What to Know About Standard Schnauzers

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on April 28, 2022
5 min read

Originally farm dogs from Germany, standard schnauzers are intelligent and athletic animals. You can recognize them by their distinctive faces and generous whiskers. Their wiry coats can be solid black or salt and pepper. The standard schnauzer is the original schnauzer. The giant schnauzer and the miniature schnauzer are later editions.

Standard schnauzers are sturdy medium-sized dogs. The official standard of the American Kennel Club (AKC) states that they should be between 17.5 and 19.5 inches at the withers. They're muscular and squarely built, with the height at the withers equaling the distance from breastbone to rump. Their heads are long and feature bristly eyebrows in addition to the beard.

Traditionally, breeders have cropped schnauzers' ears and docked their tails. Laws now prohibit or regulate these practices in many countries, some Canadian provinces, and parts of the United States. The American Veterinary Medical Association is against ear cropping and tail docking for cosmetic purposes.

AKC standards allow ears to be cropped or uncropped. If uncropped, ears should be V-shaped. Tails may be docked or undocked. If undocked, tails should be shaped like a sickle or saber.

Standard schnauzers have wiry topcoats with dense undercoats. The most common color is salt and pepper, made up of white hairs, black hairs, and white hairs with black bands. Undercoats can be gray or tan. Salt and pepper schnauzers have darker faces with light-colored eyebrows, beards, and cheeks. The hair is lighter on the chest, belly, and legs. The other acceptable coat color is a rich, solid black.

Because of their wiry topcoat and softer undercoat, standard schnauzers shed very little and have little odor. They do, however, require extra grooming. The inner coat will mat if it is not brushed regularly. You may find it a challenge to keep the hair on the legs well-groomed. The schnauzer beard gets dirty quickly, and the hair around the eyes and mouth requires regular trimming. But the outer coat is the biggest challenge.

Standard schnauzers are hand-stripped to keep their wire-haired outer coat in good shape. Dead hairs are pulled out by hand to make room for new hair. It's a time-consuming process. You can take your dog to the groomer to be stripped, or you can learn to do it at home. Stripping isn't painful for your dog. Regular brushing and combing will remove some of the dead hair, making stripping easier.

An alternative to stripping is clipping the coat. Some people clip their pets because it is easier. However, the coat will become softer, and your dog will lose some advantages of a natural wire-haired coat. Clipping can also alter the color of a salt and pepper schnauzer's coat making it gray.

Feeding. Feed your schnauzer high-quality dog food. Standard schnauzers sometimes become obese, so don't feed your dog human food. Resist giving too many treats.

Exercise. Standard schnauzers are active dogs that do best with a yard to run in. They need at least one or two long walks a day.

Home environment. The standard schnauzer size is small enough that they can thrive in a variety of home environments. A house with a yard is best, but they can adapt to apartment living if they get enough exercise.

Outside or inside. Standard schnauzers do well in both hot and cold climates. They are vigorous animals who enjoy being outdoors.

Vet visits. Your veterinarian is your best source of information about keeping your standard schnauzer healthy. The office will keep up with your dog's shots and test for worms and other parasites.

Besides routine visits, see your veterinarian if your dog exhibits symptoms such as:

  • Changes in eating and drinking
  • Dental problems such as red gums or broken teeth
  • Skin problems or hair loss
  • Lack of energy or excessive sleepiness
  • Changes in behavior, such as becoming more fearful or aggressive
  • Lumps or bumps

Seek help immediately if your dog has more serious problems, such as discolored urine, seizures, breathing problems, tremors, or fainting. 

The Standard Schnauzer Club of America regularly surveys owners about their dogs' health problems. They've found that the breed is very healthy. Standard schnauzer life span is 13 to 19 years.

Standard schnauzers may have a genetic tendency for three conditions. Many breeders test their animals before breeding them. These conditions are:

Hip dysplasia. In this condition, the hip joint parts grind together instead of gliding. This condition can occur in young dogs or can appear with age. You can choose to treat your dog's hip dysplasia with surgery or opt for medical management.

Eye problems. Standard schnauzers are at risk of developing eye problems. Older dogs can get cataracts. Dry eye is another common condition.

Dilated cardiomyopathy. This serious heart problem appears to be a recessive trait in standard schnauzers. A DNA test for this trait is now available and should reduce the frequency of the problem.

Other health issues that can occur with standard schnauzers include:

Standard schnauzers are people dogs that make great companions. Because they're both intelligent and spirited, they can be difficult to train. Once trained, they can be very well-behaved dogs. Still, they need regular exercise and stimulation. Without it, they may engage in unwanted behaviors such as digging and chewing.

Obedience training of standard schnauzers requires firmness and consistency. They respond best to praise and rewards. If you use negative reinforcement, your dog may become aloof. Standard schnauzers have a long memory for those who treat them badly. They are playful but dislike being teased.

Before you get a standard schnauzer as a pet, consider these standard schnauzer traits:

Hunting behavior. Standard schnauzers are natural hunters and aren't good for households with hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, and mice. They may get along with cats with proper training.

Dominant behavior. Because they tend toward dominant behavior, standard schnauzers may not do well with other dogs in the household. They may be compatible with other schnauzers.

Compatibility with young children. Standard schnauzers are protective of their food and toys. For this reason, they may do better with older children.

Schnauzers originated in Germany in the Middle Ages. Breeders were looking for farm dogs to help with herding, hunting, and guarding.

Notable events in the history of schnauzers include:

  • 1850s. Dog breeders developed the miniature and giant breeds from the standard schnauzer. They also crossed schnauzers with other breeds to create the salt and pepper coat color.
  • 1870s. Breeders exhibited schnauzers in Germany under the name wire-haired pinscher.
  • 1900. Schnauzer fans adopted their current name, which is German for "muzzle." The breed was imported into the United States.
  • 1925. Lovers of the breed created The Schnauzer Club of America. It split a few years later into the Standard Schnauzer Club and the Miniature Schnauzer Club.

In 1997 a standard schnauzer, Ch. Parsifal Di Casa Netzer, won Best of Show at the Westminster Dog Show.

Today standard schnauzers compete in:

  • Obedience
  • Herding
  • Agility
  • Tracking
  • AKC Rally

The standard schnauzer personality equips them for many jobs. In the United States, they've been therapy dogs and service dogs for the deaf. They've served in search and rescue and explosives detection.