Everything You Need to Know About the Russian Prison Dog

Russian Prison Dog sitting on thick ice

The Russian Prison Dog, popularly known as the Caucasian Shepherd Dog, is one of the strongest, kindest, and most courageous dogs in the world. No wonder this dog breed is a ferocious family protector and used as guard dogs in Russian prisons.

Their highly territorial nature makes it hard for them to back down from a fight, even against wolves or bears.

Russian Prison Dogs are difficult to train, and they tend to be aggressive towards strangers and other animals if they’re not kept in the close watch by their owners.

This giant breed is not a suitable choice for novice dog owners, and their size makes them poorly fit for apartment living and homes with little kids.

However, if this dog breed is properly trained and socialized, they can make strong watchdogs and excellent family companions.

Keep reading to learn about the Russian Prison Dog’s unique features and personality.

Let’s dive into details.

What Is a Russian Prison Dog?

The Russian Prison Dog is a serious guardian breed that found its origin from the Caucasus mountain region. Its primary purpose at that period was to protect sheep herds against predators such as wolves, coyotes, and bears.

For this reason, this breed is known for its protectiveness, fearlessness, and sheer power.

For centuries, this breed was also used to protect properties from intruders or trespassers and for many other tasks. They are mostly used as companions and watchdogs in modern days.

There is a large variety of this breed, depending on their area of origin. The Russian Prison Dog has two breed types, which include the Steppe type and the Mountain type.

The Mountain type has a long-coated and greater body mass index than the Steppe type, which has a lighter body mass and a shorter coat.

Due to the spread of this breed all over the world, it was called different kinds of names, including:

  • Caucasian Ovcharka
  • Caucasian Shepherd
  • Caucasian Mountain Dog
  • Caucasian Mountain Shepherd
  • Kaukasische Schaferhund
  • Caucasian Sheepdog
  • Kawkasky Owtscharka

The Russian Prison Dog is registered as the Caucasian Shepherd Dog in the American Kennel Club (AKC). Also, the United Kennel Club (UKC) recognizes it as the Caucasian Ovcharka.

History and Origin: Where Does the Russian Prison Dog Come from?

It is believed that the Russian Prison Dog has originated from an ancient breed of dogs from the Caucasus region, which consists of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Ossetia, Turkey, Ingushetia, and Iran, Chechnia, and southeastern Russia.

The Caucasian Shepherd Dog has lived since time immemorial. Some believe that this dog breed came from domesticated wolves. Others believe their ancestry can be traced to Mastiffs, Balkans, and other dog breeds.

These massive dogs are typically similar in appearance and nature to the Tibetan Mastiff, as they are both working dogs. They have since been introduced into the bloodlines of many dog breeds in the world today.

Historically, this dog breed was used for the safe-keeping and guarding of flocks, herds, and homes from predators. Today, they still serve as guardians and are commonly used as both watchdogs and companions.

Some of the world’s most dangerous and violent prisons are located in Russia.

Because of this, Russian guards use the Russian Prison Dog to protect themselves from possible violence and to deter prisoners from attempting to riot or escape.

In the 1920s, the USSR began selection work with this breed. Most of the breed’s essential qualities were developed during the selection process.

They include self-confidence, physical power, good sight, endurance, sharply developed hearing, fearlessness, and a compact and waterproof coat.

These impressive characteristics allow people to use this breed in different climatic conditions, from good to severe ones.

The Caucasian Shepherd Dogs are also used as show dogs under the name of Caucasian Ovcharka. This canine remains one of the most popular working dog breeds in Russia.

What Does the Russian Prison Dog Look Like?

Russian Prison Dog in winter

Russian Prison Dogs have a muscular build, strong bones, a fairly short coat, and tall-looking with a bright physique. Well-bred Caucasian Shepherds are generally robust and healthy.

They have a bear-look face, moderate deep-set dark round shaped eyes, and a black nose with well-opened, large nostrils. Their lowly placed long tail is copiously covered with thick feathering of hair.

Their round-shaped cropped ears are densely surrounded with hair for insulation. The Caucasian Shepherd’s forelimbs are straight, long, and densely boned.

They also have paws that are large and heavy with thick hair between the toes. This helps provide excellent protection and insulation.

Their coat is thick, dense, and water-resistant with thick feathering, which effectively keeps out the cold. The coat colors are mostly found in shades of gray, fawn, black, cream, tan, rust, brindle, sable, red or white. The FCI prohibits brown Caucasian Shepherd dogs.

Size and Weight: How Big Do Russian Prison Dogs Get?

As mentioned earlier, these dogs have massive size, measuring 23 to 30 inches at the shoulder, some of which are even larger. Their official weight is from 99 to 170 pounds.

But some exceptional ones grow to almost 200 pounds. Although the female canines are slightly smaller than the males, they are still large dogs and with the same qualities as males.

How Many Colors Available for Russian Prison Dog?

The Russian Prison Dog comes in different colors, including agouti & white, black, cream, gray, black and gray, grizzle, red, sable, rust, and white.

They have standard markings, including piebald, brindle markings, and white markings.

Russian Prison Dog Temperament: Do They Make Good Family Dogs?

Russian Prison Dog playing with its owner

The original purpose of the Russian Prison Dog was to protect and guard livestock. This breed is alert, assertive, strong-willed, and courageous. If they’re not adequately trained and socialized, they can be ferocious, unruly, and uncontrollable.

The Russian Prison Dog naturally resents strangers and other canines but has a powerful urge to defend and protect its owner, family members, children, and other household pets.

They are impressive and zealous guardians of their families and can be distrustful of strangers, so caution is recommended. Caucasian Shepherds also have territorial and aggressive tendencies towards other dogs and animals unless raised with them. 

The question is, “Do they make good family dogs?” Let’s face it. This dog breed is not for everyone, especially new or novice owners.

Although they can be loyal, loving, and very protective, they tend to be unruly and aggressive. Unless you’re getting them for protection, they are not really good family dogs.

It requires an owner who understands how to demonstrate strong leadership and is willing to spend a lot of time training and socializing.

This is because the dog can be very stubborn and bossy, thereby it needs an owner that can calm its aggressive tendencies.

The Caucasian Shepherd is not recommended for families with little kids and toddlers because of their overprotective nature.

They may see a rough play from visiting children as an attack on their family members and be convinced to respond accordingly.

If you are eventually going for this dog, you must make sure they’re strictly supervised during play with your children to prevent any accident. You must also train your kids on how to handle this kind of breed.

If you’re going to get this dog breed, you must be prepared to provide a large yard. This is because they are not comfortable living in an apartment or in-house due to their huge size.

Its thick coat makes it possible to thrive under severe weather conditions. So they can naturally cope with living outdoors. You must also allow them to move and run freely in an open area.

Russian Prison Dog Health

The Russian Prison Dog is mostly considered a healthy dog breed, but they can be susceptible to hip dysplasia like many large breeds.

They are also very likely to develop cataracts. Other common health problems they face are obesity and heart problems. 

The life expectancy of Russian Prison Dogs is 10 to 12 years.

How to Care for Your Russian Prison Dog’s Basic Needs?

Feeding and Diet

What you feed your Russian Prison Dog will have a significant impact on the rest of its life.

You should continue to follow your breeder’s feeding recommendations until your puppy is at least six months old unless instructed otherwise by your vet or nutritionist.

It’s important to get your puppy from reputable breeders who will help you make sure that your puppy gets good nutrition with premium foods that help it grow healthy.

Also, avoid feeding your puppy with food that contains low-quality ingredients such as kibbles. What they need is a high-quality food with the appropriate amount of calories and calcium. This will help them against common health problems like hip dysplasia.

Keep in mind that working with your veterinarian or breeder is the best practical way to know the frequency of meals and proper diet for your dog. Make sure also to provide them with clean and fresh water at all times.

Cleaning and Grooming

The Russian Prison Dog has a number of coat types, from short to very long. Those with longer coats need to be brushed daily, and you must focus on the areas where tangling and matting may occur. Grooming can actually be an amazing bonding experience for you and your dog.

Regularly trim their hard, fast-growing nails with a grinder or nail clipper to avoid overgrowth, cracking, and splitting. You must also pay regular attention to their ears to prevent a buildup of debris and wax, which can possibly cause an infection.

Make sure their teeth are brushed regularly.


This dog breed does best with a large yard and is suitable for families accustomed to physical activities like daily walks.

Since they are intelligent and independent breeds, they should be kept confined during exercise for safety purposes. Keep them on-leash when taking them for a walk and in a fenced yard during exercise.

Although the Russian Prison Dog is a low energy dog, it has good endurance for hiking and walking.


Due to their tremendous intelligence and independence, it can be difficult but not impossible to train a Russian Prison Dog for obedience.

Another factor that makes it difficult to train the Russian Prison Dogs is their aggressive disposition.

They do not respond positively to some training types, and using forceful strategies with them could activate their aggressiveness towards everyone. And you obviously won’t want to see the aggressive tendencies of this dog.

You must start formal obedience training right from their early days. This will allow you to help them identify who should be considered a friend, a dangerous threat.

Although they’re frequently active while outdoors, don’t be surprised when you see them quiet in the house. That’s their nature!

Keep in mind that this canine is extremely protective of its family and property, so it may prove difficult to bring new people into your home.

Wellness Visits

Although most Caucasian Shepherds are healthy dogs, you still need to take them on wellness visits. Keep close contact with your veterinarian and give him/her regular updates on your dog’s health condition.

Pros and Cons of Owning a Russian Prison Dog

If you’re still undecided about owning one of these amazing dogs, hopefully, these pros and cons can make the process easier.


  • Russian Prison Dogs are great guard dogs.
  • They are very loyal to their family.
  • They are generally healthy dogs.
  • They are an intelligent and beautiful breed.
  • They exercise requirements are moderate.
  • They make excellent guard dogs.
  • They have exceptional endurance and can live in any climate.


  • Russian Prison Dogs are not for inexperienced owners.
  • They are difficult to train.
  • They are incredibly aggressive towards strangers and other pets.
  • They require a large yard and a high fence.
  • Long-coated dogs need regular grooming.
  • This dog breed is not advisable for families with little kids.

Where to Find Russian Prison Dog Puppies for Sale or Adoption?

Russian Prison Dog with a puppy

It’s imperative to get your puppy from a responsible and reputable breeder. Besides getting a healthy and well-bred dog, you’ll also get essential information about the dog from these breeders.

I’ve compiled a list of responsible and reputable sources where you can find healthy and well-bred Caucasian Shepherd puppies.

If you’re thinking of adopting a Caucasian Shepherd, you can start by reaching out to any of the following organizations:

Russian Prison Dog Puppy Price & Expenses

The average puppy price of a Russian Prison Dog is from $1,500 to $2,000. Besides the price, you will incur some expenses for some essential items such as food, collar, toys, grooming tools, water bowls, harness, and more.

Other costs include vaccinations, health checks, veterinary expenses, deworming, housing, etc.

Related Questions

Why are Russian Prison Dogs used in prisons?

These dogs are carefully selected and adequately trained to identify the prison guards as friends and prisoners as threats. Russian Prison Dogs help protect the prison guards during prison riots and make escaping very unattractive.

Were Russian Prison Dogs used for hunting bears?

Yes, these dog breeds were once used for hunting bears. In ancient times, these canines were used to protect and guard flocks of sheep against attacks from bears and wolves.

Do Russian Prison Dogs drool?

Yes, the Russian Prison Dog has a strong tendency to drool. You must make sure that you have a clean towel on-hand for this kind of situation. However, it doesn’t mean the dog will drool all the time.

Can Russian Prison Dogs be left alone?

A big NO! This dog breed cannot be left alone for long periods. If you are the busy-type, you should start considering other dog breeds.

Do Russian Prison Dogs bark a lot?

These dogs aren’t known for barking more than most dogs. They will only alert owners to any danger, especially in the middle of the night, to raise the alarm to any potential threat. But their bark can be quite loud.

Final Thoughts

You need to understand that owning and managing a Russian Prison Dog is a daunting and arduous task. This fiercely independent and strong-willed breed will only learn to obey and respect a decisive and equally strong-willed owner.

With their keen sense of hearing, they tend to bark more often when they sense any strange sounds. So you must carefully consider these traits and act appropriately.

Early obedience and socialization is a must for this breed. If you are diffident about commanding, controlling, and training this dog, then it is advisable to stay away and opt for another dog with a gentler temperament.

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