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Smart, stubborn, and an independent thinker, this big guard dog will play with family and defend them and their home from any threats, but he isn’t for novice owners.
The Giant Schnauzer was probably developed in southern Bavaria and for a long time was known as the Munchener, after the city of Munich.
The Giant is the largest of the three Schnauzer breeds. He was created by German land owners who wanted a tough
dog to drive their cattle. It’s thought that they started with the large and shaggy “Bear Schnauzer” and mixed in some herding and working dogs such as the
Bouvier des Flandres, the black
Great Dane, and the
Standard Schnauzer. Today’s Giant Schnauzer has many good qualities, but he is demanding.
The Giant Schnauzer is smart, but like any dog with a working background, he is an independent thinker. You must begin early teaching him to think of you as his leader. The Giant Schnauzer is not an appropriate choice for a first-time dog owner.
It’s important to give him a job to do, from his daily training exercises to participating in a dog sport such as agility, obedience, rally, or tracking. Giant Schnauzers are energetic and athletic, and they enjoy long walks, jogging, and hiking on leash. Plan to take yours for at least a 20-minute walk twice a day, at a good pace, plus training practice for 20 minutes to an hour.
Be aware that a Giant Schnauzer can be messy to keep. His beard will drip water after he drinks and will need to be cleaned after meals. You may also need to wipe walls or furniture if he shakes his head before you can get to a towel. His coat picks up all kinds of dirt and debris which may be deposited throughout your home.
The Giant Schnauzer is best suited to a home with a large yard surrounded by a solid fence that is at least five or six feet high. Do not rely on an underground electronic fence to keep him contained. The shock it provides is nothing to this tough dog, and he won’t let it deter him from leaving the yard if that’s what he wants to do.
Giant Schnauzers are a good choice for families with older children. They can be too active in the presence of toddlers and may accidentally knock them over.
The Giant Schnauzer’s coat must be brushed or combed at least a couple of times a week to prevent or remove mats and tangles. To maintain the Giant Schnauzer’s distinctive look, you’ll need to trim his head and body regularly. You can take him to a professional groomer or learn to do it yourself. Other grooming requirements include cleaning the ears and trimming the nails as needed, brushing his teeth, and bathing him when he’s dirty.
While you might think of him as an outdoor dog, nothing could be farther from the truth. Chaining a Giant Schnauzer out in the yard and giving him little or no attention is not only cruel, it can also lead to aggression and destructive behavior. Giant Schnauzers are guardian dogs, devoted to their people. A Giant Schnauzer should have access to a securely fenced yard, but when the family is home, he should be in the house.
Of the three Schnauzer breeds, the Standard is the original. He is depicted in artwork by Albrecht Durer that dates to 1492. The Giant Schnauzer was developed later to be a larger version of the Standard that could drive cattle to market. To achieve the greater size, the Standard was crossed with larger, smooth-coated dogs, rough-coated sheepdogs, and the black
Great Dane. He may also bear some relationship to the
Bouvier des Flandres.
By the beginning of the 20
th century, the Giant Schnauzer wasn’t used much for driving cattle, but he still found work at butcher shops, stockyards, and breweries. The dogs were trained for police work, and it is an occupation they have taken to ever since, more often in Europe than the United States.
The Giant Schnauzer was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1930. Today he ranks 94
th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
You could say the Giant Schnauzer’s spirited personality is his outstanding characteristic. This handsome breed is extremely intelligent and alert, and he is a superb watchdog and loyal family protector. His natural instinct is to watch over his family, and he easily distinguishes between people who are friends and people who mean harm. His courageous and reliable nature makes him a wonderfully dependable family guardian.
Though the Giant Schnauzer is protective and watchful, he is also playful, loving, and friendly with his human “pack.” He should never be shy or aggressive. Beware of pups and parents with a belligerent attitude toward people or other dogs.
The ever-alert Giant Schnauzer needs a lot of exercise. Plan on daily walks, playtime romps in the yard, and activities such as obedience training to keep him mentally stimulated. Since the Giant Schnauzer was originally bred to work, he is particularly happy if he has a job to do.
The Giant Schnauzer is devoted to his family and to the children in his family, but he's less suited to households with babies and toddlers.
Training should begin right away -- the Giant Schnauzer puppy is often headstrong. Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and
parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk with a reputable, experienced Giant Schnauzer breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from early birth.
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur.
Conditions that have been seen in Giant Schnauzers include orthopedic problems such as
hip dysplasia, eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, cobalamin (vitamin B-12) malabsorption resulting in chronic anemia, and autoimmune thyroiditis.
Giant Schnauzer Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program. For a Giant Schnauzer to achieve CHIC certification, he must have hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP) or Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), an OFA thyroid evaluation and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check
CHIC’s website to see if a breeder’s dogs have these certifications. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been "vet checked," or any of the other excuses bad breeders have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas. A puppy may develop one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what are the most common causes of death.
Not every Giant visit to the vet is for a genetic problem. They are one of the deep-chested breeds prone to bloat, a condition in which the stomach expands with air. This can become the more serious condition, gastric torsion or gastric dilatation volvulus, if the stomach twists on itself, cutting off blood flow. Gastric torsion strikes suddenly, and a dog who was fine one minute can be dead a few hours later. Watch for symptoms like restlessness and pacing, drooling, pale gums and lip licking, inability to purge, and signs of pain. Gastric torsion requires immediate veterinary surgery, and most dogs who have bloated once will bloat again. That means it’s wise to opt for the procedure known as "stomach tacking," which will keep the stomach from twisting in the future. This procedure can also be done as a preventive measure.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Giant at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier
dog for life.
The Giant Schnauzer’s distinctive look — eyebrows, thick beard, clipped body — doesn’t come naturally. Regular grooming is essential, including brushing, bathing, haircut, nail trim, and ear cleaning. Expect to groom (do it yourself or hire a professional groomer) your dog every six to eight weeks, especially if you wish to keep the coat trimmed short and those eyebrows distinct. Regular brushing every week between stylings will keep the breed’s double coat (outer coat is wiry and hard, and the soft undercoat is dense) in good condition.
Shop around before choosing a groomer. Grooming a Giant Schnauzer properly requires good clippering and scissoring skills. Make sure the groomer has experience with the breed, both in terms of styling and handling.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a quality breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.
Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Giant Schnauzer and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Giant Schnauzer Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the GSCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores, calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them and urges breeders and owners to register test results with OFA and CHIC.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will clear. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also remember that buying a puppy from an “instant pet” websites leaves you no recourse if what you don't get exactly what you expected.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over-availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an Giant Schnauzer puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show), and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Giant Schnauzer might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult dog, you know exactly what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog instead of a puppy, ask breeders about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com can have you searching for a Giant Schnauzer in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Giant Schnauzers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Giant Schnauzer. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Giant Schnauzers love all Giant Schnauzers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Giant Schnauzer Club of America’s Rescue Networkcan help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Giant Schnauzer rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Giant Schnauzer home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Giant Schnauzer, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Giant Schnauzer to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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