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Giant Schnauzer: Majestic Guardian of the Family

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Giant Schnauzer

The Giant Schnauzer, known for its impressive size and commanding presence, is a breed that embodies both strength and elegance. Standing tall and proud, these dogs are not just visually striking but also possess a protective nature that makes them exceptional guard dogs. Originating from Germany, Giant Schnauzers were initially bred for driving cattle and later evolved to perform various roles, including police and military work. Their versatility and intelligence are key characteristics that have kept them popular for centuries.

Sylvia Hammarstrom of Skansen Kennel, an expert in the breed, emphasizes the Giant Schnauzer’s innate protective abilities: “If he has to work, which he should do, he is fantastic at protection and search and rescue. He really is a natural guard dog.” Sylvia also highlights the importance of integrating these dogs into family life from a young age, ensuring they grow to be well-adjusted and balanced adults. “When you get one it should be a puppy so that they can learn your lifestyle,” she advises.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about the Giant Schnauzer, from their physical and personality traits to their care requirements and training tips. Whether you’re considering bringing a Giant Schnauzer into your family or seeking to understand more about this majestic breed, this article will provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

Giant Schnauzer Key Points

  1. The Giant Schnauzer is a large, powerful working dog breed known for its intelligence and loyalty.
  2. Giant Schnauzers have a coarse, wiry double coat that requires regular brushing and stripping.
  3. Originally bred for herding cattle and guarding property, Giant Schnauzers are still protective companions.
  4. These energetic and trainable dogs excel in various dog sports and require daily exercise.
  5. Giant Schnauzers are relatively healthy but can be prone to certain health conditions.

Giant Schnauzer Overview: Physical Traits & Temperament

Giant Schnauzer close up of face showing physical traits of breed

The Giant Schnauzer is a large and powerful breed, known for its robust and imposing stature. Males typically stand between 25.5 to 27.5 inches (65 to 70 cm) at the shoulder, while females are slightly smaller, measuring 23.5 to 25.5 inches (60 to 65 cm). Their weight ranges from 60 to 85 pounds (27 to 39 kg), giving them a muscular and solid build that exudes strength and agility.

This is a very different dog from the smaller Miniature Schnauzer.

One of the most distinctive features of the Giant Schnauzer is its iconic beard and bushy eyebrows, which give the breed a wise and somewhat stern expression. Their dense, wiry coat, often in solid black or pepper and salt colors, provides excellent protection against harsh weather conditions. 

The coat requires regular grooming to maintain its texture and appearance, including hand-stripping or clipping. They are low shedders and relatively allergy friendly. 

The Giant Schnauzer’s eyes are dark and expressive, reflecting their intelligence and alertness. Their ears, typically cropped to stand erect, add to their alert and attentive appearance, though natural, uncropped ears are also seen. The breed’s strong, square muzzle and powerful jaw complete their distinguished look, making them easily recognizable.

Temperament

Giant Schnauzers are renowned for their loyal, intelligent, and protective nature. They form deep bonds with their families and are known for their unwavering devotion and keen sense of duty. Their protective instincts make them excellent guard dogs, always alert to potential threats and ready to defend their loved ones.

Intelligent and highly trainable, Giant Schnauzers excel in various roles, from working dogs to family pets that are good with kids. They thrive on mental and physical stimulation, enjoying activities that challenge their minds and bodies. Their versatility makes them well-suited for tasks such as obedience training, agility, and even search and rescue missions.

Sylvia Hammarstrom of Skansen Kennel, a prominent expert in the breed, emphasizes the Giant Schnauzer’s natural abilities: “If he has to work, which he should do, he is fantastic at protection and search and rescue, he really a natural guard dog.” Sylvia also notes that these dogs are innately in tune with their human companions, making them not only formidable protectors but also loyal and affectionate family members.

Despite their formidable presence, Giant Schnauzers are known for their gentle and playful side, especially with children. Proper socialization from a young age ensures that they grow into well-mannered and balanced adults, capable of distinguishing between genuine threats and everyday situations. Their loyalty, combined with their protective instincts and intelligence, makes the Giant Schnauzer a remarkable breed that can adapt to various roles and environments.

Is The Giant Schnauzer A Good Pet? Pros and Cons

Owner in the field training her Giant Schnauzer playing fetch what are pros and cons of breed

If you want to have get a Giant Schnauzer puppy, one of the first steps is to properly weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of this rare dog:

ProsCons
Loyal and ProtectiveRequires Extensive Training
Giant Schnauzers are fiercely loyal and make excellent protectors for their families.Their intelligence and strong will require consistent and thorough training.
Intelligent and TrainableHigh Exercise Needs
They are highly intelligent and excel in various training activities, including obedience and agility.They need plenty of physical and mental exercise to stay healthy and happy.
Excellent Guard DogsGrooming Maintenance
Naturally protective, they are excellent at guarding homes and properties.Their dense, wiry coat requires regular grooming, including brushing and occasional trimming.
Versatile Working DogsPotential for Aggression if Not Socialized
They can perform a variety of roles such as search and rescue, police work, and more.Without proper socialization, they can become overly protective or aggressive.
Good with ChildrenProne to Certain Health Issues
With proper training, they can be gentle and playful with children.They can be prone to health issues like hip dysplasia, bloat, and eye problems.
Adaptable to Various RolesHigh Energy Levels
They adapt well to different roles, from family pets to working dogs.Their high energy levels mean they can become bored and destructive if not properly exercised.
Strong Bond with FamilyLarge Size
They form deep bonds with their family members and are very affectionate.Their large size can be challenging for some living environments and requires ample space.
Good for Active OwnersMay Not Be Ideal for First-Time Dog Owners
They are perfect for active individuals or families who enjoy outdoor activities.Their training and exercise needs can be demanding for first-time dog owners.
Long Lifespan for Large BreedShedding
With proper care, they often live longer than other large breeds.They can shed, particularly during seasonal changes, which may require additional cleaning.
High Working DriveExpensive Maintenance
Their high working drive makes them excel in various canine sports and activities.The cost of grooming, food, and healthcare can be higher compared to other breeds.
Minimal DroolingCan Be Vocal
They are known for minimal drooling compared to other large breeds.They can be quite vocal, barking at strangers or unusual sounds.

This detailed table provides a comprehensive overview of the specific pros and cons of owning a Giant Schnauzer, helping you make an informed decision about whether this breed is the right fit for your lifestyle and household.

Giant Schnauzer: Common Health Issues & Lifespan

beautiful Giant Schnauzer standing; what are common health issues

When considering bringing a Giant Schnauzer into your home, it’s essential to understand the typical health issues and lifespan associated with this breed. For an in-depth exploration of breed-specific health issues, refer to Dr. Alex Gough’s book, Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats.

Typical Lifespan

The average lifespan of a Giant Schnauzer is typically between 10 to 12 years, although with proper care, some may live even longer. Their longevity can be influenced by factors such as genetics, diet, exercise, and regular veterinary care.

Neoplastic Conditions 

Giant Schnauzers are prone to several types of cancers, including:

Cutaneous Melanoma: This skin cancer is more common in Schnauzers than in crossbreeds, as noted in a Swiss cancer registry.

Mast Cell Tumors (MCT): These tumors can appear on the skin and have a median occurrence age of 9 years. Schnauzers make up a significant portion of the cases in US referral clinics.

Osteosarcoma: A highly heritable bone cancer, particularly noted in large Schnauzers in Romania.

Metabolic Conditions

Overweight/Obesity: A significant number of Schnauzers are prone to obesity, which can exacerbate other health issues. Studies have shown high rates of obesity in Schnauzers attending veterinary clinics in China and among show dogs in Holland.

Drug Reactions

Low Thiopurine Methyltransferase (TPMT) Activity: This metabolic condition affects how Giant Schnauzers metabolize certain drugs, such as azathioprine, leading to potential myelotoxicity.

Renal and Urinary Conditions

Hyperuricosuria: This condition involves high levels of uric acid in the urine, leading to potential urinary stones. A notable prevalence of carriers for the mutation causing this condition has been observed in the USA.

Kidney Disease: Giant Schnauzers have a higher incidence of kidney disease compared to the general dog population, as seen in studies from Sweden.

Endocrine Conditions

Hypothyroidism: In addition to its genetic predisposition, hypothyroidism in Giant Schnauzers can lead to various symptoms, including skin problems and lethargy. The breed shows a significant prevalence of serum thyroid hormone autoantibodies (THAA) compared to other breeds in the USA.

Understanding these common health issues can help you better care for your Giant Schnauzer. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and appropriate exercise are crucial in managing these conditions and ensuring a healthy, happy life for your pet.

Giant Schnauzer Care and Maintenance

Giant Schnauzers are high-energy dogs that require regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental health. Daily exercise is essential for keeping them happy and well-behaved. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Giant Schnauzers need at least one to two hours of exercise each day. This can include brisk walks, light jogging, or hiking. Regular walks help maintain their physical fitness and provide mental stimulation through exposure to new sights, sounds, and smells.
  • Interactive play sessions are crucial for this active breed. Activities like fetch, tug-of-war, and frisbee can help burn off their excess energy. Incorporating toys and games that challenge their intelligence can also be beneficial.
  • Giant Schnauzers are intelligent dogs that thrive on mental challenges. Puzzle toys, obedience training, and scent work can keep their minds engaged. Training sessions should be varied and interesting to prevent boredom.
  • According to Sylvia Hammarstrom of Skansen Kennel, Giant Schnauzers excel in agility and Schutzhund (IPO) training. These activities provide both physical and mental exercise, helping to channel their energy and natural instincts in a positive way. Sylvia advises, “If you like to do agility and you like to do Schutzhund (IPO) they excel in it.”

Grooming

Giant Schnauzers have a dense, wiry coat that requires regular grooming to maintain its texture and appearance. Proper grooming not only keeps them looking their best but also prevents matting and skin problems.

Regular Brushing

Brush your Giant Schnauzer’s coat at least three to four times a week to remove loose hair and prevent tangles. A slicker brush and a metal comb work well for this purpose. Pay special attention to areas prone to matting, such as the beard, eyebrows, and legs.

Trimming and Clipping

Regular trimming and clipping are necessary to maintain the breed’s characteristic look. Many owners opt for professional grooming every six to eight weeks. Trimming involves cutting the hair around the ears, paws, and sanitary areas. Clipping can help manage the length of the body hair, keeping it neat and tidy.

Handstripping

For show dogs or those whose owners prefer a more natural look, handstripping is an alternativ-e-archive to clipping. This process involves plucking out dead hairs by hand, which helps maintain the wiry texture of the coat. Handstripping should be done every four to six weeks and can be done by a professional groomer or a trained owner.

Beard and Eyebrows Care

The beard and eyebrows of a Giant Schnauzer require special attention to prevent matting and debris buildup. Regularly comb and clean these areas, ensuring that food particles and dirt are removed. Wipe the beard after meals and trim it as needed to keep it tidy.

Bathing

Bathe your Giant Schnauzer every four to six weeks, or as needed, using a dog-specific shampoo. Avoid over-bathing, as it can strip the coat of its natural oils. Make sure to thoroughly rinse and dry the coat to prevent skin irritation.

By adhering to these grooming and exercise routines, you can ensure that your Giant Schnauzer remains healthy, happy, and looking their best. Proper care and maintenance are key to managing the unique needs of this majestic breed.

Nutrition and Diet

Sylvia Hammarstrom of Skansen Kennel advocates for a raw food diet, emphasizing the importance of feeding Giant Schnauzers raw, fresh, and uncooked foods to ensure their health and vitality. According to Sylvia, “Dogs need live food, which means raw, fresh, and uncooked. Dogs should eat only meats & vegetables. Avoid all grains.”

Types of Raw Foods

  • Raw Chicken –  Including necks, wings, and other parts, raw chicken is a staple in the diet. Sylvia stresses that raw chicken bones are safe and provide essential nutrients. Cooking chicken bones can make them dangerous as they become sharp and brittle.
  • Raw Meat –  Various types of raw meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork, are beneficial. It’s advisable to buy from a local butcher to ensure quality and affordability. Meat should be cut into pieces rather than ground.
  • Liver and Organ Meats – Essential for a balanced diet, raw liver and other organ meats like heart, kidney, and tripe should be included. These are rich in nutrients like taurine, which is crucial for preventing conditions such as seizures.
  • Egg Yolks – Raw egg yolks, ideally from free-range chickens, should be offered daily. Boiled or scrambled eggs are also acceptable. They provide essential fatty acids and vitamins.
  • Sardines in Olive Oil – Feeding sardines once or twice a week can offer a beneficial change and provide omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Vegetables –  Although not the primary focus, vegetables can be included as fillers. Suitable options include cooked potatoes, carrots, broccoli, and other seasonal vegetables. These should be blended or pulped to aid digestion.

Fasting: Sylvia recommends fasting your dog one day a week after they reach one year old. This practice can help cleanse their system and support overall health.

Supplements

To maintain optimal health, Sylvia Hammarstrom suggests incorporating several key supplements into the diet of Giant Schnauzers:

  • Vitamin C (Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C) – This powerful antioxidant helps prevent hip dysplasia, arthritis, skin problems, and other health issues. One packet mixed into their food daily provides a significant health boost.
  • Vitamin E – Important for cancer prevention and overall antioxidant support. The natural vitamin E available from specific sources like GNLD is recommended.
  • Omega 3, 6 & 9 –  Essential fatty acids are vital for skin, coat, and overall health. These can be provided through supplements like green-lipped mussel extract.
  • MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) – This supplement supports joint health and helps the body absorb Vitamin C more effectively. It can be added to their food daily.
  • Colostrum –Beneficial for maintaining intestinal health, given on an empty stomach each morning.
  • Probiotics – Acidophilus capsules support healthy stomach flora and help prevent digestive issues like diarrhea.
  • Alpha Lipoic Acid –  Combined with Vitamins C and E, this supplement boosts antioxidant levels, aiding in cancer prevention and overall health.

Sylvia’s approach to feeding and supplementation is designed to promote the health and longevity of Giant Schnauzers. By following these guidelines and ensuring a varied and balanced diet, you can support the overall well-being of your dog.

Giant Schnauzer Training and Socialization

Training a Giant Schnauzer effectively requires understanding their unique temperament and harnessing their natural instincts. Here are some specific strategies tailored to this breed:

Start Early and Stay Engage

Begin training your Giant Schnauzer as early as possible. Puppies are highly receptive to learning new behaviors and adapting to their environment. Sylvia Hammarstrom advises, “When you get one it should be a puppy so that they can learn your lifestyle.”

Channeling Energy

Giant Schnauzers are high-energy dogs that thrive on physical and mental stimulation. Incorporate activities that challenge their intelligence and physical capabilities. Agility training and Schutzhund (IPO) are excellent options. These activities not only keep them engaged but also enhance their natural working abilities. According to Sylvia, “If you like to do agility and you like to do Schutzhund (IPO) they excel in it.”

Task-Oriented Training

Utilize the Giant Schnauzer’s working dog heritage by teaching them specific tasks. This can include advanced obedience commands, retrieving objects, or even participating in search and rescue training. These tasks provide mental stimulation and a sense of purpose.

Consistency with Commands

Use consistent commands and signals for specific behaviors. This helps avoid confusion and reinforces learning. Given their intelligence, Giant Schnauzers can quickly pick up on inconsistencies, so maintaining uniformity in your training approach is crucial.

Behavioral Management

Giant Schnauzers’ protective instincts and high energy levels can sometimes lead to behavioral challenges. Addressing these issues early and effectively is key to a well-balanced dog.

  • Protective Instincts

 While their protective nature makes them excellent guard dogs, it’s essential to teach them to differentiate between real threats and non-threatening situations. Controlled exposure to various environments, people, and other animals helps in this regard. Socialization should be a structured part of their training regimen, ensuring they remain calm and well-mannered.

  • Aggressiveness

To prevent potential aggressiveness, especially towards strangers or other animals, socialize your Giant Schnauzer from a young age. Gradually introduce them to different people, pets, and settings. Positive experiences during these introductions reinforce good behavior.

  • Excessive Barking

Giant Schnauzers are naturally alert and can be prone to excessive barking. To manage this, identify the triggers that cause your dog to bark and address them through desensitization and redirection. Teaching commands like “quiet” or “enough” can help control their vocalizations. Consistent training and redirecting their focus to a task or toy can reduce unnecessary barking.

  • Chewing in Young Dogs

Puppies have a natural tendency to chew as they explore their environment and soothe teething discomfort. Sylvia Hammarstrom notes, “Once you have a puppy they will put their mouths on everything.” Provide appropriate chew toys and bones to satisfy this instinct. Redirecting their chewing to acceptable items helps protect your belongings. Supervise them closely and remove any items they shouldn’t chew on, offering a toy instead.

Expert Advice

Sylvia Hammarstrom emphasizes the importance of raising a Giant Schnauzer puppy within the context of your lifestyle. Early training and socialization are critical to ensuring that the puppy grows into a well-adjusted adult. “When you get one it should be a puppy so that they can learn your lifestyle. Once you have a puppy they will put their mouths on everything,” she advises.

Following Sylvia’s guidance, focus on integrating your puppy into your daily routine, providing structure, and establishing clear boundaries. This helps them understand their place in the family and adapt to your household dynamics.

By employing these tailored training techniques and addressing behavioral challenges proactively, you can raise a Giant Schnauzer that is well-behaved, balanced, and a joy to have as a companion.

Finding a Giant Schnauzer

When looking to add a Giant Schnauzer to your family, it’s crucial to find a responsible and reputable breeder. Here are some tips to help you in your search:

  • Start by researching breeders online and seek referrals from breed clubs and associations, such as the Giant Schnauzer Club of America. Websites like the American Kennel Club (AKC) also provide breeder directories.
  • Arrange to visit the breeder’s facility. This allows you to see the living conditions of the dogs, meet the parent dogs, and observe their behavior and temperament.
  • A responsible breeder will be open to answering your questions about their breeding practices, the health of their dogs, and the socialization practices they use for puppies.
  • Ensure the breeder conducts comprehensive health screenings for genetic disorders common in Giant Schnauzers, such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and hypothyroidism. Ask to see health certificates and screening results.
  • Reputable breeders prioritize the health and well-being of their dogs over profit. They typically limit the number of litters per year and ensure that their breeding dogs are healthy and well-cared for.

Adoption and Rescue

Adopting a Giant Schnauzer from a rescue organization can be a rewarding experience. Here’s an overview of the adoption process and benefits:

  • Several organizations specialize in rescuing and rehoming Giant Schnauzers. Examples include the Giant Schnauzer Rescue Network and various regional breed-specific rescues. These organizations often have adult dogs and sometimes puppies looking for new homes.
  • Adopting a rescue dog can save a life and provide a loving home to a dog in need. Many rescue dogs are already trained and socialized, making the transition to a new home smoother. Additionally, adoption fees are generally lower than purchasing from a breeder.
  • Rescue organizations often provide support and resources for new owners, including training advice and health information.

Cost Overview

Owning a Giant Schnauzer involves both initial and ongoing costs. Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

  • The cost of purchasing a Giant Schnauzer from a reputable breeder can range from $2,100 to $3,700, depending on the dog’s quality (pet or show quality) and whether the ears are cropped.
  • Adoption fees from rescue organizations typically range from $150 to $600, depending on the dog’s age, health, and the rescue organization’s policies.

Initial Costs

  • Initial vet visits for vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and health check-ups can cost between $200 and $500.
  • Basic supplies such as a crate, bed, collar, leash, food, and grooming tools can cost between $200 and $500.
  • Professional training classes, if needed, can cost between $100 and $300.

Ongoing Costs

  • High-quality dog food tailored to the Giant Schnauzer’s nutritional needs can cost between $50 and $100 per month.
  • Regular grooming sessions every 6-8 weeks can cost between $50 and $100 per visit.
  • Routine veterinary care, including annual check-ups, vaccinations, and potential treatments for common health issues, can average $300 to $600 per year. Pet insurance is also recommended and can cost between $30 and $50 per month.
  • Additional costs such as toys, treats, and occasional boarding or pet sitting can add up to $200 or more annually.

By considering these factors and planning accordingly, you can ensure that you are well-prepared for the financial commitment of owning a Giant Schnauzer. Whether you choose to buy from a breeder or adopt from a rescue, the joy and companionship of having a Giant Schnauzer in your life can be incredibly rewarding.

Conclusion

Bringing a Giant Schnauzer into your home is a decision that promises a lifetime of loyalty, protection, and companionship. These majestic dogs, known for their impressive size and intelligence, excel as both family pets and working dogs. 

With proper care, including regular exercise, grooming, and a balanced diet, your Giant Schnauzer will thrive. Whether you choose to purchase from a reputable breeder or adopt from a rescue organization, understanding the breed’s unique needs and characteristics will help you provide the best possible environment for your new canine companion. Embrace the journey of owning a Giant Schnauzer, and you’ll be rewarded with an unwavering friend and guardian.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe

Author

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.