He is so smart it's scary. If you feel that you can't live with a dog who is smarter than you are, then the Blackie might not be a good choice. Remember that the breed has historically been used to work for the military and police (although these days the Blackie is most often found protecting home and hearth).
That intelligence means he trains quickly but can have a real stubborn streak, so you need to be the one in charge from the get-go. If you're into performance competitions, such as agility, obedience, or Schutzhund, this guy is a natural performer who knows how to work a crowd. He'll also excel at search and rescue.
The Blackie is slow to mature, like most big dogs. He housetrains easily, and he doesn't need to be leash-trained as he'll follow naturally while on a leash. He's also much more active outside than in the house.
He can't be left outside to live in a kennel; he's just too people-oriented. Besides, some day he could start defending his kennel against you rather than defending your home. He has to see your home as his in order to protect it.
Calm and quiet, the Blackie tends to be aloof with strangers, but not aggressive or shy toward them. He'll accept a stranger that you admit into the household, but he'll take his time considering whether such a person should be a friend. However, if he feels the stranger is threatening, then all bets are off — he won't waste a moment hesitating to defend those he loves.
Because the Blackie is so intelligent, stubborn, and large, he isn't a good choice for first-time dog owners. For example, if you don't want your adult Blackie on the furniture or in your bed, you need to start out right by not allowing the puppy to be in those places. He won't give up those habits once he's gotten away with them a time or two his stubborn streak is just too strong.
- Blackies need a job. They were bred for it and will be unhappy without one. Their job as your companion could be competing in agility, obedience, Schutzhund, or various canine sports.
- Black Russian Terriers need at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. They are intelligent and powerful, and exercise provides a needed outlet. A Black Russian can manage in an apartment with sufficient outdoor exercise. A fenced yard is best for the Blackie living in a house.
- They don't bark or shed much — but they do bark and shed.
- Blackies enjoy the company of their families and prefer to stick close to their human pack. They don't do well stuck in the backyard by themselves.
- The sometimes stubborn Blackie needs firm training as soon as you get him home so that he won't try to establish himself as the leader of the pack.
- Blackies are by nature aloof with people they don't know, and unless they have regular exposure to lots of different people — ideally beginning in puppyhood — they can become overly protective of you around strangers. This may lead to biting out of fear and aggression. Give your Blackie lots of contact with friends, family, neighbors, and even strangers to help him polish his social skills.
A powerful, well-built large breed, the Black Russian's weight can range from 80 to 140 pounds (although 140 is a bit above average). Males can be 27 to 30 inches tall; females can be 26 to 29 inches tall.
Blackies are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Blackies will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Blackies, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs, and the Black Russian Terrier is no exception. There are three main types of allergies: food allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog's diet; contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals; and inhalant allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Elbow Dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this is also a degenerative disease. It's believed to be caused by abnormal growth and development, which results in a malformed and weakened joint. The disease varies in severity: the dog could simply develop arthritis, or he could become lame. Treatment includes surgery, weight management, medical management, and anti-inflammatory medication.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, affected dogs become night-blind; they lose sight during the day as the disease progresses. Many affected dogs adapt well to their limited or lost vision, as long as their surroundings remain the same.