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Borzois: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Borzoi temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Borzoi dog breed

Possessed of a quiet dignity and independence, the Borzoi is sometimes compared to a cat – a very tall cat!

Once past the boisterous puppy stage, most Borzois are calm and quiet indoors, gliding through your living room with light-footed grace.

Off-leash, though, the Borzoi can explode into a powerful, driving, floating gallop. Therefore the space where he is loosed to run must be safe and enclosed, else he will be out of sight in seconds. Breeders say one of the leading causes of death in Borzois is being hit by a car.

With strangers, most Borzois are polite but reserved. Because of their great size and strength, they require early socialization to avoid either aggression (very rare) or skittishness/shyness (more common).

Usually sociable with other dogs of their own size, the Borzoi is a deadly serious chaser of anything that runs, including cats and small dogs. Once known as Russian Wolfhound, this breed can easily dispatch almost any smaller animal.

Like all sighthounds, Borzoi are independent and not inclined to obey slavishly.

Though usually sweet and docile, this breed can be touch-sensitive and may react with lightning reflexes if grabbed unexpectedly or startled. This is a not a breed to be taken lightly or teased.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is tall and slender, yet very powerful – a racy athlete
  • Has a silky coat that comes in many colors
  • Is extremely athletic and graceful – can run swiftly and jump great heights
  • Carries himself in a calm, dignified manner
  • As an adult, is mannerly and undemanding in the home
  • Is polite with people
  • Doesn't bark much

A Borzoi may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • Providing a safe enclosed area where he can gallop
  • Shyness or suspiciousness when not socialized enough
  • Emotional sensitivity to stress and abrupt changes in schedule
  • Strong instincts to chase other living creatures that run
  • An independent "what's in it for me?" attitude toward training – can be stubborn and strong-willed
  • Heavy shedding

A Borzoi may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Borzois have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
  • Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Borzoi to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

More traits and characteristics of the Borzoi

If I was considering a Borzoi, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough running exercise. Borzoi don't need miles of running, but they certainly can't get by with leashed walks around the block and a small yard. These dogs need access to a large fenced area – fenced because they are chasing addicts with sharp eyesight for movement. If something catches their attention on the horizon, they will take off and not come back. The fence should be high – a Borzoi can clear six feet with little effort.

    See if there is a dog club in your area that offers an activity called lure coursing, which is chasing a mechanical lure in a controlled setting. This is an appropriate outlet for the full-speed galloping behaviors that are "hardwired" into your Borzoi's genes.

  2. Chasing other animals. Most people have no experience with how lightning-fast Borzoi really are. They might be fine with other family pets, but I personally wouldn't keep a cat or small dog with a Borzoi.

    I was a witness to a tragic event where a Borzoi killed a small dog. The Borzoi simply reared up and plucked the little dog right out of its owner's arms and killed it. Not out of malice. Simply because the small dog triggered prey instincts in the Borzoi.

    In today's society, the legal liabilities of owning a large powerful hunting breed should always be kept in mind.

  3. Providing enough socialization. Standoffish by nature, Borzois need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become shyness or suspicion, which are difficult to live with.
  4. The independent temperament. Sighthounds are very different from other kinds of dogs. They are independent thinkers who don't particularly care about pleasing you. They may display passive resistance by bracing their legs and refusing to move. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. Read more about Borzoi Training.
  5. Emotional sensitivity. Be honest.... is there tension in your home? Are people loud or angry or emotional? Are there arguments? Borzois are extremely sensitive to stress and can end up literally sick to their stomachs, with severe digestive upsets and neurotic behaviors, if the people in their home are having family problems. Sighthounds are peaceful dogs who need a peaceful, harmonious home.
  6. Heavy shedding. Borzoi shed a great deal. You'll find hair all over your clothing and furnishings.
  7. Potential health problems. More than most other breeds, Borzoi are prone to a life-threatening digestive syndrome called bloat. It occurs out of the blue and can kill a Borzoi in a matter of hours. In addition, an alarming number of Borzoi are dying early of inherited cancer and heart disease. See Borzoi Health.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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