The Schnauzer

The Schnauzer
A dog breed of wit and wisdom


Look into the face of a Schnauzer and it’s not hard to see him as the Dumbledore of dogdom. The arched, fringing brows, the profuse, bristling beard, and the gleam of deep intelligence and, yes, humour in those dark eyes, make it easy to imagine a Schnauzer passing on sage advice to Hairy Potter, sharing a joke with his young protégé, or teaching a class in Defence Against the Bark Arts.

But are they truly wizards or just really, really smart? After all, this is the breed that their owners like to call “the dog with the human brain.”

Barbara M. Dille, author of Standard Schnauzer, writes: “This sometimes mischievous, quick and active dog is…a sensible, honest and reliable working dog with a superbly intelligent mind.”

When you consider the impressive variety of roles the Schnauzer has filled, it seems this breed must have talents beyond those of the average canine. Developed in Germany over 500 years ago as a guardian to accompany tradesmen and farmers taking their goods to market, the versatile Schnauzer has also served as ratcatcher, military messenger, cattle drover, and companion, as well as assisting the physically challenged and hearing impaired, and acting as a police, security, and search and rescue dog.

Of course, this list of accomplishments must be shared among the three varieties of bewhiskered overachievers. Let’s see now…the Sorting Hat says…courageous, strong, and protective…you must be a Giant Schnauzer. Hmm…loyal, very clever, and reliable, too…you belong in the Standard House. And you, my tenacious yet companionable little fellow, definitely a Miniature.

Breed experts agree that one characteristic shared by all Schnauzers is self-confidence. Although they should not seek out a quarrel, these dogs don’t back down from a confrontation. Related to this, perhaps, is a bit of a stubborn streak; they know best and aren’t about to do something your way just because you say so. When this personality is paired with the size and strength of a Giant Schnauzer, some people find that the Giant is just too much dog for them to handle; some breeders will not sell Giants to inexperienced owners.

While the Miniature is now unquestionably the best known of the varieties, ranking in the top ten in popularity among American Kennel Club (AKC) registered breeds, and even the Giant tops the Standard (at 83rd in popularity versus the Standard at 99th), the medium-sized Schnauzer is actually the original from which the larger and smaller varieties were developed. The Standard Schnauzer, which appears in artworks from around 1600 by Albrecht Durer and Lucas Cranach, is between 17 and 20 inches in height. The German word schnauze means “muzzle;” a reference to the facial furnishings that distinguish this breed.

When farmers wanted a bigger dog to drive and guard cattle, they crossed the hardy and dependable Schnauzer with Great Danes and Bouvier de Flandres to create the majestic Giant Schnauzer. At 23 to 28 inches, the Giant makes a formidable protector and is widely used today in Europe for security and police work. Both the Giant and the Standard Schnauzer are rightly classed in the Working Group in the U.S. The Miniature (12 to 14 inches), which was probably bred from small Standards and Affenpinschers as a ratter and house dog, is placed in the Terrier Group.

All three varieties come in solid black or pepper-and-salt colour, and the Miniature may also be black and silver. Although solid white Minis are accepted in Germany, they are disqualified under AKC rules.
The proper coat is harsh and wiry and must be tediously “hand-stripped” rather than machine clipped if it is to remain that way; most owners opt for the easier care and accept that their dogs’ coats will become gradually softer over time. With trips to the groomer every six weeks or so and constant washing, combing, and trimming of the facial hair to avoid the dreaded “food face,” the Schnauzer is not a low-maintenance breed.

North American Schnauzers usually feature cropped ears and docked tails; however, in many other parts of the world, canine cosmetic surgery is now discouraged or banned completely and Schnauzers and other breeds are now being seen with natural tails and ears.

In general, Giants and Standards should be sturdy and free of health problems. The incidence of hip dysplasia, which was once a major concern, has been brought under control by responsible owners through testing and selective breeding. The Mini, however, is susceptible to congenital juvenile cataracts (CJC) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), both inherited eye diseases, as well as to urinary tract infections and pancreatitis. If you are considering making a Mini part of your life, you should research the health concerns associated with this breed and discuss potential problems with the breeder.

Whichever size of Schnauzer fits your lifestyle, if you choose this intelligent and personable breed for your own, you are bound to join the ranks of those who insist these dogs have special abilities that seem almost supercanine.

Case in point: “George” aka Ch. Tailgates George Vonpickle; Standard Schnauzer, retired police bomb squad dog, and now a certified Physicians Assisting Canine. George was the first dog trained to detect skin cancer through his acute sense of smell and his accuracy record in identifying melanomas is almost 100 percent.

Now that’s magic!

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Comments (7)

Great story! I have the somewhat unique honor of being the father of a miniature, standard and giant Schnauzer. We are in the specialized transportation industry and my "kids" are with us 24/7 365. We've had two miniatures that blessed our lives for 12 and 16 years and love all three breeds. It is amazing to see the distinctions and similarities the three share. Our miniature, Miss Dolly, was a rescue at two years old having had three litters through a less than reputable breeder. I call her my "energizer bunny for my soul". Nomatter how bad my day, I have severe PTSD and depression, Dolly can look straight through to my soul and teach me balance. She is super intelligence having thought herself how to turn on our water pump then sink and turn them off almost hiding the evidence. Our Standard is Odin. We have to start at the beginning with him. He was the worst puppy I or anyone around me had ever known! 2 $600 mahogany steering wheels, two very expensive mattresses, one conclusion complete with broken arm and twisted ankle (he knocked me off the trailer) and one very painfully broken nose with a deviated septum from an accidental head butt. It took two years of torture for him to teach me what he needed. He is now calm but playfull, loving and loyal and obedient to an extent. He was never the problem. He was a beautiful all black puppy of 6 months from a neglectful breeder who did not socialize her pups, ever. I expected a big mini with a coarse coat. Instead I got a loyal friend and pack mate who expects order and discipline while still being respected. He is active and energetic at 8 years with a long long life ahead. He's been in 49 states, 4 Canadian Provincess and has a few thousand miles on the back seat of my motorcycle. He requires exercise both physical and mental, a set place in our family (pack) and returns these things with a love and loyalty even Dumbledor may not have known from Forks his friend the Phoenix. Then we have our GIANT Josephine. She came from a loving breeder with good linage, great socialization and and endless supply of energy! She's now a young lady of 18 months and lives for four elements love, play, challenges and water. She will do almost anything to get wet, then usually wants the love. A simple trip to her water bowl ends with a few ounces in her stomach and a cup or more in her beard. Beard water is a cold and usually uninvited expression of sharing that can make you want latex skin. She will jump into a puddle or ocean with the same enthusiatum. She is insanely playfull, as a puppy her loyalty began to show rapidly and if not understood and trained could be a very dangerous protector toward anything that got too near any of us. She too is almost insanely intelligent, physically imposing at 85 lbs and still filling out, and a great great friend. DO NOT GET A STANDARD OR GIANT WITHOUT SPECIFIC TRAINING AND GREAT INSURANCE. She is not passive or quiet or prissy. She says what she's thinking then shows it. Our outdoor adventures are improving my health but are manditory. She is a lover of the first degree and through those huge brown eyes lives an insight second to none. You will never hide your true self from a schnauzer. Good or evil, right or wrong they will find YOU. If you're lucky enough to learn to listen they will teach volumes on those intangibles that we all claim to value most but too often ignore. Set limits, they will too. Our Schnauzers have made huge leaps to become "The dog with the human brain" we must extend ourselves to understand them and respect them as both animal, friend and companion. As for me they can't be that human, they are so much better than most of us.
Tue, 05/15/2012 - 20:19
My Mini Zoey is the best dog I have ever had..... She is so loyal and great with all animals and people ....... When she gets into her stubborn streak I like to say she is being a Diva
Thu, 05/24/2012 - 16:49
We have two mini schnauzers and couldn't be happier! The youngest (4) likes to run around the house with a stuffed chicken when we get seems to help her either celebrate our return OR calm herself. The older of the two has always smelled our breath, but he never comments on is almost like he is trying to figure out what we ate as if he should have had some too. Anyone know what is going on with that?
Wed, 10/17/2012 - 20:39
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Sun, 01/20/2013 - 20:49
I'm a certified dog lover, and as an anthropologist I have studied human's domestication of these wonderful critters. But I also live in modern times, and my two Shih-tzus are perfect house companions. They may be a little headstrong, but they are easily trainable, and caring fellows.
My neighbor across the cul-de-sac has two schnauzers, and they are forever disrupting the area with their continual yapping and yipping. As a young lieutenant at Ft. Jackson, the single lady directly above me has two, and they yapped all day and all evening. In my entire life, I have only seen one example where just one of them has ever learned the value of the acronym STFU.
I have trained my guys to be considerate and restrained.
And too, you could not give me a schnauzer, come hell or high water.
Sun, 08/09/2015 - 18:38

Dog of the Week!