Is a Giant Schnauzer the Right Dog for You?

by Daphne Cooke

Reprinted from What You Should Know About The Giant Schnauzer, 5th Edition ©1988

Before you buy a Giant Schnauzer puppy, Think: What do I want my dog to be like? How will this dog fit into my lifestyle? What is my living situation? Consider what your needs are and what the dog's needs are. Do they conflict? Think of the dogs you've enjoyed owning in the past. Were they easy‑going or intense? Self-willed, or independent? Out‑going or reserved? Placid or energetic?

The Giant Schnauzer is an extremely intelligent, large, energetic, strongly territorial dog whose life is oriented toward his owners. If he Is the right dog for you, he is one of the most rewarding breeds to own, but this is also a demanding breed, and should not be casually added to a household.

Will you enjoy owning a Giant Schnauzer? If you are looking for a bright, sensitive, responsive dog with whom you will be able to spend time, whom you will enjoy grooming, whom you plan to train; if you are looking for a protective, loyal dog who will be devoted to you and your family for the rest of his life ‑ then perhaps you would enjoy owning a Giant. No one can describe a dog completely in words. When you get to know a member of any breed, your personalities will click or they won't, and that's what you're looking for: a breed you can spontaneously enjoy. Nevertheless, a word picture can indicate whether or not this is a breed you would like to get to know more about.

 The Giant Schnauzer is a guard dog. He feels that one of his jobs is to protect his family. You don't need to train him to do this; it comes naturally to him. He will be watchful of people on your property, expressing suspicion with a low growl. Giants take life seriously, they aren't happy‑go‑lucky types who will go wagging up to everyone. However, they quickly learn to differentiate between strangers and friends and relatives who visit you frequently, greeting the latter folks graciously at the door. A guard dog has a strong sense of territory. And you shouldn't expect your male Giant to tolerate any other male in your house ‑ he has to be number one.

A Giant Schnauzer needs lots of exercise. Do you like to go for long walks or a daily jog? Do you have another large dog of the opposite sex with whom your Giant can roughhouse? In the past have you enjoyed playing energetically with your dog? You'll be happier, and so will your dog, if you choose a breed that fits Into your present lifestyle, rather than expect to change your way of life because you've acquired a dog.

Also on the subject of exercise: Don't plan to shove your Giant out of the door and let him exercise himself by running around the town or countryside. No dog should be allowed to run loose and unsupervised, but this is especially true of large dogs, who are intimidating to some people, who are very efficient at tearing trash bags apart, and who can damage livestock and wildlife. For your dog's safety and your neighbor's peace of mind, fence your yard before you bring your puppy home.

Giant Schnauzers need regular grooming, so plan to put some time aside for this. They don't shed in great tufts, but this doesn't mean that hairs don't loosen and if loosened, dead hairs stay in the coat too long and impede the growth of healthy hard new coat. The Giants you see at shows and in photographs didn't come that way: a lot of time went into grooming and preparing them. Visually, the area most affected by grooming is the dog's head. If you don't keep your dog's head trimmed and neat, his beautifully expressive face will disappear under a mass of hair. Grooming the whole dog is important for the health of his skin, for removing burrs, and for keeping him clean. Grooming isn't an extra. Whether you do it yourself or pay someone else, regular grooming Is essential to your dog's health and to your enjoyment of your dog.

A surprising number of people say they're inter­ested in Giants because some member of the family (usually a child) is "allergic to dog hair", but they've been told that "Schnauzers and Poodles don't shed, so there's no problem". Such breed promotion to the con­trary, the idea that Giants never shed and therefore are non‑allergenic is an unfortunate myth, without medical or scientific basis. While regular stripping and plucking can reduce to a minimum hair shed by the well-­groomed Giant on clothes and furniture, an experienc­ed breeder‑owner gives a more forthright picture: "If Giants don't shed, where do all those little heaps of black hair come from that accumulate in the unswept corners of my house?" A check with an allergist con­firms that the usual "allergic to dogs" reaction is not breed‑specific. So if there's an allergy problem and your kid sneezed and broke out in hives until you got rid of your gundog or German Shepherd, don't look to the Giant Schnauzer as some kind of miraculous excep­tion.

The Giant Schnauzer is a working dog. The work­ing dog group includes some of the most intelligent breeds of dog. If you have never owned a Giant before, you'll be amazed at how quickly he learns, and at the number of things you can teach him. But this great in­telligence carries an obligation with it. A Giant won't be happy left alone in a pen or in your house all day. A working dog enjoys life most when he is given respon­sibility and a job to do, whether the job is herding, obe­dience, baby‑sitting, guide‑dog, or rescue work. The Giant Schnauzer is a dog who must be trained and worked with regularity. He demands your attention and thrives on it, and will reward you many times over for the time you spent training him. But once again, look at your lifestyle. Most obedience instructors recommend that you work with your dog for an hour a day. Though this amount of time can be shortened once your dog is trained, no intelligent dog should be left in "cold

storage" only to be worked when the owner's con­science gets the better of him. Working with your dog doesn't necessarily mean formal obedience work. He should know basic obedience; and once you get hook­ed on obedience, you'll probably want to go all the way, in competition. However, teaching him tricks and games, letting him help you by carrying things or find­ing something for you ‑ these activities let him use his mind, and give him a feeling of being important to you. Is your schedule loaded with job, social commitments, clubwork, or other hobbies? Leave room for time with your Giant.

 Don't buy a Giant Schnauzer because of pictures you've seen of them, or what you've read about them. Don't even base your decision on what devotees of the breed tell you about them. Meet the dogs. Watch them at shows, but more important, see them at home. Take your time. Get to know the breed. It's the only way to find out if a Giant Schnauzer is the right dog for you



ARE GIANT SCHNAUZERS RARE? No. While you may not run into them on every street corner, 771 were registered in 1983, and nearly 1000 in 1987. Out of over 130 breeds registered with AKC, Giants are about 72nd in popularity right now. For someone interested in something unusual that means there are about fifty 'rarer' breeds to pick from. Of course, there are probably many Giants that the GSCA doesn't know about. Every puppy born does not get registered, we know, but we do try to estimate.

ARE GIANT SCHNAUZERS GOOD WITH CHILDREN? This question should be reversed. Are your children good with dogs? No dog, Giant Schnauzer or otherwise, should be expected to put up with abusive treatment or teasing from children who have not been taught to treat animals with kind­ness. Even very young children can and must be taught respect for the family dog, or you can expect problems. All too often parents purchase a dog for the kids. They envision the kids taking care of the new puppy and everyone playing together happily. Puppies should never be bought for the children. At least one adult must accept the ultimate respon­sibility for the dog. One who really wants it and understands the care, training and love that the dog will need. Even a responsible teenager who asks for a dog should be reminded that teenagers usually leave home and leave their pets behind. Who will take care of the Giant Schnauzer then?

ARE GIANT SCHNAUZERS ROAMERS? Any dog who is not on a leash or in a fenced yard is a potential roamer, and possible troublemaker. Giant Schnauzers should be fenced at home or reliably trained for voice control, and you should be on the end of the leash when not at home. It is your responsibility to keep the dog safe from unfamiliar dangers (cars, trucks, garbage, irate neighbors) and to clean up after it. Many communities require leashes regardless of how well trained your dog may be.

DO GIANT SCHNAUZERS NEED GUARD DOG TRAINING? No. They do need obedience training and socializing if they are to be good companions. Heeling, coming when called, staying, not jumping on people, are all basic needs for a civilized dog. Giant Schnauzers are by nature territorial. They will usually instinctively guard what is theirs and warn you when a stranger is near. For most purposes this is enough. Being a guard dog means just that, guarding, and the deep bark and intense appearance of the typical Giant Schnauzer is enough to give a stranger pause. If further training is warranted it should be undertaken only with professional help and only with a dog of stable temperament.

DO GIANT SCHNAUZERS REQUIRE A LOT OF GROOMING? Not necessarily. They do need thorough brushing, cleaning, beard washing, nail clipping and the regular care any dog needs. If you consider showing the dog then you will either have to pay someone to properly groom and present your dog, or learn to do it yourself. (see the section on show grooming) If you groom a pet just to keep it looking nice and healthy you can easily learn to do it yourself. The correct hard‑coated Giant Schnauzer is fairly easy to groom, as the furnishings (hair on legs) does not tend to mat or hold leaves and litter. (see the section on pet grooming)

DO GIANT SCHNAUZERS SHED? Of course they do. It is a popular misconception that people have that they don't shed. It is usually asked by someone who has allergies. According to experts it's not the hair that causes the problem anyway, it is the dander. The nonallergenic theory probably started with the popular Miniature Schnauzer. Most pet 'minis' are clippered, and with frequent grooming the dander is apparently less of a problem, and they are a lot smaller anyway.

But on any healthy dog hair wilI grow, mature and eventually fall out. On the rug. On your white pants. Anywhere it wants to. This sometimes means that the dog is not getting regular brushing, which helps to keep up with the shedding, or it could mean that the dog has finally 'blown its coat' and is really and truly 'shedding'. It is not quite the same look that a shepherd or collie type has where they look like they're molting and handfuls of hair comes out all over. When the loose hair of a blown coat comes out, however, the Giant Schnauzer can look moth‑eaten. Our basic grooming instructions can explain it to you.

ARE GIANT SCHNAUZERS EASY TO HOUSEBREAK? Yes, when the owner exercises him regularly, frequently, until he is physically mature enough to control himself. Using a crate, feeding and walking on schedule and watching carefully for the dog's signals will hasten the process. Few dogs choose to sleep near their messes so confinement helps to get the message across. All it really takes is paying attention to them and their needs. After rough play or a long nap a pup is more likely to need 'to go.'

I HAVE ANOTHER DOG. WILL THE GIANT SCHNAUZER ACCEPT HIM? A new puppy will be submissive to almost any other dog that was there first. As the puppy grows up there might be a problem if there is a big difference in their sizes or if one is basically more aggressive. Most males tend to be aggressive toward another male, whether another GS or a male of another breed. Sometimes females are the same way, and a female in season may be intolerant of either sex. Mixed sexes otherwise usually get along, unless there are more than two and they gang up on somebody. Neutering and spaying will not necessarily improve matters if the dog's basic temperament or past experience has trained it to be aggressive. It is up to you to control them. Some combinations of dogs can mean disaster‑ someone could get seriously bitten, and you certainly don't want a dogfight so this situation should be carefully considered.


Copyright © The Giant Schnauzer Club of America, Inc. All Rights Reserved. MNT Publishing