Giant Schnauzer

Giant schnauzer dog breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Giant Schnauzer has an intimidating look to them which is perfect in deterring the unwelcome intruders. They were bred in Germany for the specific purpose of being a guard dog and are very good at their jobs. Today, besides being a guard dog and a loyal family member, they also serve in police and military, search and rescue, as drug detection dogs and therapy dogs. There is no job that the Giant Schnauzer cannot perform, and perform it well.

They are independent thinkers and have a mind of their own, but they are very dominant which perhaps doesn’t make them a good choice for the novice or timid owner. They need plenty of exercise and their ideal home has a fenced yard or acreage out in the country where they can run around and roam freely.

Not many people can keep up with their intelligence and stamina but those who do are blessed with a protective, affectionate and playful companion.

Today, the Giant Schnauzer ranks 83rd out of 155 most popular breeds according to the AKC.

Breed characteristics

AdaptabilityBelow Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessAbove Average
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog breed group: Working dogs
Height: 23-27 inches tall at the shoulder.
Weight:55-105 lb.
Life span:10-15 years.
Main Highlights
  • The breed doesn’t make a good choice for the first time or timid owners as they can be very dominant and strong headed.
  • Originated in Germany and bred to be a guard dog.
  • Best suited for homes with fenced yards or life in the country.
  • The breed is naturally suspicious of new people and strange animals and requires plenty of socialization.
  • Giant Schnauzers don’t shed much and might be a good choice for people with allergies or asthma, although there is no such thing as a truly hypoallergenic dog.
  • Requires lots of mental and physical stimulation.
  • The breed is better suited for homes with older children.
  • They make an excellent guard dog and often their intimidating and rugged looks are enough to intimidate any intruders.
  • They are not the best fit for homes with other dogs and animals unless properly socialized or raised with them.
  • They don’t tend to bark witout a good reason (unless they are bored).
Breed History

The word Schnauzer means muzzle in German and the breed is known by the name Riesenschnauzer in Germany which translates to Giant. The largest breed out of the Schnauzer dogs originated in the 17th century in Germany.

They were bred to be a guard dog and perform general jobs on farms such as guarding the farm and cattle. Later on, they went on to guard facilities such as factories and breweries. Not much is known about their ancestry but it is suggested that they are descendant from Great Danes, German Pinschers, Bouvier des Flandres, German Shepherds, Thuringian Shepherds, Boxers, Rottweilers, and Dobermans. With such an intelligent and hard-working linage, no wonder that the Giant Schnauzer became so famous in Germany and surrounding countries. Funnily enough, they didn’t become well known elsewhere until World War I and World War II when they were trained as military service dogs.

They were first introduced in the United States in the 1930’s but remained obscure until 1960.

Today, they remain a hard working breed and can be found competing in agility and obedience events, Schutzhund, herding, police and military, search and rescue, drug detection and therapy dogs. There’s nothing the breed can’t do.


The males measure at 25-27 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh in at 60-105 lb. The females are generally smaller and measure at 23-25 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh in at 55-75 lb.

Personality and Character

The Giant Schnauzer has been bred to be a guard dog and is naturally suspicions of strangers and any new animals or situations they are not familiar with. They are excellent guard dogs but shouldn’t be left alone to their own devices all day. They thrive on spending time with their people and are very protective of their family members and property.

Giant Schnauzers require plenty of physical activity and love to be involved with anything that gets them out and about with their people. Running, hiking, biking, swimming and very long walks are just some of their favourite things to do. When they are not busy, they love following their favourite person around the house.

They also require plenty of mental stimulation and games that keep them on their toes, they need to always have a job to do and feel like they have a purpose.

Without constant physical activity and mental stimulation they can become destructive and develop ill manners.

The breed can be potentially aggressive and requires plenty of early socialization. As long as the handler can keep up with them, they are amazing companions, very affectionate, loving and playful. They almost seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to sensing their people’s want and needs, which is why many Giant Schnauzers fill the roles of therapy dogs.

Health and Potential Problems

The breed is generally healthy but irresponsible breeding left them vulnerable to health and temperament issues. Reputable breeders and shelters generally make sure the dog or puppy has received a clean bill of health from the vet prior to the adoption or purchase. Most breeders also test for any genetic or hereditary disorders so you should never purchase a dog or a puppy from a puppy mill.

Here are the illnesses that the breed is more prone to:

  • Hip Dysplasia: A condition that occurs when the femur doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket, causing discomfort and lameness. The condition is usually treated with pain medications and surgery in severe cases.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: An inherited condition that occurs due to different growth rates of the bones that make up the elbow, and may cause discomfort and lameness. The condition is usually managed with medication and surgery in severe cases.
  • Glaucoma: An eye condition that is sometimes caused by other eye disorders and sometimes is hereditary, causing an increased pressure in the eye. Symptoms may include discomfort and vision loss. The condition is usually managed with eye drops or surgically corrected in severe cases.
  • Cataracts: A condition that usually occurs in advance age and is found in both humans and dogs. The condition causes opacity on the eye lens, resulting in limited vision. The condition can be surgically corrected.
  • Hypothyroidism: A condition which is caused by the body’s inability to properly regulate thyroid hormones levels. Symptoms may include baldness, obesity, skin conditions and lethargy. The condition is usually managed with diet and medication.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: An eye disorder which leads to a slow deterioration of the retina. Many dogs live fairly normal lives with limited or complete vision loss.
  • Cancer: A condition found in dogs and humans, treatment depends on the type of cancer. Some types require chemotherapy and others require surgery, some call for a combination of both.
  • Bloat: A condition in which the dog is unable to expel air or gas trapped in the stomach that causes it to twist on itself. Can be potentially life threatening without immediate vet intervention.
  • Epilepsy: A condition that is found in both humans and dogs and doesn’t have any known causes or a cure. It causes unpredictable seizures and is usually managed with medication. Most dogs that have been diagnosed with epilepsy live long and happy lives.
  • Osteochondrosis Disseccans: A condition that is caused by an abnormal growth of the cartridge in the joins and may cause discomfort and stiffening of the joints.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A type of cancer that usually develops on the toes of dark haired dogs. Usually, the main symptom is lameness that occurs for no reason. The treatment is the removal of the affected toes, which is if done before cancer spreads to the chest, drastically increases survival chances.

The list may seem long, but these are just informative. Your pup may be as healthy as possible and none of these may show up during his/her life.

Care Features

The Giant Schnauzer requires plenty of early socialization, more than perhaps any breed out there. They are natural guard dogs and have the tendency to be suspicious and aggressive towards situations, people and animals they are not familiar with. Therefore, the process of introducing your puppy to new people, animals, children, different scenarios and environments should start as soon as possible, preferably when the puppy is very young.

It is recommended to enrol them in puppy kindergarten which assists with introducing the puppy to the world in a constructive manner under professional guidance. It also helps deepen the bond between the handler and the puppy.

The Giant Schnauzer is not recommended for novice or inexperienced owners. They can give seasoned owners a run for their money as well and be a handful. It is highly recommended to be educated on their needs prior to adopting or purchasing a Giant Schnauzer. It also might be a good idea to work with a dog trainer that is familiar with the breed and can guide them in bringing out their full potential.

The breed is extremely intelligent, spirited and has a mind of their own. They are also very dominant and require a calm and consistent handler that can bring out their best without using physical or harsh treatment. They have the tendency to test even the most resolved owner.

The Giant Schnauzers need structure and need to be shown that they are not the pack leader. They require plenty of structure and need an authoritative handler that can set rules and boundaries and reinforce them consistently in the form of treats and praise. In so many words, they require a stern owner who has a natural air of authority, patience and is almost as strong headed as they are.

They require plenty of physical and mental stimulation and need a job to do. It is extremely beneficial to involve them in dog sports such as agility and obedience.

Feeding Schedule

The Giant Schnauzer benefits from 3-4.5 cups of high quality dog food a day, divided into 2 meals.

Each dog’s nutritional needs are different and depend on their size, age and activity level.

It’s beneficial to go for a high quality without unnecessary additives and fillers such as grain. Quality food will go a long way in ensuring the healthy coat, skin, mind and body of your companion.

It is important to note that the breed, like many other large breeds, is prone to bloat. A condition which occurs when the dog eats or drinks too fast or is exercised right after a meal, unable to expel the gas or the air trapped in the stomach, the stomach could twist on itself. The condition may be potentially life threatening without immediate vet intervention. Most pet stores carry special dishes that are designed to slow down the consumption of food and water and are helpful in potentially preventing the condition.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Giant Schnauzer has a double weather-resistant coat that keeps them comfortable in both hot and cold weather. Also, the coat keeps them safe from vermin bites in the course of their guard duties. The outer coat is wiry and dense, the undercoat is soft. The common colours are black as well as a salt and pepper pattern. They need to be brushed at least 3 times a week to avoid the coat becoming tangled and matted. The coat needs to be stripped or clipped at least every 2-4 weeks. It is important to note that frequent clipping changes the colours and texture of the coat.

Their beards also require attention and need to be cleaned after consumption of food and water as it tends to catch any left overs and give the breed an untidy look.

Another interesting thing to remember is that some Giant Schnauzers are allergic to dog shampoos.

The breed sheds very little and is considered a non-shedding breed, which makes them the better choice for people with allergies and asthma. Although, it is very important to remember that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog as the allergens are usually found in the dog’s saliva or on their coat. Allergies can build over time as well, and the only way to know for sure if one is allergic to a certain breed is to spend plenty of time with the breed.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Giant Schnauzer loves their family and the younger members very much, but due to their size and assertive nature, they are better suited to families with older children. They are loyal and playful companions that can keep up with the children’s levels of energy. If not well socialized the breed may become overprotective of their children, especially if they play roughhouse with their friends. As with all other breeds, children need to be taught respect and space when it comes to handling animals.

Many dogs are being surrendered to shelters, put down or become homeless yearly due to the adult’s inability to teach and reinforce proper dog handling etiquette with children. Any tail and ear pulling must be discouraged immediately, and play time between children and animals should be supervised at all times.

A dog’s behaviour towards other animals usually depends on their socialization, breeding, handlers and training techniques. The Giant Schnauzer is suspicious towards other dogs and cats and unless very well socialized and raised with other animals is not suited for a home with other critters as they tend to be very dominant and territorial.

The Giant Schnauzer makes a lovely addition to an active family. They are lively and playful and take their job of protecting the family very seriously. They do however, also require plenty of work, patience, love and attention. Before adding this lovely breed into your life, make sure you are well educated on the type of demands they can potentially have on your time and energy. Too many dogs get surrendered to shelters and abandoned yearly due to the fact that they make cute puppies and then grow up to be a handful their owner can’t handle.

The Giant Schnauzer can definitely be a handful and test limits, they also try to run the household, they are dominant and assertive and need plenty of work and commitment. That being said, they make a loyal and faithful companion. They make a great jogging, hiking, biking and swimming partner. More than anything else they love being a part of the family and spend time with their pack.

If you are willing to make a commitment to this beautiful breed, they will remain by your side for years to come, guarding and loving you every step of the way.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.