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The borzoi is a quiet but athletic and independent dog. Most borzoi are almost silent,
barking only very rarely. They do not have strong territorial drives and cannot be relied
on to raise the alarm upon sighting a human intruder. They are gentle and highly
sensitive dogs with a natural respect for humans, and as adults they are decorative
couch potatoes with remarkably gracious house-manners. Borzois should never display
dominance or aggression towards people. Typically however, they are rather reserved
and sensitive to invasion of their personal space; this can make them nervous around
children unless they are brought up with them from an early age. Despite their size they
adapt very well to suburban living, provided they have a spacious yard and regular
opportunities for free exercise.
A common misunderstanding about the intelligence of breeds in the Hound group stems
from their independent nature, which conflicts with the frequent confusion between the
concepts of "intelligence" and "obedience" in discussions of canine brainpower. Stanley
Coren's survey of canine obedience trainers, published in the book The Intelligence of
Dogs, reported that borzoi obeyed the first command less than 25% of the time. Coren's
test however was by his own admission heavily weighted towards the "obedience"
interpretation of intelligence and based on a better understanding of "working" breeds
than hounds. Unfortunately the publicity given to this report has led to unfair denigration
of breeds which are under-represented in obedience clubs and poorly understood by
the average obedience trainer. "Work" for hound breeds is done out of hearing and
often out of sight of the human companion; it is an activity for which the dogs are
"released", rather than an activity which is "commanded". In obedience terms, borzoi are
selective learners who quickly become bored with repetitive, apparently pointless,
activity, and they can be very stubborn when they are not properly motivated. For
example, food rewards, or "baiting", may work well for some individuals, but not all.
Nevertheless, borzoi are definitely capable of enjoying and performing well in competitive
obedience and agility trials with the right kind of training.Like other sighthounds they do
not cope well with harsh treatment or training based on punishment, and will be
extremely unhappy if raised voices and threats are a part of their daily life. However like
any intelligent dog, borzoi respond extremely well to the guidance, support, and clear
communication of a benevolent human leadership.
Borzoi were bred to pursue, or "course", game and have a powerful instinct to chase
things that run from them. Built for speed and endurance, they can cover long distances
in a very short time. A fully-fenced yard is an absolute necessity for keeping any
sighthound. They are highly independent and will range far and wide without
containment, with little regard for road traffic. For off-lead exercise, a borzoi needs a
very large field or park, either fully fenced or well away from any roads, to ensure its
Borzoi are born with specialized coursing skills, but these are quite different from the
dog-fighting instincts seen in some breeds. It is quite common for borzoi at play to
course (run down) another dog, seize it by the neck and hold it immobile. Young pups do
this with their littermates, trading off as to who is the prey. It is a specific hunting
behavior, not a fighting or territorial domination behavior.
Borzoi can be raised very successfully to live with cats and other small animals provided
they are introduced to them at a young age. Some, however, will possess the hunting
instinct to such a degree that they find it impossible not to chase a cat that is moving
quickly. The hunting instinct is triggered by movement and much depends on how the
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