Moscow Water Dog

He is not recognized by the F.C.I.

Origin
Russia
Translation
Francis Vandersteen
Commissioned by the government for the Russian Navy, the Russian Water Dog was one of the Russian army's only failed attempts to create the ultimate water rescue dog. Bred from a mix of breeds in Krasnaya Zvezda, Belarus, at the government-owned Red Star kennel, the Russian Water Dog was an aquatic attack dog rather than an animal inclined to rescue drowning victims. The aggressive nature of the dogs would lead the army to abandon the breeding program and, by the 1980s, the breed was considered extinct.

After the chaos and destruction of the Russian Revolution of 1917, which included a civil war between the "red" (Bolshevik) and "white" (anti-Bolshevik) factions, the destruction of the Tsarist autocracy and the formation of the Soviet Union, the future of many native Russian breeds was bleak. During the revolt and the First World War (1914-1918) raging at the same time, many of Russia's native breeds were slaughtered, simply as collateral damage from the conflict surrounding them and as food or for their fur. It is well documented that after the First World War, all purebred Russian dogs were on the brink of extinction. With the cessation of these conflicts and a stable government back in control, the Russian Military Council decreed in 1924 that every department of their army would henceforth include dogs and dog trainers among their soldiers and security forces.

Following the edict issued by the Russian Military Council, a school was set up to train these new canine soldiers. This school has developed training facilities, including army and sports departments, as well as laboratories to prepare and train dogs for military service, and to achieve their goals as guard dogs, attack dogs and even extraction dogs. This new canine army would later prove useful to the Russian Red Army during the Second World War, as many of these dogs would lose their lives fiercely defending their country against the Nazis. The losses were extreme, and after the war there were very few working dogs left.

Desperate to find replacements, and after hearing stories of the valour and sacrifice of these brave dogs at the front, the Red Army became convinced of their value and committed itself to developing dog breeds suited to the army's needs. At the time, the Red Army controlled the Central Military School of Working Dogs, also known as the "Red Star" kennel, a public dog training school and kennel, and the only one large enough to undertake a breeding program of this scale. In the 1950s, Colonel G. Medvedev was asked to head up this new breeding campaign, with the aim of creating entirely new breeds of dog specially designed to meet the needs of the Red Army. The army wanted large dogs capable of guard duty and aggressive defense, and able to withstand Russia's harsh and ever-changing climate. The new breed would also need to be highly trainable, as the dogs would be tasked with working alongside police and border units, as well as guarding facilities such as prison camps, military installations and other important sites. Consequently, these dogs had to work well with the soldiers and be easy to handle in order to carry out their guard duties.

It wasn't just the Russian army that wanted specialized working breeds; the Russian navy had set its own standards for the creation of a super-aquatic rescue dog. The navy wanted all the aforementioned requirements of the army, but also a dog that excelled in the water and had a natural tendency to perform rescue operations at sea. So, in the 1950s, long aware of the Newfoundland dog's skills as a water rescue expert, Red Star Kennel Army set about improving the breed to meet the Navy's requirements. Their efforts would result in the creation of the Russian Newfoundland, also known as the Moscow Water Dog, Russian Water Dog, Moscow Retriever and Moscow Diver (Moskovsky Vodolaz). The suffix is applied because, in Russia, the Newfoundland dog was traditionally referred to as Vodolaz. the Russian word for "diver".

The Army would strive to create the ultimate all-round rescue dog by crossing three breeds. The first Newfoundland males were crossed with Caucasian Shepherd and Eastern European Shepherd females. The offspring would then be bred several times until a distinct breed was created, the Russian Water Dog. Believing they had achieved their goal of creating a water rescue dog far better than the Newfoundland, but also a more versatile breed capable of performing sentry and shoreline missions, the Army entrusted its new creation to the Navy for testing.

The new breed proved to be an excellent swimmer, as well as a vigilant, trained and intelligent shore guard dog, able to withstand arctic temperatures and icy water. There was one major problem, however, when he was set free to rescue a panicking and drowning sailor, it fell to nature to swim directly towards them and attack them in the water. A terrifying experience for the victim who, if not drowning, would argue with the dog, probably attempting to drown it to defend himself from the gnashing assault. As it turned out, the Russian water dog was too much of a working dog and not enough of a rescue dog; the breed was aggressive and very unsympathetic to strangers, whether they were drowning or on land.

Having clearly failed to create the ultimate water rescue dog, Red Star Kennels abandoned the experiment in the late 1960s, but tried to save face by marketing the newly created breed as the Russian Newfoundland and selling it to civilians. Civilians and civilian breeders who were duped into buying one of these dogs were not as keen to experiment with the breed as the military. These breeders ended up mixing with so many purebred Newfoundland dogs trying to tame their doggy temperament that by the 1980s, the Russian Newfoundland was indistinguishable from the original, leading to the extinction of the Russian Newfoundland through dilution with the Newfoundland dog.

However, the Russian Newfoundland's genes were not completely lost, as the state-run kennels succeeded in creating other breeds such as the Moscow Great Dane, using the German Shepherd and the Great Dane, the Brudasty Hound, which was an Airedale Terrier and Russian Hound mix, the Moscow Watchdog, a combination of St. Bernard and Caucasian Ovcharka and the Black Russian Terrier. The last breed being the most successful in the program, the Russian Black Terrier gained international recognition in 1984 and is the result of a combination of 14 different breeds, including the Moscow Water Dog in the final stages of its development. This is also the reason why the Black Russian Terrier was able to claim the Newfoundland as its ancestor, as it received second-hand Newfoundland blood from the Moscow Water Dog. The failure of the Moscow Water Dog would mark the first and last time the Russian navy would allow the Russian army to develop a breed of dog for them. The Russian government's desire for a water rescue dog remains, and in many parts of the country, dog training centers still operate under the auspices of the Federal Rescue Agency and the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Having learned from the mistakes of the past, instead of trying to create a new breed, they have chosen instead to stick with the original proven Newfoundland dog for this purpose.

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