What to Know About Giant Schnauzers

Medically Reviewed by Kathleen Claussen, DVM on April 29, 2022
8 min read

Giant schnauzers are a highly trainable, functional dog breed in the working group. They’re not actually a giant dog breed. Instead, they’re called “giant” because they’re the largest of the schnauzers, bigger than both the standard and the miniature schnauzer.

These dogs are highly spirited and intelligent. This means that they’ll need lots of your time and attention. They were originally bred to work on farms and, although they can be great pets in the right family, they aren’t considered a good breed for first-time dog owners.   

Body size. Giant schnauzers are substantial dogs. The average giant schnauzer size tends to be larger for males than females. 

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the average height for a male is between 25.5 and 27.5 inches at their shoulders. The average height for a female is between 23.5 and 25.5 inches at their shoulders. 

These dogs tend to have a larger variation in their weight than in their height. Healthy males can weigh anywhere from 60 to 85 pounds depending on their height. The average weight for females is between 55 and 75 pounds. Talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your dog is too far under or overweight

You need to keep this larger size in mind before bringing one of these dogs home. Make sure you have the space and resources to properly care for this pet. 

Body shape. Giant schnauzers have, proportionally, nearly square shapes when you consider their heights at the withers compared to their lengths. In most respects, they’re supposed to look identical to standard schnauzers, just scaled up in size. 

Giant schnauzer traits also include strong, muscular builds. Their bodies are compact with medium-sized chests. Their heads are rectangular and narrow slightly as you approach the nose. Their strong muzzles are approximately the same length as their skulls. 

Their ears are set high on their heads and are v-shaped. Owners have choosen to crop them in the past, but the American Veterinary Medical Association opposes this practice when it’s solely about your pets looks. It isn’t required by the breed standard and doesn’t provide any value for your pet’s health and wellbeing. 

Lifespan. Giant schnauzers have substantial lifetimes for their size. The average giant schnauzer lifespan is 12 to 15 years. This means that you’re likely to have these pets for well over a decade, especially if you adopt them as a puppy. 

Coat. Giant schnauzers have a double coat, which means that they have two distinct coats, each with its own properties. Their undercoats are short, dense, and soft. The outer coat is medium in length and harsh and wiry to the touch. 

Together, these coats create a weather-resistant outside that’s perfect for a dog that was bred to work in harsh outdoor environments. 

The giant schnauzer can come in four different color combinations, including:

  • Black 
  • Black and tan — a non-standard option
  • Fawn — a non-standard option
  • Salt and pepper 

The coat becomes dense and bushy around their heads. This gives them the distinct beards and eyebrows that are characteristic of all schnauzer breeds. 

Eyes. They have medium-sized eyes that are set deep into their skulls. They’re shaped like ovals and dark brown in color. 

Personality. The giant schnauzer personality is alert and affectionate. They’re bold creatures that can be commanding and even intimidating when aroused by a disturbance or job. When relaxed they’re a playful family friend. 

The giant schnauzer temperament is a combination of a great worker and a loyal companion.  

Just keep in mind that they’re not great with small children. They don’t always know how to treat youngsters who are still learning how to interact with dogs.  

Grooming. Giant schnauzers have intermediate grooming needs compared to other breeds. You’ll need to brush their coat on a weekly basis. You’ll also need to clip their coat regularly if you want it to look its best.

You can either figure out a schedule for maintaining this coat on your own or find a groomer. 

You should also trim your dog’s nails as needed and brush their teeth on a daily basis. Use dog-safe toothpaste. 

Check their ears regularly for signs of infection and remove any debris that you find to complete their grooming routine. 

Feeding. Giant schnauzers need high-quality dog food. You can either find a brand that your dog likes or talk to your veterinarian about the best homemade foods for your pet. 

The amount of food that you give your dog will depend on their age and size. Make sure that you’re meeting the nutritional requirements for your dog’s age with food designed for its puppyhood, adulthood or senior years. 

Always have fresh water available for your pet to drink. 

Exercise and mental stimulation. Giant schnauzers have lots of energy compared to other breeds. They need to get a good amount of exercise every single day.  

Long walks are one way to accomplish this. But these dogs are also great companions for other forms of physical activity. You can bring them with you while doing any number of activities that benefit your own health too, like: 

  • Running
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Swimming

They also need to engage with others for their mental health. Giant schnauzers love to play games with their owners and roughhouse with other dogs. Both are great ways to improve their physical and mental health. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. All dogs need a core set of vaccinations

This includes vaccinations for:

These can begin as early as six weeks of age. Discuss the proper timing for each with your veterinarian. There are also other non-core vaccinations that your dog might need depending on their breed and your location. Talk to your veterinarian to find out the best recommendations for your area. 

Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors.

Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you. 

These days, heartworm medication is also recommended year-round in all parts of the U.S.

Giant schnauzers are a reasonably healthy breed, but there are some conditions that continually pop up in this type of dog. 

Common giant schnauzer health issues include: 

  • Hip dysplasiaThis is a condition where your dog’s hip joints don’t properly fit together. It can cause problems with walking. It’s present from birth. Your veterinarian can evaluate how severe the condition is in your dog’s joints. 
  • Elbow dysplasia. This is a condition similar to hip dysplasia, but at your dog’s elbow joint. It can also affect their ability to walk. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dogs joints and decide on an appropriate treatment plan if they find any problems. 
  • Panosteitis. This is a bone disease that can develop for unknown reasons in some large dog breeds as they grow. It causes inflammation mostly in your dog’s long leg bones. The pain can be treated with medications and the condition should resolve on its own with time.  
  • Bloat. Also called GDV (Gastric dilation - volvulus), this condition is particularly problematic for the breed because of their size and deep chest. Your dog’s stomach fills up with gas, food, or liquid and then twists, creating an often sudden and life-threatening situation. Signs include an enlarged abdomen, retching, and drooling. It’s typically treated with surgery.
  • Eye conditions. Dogs are susceptible to a large number of eye conditions like glaucoma and cataracts. Another possibility is progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) where your dog will eventually go blind. You may start to notice them struggling to see at first, particularly at dusk and dawn. At present, there isn’t a treatment for this condition. Have your dog's eyes checked regularly.
  • Autoimmune thyroiditis. Your veterinarian can test your dog for thyroid dysfunction as well as other autoimmune issues. Your dog should receive regular evaluations.

A giant schnauzer can be a great addition to any home but there are some special considerations to keep in mind before you adopt a member of this breed. 

Giant schnauzers can be quite territorial and are not open with strangers. Early training is key to keeping them sociable and helping them distinguish friend from foe. Luckily, they’re attentive dogs that want to please their owners so training isn’t too difficult. 

They also don’t like being left alone for long periods of time. You shouldn’t ignore this pet or leave them alone in your yard for an entire afternoon. 

Because of their large size and active lifestyle, you also want to make sure that you have plenty of space for them to live and play. A fenced-in yard or nearby park where they can burn off some energy every day is ideal. 

On a positive note, these dogs rarely drool. They bark a moderate amount and are good at alerting their families when there’s something concerning to bark about. 

In the mid-1800s, farmers created the giant schnauzer from the standard schnauzer. The German name for the breed is Riesenschnauzer which means “the giant”.

Both of these schnauzer varieties, along with the mini, were originally bred in Germany, in a region near Bavaria and an old German territory called Wurttemberg. 

Giant schnauzers are meant to be bigger, tougher versions of the standard schnauzer. They were specifically bred to move cattle from farms to distant markets. 

Experts believe that schnauzers are a rough-coated version of German pinscher breeds. These coats are desirable because they help with harsh winters and the dangers of herding life. Rats and other vermin, for example, have a hard time getting through these coats to bite the dogs. 

With the invention of the railroad, the demand for cattle-driving dogs dropped. Instead, people started using giant schnauzers as guard dogs. From the mid-1900s to the present day, these dogs can be found all throughout Bavaria guarding farmers, innkeepers, and any number of businesses. They’re also frequently used by the European police and in different K-9 units. 

When it comes to families, the popularity of this breed continues to grow. In 1962 only 23 new giant schnauzers were registered in the American Kennel Club. By 1987 this number had grown to about 1,000 newly registered dogs. 

Both in the U.S. and Europe, they’re more popular for their working skills than their best-in-show abilities. But these dogs are still eye-catching, expressive companions that are the perfect addition to a variety of homes.