The Giant Schnauzer originated in 17th century Germany.
The breed was developed from crossing the Standard Schnauzer with larger breeds. These bigger ancestors likely included Great Danes, smooth- and rough-coated sheepdogs, and Bouvier des Flandres.
This larger version of the original Standard Schnauzer made for the perfect multipurpose farm dog. His large size made him an intimidating watchdog as well as an effective cattle-driver.
Later on, the breed was recognized for his police work in Germany. He was also used as a military dog during both World War I and II.
The first Giant Schnauzers to come to the United States were imported in the 1930’s. The AKC first recognized the breed in the year 1930, but the dog did not become popular until the 1960’s.
Owning a Giant Schnauzer is absolutely rewarding, you do need to understand what caring for this breed entails.
As with all dogs, the Giant Schnauzer has a few basic needs that you’ll have to provide for. These include nutrition, grooming, exercise, training, and health. And of course, lots of love, attention, and patience! ;-)
Giant Schnauzers need a balanced diet of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy. You should feed them twice daily on a schedule. Don’t leave food out for your dog all the time as this doesn’t allow you to watch how much he is eating.
Also, be sure to give him two or three small portions throughout the day, rather than just one big serving. The breed is prone to gastric torsion, and feeding only one large meal can lead to gas build-up.
The amount of food the Giant needs is determined by activity level, metabolism, age, and overall health.
Labels on dog food give an approximation of how much to feed based on your dog’s weight. This is definitely a good place to start, but you should make adjustments depending on your individual dog. Speaking with your veterinarian can give you a good idea of exactly how much your Giant Schnauzer should eat.
As a general rule of thumb, an adult Giant Schnauzer should eat between 3 ⅜ to 4 ¼ cups of high-quality dog food, divided into at least two meals, daily.
Again, several factors affect feeding amounts, but these tips should give you a good starting point. Keep an eye on your dog to make sure he’s not too thin or too heavy-set. Then adjust as needed.
The Giant Schnauzer does require some more intensive grooming due to his non-shedding fur.
The breed’s double coat is made up of a wiry top coat and a soft undercoat. To maintain the proper texture of your Giant’s fur, you’ll need to get him hand stripped every four to six months.
Another option is to have the coat clipped.
This is the route most pet owners take because it’s easier to maintain. (Typically, it’s only the show dogs that are hand stripped.) However, you should be aware that regular clipping of the coat can change the texture and coloring of the dog’s hair.
Besides regular visits to the groomer for hand stripping or clipping, you’ll need to do a few things to maintain your Giant at home:
- You will need to brush him at least three times a week to prevent matting in the undercoat.
- You’ll also need to wipe down his beard after meals. Otherwise, you’ll have a dog with a very messy mouth!
Your Giant Schnauzer also needs the basic grooming care that all other breeds require.
Brush the teeth at least once a week to keep your dog healthy. Check the ears regularly for signs of irritation or infection. And trim your dog’s nails when needed.
Giant Schnauzers need a lot of exercise.
And I mean a lot of exercise.
A short walk around the block will not suffice for this breed. He needs at least an hour of daily exercise. A mile or two of walking or running every day is about what you should plan on.
You should also have a fenced yard where your Giant Schnauzer can burn off some of his excess energy. Due to his need for exercise, the breed would not do well in an apartment or condo.
For the intelligent Giant Schnauzer, mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise.
This is a dog that would thrive in advanced obedience, herding, and agility training. In fact, he needs training to keep him happy.
When training, avoid a lot of repetition as Giant Schnauzers can become bored. Rather, turn training sessions into a game and throw in lots of variety to keep your Schnauzer on his toes.
Though smart and quick to learn, be aware that the Giant Schnauzer does have a stubborn streak. You’ll need to be firm and consistent with him from day one. Otherwise, he can become independent and headstrong.
I must warn you:
If you’re a first-time dog owner, a Giant Schnauzer probably isn’t the best breed for you.
The Giant Schnauzer is much more fitted to owners that already have some dog experience under their belts.
Giant Schnauzers have a life expectancy of 12-15 years and are a generally a healthy dog breed.
Even so, this type of dog is prone to certain health issues. Giant Schnauzers are more prone to the following conditions and/or diseases:
- Hip dysplasia
- Osteochondrosis Dessicans (joint disorder)
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Cobalamin (vitamin B-12) malabsorption
- Autoimmune disorders
- Gastric torsion (bloat)
Giant Schnauzer Facts
1. The Working Dog
Like most working breeds, the Giant Schnauzer needs to have a job.
But don’t worry, the job doesn’t have to be complex.
Something as simple as teaching him new tricks regularly or even a game of fetch will suffice. You could even teach him to help you around the house. Have him put his toys away or teach him to bring you certain objects.
The breed needs to be involved in everything you do, so he would probably love a chance to do some “chores.”
No matter what “job” you choose to give him, just make sure your Giant Schnauzer has something to do on a regular basis. As an energetic and intelligent dog, this breed needs both physical and mental stimulation to keep him from getting bored.
And trust me, you don’t want a bored Schnauzer! (But we’ll come back to this topic later.)
2. No Really, The WORKING Dog
Now you know that little tasks around the house are perfect for satisfying your dog’s need to have a job.
But did you know that Giant Schnauzers also excel in the real-world work force?
The Giant Schnauzer makes the perfect canine coworker for rescue work, police and military work, and as a guide dog.
During World War I and II, the breed even worked as a trench, guard, and messenger dog. Nowadays, he is particularly well-known for his police work in Germany and other parts of Europe.
To this day, the breed is considered more of a working dog than a show dog in Europe. In fact, European Schnauzer clubs focus on the working ability of the breed rather than on conformation shows. This is in contrast to the United States, where the breed is prized more as a companion dog and for show.
But that doesn’t mean your American-born Giant Schnauzer doesn’t need a job. No matter what continent he was born on, a working dog is a working dog, and he was born ready to do just that!
3. The Protector
The Giant Schnauzer makes an excellent guard dog.
After all, that is one of the main things he was bred to do.
As a watchdog, the Giant is not one to back down. He takes his job of protecting home and family very seriously and can be intimidating when he wants to be.
The breed is naturally territorial and wary of strangers. But don’t worry–he’s the complete opposite when with his family. In fact, he’s a playful dog and makes for a loving companion.
All the same, his wariness of strangers should not be ignored. And that brings us to the next point: socialization.
4. Socialize, Socialize, Socialize
If you are already familiar with dog ownership, you probably know that it’s important to socialize your pup. But this is particularly true with the Giant Schnauzer.
Getting him out and about, meeting new people and dogs is an absolute must.
Because of the breed’s protecting and guarding instincts, the Giant can be aggressive towards people and animals he doesn’t know. To prevent your dog from becoming a neighborhood threat, you need to exposure him to new experiences and people.
A dog that barks to warn you of a stranger walking up your front steps is one thing. We can all appreciate that heads-up. But you definitely don’t want a dog that will be lunging and snarling at every new person he sees.
5. The Family-With-Older-Kids Dog
Families with children under 12 years of age should think twice about getting a Giant Schnauzer.
Giants are–well–giant, and their high activity level and persistent natures do not mix well with young children.
If you’re set on a Schnauzer-type breed but have little ones at home, you might consider the Standard or Miniature. They are much more suited to a family with children than the Giant is.
6. The Single-Dog-Household Dog
Thinking about getting a buddy for your Giant?
You might want to reconsider.
While there are exceptions, Giant Schnauzers generally are not very friendly with other canines. This is particularly true if you’re getting two dogs of the same sex.
If you want your Giant to have a friend or you’re considering getting a Giant as a second dog, do so with caution. Introduce the dogs properly and be patient as you search for the perfect doggy match.
7. Not Your Cat’s Best Friend
If you’re a cat lover, then a Giant probably isn’t the right pooch to add to the mix.
Giant Schnauzers are prone to chasing small furry things. And this means cats, small dogs, and any other small pets you (or your neighbor) might own.
It’s important to keep this breed on a leash at all times when outside of a fenced-in area.
Their animal aggression tendencies are just too high. And while socialization helps, you still don’t want to run the risk of your dog racing out towards a small, defenseless animal. After all, it’s better to play it safe than to have to tell your next-door neighbor that their kitty is in critical condition.
8. Not An Outside Dog
You may assume from the dog’s size and his guarding instincts that the Giant Schnauzer makes a good outside dog.
But you’d be wrong.
While a yard is highly recommended if you’re going to own a Giant, it should not be his only home.
The Giant Schnauzer is a companion dog who is devoted and attached to his family members.
Leaving him alone in the yard all the time will only make for an aggressive, destructive, and overall unhappy dog. So keep that in mind as you consider bringing home a Giant Schnauzer.
9. Bored Equals Destructive
You probably already know that bored dogs like to rip things up.
But did you also know that Giant Schnauzers have destructive tendencies?
Before you start to worry too much, take a look at the above two statements again. If you splice them together, you’ll get something along the lines of…
Bored Giant Schnauzers like to be destructive.
See where I’m going with this?
Yep, as I alluded to before, a bored Giant Schnauzer means trouble.
But while Giants can be destructive, they don’t tear things up without reason.
If you’ve taken your Giant out for his daily one to two mile jog, you shouldn’t have a problem. He’ll likely be snoozing on the floor, content and relaxed. But if you’ve been too busy to take him out for a good romp, get ready to be even busier because you’ll also have a torn-apart house to deal with.
10. The Playful Giant
While he may be elegant and graceful, don’t let looks deceive you!
Under that gentlemanly beard is a large pup that wants to play. And there’s no one your Giant would rather play with than you!
Don’t hesitate to get creative in playing games with your Schnauzer:
- Fetch is fantastic, and he can go at it for hours. But mix it up, too!
- Teach him to play hide and seek with you or a favorite toy.
- Or have a race with him across the yard (just don’t be too offended when he wins!).
There are all sorts of fun ways to exercise and spend time with your playful Giant. So find out what games he likes most and go for it! Not only will you burn off some of his energy, but playing with your Schnauzer is a great way to bond with him.
11. What Are My Color Options?
There aren’t many choices to make when it comes to color. The Giant Schnauzer comes in only two:
- Solid black
- Salt and pepper
The black Giant Schnauzer is by far the most common. And who could resist that sleek, dark, elegant look?
Your second option (though this may be a little harder to find) is the salt and pepper coloring. This color scheme occurs when the dog has a mix of both black and white hairs.
Unfortunately, due to the breed’s military duties during World War II, the number of Giants in this color has been largely reduced.
So, Is a Giant Schnauzer Right for You?
We’ve gone over quite a few things that could be seen as negative (destructiveness, aggression, etc.).
But I also want to reiterate how incredible Giant Schnauzers are.
Yes he needs lots of exercise.
And yes he needs lots of playtime, training, and attention.
But if you’ve got the time to commit, and especially if you’re the outdoorsy, adventure type, this breed could be the perfect match.
The Giant Schnauzer makes a wonderful companion dog.
The breed loves to be a part of everything you do. And he is loyal and eager to please. If you are experienced with dogs and you have the right lifestyle, the Giant will probably make the perfect pet. It’s just important to fully understand what you’re getting into.
But in all honesty, shouldn’t that be the case with any dog, regardless of breed?