The Stylish Working Breed: Giant Schnauzer

Pet Type


May 6, 2020

People may not realize it at first, but the size of a dog can make a huge difference in the dog’s role of the family. For example, most smaller dogs are either lap dogs or family dogs because it is relatively difficult to put one of these smaller dogs to work as a guard dog or as a working dog.

Additionally, most smaller dogs don’t quite have the personality to be a working dog, whether the dog is too friendly or too stubborn to learn how to do the work. On the other hand, the majority of the larger dogs out there are either hunting dogs, working dogs, or guard dogs. Not only is this because larger dogs are more capable of getting physical work done and warding off potential threats to a household, but this is also because larger dogs tend to have a more trainable personality. The schnauzer is no exception to this.

When most people think of schnauzers, they often think about the small, ankle-biting dogs that people love and adore for their classic appearance and their loveable attitudes. However, some people might be surprised to learn that these tiny schnauzers weren’t the only type of popular schnauzer dog out there. In fact, they weren’t even the first type of schnauzer that became popular. Arguably, one of the most popular schnauzer breeds out there is the giant schnauzer. This large dog can be summarized as a larger, more powerful schnauzer that often spent its days working on farmland, rather than running around at home.

Where Does the Giant Schnauzer Come From?

It is believed that the giant schnauzer was originally developed in Germany, sometime around the 1700s to herd cattle and to work alongside butchers and breweries. It is also believed that the giant schnauzer and the standard schnauzer were developed at approximately the same time, if not in tangent with each other.

These dogs were diligent and capable, able to be put to work under most circumstances and were able to handle a variety of jobs. Some dogs stood guard at breweries to make sure that everyone was behaving as they should. Other dogs helped out on stockyards, assisting people and keeping watch over the place. There were plenty of dogs that found themselves on the farm, making sure that cattle were not only protected, but that they were going where they needed to go.

These dogs worked steadily, and became even more popular during the early 1900s when police in large German cities realized that these dogs could be trained for police work. This became their primary job, especially as the world began to switch to a more industrialized environment. It is believed that the only reason giant schnauzers weren’t the police dogs of the United States is solely because Germany had this idea and enacted it first. Unfortunately, giant schnauzers remained relatively unpopular within the United States after this, only having a Giant Schnauzer Club of America formed in about 1962. Even from there, these dogs remain uncommon throughout the United States, despite their capabilities.

What Does the Giant Schnauzer Look Like?

The simplest explanation of the giant schnauzer’s appearance is that it simply looks like a much larger version of the standard schnauzer. It has a compact body with a rectangular head underneath its long facial fur. Often, the dog is about as long as it is tall, which tends to give it an overall square appearance. It has deep-set, dark eyes that are eager to watch and learn. The ears tend to be V-shaped and are close to the head. These dogs have powerful, straight legs. The tail is often held high when it is not docked. Overall, the giant schnauzer is a lean, square dog that is ready to handle most situations whether on the farm or with family.

It has a somewhat long, wiry coat. The coat is almost always black or in a salt-and-pepper color. It has a double-coat, helping to protect the dog against the elements that it would face if it was working outside. The coat is dense and rough on the outside, although on the inside it is softer to the touch. The dog’s fur also tends to stand up off the back of the dog at times. While the coat is often a bit long, it is usually longer around the whiskers, chin, and eyebrows, giving the dog an almost sage-like appearance if it is left to grow long enough. This pattern of hair can also enunciate just how rectangular the dog’s snout is.

How Does the Giant Schnauzer Behave?

These dogs are known to be very, very smart dogs and because of their history as working dogs, they feel an inherent responsibility to protect its owners and anyone else close to them. This means that this dog will quickly learn how to pick up who the friends of the family are and who the people to avoid are. Beyond this, these dogs always want to be with their owners and can often be clingy at times. If you try to do something outside or even in another room, you might turn around and find your giant schnauzer staring longingly back at you.

Because these dogs were bred for working, they have a lot of energy that needs to be expelled. They also feel as if they need to have a “job,” even one as simple as catching something you threw. These two traits combined mean that these dogs love to play, and they especially love to play in a manner that involves “tasks.” This can include fetch, dog sports, obedience, and other activities where your dog is working toward a “goal,” no matter if that goal is sitting still to get a treat or playing fetch with its favorite person.

Because of this nature, these dogs are not always easy to handle if you are not used to working with dogs that have this kind of personality. This is not a very good dog for first-time owners, and for any novice pet owner. Because of how much they enjoy playing in combination with their size, these dogs are also not very suitable for families with smaller children. Their assertive nature can be problematic if you have other dogs in the house. If you are planning on getting one of these dogs, you should make sure that you have the time, energy, space, and resources to meet the giant schnauzer’s needs.

How Do You Care for the Giant Schnauzer?

These dogs are easily considered to be high maintenance and high energy dogs. Not only do they need a considerable amount of interaction and exercise, you are also going to want to take care of its coat properly so that it doesn’t get tangled or matted. For exercise, you should aim to give it at least 40 minutes a day of time outside and playing with you. The play should be rigorous if you want to help get all of the energy out of your dog. This can involve taking hikes, although your dog would much rather prefer activities such as fetch or running agility courses.

You will need to brush the outer coat of these dogs about once or twice a week, depending on just how much trouble your dog gets up to. If you want to keep your dog’s fur looking a certain way, and if you want to make sure it doesn’t make things more difficult for your dog, you will also need to shape your dog’s head fur between two and four times a year. While you can certainly do this yourself, it is often best left to the professionals.

What Kind of Health Does the Giant Schnauzer Have?

As with any purebred dog, there are a couple of concerns that you should keep in mind when you own a giant schnauzer. One of the biggest health concerns to focus on is CHD, or canine hip dysplasia. These dogs also have a couple issues with bones, gastric torsion, and hypothyroidism. Some dogs will have issues with their eyes, such as developing cataracts. They have an average life expectancy of about 10 to 12 years.