The Giant Schnauzer is the largest of the three Schnauzer breeds. He was created by German land owners who wanted a tough dog to drive their cattle. It’s thought that they started with the large and shaggy “bear Schnauzer” and mixed in some herding and working dogs such as the Bouvier des Flandres, the black Great Dane and the Standard Schnauzer. He is a large breed and weighs 65 to 90 pounds.
Is the Giant Schnauzer the Right Dog for You?
Only if you are willing to put in the time he needs daily for socialization and training as a puppy and exercise and attention throughout his life. The Giant Schnauzer is smart, but like any dog with a working background, he is an independent thinker. You must begin early teaching him to think of you as his leader. The Giant Schnauzer is not an appropriate choice for a first-time dog owner.
It’s important to give him a job to do, from his daily training exercises to participating in a dog sport such as agility, obedience, rally or tracking. If you are outdoorsy yourself, consider getting training for the two of you for search and rescue work. Giant Schnauzers are energetic and athletic, and they enjoy long walks, jogging and hiking, always on leash. Plan to take yours for at least a 20-minute walk twice a day, at a good pace, plus training practice for 20 minutes to an hour a day.
Be aware that a Giant Schnauzer can be messy to keep. His beard will drip water after he drinks and will need to be cleaned after meals. You may also need to wipe down walls or furniture if he shakes his head before you can get to him with a towel. His coat picks up all kinds of dirt and debris, which is then deposited throughout your home.
A proper Giant Schnauzer has natural guarding instincts, but he needs early, frequent socialization so he can learn how to distinguish between threats and normal situations. Purchase a Giant Schnauzer puppy from a breeder who raises the pups in the home and ensures that they are exposed to many different household sights and sounds, as well as people, before they go off to their new homes. Continue socializing your Giant Schnauzer throughout his life by taking him to puppy kindergarten class, visits to friends and neighbors, and outings to local shops and businesses.
Begin training as soon as you bring your Giant Schnauzer puppy home, while he is still at a manageable size. Use positive reinforcement training techniques such as praise, play and food rewards, combined with a nothing-in-life-is-free program that requires him to “work” for food, treats, toys and playtime by first performing a command such as sit or down. The Giant Schnauzer thinks for himself, but he learns quickly and will respond to kind, firm, consistent training. Don’t make him repeat the same action over and over again. He’s smart and becomes bored easily, so keep training sessions interesting.
The Giant Schnauzer is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides is nothing to this tough dog, and he won’t let it deter him from leaving the yard if that’s what he wants to do.
Giant Schnauzers are a good choice for families with older children. They can be too active in the presence of toddlers and may accidentally knock them over.
The Giant Schnauzer’s coat must be brushed or combed at least a couple of times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. To maintain the Giant Schnauzer’s distinctive look, you’ll need to trim his head and body regularly. You can take him to a professional groomer or learn to do it yourself. Other grooming requirements include cleaning the ears and trimming the nails as needed, brushing his teeth and bathing him when he’s dirty.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Giant Schnauzers are guardian dogs, devoted to their people. A Giant Schnauzer should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, he should be in the house with them. Chaining a Giant Schnauzer out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior.
5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Giant Schnauzer Puppy
- Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Choose a breeder who follows the Giant Schnauzer Club of America’s Code of Ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to pet stores or wholesalers and outlines the responsibilities of member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Giant Schnauzers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a Giant Schnauzer can live to be 10 to 12 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.
- Puppy or adult, take your Giant Schnauzer to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Giant Schnauzers
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Giant Schnauzers have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include orthopedic problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia, eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, a bleeding disorder called von Willebrand’s disease, and autoimmune thyroiditis. They may also be prone to bloat, or gastric torsion.
The Giant Schnauzer Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Giant Schnauzer to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP clearances for hips, an OFA thyroid evaluation and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications.
Pet Insurance for Giant Schnauzers
Pet insurance for Giant Schnauzers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Giant Schnauzers are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Giant Schnauzers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Giant Schnauzer is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.