If you're keen on the look of a schnauzer, you've got three options: giant, standard and miniature. Though it's tempting to assume they're different size versions of the same dog, more than size separates them. There are broad personality traits in common, but each has his own special identity.
Types of Schnauzers
The biggest schnauzer of them all, the giant schnauzer stands tall at about 2 feet at the shoulder and averages about 70 to 80 pounds. This is a big, dominant fellow, requiring an owner who's willing to be positive, firm and let this guy know who's in charge. Training and socialization should start early, at about three months of age. Get out your running shoes, because he has high exercise needs, becoming destructive and difficult to live with if his excess energy isn't channeled. If you choose a giant schnauzer, expect an enduring relationship, as dogs of this breed have average life spans of 12 to 15 years. Health problems to look out for include hip dysplasia, epilepsy and cancer.
The standard schnauzer is between 17 and 20 inches tall, carrying 35 to 45 pounds. The breed is especially bright; specimens serve as therapy dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, hearing dogs, and cancer and explosive-detection dogs. He has a playful temperament and is quite affectionate. If there's another dog or cat in the house, he'll likely share space with them just fine, though he can be aggressive with dogs he doesn't know. He has a life expectancy of about 15 years. Standard schnauzers can be prone to hip dysplasia and tumors, hemophilia and bladder stones; but generally, these are hardy, healthy dogs.
The smallest of the schnauzers can weigh between 11 and 20 pounds, standing a smidge over a foot tall. The miniature schnauzer is more lighthearted than the standard and giant schnauzers, always up for a good romp. Because he's quite adaptable and loves to be with his people, this fellow makes a good traveling companion. He'll usually get along with other dogs, but sometimes the miniature is aggressive toward cats. The little dogs is made for hunting vermin, so small mammals, such as hamsters, could be at risk if he gets one in his sight. Similarly, his heritage makes him react to squealing noises, so he needs monitoring around young children, as he may get nippy. Miniature schnauzers have similar life expectancy as standards; however they have their own set of health concerns, including hereditary eye problems, skin disorders, liver disease, kidney stones and the blood clotting disorder von Willebrand's disease.
Health and Care
Schnauzers are strong-willed dogs who must be properly trained if they're going to live successfully within a family unit. The giant schnauzer's exercise requirements are more intense than his smaller cousin's, but all three breeds have high energy levels, requiring more than the basic walk around the block for exercise. Grooming schnauzers is fairly easy, as they mainly require a weekly comb of their undercoats. The giant schnauzer should be clipped four times a year, but the smaller guys can do with twice yearly clips. All three schnauzers sport black coats or salt-and-pepper coats, although miniatures can have black-and-silver coats and white coats. Schnauzers are suited best to seasoned dog owners. Those who accept the challenge will be rewarded with the loyalty of a brave family member.
By Betty Lewis
American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Miniature Schnauzer
American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Standard Schnauzer
American Kennel Club: Get to Know the Giant Schnauzer
Dog Breed Information Center: Miniature Schnauzer
Dog Breed Information Center: Giant Schnauzer
Dog Breed Information Center: Standard Schnauzer
VetStreet: Standard Schnauzer
VetStreet: Giant Schnauzer
VetStreet: Miniature Schnauzer
About the Author
Betty Lewis has been writing professionally since 2000, specializing in animal care and issues, business analysis and homeland security. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from West Virginia University as well as master's degrees from Old Dominion University and Tulane University.