Schnauzers are medium-sized working dogs originating in Germany as early as the 15th century. They are social, fearless and affectionate dogs who also display a naturally protective tendency. They are active and athletic, which probably stems from their origin as a worker.
The schnauzer has quite an unmistakable appearance. The pointed ears, arched eyebrows, whiskers and what appears to be a mustache are prominent. The oval-shaped eyes are brown, and the wiry, hard topcoat and soft undercoat come in colors of salt and pepper or black.
- Fun Fact: Miniature schnauzers also come in white. The white coat color is controversial, and the white miniatures are not allowed to compete in conformation events in several countries: the American Kennel Club in the United States, the Canadian Kennel Club and a few others, according to Schnauzers Rule. The AKC does not list white as an acceptable color for the breed standard.
This breed has a square body structure, and more often than not the height and length are closely the same. Males average a weight of 30 to 50 pounds with a height of 18 to 20 inches. Females weight between 30 and 45 pounds with a height of 17 to 19 inches, just slightly smaller than the males. The average life expectancy runs around 13 to 16 years or longer.
There are three versions of the schnauzer: standard, giant and miniature. This breed profile focuses on the first of the three, the standard schnauzer.
Portraits and tapestries bearing the image of the schnauzer appeared as early as the 15th and 16th centuries in Germany. The breed was seen in works by Albrecht Durer, Lucas Cranach, Sir Joshua Reynolds and Rembrandt. An earlier statue from the 14th century lies in a marketplace in Germany depicting a hunter and a dog that looks similar to the schnauzer we know today.
The origin of the schnauzer is listed as a cross between a black German poodle, gray wolf spitz and wire-haired pinscher. Each breed contributed a characteristic to the newly developed breed, and these contributions are mostly recognizable in the coat of the schnauzer. The solid black schnauzer is more commonly seen overseas and is uncommon in the United States. The name comes from the German word for muzzle because of the appearance of a beard and mustache on the muzzle or “schnauze” of the breed.
The schnauzer was first classed as a terrier in the United States despite its heritage as a working dog in Germany. The Germans have always seen the schnauzer as a working dog, taking on roles such as catching rats, patrolling a yard perimeter or acting as a guard dog. The breed was also used during wars to dispatch messages and help with police work.
The schnauzer is said to have an uncanny ability to sense eminent danger. The dogs have also been used to protect livestock and for retrieving in water.
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Schnauzers were first exhibited as wire-haired pinschers in 1879. After the breed standard was established in 1880, many breed clubs were formed in various countries. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1904.
The breed was originally used to hunt vermin, guard livestock, retrieve, act as companions and carry messages during World War I. Today they are companion pets participating in conformation events, tracking, agility trials, military work, obedience, search and rescue, therapy work and guarding.
Schnauzers are excellent guarding and watch dogs because of their naturally protective nature. They are social and affectionate pets active with their families and enjoy being around children. Dogs should be trained and properly socialized before being allowed around children and other pets.
They are very intelligent dogs but can be stubborn, so consistent training is necessary. The family bond is strong, and schnauzers desire companionship. They travel easily but can be energetic and need a chance to exercise during the trip.
To show just how obedient and intelligent schnauzers can be, this video shows Kyzer performing many tricks and lying lifeless after the shooting trick:
Schnauzer puppies should be walked daily. As the dogs mature, longer, more frequent walks or jogs are necessary to burn off their energy and curb unwanted behavior. Playtime and free run of a yard is a great addition to the dog’s exercise routine. Outdoor access is not a necessity, though, since Schnauzers are active indoors and do well in apartments as long as their exercise needs are met.
Matting can occur on the face, body and legs, so daily brushing is recommended for this breed. The coat should also be stripped twice a year to remove dead hair and trim the coat. Schnauzers have little to no odor and generally do not shed much.
Care should be taken to also brush the hair around the face and remove any debris caught in the hair from playing or eating. The teeth should be brushed regularly, as well as the ears cleaned and the nails kept at a reasonable length.
Common Health Problems
The schnauzer is a healthy breed with a long lifespan. The few common health problems may include:
- Hip dysplasia
- Eye problems
Is the Schnauzer the Right Dog for You?
If you are looking for a quiet, lazy dog requiring only a walk, food and naps, the schnauzer is not the right dog for you.
This medium-sized breed is active, alert, energetic and intelligent. Consistent training is needed to curb unwanted behavior, and daily exercise is needed to expel energy. Schnauzers are active indoors, so apartment life is agreeable with the breed.
Schnauzers are devoted family members. They crave companionship and can be protective because of their natural instincts. They are not excessive barkers but are wary of strangers. They should be properly socialized before being allowed around children and other pets. They generally love children, but of course each dog can be different.
There are grooming requirements with this breed. Although schnauzers are not considered excessive shedders, shedding will depend on each individual dog. Regular brushing and maintenance is necessary to prevent matting and for the dog’s overall health and wellness.
This funny and affectionate breed loves being entangled in the family happenings and will not do well with limited interaction, excessive crating or long periods of separation. Schnauzers live fairly long lives with few health concerns. Many owners report only having to visit the veterinarian annually for checkups.
This protective breed will be devoted to the family and take on a role as a protector. If these recommendations and qualities sound like a good fit for your life or family, the schnauzer could be the perfect dog for you.
Adopt, Don’t Shop
Schnauzers, like any other purebred dog, can end up in shelters and rescues. Please check adoption resources first before deciding to purchase a dog. You can start with our adoptable dog search.
If you do decide to buy a schnauzer, please familiarize yourself with the warning signs of puppy mills and unscrupulous backyard breeders. Always ask to see the parents of the dog and medical records (reputable breeders should have veterinary paperwork — if not for the puppy you are buying, then for the parents).