When people think about the prison environment, they don’t usually think about the possibility of using guard dogs inside prisons in order to deter certain behaviors. However, that is precisely what they are doing in some of the most difficult prisons in Russia. Unfortunately, Russia is home to a number of prisons that are considered to be the most violent locations in the world. Over the years, there have been a number of altercations that have resulted in several deaths of both guards and prisoners. In an attempt to curb the violence, Russian prison dogs were introduced into the system as early as the 1920s.
Stopping a Dangerous Trend
As previously mentioned, Russian prison dogs have been used for approximately the last 100 years. The overwhelmingly popular breed for use in this type of environment is known as the Caucasian Ovcharka, sometimes also referred to as a Caucasian Shepherd dog. These dogs are absolutely massive in size. Try to imagine what it would look like if someone could crossbreed a bear with a wolf, with a little husky thrown in for good measure. That’s basically what these dogs look like. They can easily weigh more than 120 pounds and they would have no trouble taking down a fully grown man with energy left to spare. While it might seem like their size is the thing that makes them perfect Russian prison dogs, it’s really more about their temperament than anything else.
The Rather Unique Temperament of the Caucasian Shepherd Dog
There are a lot of things that are rather unique about this particular breed of dog. Aside from their truly massive size, they have a temperament that is quite balanced. They don’t tend to get spooked easily. In fact, many people have commented that the majority of them seem to be almost fearless, even in extreme environments. Since these are exactly the type of situations that you might find in a prison, it makes perfect sense that this is the breed people would eventually choose to keep things on an even keel. Moreover, the dogs appear to be able to tell the difference between a situation that warrants their involvement and the prison guards simply doing their jobs. This is crucial. In much the same way that police dogs are trained to protect their handlers, even while going after a suspect, these Russian prison dogs are taught to do the exact same thing for the guards. Even when guards and prisoners are mixed together in a fight, the dogs seem to be able to figure out who to protect and who to go after. In short, they have an uncanny ability to stay focused on the task at hand.
The Training Process
Like any other type of specialized dog training, the training process begins early on for these Russian prison dogs. More often than not, they start training them at approximately eight weeks of age. This training continues until the dogs are fully grown adults and are deemed ready for work as prison guard dogs. As you can imagine, they don’t all make the cut. Again, it’s similar to the situation with police dogs. They may start out with several puppies, yet only one or two out of that group actually make it through the entire training program and go on to work as part of the Russian prison dogs. This is because they have to show the right temperament in all types of situations. That includes the ones that would make most dogs overly aggressive or so panicked that they would want to run away.
In addition to regular obedience training, the puppies are exposed to the unique types of situations that are likely to occur inside a prison. Unfortunately, this involves deliberately scaring the dogs with loud and sudden noises as well as plunging them into complete darkness in unfamiliar surroundings. The whole thing is designed to put the dog on high alert while simultaneously manipulating their senses in order to see how they will react under situations of extreme stress. It sounds cruel but make no mistake about it; these are exactly the same types of situations that a prison guard dog is likely to experience. Therefore, they must be exposed to similar situations in training in order to be effective guard dogs.
A Breed Perfectly Suited for the Region
This particular breed is well suited for work in Russia because of its thick coats. In fact, they have a coat that is similar to that of a husky. As such, they have both an outer coat and a thicker undercoat that keeps them warm, even in the coldest of climates. That makes them a natural choice for working as prison guard dogs in Russia. It gets extremely cold there and the environment where the dogs are working isn’t exactly the most forgiving experience in the world. Many times, the dogs spend their time in old buildings and are even outside for extended periods of time. Therefore, they need to have this coat in order to keep themselves warm so they can physically do the job at hand.
Are Other Breeds Ever Used?
It might come as a bit of a surprise, but there are some prisons in Russia that also use Pitbulls. In some cases, they use them in conjunction with the Caucasian Shepherd. In other locations, the Pitbulls are used almost exclusively. When it comes to training, Pitbulls have a very similar temperament to the Caucasian Shepherd. They’re also strong enough to handle themselves well in a volatile environment such as a prison. Moreover, the majority of them don’t tend to be easily frightened and they are also relatively easy to train. In these ways, both the Pitbull and the Caucasian Shepherd are very similar. The biggest difference between them lies in their physical characteristics. Obviously, Pitbulls aren’t as big as the Caucasian Shepherd, nor do they have the same type of coat. Therefore, they are not quite as well suited for work in the cold because they may not be able to stand such temperature extremes as well as the Caucasian Shepherd. Despite their physical differences, these are two of the strongest dog breeds you’re ever likely to see.
Other Uses for the Caucasian Shepherd
If you think that these massive dogs are only used in a Russian prison, you would be mistaken. In truth, they were bred long before the idea ever existed of using them as prison guard dogs. In fact, farmers in that region have used them for centuries as a means of protecting sheep and other vulnerable herds from wildlife in the area. As such, these dogs have been trained to guard livestock against wolves and bears. They routinely run bears off of the property of farmers successfully. It’s interesting to think that a dog can be successfully used to fight off bears, but these are not exactly your routine breed of dog. They definitely have the size and temperament to get the job done. That’s exactly what makes them a perfect fit for use as prison guard dogs in the first place.
Are These Dogs Found Anywhere Else in the World?
These dogs are native to this particular region. As such, they are most likely to be found throughout Russia. However, breeders have recently started to selectively breed litters in other locations such as the United States. As such, people have started asking a lot of questions about whether or not the breed is even legal in places like the US. To date, there are no laws against owning one of these dogs. However, it is important that people check with their local regulations in any particular town or city that they’re living in, as it is possible for there to be specific regulations against dogs of a certain size. It’s also worth noting that some trainers may be reluctant to train such a large dog, especially if they aren’t already familiar with the breed.
Why Are They So Hard to Find?
As previously mentioned, these dogs are native to Russia and have largely remained in that region up until just a few short years ago. It was not until then that a few breeders got the idea of breeding them as guard dogs for livestock in other parts of the world. In some cases, breeders in places such as the United States decided to start breeding them and making them available for sale because they are unique. This has a tendency to add monetary value, making it an appealing option for breeders. Even though the breed has not been widely recognized in other parts of the world, its popularity is definitely growing. This is large because of their ability to work as prison dogs. By performing that work consistently, they have gained a great deal of notoriety. This in turn makes them more popular for other uses as well.
What should you do if you happen to run to a Russian prison dog unexpectedly? Fortunately, you probably won’t have to do anything at all. Despite their imposing size and the fact that they can be effectively trained to guard against some of the most violent prisoners in the world, they actually have a fairly mild temperament. Under the right circumstances, you might even come to want one as a pet.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the dogs used in Russian prisons?
The dogs used in Russian prisons are known under a number of different names. The proper name for them is the Caucasian Ovcharka. However, they are also known as the Caucasian Shepherd, Caucasian Mountain Dog, the Russian prison dog, and the Russian bear dog. They ended up with the last two names because of the work they are commonly known for. Historically, they were used to protect livestock against potential threats such as wolves and bears. More recently, they have been used as prison guard dogs throughout Russia quite successfully.
Are Russian bear dogs legal in the US?
As previously mentioned, there are not currently any laws in the United States that specifically prohibit this breed of dog. However, it is possible for certain municipalities to put limits on the types of dogs that people can have. In many cases, it is against municipal regulations to have dogs that are of a particularly large size. In other places, the regulations are breed-specific. In these types of instances, it may not be legal to have certain dogs such as Pitbulls, Rottweilers, or Russian bear dogs. One of the complications commonly associated with having this particular breed of dog in the United States is that they are relatively new to the country. Therefore, there aren’t a lot of laws regarding them in any capacity because many people aren’t even aware of them. That puts dog owners in a situation where they may sometimes get one of these dogs, only to find out that city officials or their landlord won’t allow them to keep it. If you’re considering getting one, it’s best that you check all of these regulations beforehand.
What are the big Russian dogs called?
In most cases, it would be hard to know what someone is talking about when they ask a question as general as this one. However, anyone that has ever seen one of these dogs knows exactly what a person is talking about when someone mentions the big Russian dogs. They are truly unforgettable, largely because of their sheer size and their capacity to stare right into your soul. The dogs are called Caucasian Ovcharka or Caucasian Shepherds. More informally, you might hear someone refer to them as the Russian bear dog or even a Russian prison guard dog, as previously mentioned.
What is a Russian bear dog?
A Russian bear dog or the Caucasian Mountain Dog is a very large dog that is approximately two and a half times larger than the largest German Shepherd. The dogs are used as guard dogs in a typical Russian prison. They’re also used to protect livestock against bears, wolves, and other threats. The dogs have a reputation for being virtually fearless, yet they remain easy to train. They also seem to have an uncanny ability to recognize a true threat whenever one presents itself. When that happens, they tend to address those threats readily without backing down. This makes them an excellent option in situations that prevent a certain level of danger, yet also require that something or someone is adequately protected. That is what makes them so popular in prisons, just as it has been the characteristic that has made them popular with farmers for centuries.