Monday, May 13, 2013

The Strong Willed and Loyal Giant Schnauzer

By Linda Cole

The Schnauzer comes in three sizes: miniature, standard and giant. They may look alike, but each size is a distinct breed. The Standard Schnauzer is the oldest of the three Schnauzer breeds, and the Giant Schnauzer is the youngest. The one thing to keep in mind with any breed is that they were developed because of man's need for a partner to help perform a job or task. In other words, a new breed was created because of the occupations of man. The Giant Schnauzer was developed to be a drover dog for cattlemen.

In the early years, the breed was known as the Wirehaired Pinscher, but that changed in 1879 when a dog named Schnauzer won first place in a dog show held in Hanover, Germany. People began referring to the breed as Schnauzer because of the dog's bearded muzzle (German translation for muzzle is schnauze) and because of Schnauzer's win at the dog show. In their native country of Germany, the Giant Schnauzer is known as Riesenschnauzer, which means “the giant.” This breed, however, is not one of the giant dog breeds; it's simply the largest of the three Schnauzer sizes.

The breed originated in two neighboring agricultural areas of Germany: Wurttemberg and Bavaria. Shepherds were impressed with the Standard Schnauzer for the dog's sheep herding abilities, but the standard was too small for working with cattle. At the time, there were no railroads. A larger, more powerful version of the standard was needed by cattlemen as a livestock guardian and drover dog. Giant Schnauzers were also used as draft dogs to pull produce carts to market and then guard them. The Standard Schnauzer, which is the foundation stock for the two other sizes, was most likely crossed with the Great Dane, Bouvier des Flanders, rough coated sheepdogs, black poodle and wolf spitz to create the Giant Schnauzer.

The Giant Schnauzer became common as a guard dog around stockyards, butchers and breweries. Because of their strength, drive and courage, the Giant Schnauzer was used as a messenger dog in WW I and remains popular in Germany as a livestock guardian, all around farm dog, guard dog, military and police dog. On the American Kennel Club’s 2011 most popular dog breeds list, the Miniature Schnauzer is #12, the Standard is #91 and the Giant is #95.

I'm sure people who’ve always had dogs get tired of hearing “It's important to do your homework before adding a specific dog breed to your home.” Or “This dog breed isn't for the average owner.” However, there's a good reason why both phrases need to be repeated often. People don't listen to responsible breeders, dog trainers or experts who know the characteristics and temperament of a specific breed. Thousands of dogs end up in shelters every year when expert advice is ignored. The consideration of a dog shouldn't be just because the potential owner wants him. It should be “can you give the dog a proper home that keeps everyone safe, including other pets and the dog?”

The Giant Schnauzer requires an owner who understands their specific needs and temperament and can be a strong leader. Giant Schnauzers are extremely strong, with demanding energy levels. They can be very vocal and require a lot of attention. This breed has a low shedding, but high maintenance coat that needs daily care. The breed is good with older children and other pets, as long as he knows them, but cats could be at risk because of this dog's high prey drive. He can be dog aggressive with canines he doesn't know, especially with the same sex. The Giant takes his guard duties of protecting his family seriously, and is wary of strangers.

A versatile working dog, the Giant Schnauzer needs a job to do to stay out of trouble. They excel in police and protection work, search and rescue, as therapy dogs, guide and hearing dogs, obedience, agility, Schutzhund trials and tracking. This is a dog that also enjoys winter activities like sled pulling and skijoring, and is skilled at cart pulling. He loves to be with his owner, but can become clingy.

Though not classified as a “giant” breed, Giant Schnauzers are a fairly large dog. As with any canine, they require a quality dog food to keep them healthy for their lifetime, around 12-15 years. CANIDAE recently introduced a Large Breed formula to its line of premium quality dog food, which would be a good choice for this breed.

The Giant Schnauzer is an intelligent dog that can become bored, frustrated and destructive if he’s not given lots of quality time. For the right owner, this is a good dog. Know what you're getting into before bringing a Giant Schnauzer home.

Photos by Christopher Macsurak

Read more articles by Linda Cole

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