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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
Lively and active, the Miniature Schnauzer has a larger than life personality and loves to participate in everything you do. He’ll follow you around the house, alert you to someone at the door – possibly more heartily than you might desire.
Miniature Schnauzers can only be shown in American Kennel Club conformation shows in salt and pepper -- by far the most common color -- black and silver, or black. White Miniature Schnauzers cannot be shown in conformation in the U.S., although they can in some other countries.
A relatively recent breed, the Miniature Schnauzer used to work hard at eradicating vermin, a necessary job on a farm. While he will still chase rodents -- mice, rats, and squirrels certainly know when he's around, as do birds -- today his job is to be a companion. His urge to hunt vermin typically makes him successful in earthdog trials; some Miniature Schnauzers absolutely excel at them. Smart and athletic, he can shine in obedience and agility too.
The same instincts that make him good at earthdog trials also means he is a wee bit too interested in pocket pets like gerbils and small birds to be left alone with them. If you have smaller pets, be sure to keep them in a separate room. Introduce the Miniature Schnauzer slowly while you watching like a hawk so that he realizes they are family members too. Even after they've gotten used to each other, it's best not to leave them together unsupervised.
Lively and active, the Miniature Schnauzer has a larger than life personality and loves to participate in everything you do. He’ll follow you around the house, alert you to someone at the door, and he’ll let real burglars know this is not the house to come into. His natural tendency toward barking can be curbed through training so that he’s not an annoyance to people who aren’t deaf.
Ear cropping is currently a heated debate in the Miniature Schnauzer world. The breed standard calls for either cropped or uncropped ears. Traditionally dog show winners have had cropped ears, so many show people wish to keep the cropped ears because they believe they can't win without them. Some show people, however, have come to view the practice as a cruel, painful procedure for a cosmetic result. The topic is debated by pet owners, too, and everyone has their own ideas about what they prefer. Cropping is generally done at eight weeks of age, so if you have a puppy selected from a breeder's litter, let her know whether or not you want your Miniature Schnauzer's ears cropped.
Tail docking is called for in the breed standard. The original purpose of docking, or shortening, the tail was to prevent injuries while running in the field. Docking is usually done at three or four days of age, so it can be difficult to find a puppy without a docked tail. A Miniature Schnauzer can be shown with an undocked tail, but it's considered a fault, which makes it more difficult to win.
A Miniature Schnauzer can only be shown in American Kennel Club conformation shows in salt and pepper -- by far the most common color -- black and silver, or black. The white color is another hotly debated issue within the world of Miniature Schnauzer fanciers. White Miniature Schnauzers cannot be shown in conformation in the U.S., although they can in some other countries, such as Germany. A white Miniature Schnauzer makes a fine pet; other than color, there is no difference.
An old farm hand, Miniature Schnauzers originally were German farm dogs who excelled as ratters but went after all vermin. Ratting was necessary in the house before indoor plumbing came along.
The Germans wanted a perfect farm dog. Because the Standard Schnauzer took more space and cost more to feed, it was bred with Affenpinschers and black Poodles to create a smaller dog that excelled at ratting. In Germany, Miniature Schnauzers are also known as Zwergschnauzer, zwergmeaning dwarf.
Although somewhat similar dogs can be seen in 15th century art, the diminutive version of the Standard Schnauzer came into being much later. In 1879, a dog named Schnauzer won the Wire-Haired Pinscher breed at a German dog show. Schnauzermeans walrus moustache, which is appropriate as the dog's mustache technically begins on his snout. The breed eventually took the name of that winning dog.
In the 1880s, “wirehaired pinschers” and Affenpinschers were often lumped together, but starting in 1900 the dogs were shown in different classes: one for the Affenpinscher and one for the miniature wirehaired pinscher, as the Miniature Schnauzer was then known. By 1910, the Affenpinscher and the Miniature Schnauzer were separate breeds.
The advent of World War I halted most breeding programs, but after the war dog breeding resumed. The same thing happened during World War II. After the first war, the Miniature Schnauzer came to the United States and immediately became popular. At the time they had a variety of coat colors, but today they are seen only in salt and pepper, black and silver, or solid black. In the U.K., the Miniature Schnauzer became a distinct breed apart from the Standard Schnauzer in the mid-1930s, just before World War II.
Today the Miniature Schnauzer has evolved to be a companion dog rather than a ratter on a farm, and his popularity is as strong as ever. He ranks 12th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Despite his small size, the Miniature Schnauzer really isn't a lap dog. He's far too active and prefers getting his kicks by boisterously running around at high speed and digging, although he loves his people and wants to be with them. His nature is to be sweet and loving, but not timid. He's an excellent watch dog because he's alert and barking is a preferred hobby. You can train him not to go crazy when the doorbell rings, but realize that that is his inclination. He's more inclined to bark than to fight. Because of his watchdog nature, any outdoor-based Miniature Schnauzer will create problems with your neighbors.
A smart dog, the Miniature Schnauzer is easy to train. His ability to learn, added to his high energy level, make him great in agility, earth dog trials, and obedience competitions. He needs daily exercise, and a fair amount of it. He's not going to be happy with a quick walk around the block, and if his voluminous energy isn't handled with exercise, you could find your couch in ruins.
Many terriers are not fond of other dogs, but that's not necessarily the case with the Miniature Schnauzer. Well-bred Miniature Schnauzers are not particularly aggressive, but they get a score of 3 on a scale of 1 to 5 for being "dog friendly". Also, that neighborly feeling doesn't always extend to cats, birds, rodents and small mammals such as hamsters. You can get a well-bred Miniature Schnauzer who has been trained and socialized to live alongside other species of pets if efforts begin when you bring them home young from the breeder. Nonetheless, the chances of a Miniature Schnauzer living side by side with pet rats and hamsters are not good because he's hard-wired to hunt small furry creatures.
Sometimes a Miniature Schnauzer will show a preference for one person in the family. He can be good with children (he earns a 3 out of 5 for being "child friendly"), particularly if the children are there first. But don't forget that he’s been bred to react to squealing noises and rapid movement, so it’s best not to leave him unsupervised with very young children.
He can be a bit timid with strangers until he knows his family approves of the stranger. He prefers being with his people over being with other dogs, and will follow you around all day.
Because of their enduring popularity, find a responsible breeder who is concerned with temperament and health, not just looks. A solid temperament is necessary around children. He'll be around for a long time, so it's wise to have a dog bred for a good temperament.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are 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 in her lines.
The Miniature Schnauzer is genetically predisposed to several diseases, including several related to the eyes. Do not buy a puppy whose parents are not certified by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).
A cataract is an opaque cloudiness that gradually covers the eye lens. Vision is affected and ranges anywhere from slight impairment to blindness. Fortunately, cataracts can be treated surgically and vision restored.
Entropion occurs when eyelids roll in towards the eye and the eyelashes irritate the cornea. The condition is painful and needs surgery to be corrected.
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease that can progress to blindness in both eyes. Thankfully, it is not painful, but currently there is no cure.
Urolithiasis is a condition in which sediment in the urine eventually coalesces to form stones of varying size. Miniature Schnauzers can get a few different types stones. Surgery is required in many cases, and sometimes a special diet is recommended to try to prevent recurrence.
The esophagus is the tubular, muscular organ that connects the mouth to the stomach. Congential megaesophagus affects the muscular function of the esopahgus, causing regurgitation, which happens when food is swallowed but stays in the esophagus until it basically just falls back out. Affected dogs can accidentally inhale food and water into their lungs with they try to eat or drink, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia.
A canine version of muscular dystrophy can affect Miniature Schnauzers. It is a generalized, degenerative muscular disease caused by lack of a specific protein. Puppies can be affected; signs include an unusual gait (abnormal way of walking), difficulty swallowing, and neck stiffness.
Von Willebrand's disease (VWD) is a blood clotting defect for which Miniature Schnauzers should have DNA testing prior to breeding. Dogs with VWD can experience severe bleeding associated with surgery, or even from minor wounds or injuries. Another potential blood clotting problem in Miniature Schnauzers involves a deficiency of Factor VII (a blood clotting factor).
Comedone Syndrome is so common among Miniature Schnauzers that it's referred to as Schnauzer bumps. Dogs with this condition develop blackheads and scabs, usually involving the hair follicles on the back. Sometimes hair is lost. Your veterinarian may recommend medicated wipes, ointments, gels, or shampoos to manage the condition.
Other possible medical problems include heart conditions (such as mitral valve disease, pulmonic stenosis, and sick sinus syndrome), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (a condition affecting the hip joint), and osteochondrosis, which can affect the knees, elbows, shoulders, or hocks.
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 and a puppy develops 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 a breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
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. Miniature Schnauzers are marvelously adept at begging for food, and he’s so smart that he’s good as stealing it. Keeping your Miniature Schnauzer 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 Miniature Schnauzer’s grooming needs are fairly extensive. He needs regular clipping or hand stripping. Pets are usually clipped because hand stripping is a time-consuming effort typically reserved for show dogs. Clipping will soften the coat, though, so if you like the hard texture, resign yourself to stripping it.
Miniature Schnauzers have a double coat. The undercoat is soft and the top coat is wiry. They can either be shaved with an electric clipper by you or a professional, or plucked (hand stripped), which is a labor-intensive process that is best done while he's on your lap watching television. Most hand strippers do it one section at a time, and do it throughout the year. For some, hand stripping takes too long to be affordable at a professional groomer's. Fortunately, it's not hard to learn to use a clipper, and you can buy the equipment for the equivalent of a few grooming sessions. If you want to learn how to get a typical Miniature Schnauzer cut, check out the AMSC grooming chart.
Because he’s small, his dental needs can be significant unless care is taken to brush his teeth regularly with a vet-approved pet toothpaste, and schedule dental cleanings with your veterinarian.
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 good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and 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 can provide for him. 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 she takes take to avoid those problems.
The Miniature Schnauzer Club of America is a good place to start your search for a responsible breeder. Look for a breeder who abides by the club's Code of Ethics, which does not permit the sale of puppies through brokers, auctions or commercial dealers such as pet stores. Breeders should sell puppies with a written contract guaranteeing they'll take back the dog at any time during his life if you become unable to keep him, and with written documentation that both the puppy's parents (and if possible, his other close relatives) have had their hips, eyes, elbows and hearts examined and certified by the appropriate health organizations. Seek out a breeder whose dogs are active in agility, obedience and other sports that require athleticism and good health, and not just ribbons from the show ring.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from one of those “instant pet” websites leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. 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.
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 a Miniature Schnauzer puppy varies depending on his place of origin, whether he 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 show or 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.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Miniature Schnauzer might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Miniature Schnauzer may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
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 and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Miniature 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 Miniature Schnauzers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org 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 Miniature 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
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Miniature Schnauzers love all Miniature Schnauzers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The American Miniature Schnauzer Club’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Miniature 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 Miniature 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 pup. 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 Miniature 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 Miniature 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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