The Schnauzer comes in three different types; the Miniature Schnauzer, the Standard Schnauzer, and the Giant Schnauzer. Their size varies but they share other physical characteristics and have similar temperaments. They were originally bred in Bavaria, Germany as a multi-purpose farm and pastoral dog. Today they excel as sniffer and rescue dogs and at modern dog sports, as well as being a popular companion.
Schnauzers are alert, reliable, intelligent and eager to please dogs which means they are highly trainable. They are sociable and typically good with children. They are very loyal and often protective of their family, which means they can make good guard dogs. The Schnauzer is an active, high-energy breed, which requires plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. They need clipping or stripping a few times a year, but brushing at home in between is enough to keep their coat in good condition. The health problems that affect them vary between the different breeds.
Character & Temperament
The Miniature Schnauzer and Schnauzer have very similar characters and temperaments. They are lively, friendly dogs which are alert, intelligent and reliable, especially if well trained and socialized from a young age. They are typically good with children as they are tolerant and enjoy playing with them, and are often protective of their families and will not hesitate to bark if they feel there is a threat.
The Giant Schnauzer has a similar character, but is perhaps a little more bold and less lively than its smaller relatives. The breed can be protective and territorial when faced with strangers due to their breeding as a guard dog but are usually good with children, especially when accustomed to them from puppyhood. Giant Schnauzers are very loyal to their owners and make excellent guard dogs. None of the three Schnauzers is especially prone to separation anxiety, when properly habituated to being left alone from a young age, however, all three are energetic dogs which need plenty of mental stimulation and exercise and may develop destructive behaviours if left home alone to amuse themselves for long periods without sufficient walking.
The Miniature Schnauzer is the breed of the three different Schnauzer types which is most likely to suffer from breed related health problems. Their average lifespan is around 12 years, although it is not unusual for them to live longer. Health problems which can affect the breed include:
- Eye problems – Participation in the British Veterinary Association (BVA) eye scheme is mandatory for UK Kennel Club Assured Breeders and eye scheme litter screening is strongly recommended. The specific eye problems which Miniature Schnauzers tend to suffer from are:
- Cataracts – The Miniature Schnauzer suffers from both hereditary and congenital forms of cataracts. Cataracts cause the lens or lens capsule to become increasingly opaque, eventually affecting vision.
- Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA) – This is a term which encompasses a range of inherited conditions affecting the retina. They can be developmental or degenerative and affect the photoreceptors of the eye as the blood supply to them becomes reduced. The earliest sign is usually a reduction in night vision, but can then progress to a generalised loss of vision in all lights.
- Hyperlipidaemia – This condition is most likely to affect older Minaiture Schnauzers. It caused by a defect in the way fats are broken down, ultimately causing them to accumulate. When levels become very high it starts to cause clinical signs such as digestive, neurological and eye problems. Ruling out any other causes, altering the diet and medical treatments can be used to try and lower the levels of lipids which accumulate.
- Von Willebrand’s Disease – This condition causes dogs to be deficient in a glycoprotein – Von Willebrand Factor – which is needed for normal clotting to take place. The lack of this factor in the clotting process means that injury can cause excessive bleeding, as clotting does not occur. The condition is genetic.
- Diabetes – Diabetes usually affects older dogs and is the inadequate control by the body of the levels of sugar in the blood. If left untreated it can have severe consequences. Treatment usually entails controlling blood sugar levels more closely through the administration of insulin and special diets.
- Urolithiasis – This condition is where stones formed from calcium form in the bladder. They may not cause any clinical signs but can block the urinary tract and cause trouble during urination, which is an emergency and must be treated immediately. If this is the case they may need to be flushed out or surgically removed. If a Miniature Schnauzer is affected its calcium levels should be monitored and its diet adjusted accordingly.
- Schnauzer Comedo Syndrome – This syndrome is a dog equivalent to acne, where hair follicles are affected causing the formation of comedones, almost like a blackhead in humans. These can be asymptomatic or become infected by bacteria, causing spots, itchiness, loss of hair and crusty skin. The condition can usually be controlled using shampoos and antibiotics if necessary.
The Standard Schnauzer is a very healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12 or often more years. There are currently no screening schemes or DNA tests which are mandatory or recommended for the Standard Schnauzer, however, they can suffer from:
- Hip dysplasia – This is a condition where abnormalities in the development of the hips, which can include several different problems and abnormalities, leads to joint disease at a later stage in life. X-rays of the hips are scored using a scale, with a maximum of 106 in dogs over a year old. The lower the score the fewer signs of hip dysplasia there are. This condition is transmitted genetically but also has an environmental component. Standard Schnauzers can be affected but it is not common.
The Giant Schnauzer is a relatively healthy breed with an average lifespan of 10-12 years, however, it can still be affected by some health issues:
- Hip dysplasia – The condition is the same as for the Standard Schnauzer.
- Eye problems – UK Kennel Club Assured Giant Schnauzer breeders are required to participate in the BVA eye scheme and litter screening with the eye scheme, particularly for Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD) is strongly recommended. The eye problems which are more prevalent in the breed include:
- Hereditary Cataract (HC) – The condition is as described above for the Miniature Schnauzer.
- Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD) – MRD causes an abnormal development of the retina of the eye in the embryo during gestation. The severity of the effect on vision can be highly variable. This condition has not yet been proven to be inherited but there is a high level of suspicion that there is a genetic component.
- Elbow dysplasia – The abnormal development of the elbows, which over time causes osteoarthritis. There is a large genetic component and dogs can be scored. Ideally only dogs with a score of 0 should be used for breeding.
Exercise and Activity Levels
All three Schnauzers need plenty of exercise, as they are highly energetic dogs. The Miniature Schnauzer needs an hour to an hour and a half and the Standard Schnauzer needs at least an hour and a half of walking a day. Both benefit from spending some of this time off the lead, although if exercised enough they can happily live in city environments. The Giant Schnauzer requires more exercise, approximately two hours a day will keep these large energetic dogs happy and healthy, and as much of this time as possible should be spent off the lead.
Schnauzers have a harsh wiry coat which only sheds lightly. They require clipping or stripping a few times a year by a groomer, otherwise their coat will continue to grow and become difficult to manage, or more often if the classic Schnauzer look is desired. In between this, they only require weekly brushing at home to keep their coat in good condition. Most Schnauzers have some kind of a beard, this can be prone to getting dirty so may need cleaning, but this is dependent on how long it is.