The Borzoi Personality
Like people, all dogs have quirks, preferences, and habits that make them who they are. No entire breed can be summed up in just one of its dogs. All three of my Zois have their own personalities, but there are certainly common denominators.
Borzoi adore their masters. My three love cuddles and attention. Borzoi are not snobby in the least. Though they love nothing more than you, they don’t show it as you may imagine. Borzoi are not quick to obey (more on that below) , and they aren’t desperately clingy. Our three love to be pet, to have their ears rubbed, and to cuddle up against our feet when we have time to watch a movie. Mine are “leaners”. I’ll be washing dishes and one will come lean up against my legs, just to be with me. But just as quickly, the Zoi will wander off and go make itself comfortable on the kitchen floor to watch me work. If I have one loose indoors at night, it will lie on the floor beside my bed, rather than on the sofa in the living room. (This may have been an accidental result of training… I can’t promise all Borzoi will be so humble!)
Borzoi are very sensitive to emotions. They need gentle training with positive reinforcement. Never ever hit a Borzoi. (When we brought our girls home and began teaching them housemanners, I found throwing some pennies in an empty soda can and shaking it loudly when they did something bad worked wonders.)
Borzoi are truly stubborn. They certainly can be taught, but not as quickly or easily as some other breeds. Growing up with a Border Collie, this was the biggest struggle I faced with my trio. I would often wonder if I was getting through to them! If they loved me, why didn’t they want to obey me? I began reading a book called So Your Dog’s Not Lassie and it made things click for me. Hunting hounds were bred to think independently- to outwit their prey and to think for themselves, not simply to be bossed around. Borzoi were specifically bred to capture wolves and most of their work was done far beyond the reach of a handler’s command. The work of the Borzoi has been lost over the past century, but they still retain many of their instincts. Independent thinking (and chasing anything they consider prey) remain at the top of the instinct list.
Please do not make the mistake of thinking Borzoi are dumb. They are very intelligent and can actually become quickly bored with training. Therefore, keep training sessions short but often. Make it fun for your puppy! Find several types of treats your puppy enjoys and keep it guessing as to which type it will earn. Or switch up your training location… Indoors, the yard, the park, etc. And when your puppy does catch on and obey your command, act like it is the biggest deal ever! Like I said before, Borzoi do love their masters, but they don’t seem to find obedience an obvious way to show affection.
Borzoi are a giant breed, and therefore, take a little longer to grow out of the puppy phase. Once our girls had their first heats (around 18 months old), they mellowed considerably. We learned later that two or more Borzoi basically rub off on each other, stretching the puppy energy out longer than if the Zoi were on its own.
With little guidance, Borzoi become wonderful housedogs. Adults are typically quiet dogs, with relatively low energy levels, and slow to get bored and destructive. (Puppies are like normal puppies however and should be given special mercy and lots of chew toys/bones.)
Borzoi coats do benefit from regular brushing, but need it at least weekly. Thankfully,their top coats are more like hair than fur, and dirt brushes right out, leaving baths for special occasions. Intact females will blow their coats after heat cycles or whelping, while spayed females and males blow their coat annually. Honestly, this is a messy period, but it’s not specific to the breed and nothing a lint roller and some brushing can’t handle. If you’d like to tidy up a Borzoi’s profile with some trimming shears, you are welcome to go for it, but it’s not a necessity.
Though they are more than capable, a long walk is not their preference. An ideal fitness program for a Borzoi is a decently sized yard and a second canine to romp and play with. If you do not have another dog, heading to a dog park occasionally would be a wonderful idea (for socialization especially!). Short bike rides and jogs are other options. Either way, Borzoi tire rather quickly and are content to return home and recover for hours on the sofa or cool flooring.
The following is the physical description of an ideal Borzoi from the BCOA…
The Borzoi was originally bred for the coursing of wild game on more or less open terrain, relying on sight rather than scent. To accomplish this purpose, the Borzoi needed particular structural qualities to chase, catch and hold his quarry. Special emphasis is placed on sound running gear, strong neck and jaws, courage and agility, combined with proper condition. The Borzoi should always possess unmistakable elegance, with flowing lines, graceful in motion or repose. Males, masculine without coarseness; bitches, feminine and refined.
Skull slightly domed, long and narrow, with scarcely any perceptible stop, inclined to be Roman-nosed. Jaws long, powerful and deep, somewhat finer in bitches but not snipy. Teeth strong and clean with either an even or a scissors bite. Missing teeth should be penalized. Nose large and black.
Small and fine in quality, lying back on the neck when in repose with the tips when thrown back almost touching behind occiput; raised when at attention.
Set somewhat obliquely, dark in color, intelligent but rather soft in expression; never round, full nor staring, nor light in color; eye rims dark; inner corner midway between tip of nose and occiput.
Clean, free from throatiness, slightly arched, very powerful and well set on.
Sloping, fine at the withers and free from coarseness or lumber.
Rather narrow, with great depth of brisket.
Only slightly sprung, but very deep, giving room for heart and lung play.
Rising a little at the loins in a graceful curve.
Extremely muscular, but rather tucked up, owing to the great depth of chest and comparative shortness of back and ribs.
Bones straight and somewhat flattened like blades, with the narrower edge forward. The elbows have free play and are turned neither in nor out. Pasterns strong.
Hare-shaped, with well-arched knuckles, toes close and well padded.
Long, very muscular and powerful with well bent stifles; somewhat wider than the forequarters; strong first and second thighs; hocks clean and well let down; legs parallel when viewed from the rear.
Dewclaws, if any, on the hind legs are generally removed; dewclaws on the forelegs may be removed.
Long, set on and carried low in a graceful curve.
Long, silky (not woolly), either flat, wavy or rather curly. On the head, ears and front of legs it should be short and smooth; on the neck the frill should be profuse and rather curly. Feather on hindquarters and tail, long and profuse, less so on chest and back of forelegs.
Any color, or combination of colors, is acceptable.
Mature males should be at least 28 inches at the withers and mature bitches at least 26 inches at the withers. Dogs and bitches below these respective limits should be severely penalized; dogs and bitches above the respective limits should not be penalized as long as extra size is not acquired at the expense of symmetry, speed and staying quality. Range in weight for males from 75 to 105 pounds and for bitches from 15 to 20 pounds less.
Front legs must reach well out in front with pasterns strong and springy. Hackneyed motion with mincing gait is not desired nor is weaving and crossing. However, while the hind legs are wider apart than the front, the feet tend to move closer to the center line when the dog moves at a fast trot. When viewed from the side there should be noticeable drive with a ground-covering stride from well-angulated stifles and hocks. The overall appearance in motion should be that of effortless power, endurance, speed, agility, smoothness and grace.
The foregoing description is that of the ideal Borzoi. Any deviation from the above described dog must be penalized to the extent of the deviation, keeping in mind the importance of the contribution of the various features toward the basic original purpose of the breed.”