Russia is mostly known for its harsh winters and frozen tundra, especially the portion of Russia that runs across Asia. Living in a place with a bitterly cold climate can be difficult, which means it’s taken some special types of canines to withstand these colder climates over the centuries. You may already be familiar with some of the most popular Russian Dog Breeds.
But, there are a good number of breeds that originated–or did most of their development– in Russia. Many of these have histories spanning back thousands of years, making them some of the most ancient dogs on the planet!
If you live in an area that is colder, you may benefit from adding a dog with Russian heritage into your life. While not all of these dogs are easy to obtain (or care for), it’s always good to get a clearer picture of what makes a dog the way they are. Read on to find out more about these incredible dogs from the frigid north!
- Siberian Husky
- Franzuskaya Bolonka
- Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
- Russian Spaniel
- Russian Toy
- Russian Hound
- Russian Harlequin Hound
- Black Russian Terrier
- Yakutian Laika
- West Siberian Laika
- East Siberian Laika
- Russo European Laika
- Karelo-Finnish Laika
- South Russian Ovcharka
- Central Asian Shepherd
- East European Shepherd
- Caucasian Shepherd
- Hortaya Borzaya
- Moscow Watchdog
- Moscow Water Dog
- Sulimov Dog
- Final Thoughts
Perhaps the most well-known Russian dog is the Siberian Husky. These dogs are beyond iconic, and are one of the most popular breeds in the world. They were originally bred to help their nomadic families pull their sleds across the vast frozen wilderness.
These days, they still enjoy work, though they are most often seen as family companions. Huskies are playful and will enjoy time with their families, though they must be carefully trained so as not to injure anyone with their roughhousing.
These dogs are happiest when they have a job to do, as they are very energetic. They will need a whopping 120 minutes of exercise each day, so you should ensure you’re able to keep up with their pace! Huskies benefit greatly from living with active families who have time to attend to their energy needs. Strenuous activity is good for them, so consider giving them more intense exercise such as hiking or sprinting after a frisbee.
The Samoyed is another popular dog from Russia. With their large bodies, happy faces, and dense, white fur, it’s hard to miss them. They’re considered to have originated from primitive dogs, as they have no wolf or fox within their gene pool. They served as companions to hunters, shepherds, and fishermen in Siberia.
While they are happy to continue doing work along those lines, they are also great family pets. They are wonderfully loyal and friendly dogs with a lot of affection to give. This suits them to many different kinds of household. Samoyeds aren’t great at being guard dogs since they are very friendly. Instead, they make good watchdogs because of their keen senses and natural alertness.
Try to keep your Samoyed entertained; they can develop destructive behaviors when they are bored. You can prevent destructive behaviors by training them also, though they will require a firm command– Samoyeds can be stubborn! In any case, they love to run around and will need a yard that can accommodate this.
The Franzuskaya Bolonka is one of two breeds in the Russian Bolonka family. Looking into their etymology may be confusing; “Franzuskaya” means “French”, though these dogs definitely came from Russia! Instead, this breed came about because of the popularity of curly French breeds, such as the Poodle.
Franzuskaya Bolonkas are natural lap dogs and will always want to be at the center of everyone’s attention. They’re always happy to return the affection! Bear in mind that these dogs can be quite noisy. They make good watchdogs for this reason.
Despite being a good watchdog, they’re not very good at guarding, given how small they are. They also love making friends and will not need much time to be comfortable around strangers. As these dogs are sociable, it’s a good idea to bring them out to the dog park to meet other dogs while they get their exercise in. They don’t need a lot of activity to stay healthy, so leisurely walks of around 25-30 minutes a day should suffice.
Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
Another member of the Bolonka family is the Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka. The biggest difference between these two dog breeds is that the Tsvetnaya comes in an array of colors, while the Franzuskaya is only white. Expect these breeds to have similar temperaments.
Tsvetnaya Bolonkas are excellent as lap dogs and are happy even in small homes such as apartments. They thrive when they are given a lot of love and affection from their family. Bear in mind that they have a tendency to be a bit reserved. Socializing them early can help them warm up to new people in no time.
Training is especially important in their puppyhood so they don’t grow up to be too independent and stubborn. Positive reinforcement is the best way to keep them on track with learning good behavior. They will need small amounts of exercise each day; try not to tire them out too much as their small bodies may have a hard time catching up!
The Russian Spaniel has not been around for a very long time; they were bred in Russia at the end of World War II. Even so, the short history they’ve had on Earth has endeared them to many people. They work excellently as retriever companions for hunters.
Once they arrive home, they’re quick to charm everyone in the family with their bright and playful personality. They are patient enough to enjoy being around even small children, though you should still socialize them to make them comfortable around new people.
While Russian Spaniels are energetic, they don’t need a lot of exercise to be happy. Typically, around 45 minutes of exercise each day is enough to satisfy this breed. An example itinerary for exercise would be around 20 minutes of a brisk walk and 25 minutes of more intense games such as playing fetch. Like many pups, they are happiest when they have a large space outdoors to play in, but many are content living mostly an indoor life, even in smaller dwellings.
The Russian Toy is becoming more and more popular, especially in the United States. This dog is teeny-tiny, standing only at an average of 8.5 inches at the withers, and weighing 6 pounds at the heaviest! They were originally bred to be companions for the Russian aristocracy.
Expect that they still carry a regal attitude despite being a companion to a commoner family! They are lively dogs who can be quite vain, and will require that you dote on them constantly. Despite their size, Russian Toys are very brave and will often charge headfirst into dangerous situations. They are incredibly fragile due to how small they are and do not do well with roughhousing.
As such, you should take extra care to keep them safe. Any time spent outdoors must be with your supervision, as they are small enough to be considered prey. An indoor life is best suited for this dog, though they should still be getting daily walks of around 20 minutes.
Russian Hounds are scent hounds that were developed in Russia roughly around the 18th century. They were bred for the hunt, usually working alongside dogs such as the Russian Borzoi, where the Hound would flush out the prey and the other dog would give chase.
To this day, they are still excellent companions for hunters, though they’ve found their place in the home, too, with their deep sense of loyalty. Take care not to have smaller animals in the home if you plan to bring in a Russian Hound. Their prey drive can cause a lot of chaos in the home and will be dangerous for smaller animals living there.
Thankfully, Russian Hounds are easy to train and socialize with their intelligence and obedient nature. They have nearly boundless energy and will be happiest when out exercising with their owners. Around 60 minutes of strenuous activity can help tire this dog out, so ensure that you can keep up with their pace.
Russian Harlequin Hound
The Russian Harlequin Hound hasn’t had a lot of popularity outside their native Russia, but makes for an excellent companion just the same. Another scent hound, the Harlequin enjoys hunting and has a strong prey drive.
This can make coexisting with smaller animals, such as cats, difficult. Despite this, they enjoy spending time with their human family and bigger animals. They can be wonderfully gentle around children. Encourage good behavior with socialization early in their puppyhood.
They aren’t good for smaller homes like apartments due to their need for movement; they can also be incredibly vocal, which your neighbors will not appreciate! They are very active dogs and will need open spaces where they can run around and expend their extra energy. Beyond this, they will need 1.5 to 2 hours of exercise each day!
Black Russian Terrier
The Black Russian Terrier was bred to handle many different situations. They are very happy to play even in colder weather, often clamoring for activity when it snows or rains. These dogs were developed to answer the need for an alert working dog who was both gentle and obedient.
These qualities lend themselves well in home life; a Black Russian Terrier makes for such a good companion! These large dogs are often wary of strangers but will show their family no shortage of love and affection.
While they play nicely with smaller animals, Black Russian Terriers enjoy being large and in charge. As such, any other large dogs in the family may be difficult for them to get along with. Despite their size, they are happy to live in smaller homes provided they get enough exercise. Around 60 minutes of walking per day will be enough to tire this big dog out and keep them well-behaved.
The Yakutian Laika comes from the Yakutia region in Siberia. This dog has had many roles, having served as a herder for reindeer, a sled dog, a hunting companion, as well as a family dog. They enjoy doing their jobs well, and as such will always be eager to please their humans.
However, unfamiliar animals may trigger a defensive instinct in them; they can get aggressive around anyone they perceive to be a threat to their family’s safety. It’s important to socialize them early on and give them the right obedience training to help them behave better.
The Yakutian Laika has a dense coat that keeps them warm in the winter. However, this same coat can make them prone to overheating. It’s important to keep them indoors during the hotter months of the year. Daily exercise is necessary to this active breed. Expect to give them around 45 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise every day in order to keep them happy.
West Siberian Laika
West Siberian Laikas are descended from wolves, which is why the modern breed looks a bit wolflike. They were originally bred in for the purpose of hunting large and small game. They retain these hunting instincts and possess a high prey drive.
It’s generally not a good idea to keep a West Siberian Laika if you’re a first-time dog owner. Training them is difficult, as they are stubborn; you need to know how to establish yourself as the pack leader. Once you are able to do that, then it’s possible for them to be a good companion.
This dog will not be happy in a small space. They are very alert and will start barking loudly if anything seems suspicious, and this could really annoy the neighbors. Beyond this, they need a lot of space to roam. West Siberian Laikas are high-energy dogs who will need around 100 minutes of exercise every day. Taking them out for walks on a leash is a good way to curb their wanderlust.
East Siberian Laika
The East Siberian Laika is larger than their Western cousin. They were also used as a hunting dog, but they had extra utility in being a sled dog and drover. These dogs are also difficult to keep, though they tend to be warmer to their owners than their Western counterparts.
Training them well is important to instilling good behavior in them. Do this from early on to avoid as much stubbornness as possible. East Siberian Laikas also have a high prey drive and will happily chase small animals that share your home. For this reason, they’re often best off as the only pet in the household.
These dogs are very high energy and will require upwards of 60 minutes of exercise every day. Long walks, hikes, and sports are a good way to tire them out and keep them well-behaved.
Russo European Laika
Another member of the Laika family is the Russo-European Laika. They originated in the European parts of Russia sometime in the mid 20th Century. These dogs have an intense loyalty to their human family, though they can be wary of pretty much everyone else.
You can curb any aggressive behavior they may be prone to with early socialization. They enjoy spending time with their loved ones, but will need a lot of care and respect to be comfortable. This dog has high energy needs and will require around 60 minutes of exercise each day. You can give them daily walks, though they will also be happy to explore forests and mountains with you on hikes.
They will almost always retain a need for barking– and loudly! This is exacerbated by them being in enclosed spaces for too long. If you are considering adopting a Russo-European Laika, then you should have a large home.
The Karelo-Finnish Laika gets their start in the Karelo area of Russia. They are the smallest of the Laikas, bred for their transportability during hunts. Their size may prevent them from hunting larger game, but they can handle smaller game and birds just fine.
They are suited to be watchdogs as well as family companions. In fact, they’re likely the sweetest of the Laikas, eager to display affection to their human family. They are at home with other dogs in the household, but their high prey drive will be dangerous to smaller pets.
These dogs are intelligent, though their training will require a lot of kindness and positive reinforcement. They are very sensitive and can easily hold a grudge when they feel they aren’t treated properly. Expect this dog to love playing; you will need to help tire them out so they can be better behaved. Around 90 minutes of exercise each day is enough for them. It’s a big responsibility, so be sure you’re up to the challenge!
South Russian Ovcharka
The South Russian Ovcharka is one of the best guard dogs on this list. Their intended purpose was to be an all-around guard dog, protecting their family and property with a deep loyalty. This can mean that they are more independent, thus making it difficult to assimilate them into family life.
If you teach them how to behave from early in their puppyhood, you can still expect them to be affectionate. However, in that training, you must be firm in teaching them that you are the leader of the pack.
These dogs do not like living in cramped spaces, and as such will hate apartment life. A home with large rooms and a yard to match will be instrumental in keeping the South Russian Ovcharka satisfied. They are high energy dogs who require at least 70 minutes of exercise every day. Take them out for walks as much as you can, and allow them to safely explore the outside world while they’re on their leash.
Central Asian Shepherd
The Central Asian Sheepdog is said to be the oldest surviving breed today, having been around for roughly 5,000 years. While they originated in Central Asia, it wasn’t until the 1920s that they were standardized and recognized as their own breed– this was done by the Russians.
The CAS is both calm and courageous, and would make an excellent family protector. They are suspicious of new humans and animals, and will often feel threatened by people encroaching on their personal space. Socialization is very important to make the most of this loyal breed’s underlying good nature. This will help them get along with every member of the family, including other animals.
Be sure to give your CAS the space it needs to be happy; they will definitely need more than just an apartment! Larger homes suit this breed best, but they are far happier patrolling the grounds outside. They have high energy needs and will need upwards of 90 minutes of exercise each day.
East European Shepherd
Another Shepherd breed developed in Russia is the East European Shepherd. They were bred for harsh, cold climates and to have fewer health problems than the German Shepherd. They are very talented dogs, having histories in the military, the police, and search and rescue.
As such, they will be happiest with a job to occupy their time. In the home, the East European Shepherd shows high loyalty towards their family, but will be wary of others. They get along with other canines who share the home, but their high prey drive may have them chasing cats and other pets.
Training this dog well is key to keeping them behaved into their adulthood. Luckily, their intelligence and obedience make this easy. These dogs are hugely active and will need 120 minutes of exercise every day. They make a good companion for bike rides, as they are adept at running. Try to give this dog variety in their exercise, as their high intelligence calls for a lot of mental stimulation.
With their origins in the Caucasus Mountains at the southernmost point of Russia, the Caucasian Shepherd is a Russian dog through and through. These dogs are ones of great size, and as such were used to protect flocks of sheep from danger.
Therefore, you might find your Caucasian Shepherd as varied in temperament. They can be aggressive and protective, or they may be warm and affectionate. To bring out correct behavior and prepare them well for family life, owners must take care to train and socialize these dogs from as early on in their lives as possible. These dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, so be gentle, yet firm, in their instruction.
These dogs aren’t very high energy once they reach their adult years, and as such will be happy with apartment life. Taking them out for 30 minute walks each day will be enough to satisfy their energy needs. When indoors, it’s a good idea to keep this dog busy with games and toys; playing with their family is a good way to keep them well-behaved and feeling loved.
The Hortaya Borzaya is a rare kind of sighthound, happiest when they are in the Russian countryside as opposed to the city. As such, they will dislike small homes, and will prefer vast stretches of land they can freely run around in; this is due to their history as a hunting dog.
These dogs are adept athletes, but many prefer to spend time with their families at home. They are devoted, with a very friendly disposition that makes them poor guard dogs, but excellent companions.
They get along with most members of their family, but will need a lot of early socialization if they are to get along with smaller pets. Their high prey drive makes them chase after small creatures, so this will wreak havoc in the home if not in check. They are extremely active, so give them 120 minutes of exercise each day, divided into shorter sessions for better manageability.
As a member of the Russian Sighthound family, the Borzoi has had a history of being an adept hunter’s companion. It’s no wonder why–their names come from the Russian word for “swift”! These dogs can run very fast, which makes them indispensable during long hours of hunting. In the home, when trained properly, the Borzoi is a loyal and sensitive pet.
They are quite shy around others, and will need ample socialization from early on to be better-adjusted in their adulthood. Supplement this with lots of positive reinforcement so as not to hurt their feelings.
It’s generally not a good idea to keep a Borzoi if you have small pets or children in the home. They were made for chasing after small creatures, and this is hard to take out of them. Despite being skilled runners, the Borzoi does not particularly like strenuous exercise, and is content with 30 minutes of leisurely play each day. They are happy to spend most of their time indoors.
Another Russian sighthound, the Taigan was developed in Kyrgyzstan while the nation was still part of the USSR. These dogs were bred for the hunt, and are excellent runners adept at chasing after fast-moving animals like deer, foxes, and wolves.
These dogs are regal and dignified in the home; they are loyal to their family but are more reserved, and won’t be keen to slobber on their loved ones! They are fairly independent and often see their owners as their equals. This can lead to a lot of bad behavior, so owners must take care to train them to behave in their puppyhood.
These dogs have seemingly boundless energy. Taigans require upwards of 120 minutes of exercise per day! You can tire them out faster with more strenuous activity, like having them run alongside you on a bike ride. They require quite a bit of mental stimulation, so take care that they are always entertained. Taigans do not like living in small areas; they are happiest when there is plenty of land to explore.
The Moscow Watchdog was bred in Moscow to be a watchdog— though we’re sure you guessed that! They were developed to handle the harsh winters in Moscow, so as to better protect their families and the property their family owns all throughout the year.
As such, these dogs can be aggressive if not socialized properly and given thorough obedience training. They enjoy being a family companion, but will be very protective of that family, often aggressive to perceived threats. Lots of positive reinforcement is key to getting them to behave.
These dogs are quite active and will need upwards of an hour of vigorous exercise each day. They dislike being kept in cramped homes and will be far more content patrolling the grounds, so ensure you have a lot of space to give them. You can better tire them out by taking them on brisk walks, with plenty of games of fetch in their downtime.
Moscow Water Dog
Another dog from Moscow, the Moscow Water Dog was bred in the 1950s to serve as a water rescue dog in the Russian armed forces. Unfortunately, these dogs were more inclined to bite the people they were rescuing than to… actually rescue them.
Their aggressive nature meant they could not continue to be bred. Because of this, all purebred Moscow Water Dogs have since gone extinct. It’s worth noting that the breed was used in the development of another Russian dog breed, the Black Russian Terrier.
These dogs were adept at swimming, though as you can imagine would prefer to do their exercise by themselves. They had all the bravery and confidence the armed forces needed from them, only without the softer temperaments necessary when they weren’t working. We can only wonder what would have happened to this breed if they had continued to be developed, but it’s good to remember them and their place in breeding the Black Russian Terrier.
The Sulimov Dog is an interesting breed, though they’re not strictly a dog. These are jackal-dog hybrids, having been bred from Lapponian Herders and golden jackals. They were developed in Russia sometime in the mid 1970s, by Klim Sulimov, for the purpose of working in airport security as sniffer dogs.
The original dog-jackal combination made for a dog that was hard to train, so other dogs were included in the mix to help improve obedience. These were a reindeer herding hound, a Spitz, and a Fox Terrier. After seven generations had passed, the Sulimov Dog had been properly established, and they continue their work in bomb detection to this day.
At present, there are only around 40 Sulimov Dogs who exist, all of which are the property of the Aeroflot company they were developed by. Twenty-five of those dogs currently work as sniffer dogs. Whether the lineage will continue remains to be seen, but who knows? We may one day find Sulimov Dogs in the home as family companions.
Think this dog looks like a wolf? Well, that’s because the Volkosob is, partly. The Volkosob is a hybrid wolfdog that was developed to help Russian soldiers protect the borders of the largest country in the world. They have both the temperament and size of wolves, with an intimidating appearance and the courageousness to match. However, when not on the workfield,
Volkosobs are friendly to their comrades and serve as a faithful companion. These dogs took a long time to breed, with over 200 wolf-hybrids being bred at the University of Cologne before the Volkosob emerged. It was in the year 2000 that the first unusually friendly wolf-dog was born; she was named Nadia and went on to have 40 puppies, all dubbed “Volkosobs” which is Russian for “wolf-dog”.
These dogs enjoy working and have taken on a variety of tasks they have grown to be good at. These include tracking, sniffing out explosives, and detecting contraband. Volkosobs are exceptionally talented and often take a fraction of the time to complete a task that would have lasted minutes for a regular dog. They are always to-the-point when completing their work.
They also boast a sense of smell that is around six times more powerful than a dog’s. For reference, scientists think dogs’ sense of smell is around 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans’! Volkosobs have thick coats that help them last through bitterly cold temperatures. They have an unusually strong grip and near-endless stamina. As the Volkosob possesses all these incredible qualities, they have been dubbed “”the secret weapon of Russian border patrols”.
Russia may be known for its inhospitable weather, but so many of the dogs that hail from that huge expanse of land are wonderfully warm. Each breed will always have defining characteristics, but it’s good to know that every dog you meet will be their own individual.
Most Russian dog breeds will almost always need a job to do, so if you are blessed to have one in your family, you should ensure they have the tasks and care needed to be happy and healthy. You’ll quickly find that whether your furry friend is busy with their duties, or happily snuggled up with you at home, that they bring joy wherever they go!