The Giant Schnauzer dog breed is not as gigantic as its name implies. It is called ‘giant’ in relation with the other two Schnauzer breeds. Nevertheless, they are large dogs with a distinct appearance. Originally developed as a giant version of the Standard Schnauzer breed for herding cattle, these dogs are now used in police force and in show circles, but they do make good family dogs and watch dogs too.
The Giant Schnauzer dog breed was developed in Germany in the 17th century by cross breeding Standard Schnauzers with larger cattle driving dogs. The idea was to get a Schnauzer dog breed capable of driving cattle. Wolf Spitz, Black poodle, Wirehaired Pinscher, Great Dane and the Bouvier des Flandres are also thought to have been involved in the breeding. The resultant litter sometimes had wirehaired pups, and they were preferred for their weather resistant coat. This eventually gave rise to a dog called “Munchener,” which was large enough for driving cattle, while having a weather resistant wiry coat. These dogs became popular, and were used as guard dogs, stockyard dogs, and brewery dogs.
The Munchener eventually came to be called “Giant Schnauzer” or Riesenschnauzer in German. Even though they were widely used in police force, their popularity was contained within Germany until the World War I. They were used as war dogs in both World Wars I and II, bringing the breed out of the closet.
Even though this breed was brought into the United States in 1930, the dogs did not become popular immediately. However, from 1960 onwards, interest in the breed has seen considerable increase, with AKC registering nearly 100 new dogs a year in recent times. But, unlike in Europe where these dogs are still mainly used as working dogs in police force, for search and rescue, and for carting, the breed is mainly show dogs and family dogs in the United States.
In appearance, the Giant Schnauzer dog breed looks like a larger version of the Standard Schnauzers. Measuring 26 to 28 inches at the withers and weighing 70 to 100 pounds, these dogs have an imposing figure, with their head constituting 1/3 of the total length of the dog excluding the tail. The dogs are straight-backed with folded ears, and a thin and long tail. But the tail is often docked close to the body in countries where such practice is not yet illegal. The ears are clipped too, in which case they stand erect.
The dense double coat has a wiry outer coat that is water-resistant. The coat color is either solid black or a black and white combination known as “pepper and salt.”
Developed as working dogs, the Giant Schnauzer dog breed has tremendous stores of energy that needs to be expended. It calls for plenty of activity and exercise without which the dog would become frustrated, and even destructive. But as long as its exercise requirements are met, this breed remains an amiable house dog, always loyal to their family.
The Giant Schnauzers are very territorial and protective of their family and property, making them excellent guard dogs. Unless socialized well, they remain reserved with strangers. These dogs are playful and good with children in general, but they are domineering and aggressive with other dogs. Being intelligent, they are easily trained, but they get easily bored with repetitive drills.
Grooming and exercise
It takes a bit of grooming to keep the wiry coat of Giant Schnauzer dog breed in good condition. It has to be brushed thoroughly two to three times a week. In addition to that, professional help may be required once or twice a month to clip and shape the coat and to keep it neatly trimmed. Special care must be taken to clean their beard daily to get rid of food particles and drool.
Being a very active breed, regular exercise and vigorous activities are a part of their life. Besides long hikes and trekking in rough mountain terrain, they enjoy active games with their family members.
These dogs are capable of outdoor living as they have high tolerance to cold, but they would be better off staying inside with their family at night.
Common health issues of Giant Schnauzer dog breed
The Giant Schnauzer dog breed generally enjoys good health, but hip and elbow dysplasia are common in these dogs. They are susceptible to a number of eye problems including glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, retinal dysplasia, keratoconjunctivitis sicca and cataracts. Skin diseases and allergies are also common. Heart disorders, hypothyroidism and gastric torsion are occasionally seen.
Incidence of cancer, particularly skin cancer, is quite high in this breed, and is the major cause of fatality. Nevertheless, this breed has a life expectancy of 10-13 years.