Breed of the Week: Giant Schnauzer (Video) - Simply For Dogs
Giant Schnauzer

Breed of the Week: Giant Schnauzer (Video)


Did I ever tell you guys that my brother-in-law used to breed Miniature Schnauzers? When he and my sister met, he had a pair of these cute little dogs named Bonnie and Clyde. He’d have a litter every other year or so, and the pups were pretty popular in our region. I handled my fair share of Miniatures until he decided to put the breeding business to bed, and I remember being charmed by those little dogs. Recently, Clyde passed away, and it has me thinking about all those cute pups I helped handle when my sister and brother-in-law were just dating.

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One thing I was always curious about was the largest version of the breed, the Giant Schnauzer (there are three sizes). My co-host here on the blog, Franklin, wrote a post once in which he recommended Giant Schnauzers as great protection dogs, alongside breeds like the Doberman and the German Shepherd. I’ve never seen a Giant version in person, despite the dog maintaining an AKC popularity ranking in the upper third of the AKC’s registry. If you were to look at a Schnauzer, I don’t think you’d immediately think “protection” – there’s something kind of cute and almost stuffed-animal-like about their appearance. But make no mistake, this is a big breed that is very loyal and always alert for danger.


The Giant Schnauzer was originally called the Bear Schnauzer, and was developed in Germany to help drive cattle. The German farmers wanted a dog that was supremely tough, and aggressive enough to get hulking bulls moving even on their grumpy days. The dog was a result of mixing the Standard Schnauzer (the medium-sized version of this dog) with huge dogs like the Great Dane. This happened sometime after the 1500s, although we don’t really have a clear picture as to when – we just know that the Standard Schnauzer came first, and that we have artwork depicting that dog that goes back to the late 1490s.

By the time the 1900s rolled around, however, farmers had found other methods for herding cattle, and the Giant Schnauzer was no longer really being used for that job. During the early 1900s, this dog was still working, though, with butchers, stockyards, and breweries, as well as with the police in some areas. Where the United States thinks of the German Shepherd as the quintessential police dog, Europeans are more likely to picture a Giant Schnauzer as a police dog, because it became such a popular job for these dogs.

It wasn’t until 1930 that the AKC officially welcomed this breed into the registry, but now he’s the 79th most popular breed in the index.


The Giant Schnauzer truly just looks like a bigger version of a Standard Schnauzer, standing at about 24 to 27 inches tall, and weighing between 65 and 90 pounds. The most recognizable feature is the bearded, rectangular head.The Giant Schnauzer’s looks can be summed up by the words “robust and bold”. He’s a big, strong dog with a lot of muscle, though it’s hidden under his coat. But anyone who takes a look at this dog past his funny bearded face will be able to see just how strongly-built he is. Overall, Schnauzers have very square features and bodies.

The Schnauzer coat is wiry and dense and very weather-resistant. As a working breed, the Schnauzer had to be able to handle all kinds of weather, so this feature was selected by breeders over time. The breed has pointy, upright ears, and the tail is usually docked to a short nub. They have long, muscled necks, and very solid chests. In addition to the beard on the face, the hind legs and rear end usually have a bit of extra fur on them as well. Another hallmark of the Schnauzer coat is a pair of very wooly eyebrows. Giant Schnauzers typically only come in all black, or in a “salt and pepper” coloring. There are a few that will have some tan or fawn on them, but these aren’t as common for pure bred Giant Schnauzers because the AKC will take off points for any show dog that has tan or fawn in the coloring.


The Giant Schnauzer has a definite personality of his own. It’s hard to sum him up in just a few words. They are known for being very smart and independent – as working dogs, they had to be able to think and react for themselves when cattle weren’t responding. They are also known for being extremely loyal and alert – they make great family watch dogs and protective companions. However, with their families, they are known for being playful and loving. They aren’t necessarily goofy in the way that Great Danes are – the Giant Schnauzer will always maintain some dignity in his overall personality – but they are amiable. They are also known for being courageous, bold, and composed.


Schnauzers are easily trained, and that’s a very good thing. With a dog that is this strong and apt to take action if he thinks his family is in danger, you will need to be in control. It’s not hard to get a Giant Schnauzer to obey, but if you don’t do any training at all, you could have a big problem on your hands. Get started from day one with treat training or clicker training, and you’ll have a great dog in this breed, who is both protective and still safe for others to be around. You’ll definitely want to invest in some puppy kindergarten classes and possibly a professional trainer as well if you are not as comfortable with dog training.

All that being said, one reason that Giant Schnauzers are popular is that they tend to be very smart about who is and isn’t a threat. This breed probably won’t attack your mailman, for example – they seem to generally have good instincts about waiting to see if a threat is present. That doesn’t mean you can be lenient on their training, it just means that this is a pretty smart breed.

One thing that many owners of Giant Schnauzers will note is that this breed tends to be kind of messy. Remember that they were bred to work outdoors, so their instinct is to do everything efficiently, not necessarily tidily. For example, Giant Schnauzers tend to drool and shake their heads around after drinking water, to get rid of the excess moisture in their beards. Their wiry coats also tend to cling to dirt and pollen, or any other debris around, so you’ll probably be cleaning up after this breed more than you would other dogs.


Just like most giant breed dogs, the Giant Schnauzer has a tendency to suffer from orthopedic problems, including hip dysplasia. As puppies, Giant Schnauzers will need special food that is specifically designed to support healthy joints and bones. This is because large breed puppies tend to grow faster than their joints can support them, and that can lead to serious problems. Your vet can suggest a good brand if you aren’t sure which food, or you can go with a well-known brand like Hill’s Science Diet – just be sure it’s for large breed puppies.

Giant Schnauzers are also more susceptible than other breeds to develop issues such as chronic anemia, autoimmune diseases, and retinal atrophy. However, these are only possibilities. Overall, the Giant Schnauzer is a healthy breed that doesn’t tend to have too many issues. Giant Schnauzers live about 10 to 12 years, an average lifespan for a giant breed. One problem that you do need to watch for with a large breed is a condition called bloat, which is caused by eating their food too fast. It’s a good idea to get your Schnauzer used to eating from a bowl that slows them down, like this one.

Grooming and Care

Giant Schnauzers do require an average amount of grooming to ensure that their wiry coats don’t get tangled or matted. In addition to brushing them a few times a week, it’s a good idea to do a process called stripping, which involves using a specific type of brush to strip the undercoat and rake away loose hair. A regular bath will help keep them a bit cleaner as well. Like all breeds, they’ll need their nails trimmed and teeth brushed regularly to stay healthy. If you want your Schnauzer to have that standard Schnauzer look, he’ll need regular trimming to keep his beard and eyebrows from getting too unruly.


Giant Schnauzers are very active dogs, and they need a lot of exercise to keep them from developing bad behaviors. They are very athletic, and do not do well with just casual exercise here and there. They need long daily walks, regular time where they can run safely in a fenced-in area, regular games and high-intensity play time, AND on top of all that, they need a job to keep them mentally active. If you don’t have cattle or some other type of work for this breed to do, they’ll likely just assign themselves the job of guarding the family – but if you can get them involved in carting or even just teach them a lot of obedience tricks and have them perform regularly, you’ll be doing them and yourself a big favor.

Invest in toys that keep this dog active, like discs for fetch and heavy-duty tug toys. Also be sure that you’ve got a quality harness for walking, because on the off chance that this dog decides to go investigate something that has caught his eye, you may have a hard time holding him back on just a collar and leash – they are that strong.

Despite needing so much exercise, the Giant Schnauzer is not going to make a good outside dog. They want to be around their family, and feel it is their duty to be nearby watching over you. So, leaving them outdoors 24/7 will result in a very unhappy, and possibly destructive, dog.

Kids and Other Pets

Giant Schnauzers think of the entire family in the immediate household as theirs to protect, so they generally do well with children. However, because they are so large and active, you may want to wait till your kids are bigger before getting a Giant Schnauzer – they may knock down a toddler or small child just because of the size and energy difference. But they aren’t known for being anything other than playful with and protective of “their” children.

Giant Schnauzers are neither more nor less apt to get along with other pets than any other breed – meaning they may do fine with another dog or cat that they were raised with, but they may not be fond of a new dog or cat being introduced to the family. You’ll have to judge based on your own Schnauzer’s personality. Introducing a Schnauzer to a family that already has a pet could go many ways, so I would suggest a meeting between the pets before you decide for sure to adopt.

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The Final Word

At the end of the day, this is honestly a very good breed for a family that wants a fun and loyal pet that will also offer some protection. I would even go so far as to say that a Giant Schnauzer would be an awesome pet for a single person in an apartment, provided that the owner is willing to give the dog a lot of exercise each and every day. I don’t think this is a great breed for a brand-new dog owner, however – the need for excellent training, and the need for quick reflexes in the event that a Schnauzer decides someone is a threat, may be too much for someone who is still learning about dog owning in general.

But if you’ve got the time to devote to lots of exercise, and you have some experience with dog owning, the Giant Schnauzer would be a great pet for a lot of different situations.


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