Russian Toy Dog Side View
Russian Toy Dog in Grass
Two Russian Toy Dogs Sitting in Grass
Also known as the Russkiy Toy, this tiny dog is often mistaken for a Chihuahua. Developed in Russia from English Toy Terriers, the Russian Toy is generally active and cheerful. He can sport a smooth or long coat, both of which are easy to groom.The Russian Toy is a rare breed. At no more than six pounds, he’s one of the smallest breeds, but that doesn’t mean he has a diminutive personality.

If you are looking for a small dog who might potentially be a therapy or service dog or (health permitting) be active in dog sports such as agility, lure coursing and rally, he’s one to consider. You may want to think twice about getting a Russian Toy if you are looking for a laid-back lap dog. The Russian Toy is typically energetic and loves walks and playtime.

Although the Russian Toy loves playing outdoors, he should be supervised in the yard if you live in an area with aerial predators, such as hawks, or terrestrial predators, such as coyotes or foxes, who may find him to be easy prey. When you can’t be with him outdoors, limit his outings to a covered kennel area.

Despite his small size, the Russian Toy can be a good choice for families with children who are at least 6 years old and have been taught how to handle a pet gently. Very young children may accidentally drop him or step on him. Always supervise children and dogs to make sure they are respectful toward each other. With other pets, including cats, Russian Toys are usually friendly. If you have other dogs, don’t be surprised if the Russian Toy turns out to be top dog.

Other Quick Facts

  • The Russian Toy can be black and tan, brown and tan, blue and tan, or shades of red with or without a black or brown overlay.
  • The Russian Toy has large, thin ears set high on his head. His tail can be docked or undocked.
  • Other names by which this breed is known include the Moscow Toy Terrier and Russian Longhaired Toy Terrier.

The History of the Russian Toy

Once a companion of Russian aristocracy, English Toy Terriers (ETTs) were almost wiped out after the Russian Revolution. When Russian breeders once again had access to dogs outside their country, they discovered that their ETTs had developed a distinct look and no longer resembled the English Toy Terrier of the West. The dogs were renamed Russian Toy Terrier and then, simply, the Russian Toy.

In 1958, a longhaired male dog was born from a breeding of two smooth-coated Russian Toys. The dog, named Chiky, was bred to a female who had slightly long hair, and their offspring became the foundation of what was then known as the Moscow Longhaired Toy Terrier.

Eventually, the two types became one breed with two varieties: longhaired and smooth-haired. Dogs with smooth coats tend to have short, shiny coats, while those with long coats have feathering on the limbs, tails and ears, as well as a ruffle of hair on the chest.

The Federation Cynologique Internationale recognized the Russian Toy in 2006. The United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2008, and the American Kennel Club added it to the Foundation Stock Service the same year. Russian Toys are classified in the Toy Group and have been approved to participate in AKC companion-dog events, such as agility, obedience, rally and tracking, since January 2010.

Russian Toy Temperament and Personality

Bold but charming, the Russian Toy is one of those breeds so often described as “a big dog in a small body.” He may seem ready to take on the world, no matter what the odds. Be prepared to protect him from himself so that he doesn’t get into a scrap with bigger dogs who don’t always respect his authority.

With his family, he’s usually energetic and happy, and tends to be friendly toward other people as well. This is a dog who tends to be always sure of himself. His alert nature generally makes him an excellent watchdog. The Russian Toy will usually let you know if someone is approaching the home.

Because he enjoys attention and is generally intelligent, the Russian Toy usually learns quickly and easily. Reward him with praise and treats, don’t bore him with excessive repetition, and you will find that you have a highly trainable little dog. Sometimes he is stubborn, so you may have to figure out a way to make him think that the behavior you want is his idea.

Start training a Russian Toy the day you bring him home, or before you know it, he will have you trained. He is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.

If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. Russian Toys who are not well socialized are more likely to become distrustful of or aggressive toward strangers.

However, be aware that many puppy-training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect Russian Toy puppy doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Look for a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from an early age.

What You Need to Know About Russian Toy Health

The Russian Toy is a generally healthy dog. His average life expectancy is 10 to 12 years, and he may live up to 15 years or more.

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on her puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Health certifications your pup’s parents should have include:
  • An eye exam by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with results registered with Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or Canine Health Information Center (CHIC).
  • An exam for patellar luxation with results registered with OFA or CHIC.
  • An OFA cardiac evaluation performed by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist.
If a breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests, because she’s never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been vet checked or gives any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of dogs, walk away immediately.

Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens. But sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas, and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in many cases, the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and their eventual causes of death.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common canine health problems: obesity. Keeping a Russian Toy at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to help extend his life.

The Basics of Russian Toy Grooming

Whether your dog has a smooth or long coat, the Russian Toy is easy to groom. Simply wipe down the smooth coat daily with a chamois or a soft brush to remove dead hair.

To help prevent tangles or mats, use a soft-bristle brush daily on the longhaired Russian Toy. Be sure to comb out the feathering (longer hair) on the ears, legs and tail. Trim the hair around the rear end to help keep the area clean. It’s also a good idea to trim the hair between the paw pads.

Both longhaired and shorthaired Russian Toys shed. You may notice more shedding in the spring and fall. Puppies will also shed as their adult coat comes in.

For both coat types, bathe as needed. That can be monthly or more often. If he’s sleeping under the covers with you, a weekly or biweekly bath may be in order. Be sure to brush him thoroughly before bathing to remove any tangles or mats.

The rest is basic care: Trim the nails every few weeks. Brush the teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath.

Finding a Russian Toy

Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss which health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes to avoid those problems.

Start your search with the Russian Toy Club of America or the Russian Toy Dog Club of America. They should be able to refer you to breeders in the United States. This is a rare breed, so you may have to wait awhile before a puppy is available, especially if you want a specific color or gender.

Look for a breeder who is active in her national breed club and a local club, too, if possible. She should regularly participate with her dogs in some form of organized canine activities, such as conformation showing, obedience or other dog sports, or therapy dog programs. She should sell her puppies with written contracts guaranteeing she will take the dogs back if at any time during their lives the owners cannot keep them. Check the club’s code of ethics and ask breeders if they subscribe to it.

Ask the breeder to provide you with documentation that your prospective puppy’s parents were cleared for health problems in the breed and have results registered with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the Canine Health Information Center.

Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It can save you money in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget the adage, “Let the buyer beware.” Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100 percent guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Russian Toy might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams.

An adult Russian Toy, if one is available, may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health, and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an adult dog through a breeder, ask her about purchasing a retired show dog or if she knows of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog From a Rescue Group or Shelter

Bear in mind that the Russian Toy is a rare breed. It is unlikely that you will find one in a shelter or through a rescue group. If you want to search, though, here’s how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like and can have you searching for a Russian Toy in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (house-training status, for example) or very general (all the Russian Toys available on Petfinder across the country). can help you find animal rescue groups in your area.

You can also check local newspapers for “pets looking for homes” sections you can review. Keep in mind, however, that when you acquire a dog this way, he likely hasn’t been evaluated by a person experienced in the breed who is affiliated with a rescue group. If you happen to know someone who is familiar with the breed, ask her to go with you to meet the dog.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Russian Toy. That includes vets, dog walkers and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescue

Most people who love Russian Toys love all Russian Toys. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Russian Toy is an uncommon breed in North America, so few dogs are available through rescue, but breeders and breed clubs work to place dogs when they are in need of a new home.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They may also offer opportunities to foster a dog if you are an experienced dog owner.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
  • What is his energy level?
  • How is he around other animals?
  • How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
  • What is his personality like?
  • What is his age?
  • Is he house-trained?
  • Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
  • Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Russian Toy, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, breeder purchase or adoption, take your Russian Toy to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that can help you avoid many health issues.