Giant Schnauzer

Breed At A Glance


Loyal and protective, and usually very attached to their owner

Life Expectancy
12-15 years

Average Height
Males 26-28 inches; Females 23-26 inches

Average Weight
Males 60-80 lbs; Females 55-75 lbs

Coat Color
Black or salt and pepper (grey)

Coat Length/Texture
Harsh, wiry outer coat with a dense, soft undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Little or not at all

Also known as Riesenschnauzer, Russian Bear Schnauzer, Munchener

General Temperament

As an adoring and intensely protective breed, the Giant Schnauzer loves to be with it’s owner at all times. Many owners report that their Giants will even follow them around the house. This breed is trustworthy and responsible and functions well as a guard dog. The Giant Schnauzer is a bold and fearless dog that has been known to protect their homes and owners with fierce intensity.

The temperament of the Giant Schnauzer can be somewhat variable, and is largely dependent on their level of socialization from an early age. Some owners report their Giants to be sweet-natured comedians, while others claim their dogs are seriously intense. Well-socialized individuals can be very good people dogs that love children. But without plenty of human interaction from puppyhood, they are less likely to be people-friendly or to be patient and kind with young kids. Giant Schnauzers are quite dominant and not likely to get along well with other household pets, including other dogs. But, as with people, early socialization may help.

This breed requires an engaged owner who can establish and maintain dominance throughout the dog’s life while providing plenty of exercise and stimulation. Although the Giant Schnauzer is easily housebroken, obedience training should start early and be fairly intensive, otherwise the dog may rule the house. Devout consistency and plenty of rewards are the best training methods for this breed.

The Giant Schnauzer needs plenty of daily exercise otherwise they simply won’t be able to settle down at night. They are not recommended for apartment life and will be happiest in a house with a large yard. They have a deep bark and are sure to alert you when a stranger is near.

Breed History

Much like the Miniature Schnauzer, the Giant Schnauzer was derived from the Standard Schnauzer in Germany in the second half of the 19th century. Bavarian farmers needed an adequate dog to drive livestock to market, as well as to provide protection around the farm on their off days. It is believed that the black Great Dane and Bouvier des Flandres were added to the Standard Schnauzer to increase the size and herding capabilities of this breed. They later found work as police and military dogs.

The first Giant Schnauzers were imported into the United States in the 1930’s, although their popularity was eclipsed by the German Shepherd.

Body Structure and Composition

The Giant Schnauzer appears to be a larger and more imposing version of the Standard Schnauzer. This breed is squarely proportioned, approximately as long as it is tall. The head is adorned with bushy eyebrows, whiskers and a beard, and the muzzle is equal in length to the skull. The Giant Schnauzer has a long neck and a deep chest. The ears are cropped and the tail is docked for conformation purposes in the U.S. (cropping and docking have been outlawed in many other countries). The hindquarters are strongly muscled, giving the dog a powerful and balanced gait.

Medical Information

Like many other large breeds, the Giant Schnauzer often suffers from Hip or Elbow Dysplasia. These conditions occur when the head of the bone no longer fits into the cup provided by the joint socket, resulting in lameness and arthritis-like symptoms. Hypothyroidism is also quite prevalent in many Giant Schnauzer lines. This condition causes an underactivity of the thyroid gland, with symptoms including decreased appetite or weight gain, hair loss, recurring skin infections, and lethargy. Responsible breeders will have their breeding stock certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) prior to producing a litter in order to help prevent the spread of these diseases.

Cancer is a significantly rampant problem for the Giant Schnauzer, particularly toe cancer. This can often be fatal, even when the disease is caught early. Many Giant Schnauzers also suffer from epilepsy (recurring seizures).

Due to their large size, they can also be prone to bloat, also known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV). Excess gas trapped in the dog’s stomach causes “bloat,” and twisting of the stomach (volvulus or “torsion”) causes or is caused by said excess gas. GDV is an emergency condition requiring immediate veterinary treatment. Feeding the dog two to three small meals per day (as opposed to one large meal) and avoiding exercise immediately after eating may help prevent this condition.

Although the Giant Schnauzer sheds very little, they do require a weekly brushing to keep the soft undercoat from matting. The whiskers may need to be cleaned after meals. Professional grooming (trimming and/or stripping) several times per year is recommended.

Anecdotal Information

Giant Schnauzers were fairly rare in the United States prior to the 1960’s, with fewer than 50 registrations per year. It has since enjoyed a substantial increase in popularity, with 274 litters registered with the American Kennel Club in 2005.

The Giant Schnauzer has been known by many other names, including Russian Bear Schnauzer, Munich Schnauzer (“Munchener”), and Riesenschnauzer.

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