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Characteristics of the Russian Toy

A litter of Russian Toy puppies in various colors.


Characteristics of the Russian Toy: Square Build, Head Size & Coat

The Russian Toy Breed Standard begins with the description: “A small elegant dog, lively, long-legged, with fine bone and lean muscles.” This accurate summation of the breed is what attracted my attention eight years ago when I first learned about the breed and began my research. I found that one of the distinguishing characteristics that contributes to this description is the square build.

Russian Toy dog characteristics
This diagram of the biomechanics of the Russian Toy provided by Natalia Chistjokova shows the square build with the light gray square overlaid on the body of the dog.

The square build is described in the second section of the Russian Toy Standard and states that “…the height, when measured vertically from the ground to the highest point on the withers, is equal to the length, when measured horizontally from the prosternum to the point of the buttocks.” These proportions described in the standard and pictured here are a part of what gives the Russian Toy its distinct silhouette when compared to the other small Toy breeds. While the purpose of the breed is companionship, these proportions make the breed very suited for activity and they are indeed quite a lively little dog.

When I am viewing a Russian Toy from the side, I am looking for the square that can be overlaid on the dog as in the diagrams. These proportions also contribute to a nice gait and give the Russian Toy the long-legged appearance. Whether you are looking for a show dog, a companion, or a speedy agility partner, the Russian Toy can be the dog for you.

Russian Toy dog characteristics
This picture shows a litter of puppies from red sable parents and illustrates the variety within the specified colors of the Russian Toy.

Another characteristic mentioned in the Standard is that the head is “small compared to the body.” The Russian Toy does not have a head that is large for the body size, but rather a smaller head that is in proportion to their body size. This contributes to the “small elegant dog” mentioned in the first line of the Standard. The overall appearance of the Russian Toy combined with their temperament makes this breed a versatile small companion.

Finally, I would like to discuss the coat types and colors. While an initial glance shows two coat types and a few color patterns, there are some nuances in coat type and color to consider as well. When the breed began in Russia, the only coat type was the smooth—until 1950 when the long coat emerged. Initially, the different coat types were called different names, but they eventually were classified together as a breed.

Russian Toy dog characteristics
The purple lines overlaid on this Russian Toy puppy show the measurement points for the square build.  The ideal dog would have the same length for the horizontal and vertical measurement.

While an initial glance shows two coat types and a few color patterns, there are some nuances in coat type and color to consider as well. When the breed began in Russia, the only coat type was the smooth—until 1950 when the long coat emerged.

The smooth coat is described as “short, close-lying shiny hair, without undercoat or bald patches.” This description is describing a short smooth coat that is close to the appearance of the Toy Manchester Terrier. And the long coat dogs have “bodies covered with moderately long (one to three inches) straight or slightly wavy hair, close-lying, which does not hide the outline of the body.” The Standard goes on to describe short, close-lying hair on the head and front of limbs, and feathering on the rear of the limbs.

Additionally, long-coated dogs have ears “covered with thick, long hair forming a fringe.” This fringe, combined with the shorter close-lying hair on the body, is another characteristic of the long-coated Russian Toy and creates a different look than other long-coated Toy breeds. The body hair “should not look tousled or be too short (less than 1/2 inch).” A final mention for the long coat is that the feet have long hair that should cover the nails, but can be trimmed to neaten the appearance. The coat details in the Standard are specific and can help differentiate the breed from others.

Russian Toy dog characteristics

The final point of interest is the coat colors which are Black and Tan, Chocolate and Tan, Blue and Tan, Red, Red Sable, or Red Brown. The Standard goes on in detail about these various colors and has more information under the Head and Forequarters Sections that describe nose, lips, nails, and foot pad coloring. For the colors with “and tan,” the tan markings should be over eyes, on cheeks, inside ears, on chest, legs, and the underside of tail. The red coats can range in color, but deeper, saturated color is preferred. There can be quite a variety in colors with the red and red sable coats. The whole color picture is better explained in more detail, but this gives an overall summary of the Russian Toy and some of their interesting characteristics.

My final and favorite line from the Standard that describes their temperament is: “Active, cheerful, possessing keen intelligence” and all of my Russian Toys exhibit these characteristics which make them a joy to love, train, and show. We are excited to begin exhibiting Russian Toys in the Toy Group starting in January 2022.