The Giant Schnauzer should resemble, as nearly as possible, in general appearance, a larger and more powerful version of the Standard Schnauzer, on the whole a bold and valiant figure of a dog. Robust, strongly built, nearly square in proportion of body length to height at withers, active, sturdy, and well muscled. Temperament which combines spirit and alertness with intelligence and reliability. Composed, watchful, courageous, easily trained, deeply loyal to family, playful, amiable in repose, and a commanding figure when aroused. The sound, reliable temperament, rugged build, and dense weather-resistant wiry coat make for one of the most useful, powerful, and enduring working breeds.
Giant Schnauzers require regular grooming. Their beard can collect drool and food particles, making frequent cleanings essential. If being shown, their coat needs to be stripped every two to four weeks. If they are simply a companion animal, the coat can be clipped instead. Some Giant Schnauzers have an allergy to shampoo. Hip and elbow dysplasia are common. Giant Schnauzers are also prone to eye problems such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, glaucoma, cataracts, multifocal retinal dysplasia, and generalized progressive retinal atrophy. They are also prone to skin diseases, such as seasonal flank alopecia, vitiligo, and follicular cysts. Cancer of the skin is common in dark-colored dogs, with the most frequently occurring varieties being melanoma of the limbs and digits, and squamous cell carcinoma of the digit. This susceptibility occurs because melanoma is caused by a defect in the melanocytes, the cells that darken the color of the skin. Noncancerous skin tumors are also common. Some Giant Schnauzers develop central diabetes insipidus, autosomal recessive hypothyroidism, selective malabsorption of cobalamin, narcolepsy, cataplexy, and various seizure disorders. Some are also sensitive to sulphonamides and gold. Bone diseases and joint problems are also an issue. The most common causes of death in Giant Schnauzers are lymphoma and liver cancer, followed by heart attacks and heart failure.
The personality of the Giant Schnauzer can vary from dog to dog. Some are high strung, some are laid back and easy going, some love everybody, others don’t like new people. The key to raising a happy and well-adjusted Giant Schnauzer lies in commitment to exercise and training from an early age. Properly trained Schnauzer make excellent family pets – reliable with children, properly mannered with strangers, respectful of boundaries. Improperly trained and exercised Schnauzers can be much more challenging. Experienced dog owners describe their Schnauzer as loyal, loving companions who bring them nothing but laughter and joy. They can be quite clownish and if silly behavior gets them a laugh and some attention, they’ll pick up on that and become show-boaters. With Giant Schnauzers, more so than other breeds, you get out of them what you put into them.
For people who aren’t prepared to walk or run several miles a day, the Giant Schnauzer is not the right choice. For active people, he makes an excellent companion, as his daily activity requirements are high. Walking, jogging, hiking and biking are good ways to keep Schnauzers physically fit, and enrolling them in agility training can keep their minds sharp. Couch potatoes or city dwellers may not be the right choice for this breed, as they need lots of space, both indoors and out. Proper exercise not only keeps Giant Schnauzers physically fit, but it also helps maintain a steady temperament. High-strung Schnauzers are probably not getting enough exercise.
Training a Schnauzer varies from individual to individual. Training should be begin as early as possible, and should be conducted with firm leadership, 100% consistency, and a lot of delicious treats. Schnauzers generally won’t accept a wishy-washy trainer as a leader. Once basic obedience is mastered, Schnauzers should be graduated on to advanced classes and if possible, enrolled in agility activities where they almost always excel. Schnauzers need more socialization than a lot of other breeds. They can be timid or shy around strangers, and this can often lead to snapping or biting. It is important to teach a Schnauzer early and often, that new people can be trusted and new situations are nothing to fear.
Animal aggression is a common trait among Giant Schnauzers. Cats and small dogs should be kept away, as Schnauzers are prone to chase and can seriously injure other animals. They are best for one-pet homes, as their same-sex aggressive tendencies are high. Schnauzers should always be kept in a fenced yard and when out walking or jogging, should be leashed at all times. Proper socialization helps, but it’s difficult to train aggression out of this breed, even if they are generally an even-tempered individual. Destructive tendencies are also very common with Giant Schnauzers, but this trait is 100% avoidable. Committing to a Giant Schnauzer means committing to an active lifestyle. A well-exercised Scnhauzer is a reliable housemate. A bored Schnauzer will destroy a home.
The Giant Schnauzer’s coat should be brushed with a stiff-bristle or slicker brush at least three times per week in order to prevent mats from forming in the undercoat. Every four to six months, the coat will require hand stripping. This is necessary to maintain the proper texture of the coat, so dogs who will not be shown can be clipped instead. Clipping, however, comes with it’s own set of extra grooming requirements. Regular clipping of the Giant Schnauzer’s coat will eventually change the texture of the hair, leading to more shedding. It can also alter the coloring of the dog. Whereas the dog may have a salt and pepper coat, clipping will cause the hair to match the undercoat – either solid silver or solid black. Clean the Schnauzer’s beard after every mail. Food, water and saliva that get caught in the facial hair not only make a mess around the house, but also cause foul odors and tangles that may be painful to comb. Check the Schnauzer’s ears on a regular basis for signs of irritation, infection or wax buildup. Cleanse with a cotton ball and a veterinarian-approved solution. Monthly nail trimmings are required of dogs who do not wear their nails down naturally. If the nails make a clicking sound on hard floors, it’s time for a trim. Brush teeth weekly to prevent tartar buildup and keep bad breath at bay.
The first Giant Schnauzers emerged from Swabia in the German state of Bavaria, and Württemberg in the 17th century. These original Giant Schnauzers were considered a rough-coated version of the German pinscher breeds, and their hair was thought to help them withstand the harsh German winters and bites from vermin. The origins of the breed are unclear, but sources speculate it originated through some combination of black Great Danes, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Boxers, Bouvier des Flandres, Thuringian Shepherds, and the Standard Schnauzer.
The Giant Schnauzer was originally bred as a multipurpose farm dog for guarding property and driving animals to market. By the turn of the 20th century the Giant Schnauzer was being used as a watchdog at factories, breweries, butcheries, and stockyards throughout Bavaria. It was unknown outside Bavaria until it was used as a military dog in World War I and World War II. The first Giant Schnauzers were imported to America in the 1930s, but they remained rare until the 1960s, when the breed became popular. In 1962, there were 23 new Giant Schnauzers registered with the American Kennel Club; in 1974 this number was 386; in 1984 it was over 800 and in 1987 it was around 1000 animals. In 2012, there were 94 new dogs registered, down from 95 in 2011.
In modern times, the Giant Schnauzer is used as a police dog; is trained for obedience, dog agility, herding, search and rescue, and schutzhund; and is shown in conformation shows. They are also used for carting. In Europe, the breed is considered to be more of a working dog than a show dog. The focus in many European Schnauzer clubs is not so much on conformation shows, but on the working ability of the breed. In several countries, including Germany, dogs must achieve a Schutzhund Champion title before they can qualify to be a conformation champion.