Russian Toy Terrier

Gemma Gaitskell
Dr Gemma Gaitskell (BVetMed MSc MRCVS, Royal Veterinary College, London)
Photo of adult Russian Toy Terrier

The Russian Toy Terrier is one of the smallest breeds of dog and, the breed as we know it today, was formed in Russia in the 20th century. Its ancestors were bred as a companion breed for the Russian nobility, a rat catcher and a watchdog. The breed can come in smooth and longhaired varieties, but neither requires much grooming. The Russian Toy Terrier is extremely petite and should have an overall square, elegant appearance. Due to its tiny size and small bone structure, the Russian Toy Terrier can be fragile.

Whilst the Russian Toy Terrier is small, it does enjoy exercise more than some other similarly small sized breeds. Its size means it is ideal for urban environments and it is extremely intelligent and very quick to learn. The breed has an affectionate, bold and cheerful character and is extremely loyal. It can become territorial around its family and be very vocal but should not be aggressive – this does, however, mean it can be prone to suffering from separation anxiety.

About & History

The Russian Toy Terrier is a small dog that belongs to the toy group of breeds. It is also known as the Russkiy Toy, the Russian Terrier, the Moscow Toy Terrier and the Moscovian Miniature Terrier. The breed was only recognised by the UK Kennel Club in 2017 and is not yet recognised by the American Kennel Club but it is accepted in the Foundation Stock Service. The Russian Toy Terrier was developed in the 20th century as a watchdog, rat catcher and companion dog for the aristocracy in Russia using the Manchester Terrier and the English Toy Terrier as foundation breeds. It was popular at the beginning of the 1900’s, but due to its associations with the upper classes, suffered a serious decline in numbers after the October Revolution.

When breeding was restarted around the 1950’s, a modified breed standard was developed to fit the remaining population better than the original one for the English style toy dog did, as nearly all the remaining dogs that were used for breeding had no pedigree and had begun to appear significantly different from the original English Toy Terrier. Numbers of the breed have been in decline until relatively recently when it has seen a revival in popularity and become more widely known outside Russia.


Russian Toy Terrier Large Photo

The Russian Toy Terrier can come in smooth or long coated varieties, although the smooth coated variety is the older of the two types:

  • Black & Tan
  • Blue & Tan
  • Red
  • Red with Black Overlay
  • Red with Brown Overlay

The Russian Toy Terrier is one of the smallest breeds in the world. It has a square appearance and should have an elegant appearance, with long legs. The breed should measure between 20 and 28 cm at the withers and weigh up to 3 kg, however, individuals should never weigh less than 1 kg. The neck should be long and carried upright, leading to long sloping shoulders. The front legs should be straight, long and lean and the height at the elbows should be just over half that to the withers. The chest should be reasonably deep but not wide. The back should be strong and straight and slope slightly from the withers to the tail, which is held high and has the shape of a ‘sickle’.

The breed has a head that appears proportionately small relative to its body. There should be a clear definition between the skull and the muzzle, which is lean and ends in a point with an overall length that is slightly shorter than the skull. Teeth should be small and white and dogs may occasionally lack 2 incisors from each jaw. The breed’s eyes should be wide-set, large and round. The Russian Toy Terrier has distinctive ears, which are always large in relation to its size, high set and held upright and alert.

The Russian Toy Terrier should move with a fast paced, but effortless gait. Its back should appear to remain still even when the dog is moving.

Character & Temperament

The Russian Toy Terrier is a bold, cheerful and extremely loyal little dog. It has a big character in a small body and can be territorial and protective of its owner. The breed is also very affectionate but it is important that despite their size and the temptation to pick them up that they are allowed to be dogs. Treating them otherwise can lead to the development of behavioural problems.

The breed is very sociable and can become extremely attached to their family, meaning they can be prone to suffering from separation anxiety. Despite this sociable trait they can be suspicious of strangers and very vocal, so although their small size means they do not impose as a guard dog, they will certainly warn of danger. There can be a significant difference in character between male and female dogs.


Photo of Russian Toy Terrier puppy

The Russian Toy Terrier is extremely intelligent and very quick to learn commands, therefore training recall and house training are not usually a problem at all. This ability to learn means that care must be taken to ensure that the breed does not pick up bad behaviours.

Consistency is therefore important when training the breed and not being tempted to constantly pick dogs up is important. Despite their small size, the Russian Toy Terrier is very active and energetic and enjoys having plenty of mental and physical stimulation.


The relatively recent recognition of the Russian Toy Terrier by the UK Kennel Club means that there is little information about the possible inherited health problems, which can affect the breed at the time of writing. The breed has an approximate life expectancy of around 11 years of age, which is less than some other small breed dogs.

It is not currently recommended that the breed participates in any health schemes. The Russian Toy Terrier breed club does however mention some health problems that can occur in the breed and these include:

Patellar Luxation

This condition occurs when the equivalent structure to the human knee cap in the back legs is affected, becoming temporarily displaced from its normal position. The severity of the displacement and frequency at which is occurs can vary and either one or both back legs can be affected. In some cases, surgery is necessary to correct the problem.

Remaining Deciduous Teeth

The Russian Toy Terrier can experience problems when its adult teeth are erupting. The puppy or ‘milk’ teeth, as they are sometimes known, may not fall out and this can affect the development of adult teeth. It is not uncommon for the breed to have to have these teeth removed by a veterinarian.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA can refer to a number of conditions that affect the retina at the back of the eye. The photoreceptors in the retina are affected as they receive less blood supply than normal. This causes a gradual loss of vision, first of all at night and then in all types of light. There are developmental and degenerative types and this affects how fast the condition progresses.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

This disease affects the hip joint. The end of the femur or leg bone suffers from a reduction in the blood supply it receives and this causes it to become necrotic and die. Over time, the end of the bone no longer fits into the hip socket as it should do, causing stiffness and pain. The condition usually develops between 4 months and a year old and may require surgery to relieve the pain it causes.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Russian Toy Terrier is a small breed and therefore does not require much exercise. Around 30 to 45 minutes of walking a day should be enough to keep it happy and healthy. It is, however, more active than some other similar sized breeds, so potential owners should not be under the impression that no walking is required. The breed’s size means that it is ideally suited to city living and can cope well living in an apartment.


The Russian Toy Terrier is a relatively low maintenance breed in terms of grooming. Neither variety has a thick coat or requires specialist grooming. The smooth haired variety only requires occasional brushing to remove any loose hair and the long hair variety requires brushing only a little more frequently.

Smooth coated dogs should have a short coat that is shiny and lies close to the skin, with no undercoat. The longhaired variety should have a medium length coat, which is straight or wavy with shorter hair on the head and front of the legs. This should feel silky to touch and this variety should have a distinctive fringe on the ears.

Famous Russian Toy Terriers

The Russian Toy Terrier is relatively little known outside of its native Russia, so there are few famous examples of the breed in popular culture today. One notable example of the breeds ancestry is Lizetta, an early example of Russian Toy Terrier type who belonged to the Russian Emperor Peter the Great.


The small numbers of the breed mean that there are currently no popular Russian Toy Terrier cross-breeds.

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