Breed Group: Working
The Giant Schnauzer is among the giant dog breeds, but despite the fact that some are more mellow than others, they are not one of the gentle giants one sometimes hears about. Highly intelligent, they are a top flight watch and guard dog with the ability to separate friend from foe. But this ability does not occur without effort. It must be developed through socialization and training. Possessing a huge reserve of energy, they are very active both inside and out. They love to play, and unlike many giant breeds, they need a significant commitment from their owner to their need for exercise. They need a mile or two of walking and running needed on a daily basis to deter negative behaviors that result from boredom. A large fenced yard is a definite plus in the effort to provide them with the exercise they need. But this thinking breed needs both a physical and a mental workout in order to be happy. Most breeders recommend agility, advanced obedience, or Schutzhund training to satisfy their need for mental stimulation. Dominant and powerful, they are not suited for families with small children. They tend to be aggressive with other dogs; males especially challenge other males. Their ability to get along with other pets and older children (12 and up) is highly dependent on their socialization and training. Significant attention should be focused on ensuring normal rough-and-tumble behavior of children does not elicit an overly protective response from the dog that could be disastrous. They tend to be somewhat better with non-canine pets but should not be completely trusted without proving themselves. Most tend to be cautious around strangers. The Giant Schnauzer is often referred to as a “shadow” dog because they frequently assume a place by the side of their owner.
Giant Schnauzers are just that, giant versions of the smaller Standard Schnauzer, with their well-known bushy eyebrows, whiskers, and beard. Their average height is between 23 and 28 inches, and their average weight is anywhere from 55 to 80 pounds. Their colors are solid black or salt and pepper with a short wiry coat. They rarely shed, but their dense coat can become matted if not brushed weekly. They do equally well in either fairly warm or cold temperatures.
They require extensive socialization to promote a stable, confident personality and counterbalance any timidity or skittishness that exists. They need an early understanding that humans must be looked to for leadership, otherwise, they will attempt to assert themselves as leader. Without socialization, a Giant Schnauzer can become rough, reactive and prone to biting. They also need not just basic but Advance Obedience training in order to occupy them mentally and reinforce your leadership position. Once your leadership position is established, they are not difficult to train. Independent and loyal, but also dominant and powerful, they are too much dog for anyone but an experienced dog owner with good dog handling skills. Some feel that dogs with a salt and pepper coat tend to be more docile.
Giant Schnauzers are prone to a number of health problems, with about 1 in 5 dogs suffering from Dysplastic Hips. Another almost 10% are affected by each Elbow Dysplasia and Hypothyroidism. Although not on the list of the two dozen breeds most susceptible, owners of any deep-chested dog should be familiar with Bloat. Like many dogs with black coats, Giant Schnauzers have an unusually high occurrence of Cancer, in this case, squamous cell carcinoma that frequently starts in the toe, under the nail. Giant Schnauzers have a lifespan of 10 to 12 years.
The American Kennel Club ranks the Giant Schnauzer 78th in popularity with about 1,000 dogs registered each year.
In the English edition of German Dogs in Word and Picture written in 1928, E. von Otto identifies the Giant Schnauzer’s progenitor as the “bear Schnauzer” of Munich. This dog had a long shaggy coat and was related to the Old German Shaggy Shepherd Dog. The resulting dog was then crossed with the black Great Dane in an effort “to make his hair shorter and his body larger and black”. This cross also provided the breed with additional power and he acquired the reputation of a protection dog. Despite the Riesenschnauzer’s (breed) different ancestry, it was also noted by von Otto that “in his general appearance and wonderful nature he bears a very strong resemblance to the Bouvier des Flandres,” another breed first developed to drive cattle, but one whose intelligence, strength, and versatility have been put to many uses since. Today the Giant Schnauzer is considered by many in Europe as a premier police and military dog. In fact, many police forces in Europe prefer this breed over all others for security.
Notable Giant Schnauzer owners include Bruce Lee, Sugan Ray Leonard, Steve McQueen, and advice columnist Heloise. The National (US) Breed Club is the Giant Schnauzer Club of America.