Where does the Giant Schnauzer come from?
Originating in Southern Germany, Giant Schnauzers first appeared on the records during the 18th century. The exact origin of these large and strong, wire-haired dogs is somewhat unclear. However, they are closely related to breed family of German Pinschers, and share many characteristics with the Rottweiler and the Bouvier des Flandres – a versatile farm dog from France. Like the Bouvier, the Giant Schnauzer was originally bred as a multipurpose working dog for farmers. These large and fearless dogs excelled as property guardians, personal protection dogs and drover dogs for cattle.
With the advent of the First World War, the Giant Schnauzer’s fame as outstanding guardian and protector spread outside of its native province of Bavaria: Schnauzers served alongside German soldiers as military dogs in both World Wars. And in the 1960s, this remarkably versatile and intrepid working breed gained international popularity – both in the United States and in other European countries, where the Giant Schnauzer was a respected member of police and military forces.
The Giant Schnauzer’s Appearance
These beautiful black guardians are the largest of the three Schnauzer varieties. The other ones, the Miniature and the Standard Schnauzer, look exactly like smaller versions of their “big brother”. They all come with the same wire-haired coat and the characteristic beard, which contributes to their one-of-a-kind facial expression. But contrary to the Miniature and Standard Schnauzers, the Giant among them is jet black – at least most of the time: There are some Salt & Pepper dogs out there, but they are quite rare. Adult males can measure up to 70 cm at the wither and can weigh up to 48 kilo (which amounts to 28 inches at a weight of 105 pounds). As with most dog breeds, the females are slightly smaller and lighter.
What is their temperament like?
Giant Schnauzers are extremely loyal and devoted to their owners, including children of all ages. And whilst they are quite affectionate towards their entire family, they predominantly bond with one single person in the household. This person is usually the one who spends the most active time with the dog, and acts as their calm, consistent canine leader. Naturally protective and wary of strangers, Schnauzers do not require any guard dog training to defend their owners. They are amazingly smart in evaluating situations – and will rarely attack unprovoked. As these beautiful, bearded giants are quite independent, they can adapt well to living outdoors: Schnauzers are not usually given to separation anxiety, even though they do prefer sharing the house with their family.
How intelligent and trainable are Giant Schnauzers?
Another feature Giant Schnauzers are born with is their immense play- and prey drive: Ever eager to give chase, they need to be trained from an early age onwards on how to channel these powerful instincts in positive ways. Engaging them in canine activities and training is the best way to do this: Although very strong-willed, these dogs are highly intelligent and respond well to a balanced training approach. Such an approach predominantly uses positive reinforcement, such as food-rewards, play and praise. Which is perfect for the breed, because employing strong physical corrections can send the Schnauzer into a quite rebellious state of mind: Whilst they usually do not attack the handler when corrected, they will give into their stubborn tendencies - and often simply refuse to perform any other command. The best way to help them overcome these “mental roadblocks” is to coax them with play.
Are Giant Schnauzers healthy dogs?
Generally, Giant Schnauzers are a very healthy and robust breed. They can easily live up to 12 or even 15 years. However, being a very large dog breed, they are prone to suffer from the typical diseases for their size, such as dysplasia of the hips and elbows as well as bloat. Other potential health threats include the eye condition progressive retinal atrophy, autoimmune thyroiditis, and von Willebrand's disease. Giant Schnauzers also can suffer from eye infection: Especially when not trimmed regularly, their long facial hairs can get into their eyes and cause irritations.
How much exercise does the Giant Schnauzer need?
Giant Schnauzers are serious working dogs who need several hours of vigorous exercise on a daily basis. If you are a nature lover yourself, this breed may be the perfect choice for you. And the same applies if you are part of an active family who loves spending time in the great outdoors – together with the family dog. Your Giant Schnauzer will absolutely enjoy exploring nature along with you, be it on hikes, bike excursions or visits to rivers or lakes. If familiarised with the water from puppyhood onwards, these bearded guardians can make superb swimmers – and retrieve and floating dog toy you might throw into the water for them. The same applies for play on dry land: Thanks to their high prey drive, Schnauzers make excellent Retrievers and fun playmates for the entire family.
What are their grooming requirements?
The Schnauzer’s weather-resistant double coat does require frequent combing and brushing to stay tidy. And although these dogs are not heavy shedders, they need regular professional grooming to look their best. In shedding season, they “blow their coat”, which means they shed their hairs all at once. Regular grooming is recommended to help avoid the Schnauzer’s black hairs accumulating on floors and furniture. The groomer will either hand-strip, or clipper, a Giant Schnauzer. And whilst the process of hand-stripping removes any lose hair, clippering leaves the undercoat intact. Clippering is less time-intense, but also less useful when it comes to minimize shedding. On average, you want to take your Schnauzer to the groomer every 6 to 10 weeks.
And this brings us to the end of our video about this glorious German guardian breed. Giant Schnauzers are absolutely amazing dogs – loyal to a fault, keenly alert on the job, yet calm and gentle towards their family. At the same time, these are very strong (and strong-willed!) dogs who are used to making their own decisions. For these reasons, they should be teamed up with an experienced owner who can lead them with a firm, but fair hand. In the hands of such a high level canine leader, a Giant Schnauzer will unfold its enormous potential as one of the best working dogs and family guardians on the planet.