Black Russian Terrier Breed Magazine - Showsight

Black Russian Terrier Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.


Let’s Talk Breed Education!

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Official Standard of the Black Russian Terrier General Appearance: The Black Russian Terrier is a robust, large, balanced, agile and powerful dog. The Black Russian Terrier has large bone and well-developed muscles. He has great strength and endurance. The Black Russian Terrier must have a stable and reliable temperament, possessing self- assurance and courage. Size, Proportion, Substance: Size - The height for males at maturity (over 18 months of age) is between 27 and 30 inches with the desired height being between 27 and 29 inches. The height for females at maturity (over 18 months of age) is between 26 and 29 inches with the desired height being between 26 and 28 inches. Any height deviation is a serious fault. Height consideration should not outweigh that of type, proportion, movement and other functional attributes. General balance is more important than absolute size. Proportion - The desired height to length ratio of the Black Russian Terrier is approximately 9½ to 10. Thus the dog is slightly longer than tall. Females may be slightly longer than males. The length is measured from point of shoulder to rear edge of the pelvis. Substance - The Black Russian Terrier must have large bones and well-developed musculature. Females are definitely to appear feminine but never lacking in substance. Light bone, lack of substance, and poor musculature are serious faults. Head : The head must be in proportion to the body and give the appearance of power and strength. It is approximately equal to the length of neck and not less than 40 percent of the height of the dog at the withers. The eyes are oval, of medium size, dark, and set relatively wide apart. Eye rims are black without sagging or prominent haw. Light eyes are a serious fault. The ears are medium in size, triangularly shaped, set high, but not above the level of the skull. The ear leather is dense, rounded at the bottom, hanging with the front edge lying against the head and terminating at approximately mid-cheek. Cropped ears are not acceptable. The skull is moderately wide with round, but not too pronounced cheek bones. The supraorbital arches and occiput bones are moderately expressed. The back skull is flat. The stop is moderate. The back skull is slightly longer than the muzzle measured from the stop to the occiput and stop to end of nose, an approximate ratio of 5:4. The muzzle is broad with a slight tapering towards the nose. A moustache and beard emphasize volume and give the muzzle a square shape. Viewed in profile, the topline of the muzzle is parallel to the topline of the backskull. The nose is large and black. Nose color other than black is a disqualification . Lips are thick, fleshy, black, tight and without flews. The gums have dark pigmentation. The teeth are large and white with full dentition. Any missing tooth is a severe fault. The incisors form a straight line at the base. A correct bite is a scissors bite. Two or more missing teeth or bite other than a scissors bite is a disqualification . Neck, Topline and Body: Neck - The neck should be thick, muscular and powerful. The nape is strong and well expressed. There should be no pendulous or excessive dewlap. The length of the neck and the length of the head should be approximately the same. The neck is set at an approximate 45 degree angle to the line of the back. Body - The whole structure of the body should give the impression of strength. The chest is oval shaped, deep and wide with well-sprung ribs. The bottom line of the chest extends to the elbows or below and is not less than 50 percent of the dog's height measured from the withers. The forechest is pronounced. The withers are high, well developed and more pronounced in the male than in the female. There is a slight slope from the top of the withers into a straight, firm back. The back is approximately half of the distance between the top of the withers to the base of the tail. The last half of the backline is comprised of two equal parts, the loin and the croup measured to the base of tail. (The ratio of back to loin to croup measured to base of tail is 2:1:1.) The loin is short, wide, muscular, slightly arched and elastic. The croup is wide, muscular, and slopes slightly (5 to 10 degrees). The tail is thick, set moderately high, and is carried at an approximate 45 degree angle from the horizontal. When the tail is docked, there are 3 to 5 vertebrae remaining. An undocked tail is not to be penalized. The preferred shape of an undocked tail resembles a sickle or saber. The abdomen is moderately tucked up and firm.

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Forequarters: Shoulders are well laid-back with blades broad and sloping. There is good return of upper arm so that the angle between the shoulder blade and the upper arm is approximately 100 degrees. Upper arms are muscular. Elbows sit close to the body and turn neither in nor out while standing or moving. The forelegs are straight, thick, of medium length, and parallel when viewed from the front. Length of the foreleg to the elbow is approximately 50 percent of dog's height at the withers. Pasterns are short, thick, and almost vertical. Front dewclaws should be removed. Feet are large, compact, and round in shape. Nails are black. Hindquarters: Viewed from the rear the legs are straight and parallel, set slightly wider than the forelegs. The hindquarters are well boned and muscular with good angulation to be in balance with the front shoulder angulation. Thighs are muscular and broad when viewed from the side. The hocks are moderately short and vertical when standing. Rear dewclaws should be removed. Coat : The coat is a double coat. The natural untrimmed coat length varies from 1½ to 6 inches. While the outer guard hair is coarser than the softer undercoat, it is not wiry or curly. The body coat has a slight to moderate wave. The furnishings on the head form a fall over the eyes and a moustache and beard on the muzzle. The legs are covered and protected by long, dense coat. Trimming of the natural coat is needed for suitable shape and upkeep. For presentation in the show ring, the Black Russian Terrier should be trimmed so that the dog's outline is clearly defined. The trimmed length of coat and leg furnishings may vary from 0.2 to 6 inches depending upon the location on the body. The fall and muzzle furnishings may be longer than 6 inches. In no case should grooming be given more weight than structure, movement and balance when evaluating the Black Russian Terrier. Color : The only acceptable color for the Black Russian Terrier is solid black or black with scattered gray hairs. Any other color is considered a disqualification . Gait : A well-balanced Black Russian Terrier should move freely in a smooth, fluid motion. In movement the normal head carriage is extended forward and the backline remains level. As movement accelerates, the feet will converge toward a centerline. The Black Russian Terrier covers a lot of ground through strong reach of the forelegs and drive of the hindquarters. Temperament : The character and temperament of the Black Russian Terrier is of utmost importance. The Black Russian Terrier is a calm, confident, courageous and self-assured dog. He is highly intelligent and adapts well to training. The Black Russian Terrier was initially bred to guard and protect. He is alert and responsive, instinctively protective, determined, fearless, deeply loyal to family, is aloof and therefore does not relish intrusion by strangers into his personal space. Shyness or excessive excitability is a serious fault. Faults: Any departure from the foregoing ideal should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded is in proportion to its degree. Serious Faults: Light bone. Lack of substance. Poor musculature. Mature male under 27 inches or over 30 inches. Mature female under 26 inches or over 29 inches. Light colored eyes. One missing tooth. Shyness or excessive excitability. Disqualifications: Nose color other than black. Two or more missing teeth. Any bite other than a scissors bite. Any coat color other than solid black or black with scattered gray hairs.

Approved May 12, 2009 Effective July 1, 2009

Judging the Black Russian Terrier

By Susan Sholar

J udges have the most visible ability to influence the devel- opmental direction of a breed, especially a new breed, as a result of their ring selections. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that judges have a solid under- standing of the standard of the breed and be able to apply the standard to the speci- mens presented in selecting the best repre- sentatives and future producers. Th e standard for the Black Russian was substantially revised in 2009. More than two years later it was still apparent that many judges either neglected to read, understand or apply the revised standard in their rings. In response to many com- plaints from exhibitors, a letter on behalf of the parent club was published in the

2011 Fall Issue of the Judges Newsletter reminding judges of the revised standard and re-addressing a few of the key changes in the standard. Although I have not heard of any oth- er judges since attempting to call for a wicket in the BRT ring (there is no lon- ger a DQ for size), there still appears to be misapplication of the standard in judging this breed. After the July 2011 letter was published, some comments were made by judges that the parent club wanted “small dogs to be put up.” Th is type of response just further emphasizes the lack of under- standing of the Black Russian Terrier stan- dard and particularly of the size and sub- stance required. Size and substance are major elements to be considered together in evaluating the

Black Russian Terrier. Size and substance are key components in the silhouette that identifies a Black Russian Terrier.

Th e standard states:

Size, Proportion, Substance Size: Th e height for males at maturity (over 18 months of age) is between 27" and 30" with the desired height being between 27" and 29". Th e height for females at maturity (over 18 months of age) is between 26" and 29" with the desired height being between 26" and 28". Any height deviation is a serious fault. Height consideration should not outweigh that of type, proportion, movement and other functional attributes. General balance is more important than absolute size.


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Size without substance should not be rewarded. Substance without proper proportion and balance should not be rewarded. All things being equal, the dog with the desired height and substance is preferred and should be rewarded. Serious faults must be applied, and include light bone, lack of substance, poor muscula- ture, mature male under 27" or over 30", mature female under 26" or over 29", light colored eyes, one missing tooth, shyness or excessive excitability. I have frequently observed that judges do not have a sense of height, especial- ly when faced with an entry of varying heights and varying degrees of substance and coat. Judges are not alone – exhibitors have the same problem. It is very important that judges develop an eye for determining height – be it is a mark on clothing, where fingertips reach, top of the ring table, etc. so as to avoid potential optical illusions of height. Height is measured from the top of the withers, not from the top of the coat on top of the withers (which can add an additional inch). Th ickness of coat contributes to the illu- sion of being oversized or hides an under- sized frame or fills an undeveloped chest. It is therefore important that the judge is able to determine what lies beneath the coat, both by feel and visually. Once height has been determined, eval- uate for substance and musculature, and finally for balance. All components must be present in the Black Russian Terrier to move harmoniously: correct height, sub- stance, musculature and balance. Th e Black Russian Terrier is a working breed, developed as a multi-purpose mili- tary dog by the Russian Red Star Kennel in Moscow. While the majority of the dogs being shown have been conditioned and schooled in proper ring etiquette, remem- ber this breed’s function of guarding and

protection, and judges should respect the fact that much of the breed retains this working protective quality. Su ffi cient spac- ing should be maintained between dogs while gaiting in a group and handlers should be cautioned against running up on an opponent or otherwise encourag- ing his dog to jump, spin and “play” in the ring. Th is is not only distracting, but can be antagonizing to other exhibits when the other dog’s space is invaded. Physical examination of the dog should be performed in a confident, thorough yet expeditious manner. Approach from the front in a purposeful and confident man- ner. Th e majority of experienced handlers prefer to show the bite and to lift the fall for examination of the eyes themselves for the judge. Do check for a scissors bite and for missing teeth (severe fault to DQ). Th e Black Russian is an aloof breed. Don’t stare into his eyes. Care should be taken to not bend over the dog, but be e ffi cient and thorough in feeling the framework and musculature of the dog under the coat. A heavy coat and experienced groomer can present a beautiful picture in stack while hiding a multitude of structural faults. Substance should be confirmed by feeling the circumstance of leg bones, base of tail and breadth of chest. Feel for key points: head size, head length and neck length being approximately equal, width of chest between the front legs, prosternum, shoul- der placement and angle, depth of chest, length of back and loin, angle of croup and tail set, thigh muscle mass, bend of stifle and hocks. Th e coat should be trimmed so that the dog’s outline is clearly defined. Check the coat quality and texture during exami- nation of the body. As the guard hair is often scissored o ff in grooming, check for coat texture by feeling the leg furnish- ings. Grooming should not be given more

weight than structure, movement and bal- ance in evaluating the dog. Again, it is nec- essary that the judge determine what is or is not present under the coat. Look for balance and agility in move- ment. Proper front and rear angulation coupled with correct body proportion will result in a harmonious and e ff ortless gait. Remember in observing the dog in move- ment that he must be large and strong yet agile. Movement is best observed in a moderate gait. Know and feel comfortable with the Black Russian Terrier and its standard. Don’t fault judge. Judge the overall dog, prioritizing important features. Reward the dog that possesses the appearance of a “robust, large, balanced, agile and power- ful dog” with “large bone and well-devel- oped muscles” exhibiting “great strength and endurance” and “a stable and reliable temperament, possessing self-assurance and courage.” Withhold rewards for those specimens which do not. Th e Black Russian Terrier Club of America is currently in the process of developing an illustrated standard which will hopefully be completed sometime in 2014. It should be brought to the judges’ attention that the purported photograph of a Black Russian Terrier posted next to the breed standard on the AKC breed website was not provided by the parent club and the photograph is not represen- tative of the breed standard. Th e club will be contacting AKC and asking that the photograph be replaced. Should any judge have questions about the breed standard or judging the Black Russian Terrier, please feel free to contact Susan Sholar, Judges Education Coordinator and Del- egate for the Black Russian Terrier Club of America, at Judges, the future of the Black Russian Terrier is in your ring.

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T he Black Russian Terrier is a majestic breed exuding pow- er and presence and demanding respect. The breed was cre- ated by the Russian Red Star military kennel located in Moscow. The Russian Army began working on developing a multi-purpose military dog in the 1930s that would be part of their national security force. Attempting to create the breed was quite a challenge due to the slaughter of much of the purebred dog stock because of the Russian Revolution, World Wars and economic disasters. The Red Star Kennel breeding program came to life after World War II when quality Giant Schnauzer and Rottweiler stock were brought back to Russia. Th e Red Star Kennel worked on selec- tive interbreeding using Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, Airedale Terrier and New- foundland breeds. In all, a total of 17 breeds and crosses were used to create the Black Russian Terrier. It was important to have a large breed that was not only reliable but highly trainable to many dif- ferent situations. Th e dog would also have to be able to endure the harsh Russian

By Marilyn Powell

winters. Th ey were initially used by the military police at border crossings, pris- ons and military installations. By 1956, the Black Russian Terrier was breeding true, and the Red Star Ken- nel released dogs to private breeders. Th e first breed standard was created by the Red Army in 1958, and was revised several times before 1981. In 1981, the Russian

Ministry of Agriculture recognized the breed and it was internationally accepted by the FCI (Federation Cynologique Inter- nationale) in 1984. Black Russian Terriers first came to the United States in the 1980s. In 2001, the Black Russian Terrier was admitted to the Miscellaneous Class of the AKC and was accepted into the AKC Working Group

“In 1981, the Russian Ministry of Agriculture recognized the breed and it was INTERNATIONALLY ACCEPTED BY THE FCI (FEDERATION CYNOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE) IN 1984.”

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on July 1, 2004. Th e Black Russian Terrier Club of America ( is the AKC parent club. Despite its name of “terrier,” which was transferred to the name of the breed from the name of the Red Star Kennel project, the Black Russian Terrier is not a terrier and has neither the structure nor movement of a terrier. Structure and movement resembling the “terrier type” would be a fault under the Black Russian Terrier standard. Th e Black Russian Terrier was bred to guard and to protect, and it must possess the substance, size, agility and stability of temperament to perform this function. Th e desirable type for a Black Russian Ter- rier is a large dog with a balance between excellent substance and powerful move- ment without sacrificing one for the other. Th ere are many adjectives that describe the character and temperament of the Black Russian Terrier. He is a calm, con- fident, courageous and self-assured dog.

He is alert and responsive, instinctively protective, determined, fearless, and deeply loyal to family. He is aloof towards strangers and therefore does not relish intrusion into his personal space. Stability and working abilities are passed genetical- ly and should be mandatory requirements for breeding stock. Created for close work with humans, the Black Russian Terrier does not pos- sess hunting instincts. Th e dogs are dedi- cated to and become very attached to their owners and families, and thus it is not a breed that can be left outside or iso- lated in a kennel. The Black Russian Terrier is a robust, large and very powerful breed with males ranging in size from 28"-30" and females slightly smaller. A large male will easily weigh 140 pounds. Because of its size, strength and natural protec- tive qualities, early and continuing obe- dience and socialization will result in a well-rounded, stable and trustworthy

companion. It is not a breed that should be purchased for children or left under a child’s supervision. Black Russian Terriers easily respond to positive training and they are quite multi-talented. Th ey excel in obedi- ence, rally, agility, carting, weight pull- ing, protection, and other working dog sports. Black Russian Terriers with cor- rect temperament are being used in many di ff erent working fields as military/police dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs and companion dogs. Th e only acceptable color for the Black Russian Terrier is black. A small percent- age of gray hairs (even in puppies) are allowed, as long as the gray hairs are even- ly spread and there are no solid patches. As the breed is still young and a few of the foundation breeds were not black, there can be throw-back colors (such as black and tan, sable and fawn) from time to time (each parent must contribute a col- or gene). While these non-black colored


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dogs are not acceptable in any registries, despite their color pattern they have the same unmistakable Black Russian Ter- rier qualities and are loved by many Black Russian Terrier fanciers. Health is very important in the Black Russian Terrier. As with many large breeds, hip and elbow dysplasia remain a health problem for the breed. Hyperuricosuria (bladder stones from high levels of uric acid) has also seen an increase in the last few years. Consciencious breeders world- wide are health testing and reporting results in an e ff ort to produce healthy litters. Th e double coat of the Black Russian Terrier requires regular grooming. Th e natural untrimmed coat length varies from 1 ½ " to 6". While this is not a heavy shed-

ding coat, weekly brushing and bathing and scissoring every four to six weeks are recommended to maintain a healthy man- ageable coat. More frequent beard washing may be required. Sadly, the number of Black Russian Terriers in rescue has increased substan- tially as the public has become more aware of this fascinating breed, often seen only in pictures or on television before acquir- ing. Many dogs have been imported or acquired from unknown breeders. Th e dogs su ff er from poor breeding and have genetic or other health issues. New owners have no idea of the size, cost, maintenance and training required for this breed. Th eir expectations of a black bear-type dog with a Labrador personality are short lived and

they are not prepared to deal with the tem- perament and size of a very large untrained and unsocialized heavy coated working dog. As a result, the dogs are abandoned or turned into shelters, often as young adults. Loved by people all over the world, the Black Russian Terrier is, indeed, a very fas- cinating breed. Emerging from the blend- ing of many working breeds, the Black Russian Terrier has its own, unique image – incredibly beautiful and powerful, intel- ligent and loyal, these dogs are amazing companions, providing love, joy and pro- tection to its owners. It is the responsibility and obligation of the Black Russian Terrier breeders and owners to be careful stewards of this mag- nificent breed.


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I n general, the Black Russian Terrier is a healthy, robust dog. Like many large breed dogs, they are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. Like all dogs, they can have other health problems as well. Black Russian breeders and the Black Russian Ter- rier Club of America (BRTCA) have been working with histori- ans, researchers, and veterinarians for more than 30 years to help understand conditions and diseases in the Black Russian Terrier. It is essential to ask questions about each dog or puppy you are considering for your family. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of information you get. This breed is not “worse” than another breed or even a rescued mixed-breed. Because of the research and breeder cooperation, we know more about health in this breed. Knowledge is a great tool that can help a buyer choose the right addition to their family. Remember, there is no perfect dog. Every dog will have some health concerns in its lifetime. Even the best breed- ers and best pairings may produce some puppies that have issues. Breeders make the best selections possible for sire and dam based on known risks. Genetics plays a part, as does the environment. Everyone’s goal is to produce a happy, healthy dog that possesses the best Black Russian Terrier traits and characteristics. The AKC Parent Club, the Black Russian Terrier Club of America ( ) is the guardian of the breed in the United States with regard to health and the conformation breed stan- dard. The BRTCA recommends the testing of mating pairs before breeding. Those test results may be made public on a website: The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals ( ). Health tests recommended by the BRTCA ( tests?breed=BRU&var= ) are: • Hip Dysplasia Screening by Radiographs (X-Rays) after 24 Months of Age; • Elbow Dysplasia Screening by Radiographs (X-Rays) after 24 Months of Age; • Cardiac Evaluation after 12 Months of Age (Puppies Should Already Be Screened by Auscultation Before They Go to Their New Homes); • Companion Eye Certification (CARE) by an Ophthalmologist; • DNA Testing for Juvenile Laryngeal Paralysis & Polyneuropathy; • DNA Testing for Color, including K Locus (Dominant Lack) and A Locus (Agouti). A CHIC number (Canine Health Information Center http:// ) is assigned to each dog whose test results are made public in the OFA database. You may hear

breeders talking about CHIC numbers because they are proud that they’ve completed all of the Parent Club recommended tests. Look closely at the wording: They’ve COMPLETED the tests; this does not mean the dog PASSED all the health screenings. For this rea- son, it is essential to look at the OFA database yourself—take no one’s word for it. Even if you see official “OFA Certificates,” please look for yourself. If you need help navigating the OFA database, ask for it. There is no substitute for doing this. In addition to the aforementioned tests, there are other tests and screenings that breeders may complete. Additional informa- tion is always useful. Screenings that you may see are: • Hyperuricosuria or HUU (DNA test); • Degenerative Myelopathy or DM (DNA test); • Thyroid (Bloodwork); • Patella/Shoulder (Physical Exam and/or X-Ray); • Penn-Hip (Specialized X-Ray); • Progressive Retinal Atrophy or PRA (DNA Test).


that they grow out of before they are four months old. A veteri- narian performing an auscultation (listening to the cardiac sys- tem with a stethoscope) should be able to discern the difference between a puppy murmur and a more significant sound. OFA maintains a Basic Cardiac Database and an Advanced Cardiac Database. Advanced Cardiac is performed by a boarded veterinary cardiologist and requires an echocardiogram. Guidelines for OFA Cardiac changed in October 2020. Results are recorded in a two- tiered clearance, one for congenital disease (permanent), and one for adult onset disease (valid for one year). More breeders are tak- ing advantage of Advanced Cardiac, but there are limitations relat- ed to cost and access to a boarded veterinary cardiologist. Heart disease does occur in this breed. There are documented cases of SAS (Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis) and cardiomyopathy. Again, not many dogs who have known disease will be entered into the data- base, thus the breed statistic for 100% PASSING cardiac exams may be inaccurate. EYES According to the OFA database, only 2.6% of the breed has abnormal eye results. This is a problematic area of testing. Exams are performed by board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists. This is not a “vision” test but rather a screening for genetic dis- ease related to the eye. There are several eye conditions noted upon examination. Some of these conditions (entropion and dis- tichiasis, for example) may be discovered during an exam, but are not considered inherited or breed-specific conditions. Those dogs may receive a “passing” grade on their eye exam with the “breeder option noted.” The decision to note the “breeder option” is not left to the breeder or OFA. The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists has a Genetics Committee that is responsible for determining the eligibility of the condition noted with consider- ation to the breed of the dog. Eye exams are good for one year only. It is helpful for breeders to continue to test their breeding dogs when they are young and again when they are older. JUVENILE LARYNGEAL PARALYSIS & POLYNEUROPATHY Juvenile Laryngeal Paralysis & Polyneuropathy (JLPP) is also referred to as Polyneuropathy with Ocular Abnormalities and Neuronal Vacuolation (POANV). They are one in the same. This syndrome is tested through a DNA sample of the dog. Both the sire and the dam should have this testing completed BEFORE the mating occurs. The JLPP gene is a simple recessive gene. Without a lesson in genetics, the important information is the result for the puppy. It is OK if the puppy is a carrier (meaning the puppy has one copy of the gene). A puppy with two copies of the gene for JLPP will die. To date, 100% of all puppies with two copies of the JLPP gene have died. It is fatal. Always ask for copies of the JLPP test result for the sire and dam, as well as for the puppy, if possible. Never purchase a puppy without this information, not from any breeder in any country in the world. (The test is globally acces- sible.) If you want more information about the disease, I provided a link in a previous paragraph. The BRTCA was instrumental in raising money for researchers at the University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine to map the gene and develop a test for the disease. Through 2020, 735 dogs were tested for JLPP; findings indicate that nearly 25% are carriers for the disease. HYPERURICOSURIA Hyperuricosuria (HUU) is inherited as a simple autosomal recessive gene. Dogs with two copies of this gene are predisposed to form stones in their bladder, or sometimes, kidneys. While this condition is not considered “fatal,” there are several dogs that have

There are many peer-reviewed journal articles on canine health. Some are accessible online. The majority of articles and resources will not be breed-specific. These are still great articles and resourc- es. Hip dysplasia in the Black Russian Terrier is no different than in a Golden Retriever. Look for reputable sources when researching health conditions. Some useful links are included here: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Following is some anecdotal information about conditions and diseases in Black Russian Terriers. Much of this is based solely on my experience or discussion with other breeders or veterinarians, and is not to be relied upon as scientific fact, unless so referenced. HIP DYSPLASIA According to the OFA database ( breed-statistics ), more than 41% of animals tested have ABNOR- MAL hips. This means that more than 41% of BRTs whose x-rays were sent to OFA did not pass their hip screening for dysplasia. Many more dogs have x-ray screenings but did not have OFA evaluations. This means that the statistic for failing hips could be higher than 41%. It is also important to note that a passing hip grade on a two-year-old dog does not mean the dog will be free from joint degeneration over time. This is a large breed dog with large bones and a lot of weight. Joints may deteriorate over time for any dog, even those with “OFA Excellent” hips. ELBOW DYSPLASIA According to the OFA database, more than 26% of animals tested have ABNORMAL elbows. This means that more than 26% of BRTs whose x-rays were graded by OFA did not pass elbow screening. Many more dogs have elbow x-rays done, but they are not sent to OFA for grading. This means that the statistic for fail- ing elbows could be higher than 26%. On another note, because nearly 60% of the weight of the dog is carried upfront, the elbows take a lot of wear and tear. Some abnormal elbows will require surgical repair, while others do not. Elbow injuries are common in the breed, especially in young dogs, and like hips, elbow joints will wear over time and degrade so that a dog with normal elbows at two years old may not have normal elbows at age four or later. CARDIAC According to the OFA database, 100% of BRTs have passed their cardiac exams. This does not mean there are no heart prob- lems in the breed. Many BRT puppies have a slight heart murmur


died when medical intervention was not initiated quickly enough. Statistics on this condition are poor. “Carrier” or “clear” dogs are not affected by the condition. “Affected” dogs may not develop stones, but they may have elevated levels of uric acid in the urine and require a special diet. Many breeders choose not to produce “affected” puppies. Always ask for the genetic testing results on both parents and on the puppy. This test has been globally avail- able for many years. COLOR GENETICS In recent years, genetic color testing for the K Locus (dominant black gene) and the A Locus (agouti) gene have been a requirement by the BRTCA for completing CHIC testing. While these two genes may not have a direct tie to a health condition, they may still be important to preserving the integrity of the breed. After con- sulting with geneticists, researchers, and world-renowned experts in the Black Russian Terrier, it was determined that the only acceptable color for this breed shall be black. There are “throw- back” colors that are sometimes produced. Because of the number of dog breeds involved with the creation of Black Russians, genetic color combinations can be complicated. Breeding may produce a puppy that is sable, black and tan, saddle patterned, cloudy/silver, red, or even wheat-colored. Some puppies are born black and then change color as they mature. These things do happen, and even the best breeders can produce a non-black puppy. Color testing will help breeders produce puppies that most closely resemble the stan- dard, which is a black dog. Non-black dogs may be registered (they are still purebred), and they may compete in companion sports. Non-black dogs may not compete in the AKC conformation show ring. Non-black coloring is a disqualification. OTHER TESTING Some breeders will also have a patella exam. There is no known correlation in this breed between patella exams and stifle ligament tears, which do occur in dogs. Thyroid is another test sometimes completed. A passing thyroid test is no guarantee that the dog will

not have thyroid problems as an older adult. Dentition is a confus- ing “test.” It is not a test at all, but rather an exam. A veterinarian counts the dog’s teeth and notes any missing teeth. Full dentition (42 teeth) is required for Black Russian Terriers. Per the AKC breed standard, one missing tooth is considered a serious fault; however, two missing teeth is considered a disqualification. The tentition exam does not refer to a scissors bite. Any bite other than a scis- sors bite is a disqualification in Black Russians. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a condition in dogs that can cause vision impair- ment in low lighting or at night. Only recently have DNA tests identified this marker in Black Russian Terriers. Presently, there is no study on PRA in the breed. All that we know about PRA comes from general studies on dogs and a few specific breeds. There are numerous other DNA tests and other screenings that may be done. These tests may have no significant role in the breed at all. OTHER PROBLEMS IN THE BREED Ear infections, hot spots, environmental allergies, and food allergies are all problems in Black Russian Terriers, just as they are with other breeds. Not all of these conditions are related to the breeding pair or the breeder. Allergies and sensitivities can develop as a result of numerous environmental conditions. Ear infections and hot spots may be environmental or may be related to grooming and/or housekeeping. Ask about these problems in the breeding pair so you have an idea of what you may expect in a puppy. THE BLACK RUSSIAN TERRIER, A PICTURE OF HEALTH Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the beloved Black Russian Terrier. Remember, I am not a veterinarian. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for all medical information. There is a lot to learn, but being informed is essential. You’ll hear the phrase, “Do your homework,” repeated many times during your search for your next puppy. It’s good advice. Learn to look up and verify information, so you are not relying on anyone else to make an informed decision.



O ver the years, there seems to be a growing confusion about the appropriate size and coat type of the Black Russian Terrier. With the many variations being seen today, and with an unclear understanding of the coat, it is understandable why there is ongoing confusion. Our hope is to clarify and give guidance to judges and fanciers alike. For a look at the complete Illustrated Standard, please go to the Black Russian Terrier Club of America website and purchase the Black Russian Terrier Illus- trated Study of the Standard today! To understand the Black Russian Terrier, we must first understand what he was bred to do. The Red Star Kennel of Russia aimed to develop a large, brave, strong, and manageable working dog with pronounced guarding instincts. These dogs are working dogs in every sense of the word. Their history is full of successful missions such as protect- ing border crossings and military operations, and working in Russian prisons. The Black Russian Terrier, in essence, has combined all of the best qualities found in his forefathers—the strength and power from the Rottweiler; the energy and work ethic of the Giant Schnauzer; the kind, gentle nature and reserve of the Newfoundland; and the fun-loving, intelligent, and tenacious disposition of the Airedale. According to the AKC breed standard, mature male Black Russian Terriers are to be between 27-30 inches in height, with the desired height between 27 and 29 inches, and mature females are to be between 26-29 inches in height, with the desired height between 26 and 28 inches. Maturity is defined as being over the age of 18 months. (The FCI standard, which is very similar to the AKC standard, states for males 28-30 inches, no less than 27 inches and no greater than 30.5 inches; and for bitches 26.5 inches and 28.5 inches, and no less than 26 inches and not more than 29 inches.) Both the AKC and FCI stan- dards express that height should not exceed 30 inches as this is a serious fault. However, here is where it gets tricky for those learning about the breed. Also stated in the AKC standard and the FCI standard is that: “ Height consideration should not outweigh that of type, proportion, move- ment and other functional attributes. General balance is more impor- tant than absolute size. ” (AKC) and “ Slightly taller specimens are toler- ated providing they are proportionate and of excellent breed type. ” (FCI)

“ These dogs are working dogs in every sense of the word. Their history is full of successful missions such as protecting border crossings and military operations, and working in Russian prisons.”



“ A crucial piece to take away from the standard when thinking of size is; the desired height-to-length ratio is 9.5 to 10 and, as per the standard, ‘The chest is oval shaped, deep and wide with well-sprung ribs. The bottom line of the chest extends to the elbows or below and is not less than 50 percent of the dog’s height measured from the withers.’”

So what does this mean, you might ask? What the standards are saying is that while there is a desired height, a dog outside the max- imum height could still be considered, provided he has maintained correct type, proportion, movement, and other functional attri- butes. An oversized dog may lack substance, rib spring, and shoul- der angle, which result in improper structure and movement. The larger dog, though massive and impressive while standing in line, must also possess correct structure to enable correct movement. Remember, this is a working dog. He has purpose! Think of form following function. Endurance and sound working ability come from a balanced, well-proportioned dog. The moderate dog within the desired height and with balanced proportions will be able to do this job far longer and with greater ease than an oversized dog. A crucial piece to take away from the standard when thinking of size is; the desired height-to-length ratio is 9.5 to 10 and, as per the standard: “ The chest is oval shaped, deep and wide with well-sprung ribs. The bottom line of the chest extends to the elbows or below and is not less than 50 percent of the dog’s height measured from the withers. ” I have asked Laura Manis, a well-respected member of the BRT community and an accomplished groomer, to describe the Black Russian Terrier coat and proper show grooming. Laura has groomed many of the top dogs in the country over the 18 years that she has been in the breed. This is what she had to say: “The BRT has a double coat with outer guard hair that is coars- er than the softer undercoat; it is not wiry or curly. The body coat is slightly to moderately wavy. The furnishings on the head fall over the eyes, and the mustache and beard fall on the muzzle. The legs are covered and protected by a long, dense coat.

The coat color is black or black with scattered gray hairs. Old- er dogs may have graying on their beards and ears. The gray hairs may also be coarser in texture; this is permissible. The guard hair is often scissored-off in grooming. During examination, the coat quality and texture can be checked by feeling the coat texture on the leg furnishings. For presentation in the ring, the BRT coat should be trimmed so that the dog’s outline is clearly defined. The grooming guide was developed in Russia. The length of the coat may vary depending on its location on the dog. The fall and muzzle furnishings may be longer than six inches in length. The shaving of the neck and rear emphasizes the com- pact shape of the body as well as the width of substance of the hindquarter. The head is rectangular, brick-like in appearance, and the top of the head is shaved to accentuate the parallel plane of the head and the moderate width of the skull. The ears are shaved and should be medium in size and triangular in shape. The legs are trimmed to resemble columns. A heavy coat can present a beautiful picture in a stack, while its illusion can hide an underdeveloped chest, undersized frame or a multitude of structural faults.” In summary, grooming is not to be “given more weight than structure, movement, and balance…” It is important to remember that the Black Russian Terrier has height ranges for good reason. Size without proper bal- ance, proportion, and substance should not be rewarded. Too small a dog may lack breed type and too large a dog may lack proper structure, balance, and movement. When thinking of the Black Russian Terrier, remember the overall appearance; correct height, substance, musculature and, ever important, balance.



HISTORY T he Black Russian Terrier is a very young breed, having been recognized as a sepa- rate breed in Russia in 1981 and three years later in 1984 accepted in FCI. In the United States, the Black Russian Terrier was accepted by AKC into the Miscellaneous Group in 2001, and fully accepted into the Working Group in 2004. But how did the Black Russian Terrier come to be? Prior to World War II, the Russian army had over 40,000 working dogs with 168 separate units that participat- ed in battles. After World War II, dogs suitable for service work had become essentially extinct, and the govern- ment ordered the creation of a new breed that would be able to serve as a multi-purpose military dog in different climatic regions. In the mid 1940’s, the Central School of Military Breeding (A Red Star Ken- nel@) undertook this task, mass cross- breeding from the few serviceable breeds available post-war. It is believed that at least 17 breeds and cross-breeds were used in the Red Star Kennel breed- ing program which eventually produced the Black Russian Terrier recognized by the Russian Ministry of Agriculture as a breed in 1981. Some of the breeds used were the Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, Airedale Terrier, South Russian and Central Asian Ovcharka, Newfound- land, Great Dane and Moscow Diver (now extinct) among others. The Red Star Kennel geneticists evaluated many aspects of what was being produced in determining which characteristics should be maintained and which should be discarded. As one can imagine, with such a varied genetic background of different breeds and cross-breeds, and without the use of genetic and other diagnostic tools we enjoy today, this was a huge undertaking evolving over many decades! A Giant Schnauzer named “Roy” is credited as being the foundation sire of the Black Russian Terrier. Roy produced large black dogs with rough coat on the head and legs when crossed with cer- tain females of different breeds. While there were certainly other colors that were produced during the formative years and which can also still appear from time to time in litters even now,

selection for both a strong nervous system and a stable temperament .” The geneticists found there was a correlation between temperament and color in the Black Russian Terrier; and from the very first standard for the breed promulgated in 1956 to date, the only acceptable color for the Black Rus- sian Terrier is BLACK . Dr. Yerusalimsky also noted that: “During the first few generations of BRTs, the dogs quite often could have hyper excitability and unmotivated aggression. Being large, such dogs were socially very dangerous, and because of that they were consistently eliminated from the breeding pro- gram of the breed. As a result of this selection, the temperament of contem- porary BRTs began to meet all the mod- ern requirements of social living.” This is a very important statement. What were these dogs that possessed such “hyper-excitability,” “unmoti- vated aggression” and were “socially very dangerous” to the extent that they had to be “eliminated from the breed- ing program of the breed”? Two breeds mentioned by Dr. Yerusalimsky are the black and tan Rottweiler and the black and tan Airedale Terrier. In discussing the specific black and tan markings reminiscent of the Rott- weiler, he states: “As one of the ancestors of the BRT, the Rottweiler also has to have maxi- mum pigmentation, a strong nervous system and a stable temperament. However, because the original inten- tion of the breed was to be essentially a butcher’s guard dog, the Rottwei- ler is more aggressive than the Giant Schnauzer, who is in [sic] usually more of a companion dog. Thus, the inter- breed type of BRTs, which is tilted towards the Giant Schnauzer, is more socially acceptable.” G. A. Yatcenko, the President of the National Russian Black Terrier Club, and M. V. Gerasimova, then President of the International Black Russian Ter- rier Club, provided additional informa- tion regarding non-black coated dogs in May and June 2016. Prior to 2006, puppies not black in color received reg- istration cards with the notation “not acceptable for breeding” and “the color is not accepted by the FCI.” In 2006 such breedings were discontinued “by S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , M ARCH 2019 • 301

there were other reasons why the Rus- sian geneticists chose to further devel- op the black coated dogs. The goal of the Red Star Army was to basically pro- duce a multi-purpose military dog. This dog had to work closely with its han- dler, over different terrain and varying climates, whether on patrol, guarding, or drafting. Not only was correct size and structure required, temperament and trainability were equally important. WHY BLACK? It is not unusual from time to time for puppies in a litter to have coats with “throw-back” colors and patterns which can include black and tan, black and silver, sable, gray, fawn and shades in between. Historically these pups were eliminated from any breeding program. Now, genetic color testing is available to determine what color gene a dog is car- rying so that breeders can make intelli- gent choices with regard to maintaining the black in the Black Russian Terrier. Color testing is now one of the required tests for Black Russian Terriers to obtain a CHIC number. Black dogs require dark pigmenta- tion of the nose, eyes, gums and lips. As the breed stabilized and consistently reproduced itself, the black dogs from the “Roy” (Giant Schnauzer) line con- sistently exhibited the qualities that were being sought. Remembering that there was no such thing as DNA test- ing post-WWII, the geneticists noticed a correlation between black dogs with maximum pigmentation and a sound temperament in comparison to light pigmented, non-black dogs. According to canine Russian expert Dr. Eugene Yerusalimsky (world known dog expert, international judge, author of Russian and FCI breed standards, author and international lecturer on canine biomechanics), in a letter writ- ten to the Black Russian Terrier Club of America in May 2016 in response to the emergent issue of the United Ken- nel Club registry considering a standard change to allow coat colors other than black, he states: “For the black color, the standard requires maximum pigmentation of the coat, nose, eyelids, eyes, gums and lips. This is because the direct selection for maximum pigmentation is an indirect

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