Vital Stats:Dog Breed Group: Working Dogs
Height: 1 foot, 11 inches to 2 feet, 3 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: 55 to 80 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
The Giant Schnauzer is the largest of the three Schnauzer breeds. He has a commanding appearance and rugged build. But his stoic demeanor is belied by the twinkle in his eyes, hinting at his playful nature.
This is a big dog with a big personality. He's an energetic, intelligent companion who makes life interesting with his independent thinking and playfulness, but dominant personality and bold approach to life. In short, he's a handful, even for experienced dog owners. Still, in the right home he's a loyal and courageous companion.
There is no limit to the capabilities of a well-trained Giant Schnauzer. Obedience, agility, tracking, carting, and herding are among the dog sports in which you can find him competing. Originally used to drive cattle to market, he excels as a police and guard dog and more recently has branched out to drug detection and search and rescue. He has a gentle and loving side as well, making him an admirable therapy dog. But the Giant Schnauzer's favorite activity is being with the people he loves.
The keys to living successfully with a Giant Schnauzer include training, socialization, and providing physical and mental stimulation. Giant Schnauzers need all of these to become well-mannered dogs, and they need them in abundance.
The breed's intelligence is widely known, and they can be easily trained when their people are firm and consistent. Never let the Giant Schnauzer's wonderful mind go to waste. Make sure to give him a job; let him find things for you, carry things, perform tricks, and show off his obedience training.
Whatever you do, don't let him become bored. A bored Giant Schnauzer is a destructive Giant Schnauzer. An essential part of preventing boredom is exercise. Expect to provide your Giant Schnauzer with at least an hour of vigorous exercise daily. He'll enjoy long walks and jogging.
Apartments are not the ideal dwelling for the Giant Schnauzer. They do much better if they have a large yard to play in and do their best if they have acreage. They are not outdoor dogs and need to live inside with their family.
Giant Schnauzers are among the more dominant breeds and not recommended for homes with young children. In fact, the suggested age range of children is 12 and older.
Socialization should begin at a very young age, and it should include exposure to many different people, dogs, and other small pets. Giant Schnauzers tend to be reserved and suspicious of strangers, a trait that makes them excellent guard dogs, but that characteristic must be balanced with socialization to avoid fearfulness or aggression.
The Giant Schnauzer has many good qualities and many challenging qualities. It's important before choosing this breed that you understand the demands he will make upon your life. A Giant Schnauzer is not the fabled gentle giant, but a hard-working, energetic dog who will give back as much as he is given.
- Giant Schnauzers are energetic breed and require at least two long walks per day or 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous exercise in the backyard.
- Without proper exercise and mental stimulation, Giant Schnauzers can become very destructive and difficult to handle.
- Giant Schnauzers are not recommended for first-time or timid owners. They need a strong leader who can provide clear and consistent rules without resorting to physical force.
- Although they are a very affectionate breed, the Giant Schnauzer is not recommended for homes with young children because of their size and forceful behavior.
- Giant Schnauzers will make excellent guard dogs.
- Apartments are not suitable dwellings for Giant Schnauzers. They need a large fenced yard where they can play and run safely.
- Socialization is a must with this breed. They can be aggressive toward people, dogs, and other animals they don't know. They are naturally suspicious of strangers and need to become accustomed to experiencing new people and situations.
- Giant Schnauzers are companion dogs and should live indoors. They thrive when they are with the people they love.
- Giant Schnauzers require brushing one to three times a week. Their coats must also be stripped or clippered to remain neat looking.
- Giant Schnauzers are intelligent dogs who learn quickly and excel at a variety of jobs. Be firm and consistent, and use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards. Giant Schnauzers will see and take advantage of any inconsistencies in your behavior.
- Never buy a Giant Schnauzer from a puppy mill, a pet store, or a breeder who doesn't provide health clearances or guarantees. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies and who breeds for sound temperaments.
The largest of the three Schnauzer breeds, the Giant Schnauzer was developed in Germany to drive cattle and later to work in butcher shops and stockyards. Some served as guard dogs at breweries.
The Giant Schnauzer was probably created by crossing the Standard Schnauzer with larger smoothcoated dogs, rough-haired sheepdogs, and the black Great Dane. The Bouvier des Flandres may also have played a role in his development. He was known as the Munchener and was widespread throughout Bavaria and Wurttemberg.
In the early 1900s, Giant Schnauzers were trained for police work in Berlin and other German cities, and it became their primary job. The only reason they didn't become well known as police dogs in the United States is because the German Shepherds beat them to it.
The Giant Schnauzer Club of America was founded in 1962. In the United States, the Giant Schnauzer has remained uncommon. Today, the breed ranks 83rd among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club.
A male Giant Schnauzer stands 25.5 to 27.5 inches at the shoulder and weighs 60 to 80 pounds. Females are 23.5 to 25.5 inches and weigh 55 to 75 pounds.
The Giant Schnauzer has the calm, loving temperament of a companion dog and the assertiveness, boldness and energy required of a guard and working dog.
He takes his responsibilities seriously and is protective of home and family, willing to defend them with a fierceness that can be intimidating. This is a territorial dog who's distrustful of strangers, but when he's not needed as a guardian, he's a playful and affectionate companion.
His intelligence can pose a challenge to the inexperienced trainer, however. Giant Schnauzers require consistent and firm guidance. Without it, they're quite capable of thinking for themselves and running the household the way they think it ought to be run.
As with every dog, Giant Schnauzers need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Giant Schnauzer puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Giant Schnauzers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can be subject to certain health conditions. Not all Giant Schnauzers will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
- Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): is usually found in the elbows but it has been seen in the shoulders as well. This disorder causes a painful stiffing of the joint where the dog will be unable to bend its elbow. It is caused by an improper growth of cartilage in the joints and can be hereditary, caused by trauma or improper diet. It can be detected in dogs as young as five to seven months of age. Although it is a genetic disorder, some research has linked high-protein diets to increasing the severity of this disorder.
- Autoimmune Thyroiditis: This is the most common cause of primary hypothyroidism in dogs and is recognized as a heritable condition. The disease tends to become evident at two to five years of age. Dogs may be clinically normal for years, only to become hypothyroid at a later date. Hypothyroidism is an abnormally low level of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. A mild sign of the disease may be infertility. More obvious signs include obesity, mental dullness, drooping of the eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles. The dog's fur becomes coarse and brittle and begins to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be treated with daily medication, which must continue throughout the dog's life. A dog receiving daily thyroid treatment can live a full and happy life.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This cancer may occur on a toe or toes of dark-haired dogs, including Giant Schnauzers. If your Giant Schnauzer shows signs of lameness for no apparent reason, have your vet take a look at his toes. Removal of the affected toe before the cancer spreads to the chest cavity increases the chance of survival.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog's been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Giant Schnauzers, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips, elbows, and thyroid, and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) that the eyes are normal.
Because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren't issued to dogs younger than 2 years old. Look for a breeder who doesn't breed her dogs until they're two or three years old.
Giant Schnauzers are not recommended for apartments or condos. They have high energy levels indoors and out, and are best suited to a home with a fenced yard where they can safely run off some of that energy. When they're not playing outdoors, Giant Schnauzers should be inside with their people, whom they will happily follow around the house.
Giant Schnauzers require at least an hour of daily exercise. Plan on a couple of half-hour walks at a good clip or vigorous play. He can be a digger or chewer, so always give him something constructive to do instead.
This is a breed that needs a job. Train him to do tricks or help you around the house if you want to forestall destructive behavior. He doesn't like to be bored, so avoid frequent repetition and turn training into a challenging game to get the best out of him.
Train him with firmness and consistency. He can be stubborn and you must be more stubborn. You must be able to provide leadership without resorting to physical force or harsh words.
It's best if you work with a trainer who's familiar with and understands the breed. Your Giant Schnauzer will respond with enthusiasm to training techniques that are positive and keep him on his toes.
Recommended daily amount: 3 3/8 to 4 1/4 cups of a high-quality dog food daily, divided into two meals.
How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog.
The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your Giant Schnauzer in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
Giant Schnauzers can be prone to gastric torsion and should be fed two or three small meals per day to avoid any build up of gas.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Giant Schnauzer's outer coat is wiry, hard, and dense, with hairs that stand up from the skin. Beneath it is a soft undercoat. On his face are a harsh beard and eyebrows, the Schnauzer hallmark.
The coat is solid black or pepper and salt. The pepper-and-salt coloring is a combination of black and white hairs, and white hairs banded with black. At a short distance, the pepper-and-salt coat appears gray.
The Giant Schnauzer's double coat requires brushing with a stiff bristle or slicker brush about three times a week to prevent mats from forming in the undercoat. Wash his face after every meal.
A Standard Schnauzer's coat usually must be hand-stripped every 4 to 6 months. Hand stripping is necessary if you show your dog or like the look and feel of the proper coat, but pets can be clippered instead.
Be warned, however, that if you clip your Schnauzer's coat instead of stripping it, eventually the texture will change. It will feel very soft and may shed more. Clippering can also cause a pepper-and-salt coat to look solid silver or solid black, depending on the color of the undercoat.
Other grooming needs include dental hygiene and nail care. Brush your Giant Schnauzer's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the accompanying bacteria. Daily is better.
Trim his nails once or twice a month, as needed. If you can hear the nail clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short nails keep the feet in good condition and won't scratch your legs when your Giant Schnauzer jumps up to greet you.
Begin getting your Giant Schnauzer accustomed to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth and ears. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
Children And Other Pets
Because of their size, energy level, and commanding nature, Giant Schnauzers are not recommended for homes with young children. The suggested age range is 12 and older who have the maturity to interact appropriately with a large-breed dog.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party.
Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how good-natured, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Giant Schnauzers don't tend to be buddy-buddy with other dogs, especially those of the same sex, and they probably shouldn't be trusted alone with cats, no matter how well they seem to get along.
Giant Schnauzers are sometimes acquired without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one, and these dogs often end up in the care of rescue groups, in need of adoption or fostering. If you're interested in adopting an adult Giant Schnauzer who's already gone through the destructive puppy stage and may already be trained, a rescue group is a good place to start.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the Giant Schnauzer.