How to Raise Healthy Miniature Schnauzers
"I want a dog!" That was a demand I heard from my two boys for many years, along with all kinds of promises to do all the work to care for this dog. I knew I couldn't rely on these promises from two elementary school children who required a lot of care themselves, and I was too busy to add a dog to my list of responsibilities. Furthermore, we didn't have family in the area to help out, and didn't want to get a dog that we couldn't take care of properly.
For years my husband supported my position, but gradually he began to drop hints that perhaps we were ready to handle more, and I started to notice him researching dogs online. After a while I succumbed, although my agreement had some strings attached. First, it had to be a small enough dog that I wouldn't be overwhelmed physically, and second it had to be hypoallergenic and not shed. We decided on a Miniature Schnauzer because they are playful, affectionate, intelligent, and hardy. We found a good breeder that worked with us to choose the right dog to fit in with our family.
After a month or so, the breeder personally delivered our puppy from Indiana, and Fritz immediately found his way into our hearts. Soon we couldn't imagine life without him. Although it took a long time to train him, along with lots of research and patience, he has grown into a perfect dog for our family. Through these years we have learned that in order to raise a happy, healthy Miniature Schnauzer, several issues must be addressed:
You can either buy commercial food or make your own. If you buy commercial food make sure it is high quality and contains the right balance of protein and vitamins and corresponds to the right growth stage, such as puppy or senior. I find it is the most convenient to use commercial dog food and I use a brand called Taste of the Wild. Each time I buy a new bag of dog food I change the flavor to keep it interesting. Be careful to follow the instructions regarding portions because small dogs have the propensity to gain weight. At my dog's last physical the vet yelled at me because Fritz had gained one pound and even that small amount can affect his health. There are certain foods you must avoid:
- Sweets or fatty foods (can cause diabetes or pancreatitis)
- A diet with an excess of calcium, magnesium, or phosphorus(can cause bladder stones)
- Chocolate (can be poisonous)
- Bones (can lead to choking or damage to the stomach lining)
- Pits from any fruit (contain cyanide that can be deadly)
- Any food containing xylitol (can lead to liver failure and death)
- Grapes and raisins (can cause kidney damage)
Always make sure your pet's water bowl is always filled, especially in warm weather to prevent dehydration. Miniature Schnauzers will regulate themselves and drink water when necessary. Our dog Fritz tends to gulp large quantities a few times during the day rather than drinking frequently.
Miniature Schnauzer Pet Grooming
Your Miniature Schnauzer should be groomed every 6-8 weeks so he looks and feels his best. It's easiest to have this done by a professional groomer, but there is a lot of information available if you choose to do it yourself. He can have a bath in between groomings, but be careful not to bathe him too frequently because you can dry out his coat and skin: not more than once a month unless he finds himself playing in the mud or with a can of paint (it happens!). Make sure you use a shampoo made for dogs. It's also a good idea to brush him at home at least once a week.
Other Housebreaking Options
If you work full time or have other obligations that don't allow you to be home during those first few weeks, you have these options to help housebreak your Miniature Schnauzer:
- Leave your dog outside if you have a safe secure area. Put a dog house in the area with soft comfortable bedding.
- If he has to stay indoors, keep your puppy in a crate and have a friend or neighbor stop by every few hours to take your dog to the designated potty spot.
- Bring your dog to a doggie daycare facility during the day until he is housebroken.
- Focus your energy on housebreaking your puppy on weekends.
This is one of the most important skills to accomplish in order for everyone in the family to be happy. My children were so excited to sleep with our dog but I wouldn't let them until he was housebroken. After about three weeks we achieved this goal, and Fritz has slept happily with our children ever since. Follow these tips to housebreak your Miniature Schnauzer.
- Establish a place for him to "do his business". We had a fence put in a small area of our yard so Fritz would have a place dedicated to go potty. This made me feel secure because I could close the gate and didn't have to worry about him escaping or performing under a specific time pressure. You could also use a specific spot in the yard.
- Block off a small area in the house so you can watch your dog and won't have to worry about accidents throughout the house. We used child safety gates and limited his freedom to just the kitchen, the family room, and a small room of his own. These three rooms have hardwood floors so cleanup was easier. This also kept him out of the living room and dining room where there is nicer furniture.
- Be consistent with the same command. We used the phrase "go potty" because that is what the breeders used.
- Take your dog to the same spot and use the command every 1-2 hours. When he performs praise him in an exaggerated way. Miniature Schnauzers respond well to praise. I would say "good job" loudly and happily several times. Gradually increase the time between potty trips.
- Follow your dog constantly during the first few weeks in the restricted area of the house and look for clues that he needs to relieve himself such as walking in circles,sniffing, or hiding. If you see these clues take your dog out immediately and use the "potty" command. This was my job since my husband was at work and the kids were at school. I was very happy when this part of the job ended!
- Expect accidents during the first few weeks. When it happens say "no" in a firm voice and take your dog to the designated spot and give the command. This is only effective when you see him actually relieve himself. If you try to tell him later he won't make the connection (though my husband swore Fritz knew exactly what he did for hours after, since he slunk down to the ground when brought near the scene of the crime).
- Let him sleep in a crate because dogs don't like to soil the area they live in. At the beginning you will probably have to get up a few times in the night to take your dog out.
- Be patient and put the effort in at the beginning and the task will be accomplished faster.
Your Miniature Schnauzer will require some form of exercise on a daily basis to remain healthy and prevent boredom. Make sure you engage in an activity that you will both enjoy such as a walk or a trip to the park. Other exercise suggestions include creating obstacle courses for your dog, swimming with supervision, or jogging together. My children love to create obstacle courses for Fritz with their friends or just run with him in the yard so he gets plenty of exercise. Note that Miniature Schnauzers have a strong sense of smell, so they really enjoy activities that let them smell new things.
It's very important to find a good veterinarian We interviewed vets before our dog arrived so we would be prepared. Right after he arrived, the breeder accompanied us to Fritz's first visit to make sure she approved of the vet. Here are some tips to choose a good vet:
- Make sure it is someone that you can communicate with and will take the time to answer your questions.
- Verify that there are services after hours in case of an emergency.
- Ask to see a fee schedule to make sure the costs are reasonable. We decided to get health insurance for our dog but many things are not covered.
- Ask for a tour to make sure the facility is clean.
- Choose a vet that has updated medical equipment such as ultrasounds and x-rays, and has the ability to perform all necessary lab tests.
- Make sure your vet supports your philosophy regarding dog care.
- It is important that your vet treats animals kindly and has significant experience so they can guide you.
It is important to train your dog to follow certain commands for his safety and to fit into the lifestyle of your family. Fortunately Miniature Schnauzers are an intelligent breed and easy to train. Although they can be stubborn they are eager to please. For your dog's safety it is important that they know "come", "leave it", and "no". A class taught by a professional is beneficial although there are many books and videos to assist with training. We took an introductory puppy class and a beginner class. We dropped out of the intermediate class because our dog was still so young and seemed incapable of completing the exercises, and because the commands being taught weren't ones that we felt were important for our situation. For example, in one lesson a child in the class played with toys while our dogs were supposed to remain in a sitting position without getting distracted. Fritz charged in and started happily playing with the toys. We didn't feel that this level of discipline was useful for us, but we benefited a lot from teaching him the basic commands in the earlier classes.
The best advice my breeder gave me on this topic was to make sure we socialize our puppy immediately. Miniature Schnauzers can be somewhat antisocial, but usually enjoy people and other dogs if taught how to behave appropriately, just like children. A good place to begin is to take your puppy to a dog training facility that offers a supervised playgroup. We had to wait until Fritz was 6 months old because the trainer required the dogs to be neutered and have all the appropriate vaccinations. After that we took him weekly for almost 6 months.
It also important to socialize a puppy around humans, both adults and children. Do this gradually and make sure the experiences are positive ones. When our children had their friends over we let them interact with our dog with supervision and gradually increased the time he could play with them. Your dog also should be socialized to deal with noises. Our breeder knew that Fritz would be coming to a family with children and exposed him to many noises from the minute he was born. Never act startled by a new noise or your puppy will follow your cue. Fortunately Fritz isn't startled by noises and can deal with a lot of activity: in fact, he always enjoys getting right in the middle of the action.
It is important to make sure your Miniature Schnauzer is happy and healthy both physically and emotionally, and that he/she fits in well with your family. One thing I did learn was that it is important to be dominant, but in the end there are ways that your Miniature Schnauzer will train you as well. He lets me know when the kids haven't fed him by jumping up on me and acting a little crazy. Even after he was done with training classes, he taught himself to open the automatic car windows because that was important to him. When I am working on my laptop computer he gets on my lap to cuddle and lies right on the keyboard letting me know it is time to give him attention. He can be stubborn at times but in the final analysis I'm glad I finally agreed to get our Miniature Schnauzer, Fritz!