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Get to Know the Giant Schnauzer: The Schnazzy Show Dog

He's gone from herder to guardian to military dog to show dog -- and managed to excel at all!

Caroline Coile  |  Apr 4th 2016


If you’re in search of a smart-looking, smart-acting dog, look at the Giant Schnauzer. This is a larger, more powerful version of the Standard Schnauzer. His body is strong, compact, and nearly square, combining great power with agility. He’s tough, smart, and loyal.

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Giant Schnauzer by Shutterstock.

More interesting things about the Giant Schnauzer

  • The Giant Schnauzer may be confused with the Black Russian Terrier or the Bouvier des Flandres, but the Giant Schnauzer is smaller and has shorter hair than either. The dog may also be confused with the Kerry Blue Terrier, but the Giant Schnauzer is larger and has shorter hair without a blue tinge.
  • The original Schnauzer originated in Germany in the Middle Ages as a vermin hunter, guardian, and all-around farm dog.
  • The name Schnauzer, first recorded in 1842, probably comes from the German word for “nose” or “beard.”
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Giant Schnauzer by Shutterstock.

  • The Standard Schnauzer was the original Schnauzer. In the 17th century, German cattlemen in the countryside of Bavaria and Wurttemberg were impressed by the smaller Standard Schnauzer and sought to emulate the dog on a larger scale that would be suitable for driving cattle. It is likely, though not documented, that they crossed the Standard Schnauzers with their larger smooth-coated, cattle-driving dogs in an attempt to create a wire-haired drover.
  • Later crosses with rough-coated Sheepdogs, Great Danes, and Bouvier des Flandres probably occurred, and even crosses with the black Poodle, the Wolfspitz, and the wire-haired Pinscher have been suggested.
  • The result was a weather-resistant, smart-looking dog capable of handling cattle. The dog was then known as the Munchener.
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Giant Schnauzer by Shutterstock.

  • The breed is now known in Germany as the Riesenschnauzer.
  • They later became more popular as butcher’s or stockyard dogs, and even later as brewery guard dogs.
  • The dogs maintained a low profile, with little exposure until just before World War I, when it was suggested that they could be trained as police dogs. They excelled at their new assignment, but were not well accepted outside of Germany in that capacity. They have since also been used by some United States police departments.
  • The breed served as a military dog for the German army in both World War I and World War II. It was in this capacity that the dogs first garnered attention outside of Germany.
  • The breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1930. It is a member of the Working group.
  • Giants remained rare in America until numbers began to slowly grow in the 1960s.
  • In the U.S., the tail is usually docked and the ears are cropped.
  • The medium-length wiry coat comes in black (most common) or gray.
  • The Giant has competed at the Westminster dog show since 1930, twice winning the Working group: in 1990 by Champion Skansen’s I Have a Dream, and in 2009 by Champion Galilee’s Pure of Spirit.
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Giant Schnauzer by Shutterstock.

  • Skansen Giant Schnauzer kennels have probably produced more AKC champions (more than 1,000) of any breed than any other breeder in America.
  • Champion Galilee’s Pure of Spirit (just Spirit to her friends) was the top AKC show dog of all breeds in 2014.
  • In the late 1980s, the breed reached its highest popularity in America, with more than 1,000 Giants registered each year. Now fewer than 100 are registered each year. The breed did stage a recent upsurge in popularity, ranking as the 81st most popular AKC breed, up slightly from 83rd five years ago but up significantly from 94th in 2012.
  • No celebrities own Giants. They are missing out.