The Giant Schnauzer (Riesenschnauzer in German) is a large breed categorised by the Kennel Club under the Working Group. It was developed in Munich, Germany by cattle farmers for driving cattle in large ranches and is the biggest of the three breeds of Schnauzers. It is a mix of several large dogs, bred for strength, stamina, and temperament for herding cattle and guarding work. At first glance, the Giant Schnauzer gives the general appearance of a powerfully built dog, a robust breed that appears almost equal in height and length. Its large size is so imposing, that intruders will have a second thought of messing around with this breed. Its keen expression and alert attitude make it an effective guard dog. This wonderful giant breed is flexible, strong, intelligent, and energetic. It runs very fast and has a large amount of stamina and energy. Its physical appearance is characterised by a harsh and wiry weather-resistant coat that comes in pure black or pepper and salt (dark grey to light grey), large v-shaped ears, bushy eyebrows, coarse short moustache and chin whiskers. Dogs stand between 65 – 70cm while bitches have a height of 60 – 65cm.
The Giant Schnauzer was developed during the 17th century and is the largest among the three Schnauzer breeds (the other two being Standard Schnauzer and the Miniature Schnauzer.) The first known Giant Schnauzers originated in Bavaria and Württemberg, Germany. Cattle ranchers wanted a dog that could effectively herd wayward cattle and guard livestock and property at the same time so they set out to develop a breed that could have the strength, stamina and temperament to do so. Using the Standard Schnauzer, they added the black Great Dane, the Rottweiler, the Bouvier des Flandres, the Doberman, Thuringian Shepherds, and the German Pinscher to the mix. The result was a magnificent dog perfect for assisting on farms and driving livestock to market while effectively being able to do guarding duties on the farmer’s property. When train transportation for livestock became the norm, the Giant Schnauzer moved into the city guarding large business establishments such as breweries, stockyards, and large factories. It was brought to the United Kingdom in the early 1960s.
This giant breed was originally bred to be a versatile farm dog that can both drive animals to market and guard properties. Being able to do so means that the dog needs to be bold, strong, agile, reliable, intelligent, good-natured, alert, and brave. Remarkably, these are all traits possessed by the Giant Schnauzer. It is usually a quiet breed but is typically wary of strangers and has a strong territorial instinct which is why it is an excellent guard dog. It has a potentially aggressive behaviour due to its breeding but nevertheless, reserved most of the time. This intelligent breed is a working dog so it becomes bored easily when it has nothing to do which can lead to unwanted and destructive behaviour
The Giant Schnauzer is easily trained because of its intelligence and natural behaviour to please its master. Daily training exercises are essential for the breed because it is energetic and athletic. Participating in dog sport such as agility, obedience contest, rally, or tracking will benefit this breed. A half an hour to an hour of training in these sports can help channel the enormous energy that this breed has. Early socialisation and training is the key to raising a well-mannered and well-balanced Giant Schnauzer.
The breed requires regular grooming because it does not shed its coat. The harsh and wiry weather-resistant coat should be clipped or stripped (usually every 8-10 weeks), depending on whether the dog is for conformation show or simply a companion dog. Brushing and combing on a weekly basis helps maintain the coat healthy. Pay close attention to the legs and the beard to prevent tangles. The beard can easily collect drool and food particles so make sure to clean them frequently. Bathing is on a “as-needed” basis but care must be taken because there are some Giant Schnauzers that are allergic to shampoo.
The Giant Schnauzer has a median lifespan of 12 - 15 years. It is prone to minor and major health issues including:
Exercise requirements should be at least two hours of vigorous physical activity per day. The Giant Schnauzer is a working breed and as such, it requires a lot of work to stay alert and healthy. An owner should make sure that the dog always has a job to do. Long walks and jogging are essential daily routines that must be observed if one is to own a Giant Schnauzer. It is definitely not a dog for a stay-at-home owner. It will thrive when given a home to an active family who loves the outdoors.
The Giant Schnauzer is described as very good with older children (typically age 11 and up) but care must be taken when it is around small children because its sheer size can easily knock a small child down. Older children who know how to handle a large dog properly will suit the Giant Schnauzer best. It will challenge unfamiliar dogs because of its territorial and dominant nature and may become aggressive with the same sex, particularly males. Cats and Giant Schnauzers do not tend to get along well but early introduction and socialisation with other household animals can correct this issue.