black Russian Terrier.
The Natural Qualities of Guard Dogs
This bearded giant develops the innate protective instinct by the time he is a year old, but he is nothing if not eager to play with the family and quite at home by your side. They thrive on the attention of their masters. In fact, they demand it. Firm, consistent training allows the working dog a sense of purpose. Without it, Blackies fall into destructive behavior patterns out of boredom and a sense of disconnection with their human companions. These independent thinkers can easily get the better of an unsuspecting or novice owner even to the point of becoming over protective. As he loses his connection to his owner from neglect, he can reach the point of no longer tolerating any commands.
Know what you are getting into with the Black Pearl of Russia. A pet, sure, but Blackies are without a doubt a working class of dog and need that structure to achieve a sense of satisfaction. Without the proper regimen, a dog this size can really do some serious property damage. While the BRT may have been bred to withstand the harsh, cold Russian climate, this does not signify the dog’s life should be spent outdoors all the time.
What to Watch Out for When Choosing Guard Dogs
As is typical and to be expected in breeding dogs, one must exercise care in screening potential breeders and the stock they produce to ensure all health checks on breeding stock are properly conducted before deciding to breed. As a potential owner, you must exercise due diligence. While this is no guarantee that a puppy will not display health issues as it matures, it is a significant means of keeping health concerns to a minimum.
Common health conditions found in Black Russian Terriers are:
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Following on the Work Established for the Black Russian Terrier
The BRT is a big, brawny bear of a beast. He may have been bred to cast an imposing profile, but the qualities of strength, courage, versatility and endurance were what the Russian Army were primarily focused on. Purposeful tasks such as detecting land mines, locating wounded soldiers, conveying supplies and performing as a border guard dog were among the targeted objectives. As a result, today’s BRT makes for a brilliant guard demonstrating excellent agility and obedience in competition.
However, his high intelligence makes him susceptible to stubborn ways if he is not challenged to use his smarts. As a puppy, he needs to learn the limitations. So, if you do not want your giant dog on the bed when you want to get your rest, then do not allow it when he is young, no matter how strong the temptation to play and socialize on the bed while he is still small and cuddly. It is nearly impossible to reverse training as he matures. Anchor the correct behaviors early to establish Blackie’s complete understanding throughout his life.