The Three Varieties of the Schnauzer Dog Breed
From smallest to largest, the schnauzer dog breed has three varieties: miniature, standard, and giant. From oldest dog breed to newest, it is standard, miniature, then giant. All of these variations are from Germany. The standard and giant schnauzers are are considered part of the working dog group according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), while the miniature schnauzer is considered part of the terrier group. Its classification in the terrier group is still disputed by some because the dog doesn't share that many common characteristics with other terriers in the group.
The standard colors for most schnauzers are either black or salt and pepper. The miniature schnauzer also comes in black and silver. The black-and-silver variation differs from the salt and pepper in that a salt-and-pepper-colored schnauzer has a coat evenly mixed with black and white hairs, whereas a black-and-silver colored schnauzer is mostly black with silver on its face, feet, and chest.
The coat of the schnauzer is hard and wiry. It is generally medium in length, although the hair on the giant schnauzer can also be short. This breed needs to be brushed one or two times per week. As with many wire-haired dog breeds, the coat of the schnauzer requires hand-stripping two to four times per year. Hand-stripping can be done when the schnauzer gets his coat shaved and shaped.
Hand-stripping and Grooming a Schnauzer
Black-and-Silver Miniature Schnauzer With Ears Uncropped
All schnauzers are thick-boned and sturdy. They have a square build, where the height and length of the body are almost the same. The miniature schnauzer stands about 12 to 14 inches tall and weighs between 13 and 15 pounds. According to AKC standards, the standard schnauzer should stand between 17.5 and 19.5 inches tall and weigh between 35 and 45 pounds. The giant schnauzer should stand 23.5 to 27.5 inches tall and weigh anywhere between 65 and 90 pounds.
Other Physical Traits
The feet of the schnauzer dog breed are small and compact, generally called "cat feet." It is common for the schnauzer dog breed to have a docked tail, and sometimes the ears are also cropped. Their heads are long as are their muzzles, which have a distinctive mustache and beard. In fact, the breed is named after its distinctive muzzle. Schnauze means snout or muzzle in German. The schnauzer dog breed has oval deep-set eyes with bushy eyebrows to match his beard and mustache.
The standard schnauzer was developed in the area east of the Rhine River in Europe (today called Germany) around the 14th century or possibly even earlier. It was a great guard dog and was also used for herding and hunting vermin.
The miniature schnauzer was developed in the late 1800s by breeding the standard schnauzer with the smaller German affenpinscher. The miniature schnauzer is a farm/house dog and was bred for hunting rats (also called ratting) around the house and barn.
The giant schnauzer was developed later in the southern Bavaria area. Standard schnauzers were possibly bred with black great Danes, local cattle sheep dogs, bouvier des Flanders, and/or even the Doberman pinschers or Rottweilers. Giant schnauzers' primary purpose was to drive cattle.
Later, the standard schnauzer became a popular dog for guarding the farmer's carts at marketplace. They were even used as dispatch carriers and aides in World War I. The standard and giant schnauzer were sometimes used as police dogs. The giant schnauzer was also used by butchers and breweries for guarding.
All three types of schnauzers are described as lively dogs. They enjoy a good romp and can be quite playful. Although all the schnauzers were once classified as terriers, they are not as independent or strong-willed as most terriers. They can be stubborn at times but are still relatively easy to train. Positive reinforcement training techniques work best, keeping them interested—they tend not to exhibit their stubbornness when training is fun.
Schnauzers and Children
These dog breeds can do well with children. They can be generally tolerant and will enjoy playtime. Miniature schnauzers are probably the best of the three with children. They are much more biddable, and even though they are small, they are rather hardy.
Schnauzers and Other Dogs
Also unlike many terriers, schnauzers are not aggressive toward other dogs. They may not like other dogs, but they are more inclined to ignore another dog than to go and pick a fight with one. Of the three schnauzer dog breeds, the miniature schnauzer tends to be the less inclined to be aggressive. Although the they may not care for other dogs, with proper socialization and introduction, they can get along well with other pets.
Two Miniature Schnauzers
Schnauzers as Guard Dogs
Schnauzers were originally bred to be guard dogs. As such, the standard and giant schnauzer can be very protective of the family and property. The miniature schnauzer, on the other hand, does better with strangers but can still be reserved with those outside of the family. His guarding instincts do come out though. As with most small dog breeds, the miniature schnauzer tends to bark a lot.
Other Personality Traits
The miniature schnauzer is also more affectionate than the other two schnauzer dog breeds. Standard and giant schnauzers have a bit more of an independent personality, but the miniature schnauzer is quite companionable. It is also described as inquisitive, alert, and spunky. The standard schnauzer can be mischievous and bold, but fun-loving. And the giant schnauzer can be rambunctious, reliable, and bold.
Salt-and-Pepper Schnauzer With Tail Undocked
All three variations of schnauzers need daily exercise. Long walks or vigorous play sessions are a must. They love to play, so if a walk is not possible, at least engage in fun dog games such as fetch. Perhaps even consider dog agility training. Without proper exercise, schnauzers can develop bad behaviors such as chewing or digging.
Common Health Issues
Like most purebred dogs, the schnauzers are susceptible to a number of genetic health issues.
The standard schnauzer is prone to hip dysplasia and follicular dermatitis. Follicular dermatitis is a skin condition where the skin gets inflamed around the hair follicles.
The giant schnauzer is also prone to hip dysplasia. In addition, giant schnauzers are also prone to gastric torsion, which is more of a health issue related to their size than breed.
The miniature schnauzer is also prone to develop follicular dermatitis (also called schnauzer comedo syndrome). It can also have trouble with urinary stones, von Willebrand's disease, and progressive retinal atrophy.
Schnauzer With Ears Cropped and Tail Docked
Caution if Buying a Schnauzer
If you are considering getting a schnauzer dog breed as a pet, be sure to research the breeder carefully. Being registered with the AKC is not sufficient. A good breeder will also be a member of a schnauzer dog breed club such as the American Miniature Schnauzer Club or Standard Schnauzer Club of America. The breeder will also have tested for certain health issues. Hip dysplasia, for example, can be tested through the mother and father of the puppies. A reputable dog breeder will gladly furnish the certification for both parents from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
By not properly researching the breeder, you run the risk of getting a dog who:
- Will develop serious genetic disorders such as those listed above
- Has parvo, distemper, or other common dog ailments
- Has temperament issues, such as aggression or other unpleasant personality traits
General Buying Information
A general rule for buying a dog is to look at the quality, not the price. Because a reputable dog breeder puts so much work into breeding quality dogs, their dogs are likely to be more expensive. If you find a cheap dog, chances are that it was bred at a puppy mill or by a backyard breeder. A backyard breeder is someone who breeds without proper consideration of the breed. They may be ignorant of the potential issues listed or above or not care enough to take the right precautions.
You can also consider getting a schnauzer from an animal shelter or rescue group. A rescue organization generally has people who keep the dogs in their homes until such a time as the dog can be adopted. These people who foster the dogs may know more information about the dog's history, temperament, and any health concerns.
Owning a schnauzer can be a very rewarding experience. If you're big on fun and want a spunky dog, you are sure to get it in any of the three schnauzer dog breed varieties. Since they generally do well with children and other pets, they can fit into almost any family.
For more information, consider "Schnauzers: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual" by Barron's books. This book includes information on how to evaluate which size is right for you, if a male or female would be better, what traits to look for in a puppy, proper diet, training, and more.