Giant Schnauzer: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Giant schnauzer portrait

 DevidDO / iStock / Getty Images

The stunning giant schnauzer is a large dog breed that has similar traits to the smaller standard and diminutive miniature schnauzer. This breed turns heads with its regal and stunning body, which has an air of authority afforded by its large size. While considered a large breed canine, it should be noted the supersized schnauzer doesn’t belong to the group of giant breeds (including the Newfoundland, Great Dane, mastiff, and more). Instead, these dogs are considered giant only when compared to the smaller varieties of schnauzer.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Working

HEIGHT: 25 to 27 1/2 inches (males); 23 to 25 inches (females)

WEIGHT: 60 to 95 pounds (males); 55 to 75 pounds (females)

COAT: Short double coat

COAT COLOR: Solid black or salt-and-pepper

LIFE SPAN: 12 to 15 years

TEMPERAMENT: Powerful, intelligent, strong-willed, kind, loyal, dominant


ORIGIN: Germany

Characteristics of the Giant Schnauzer

The giant schnauzer's personality is best described as confident, but the breed can border on aloof if improperly socialized. But when well-trained and well-socialized, it's a loyal family dog and active companion. These are powerful dogs with a big heart for their family. The giant schnauzer is a bold and beautiful breed, but it may not be for everyone, particularly novice dog owners who are not aware of this dog's need for strong and consistent obedience training.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Low
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Giant Schnauzer

The history of the giant schnauzer begins with the development of the standard schnauzer. Originally developed in Germany in the 1800s, the schnauzer was named for the German word for muzzle, which is "schnauze." The first breed type was a standard-sized canine that excelled in general farm work, like guarding livestock and hunting small rodents.

However, in the late 1800s, a need for a larger and more powerful working dog was identified. The standard schnauzer exhibited many desirable qualities and was a popular dog in Germany. To add size and stamina to the breed, schnauzers were crossed with large breed dogs like the Great Dane. The result was a considerably bigger and more powerful canine, known today as the giant schnauzer.

The giant schnauzer became a common sight on farms in the Bavarian Alps, since this breed was capable of guarding and herding livestock. The increased size gave these dogs a considerable advantage against large predators and a more commanding ability to herd cattle and other livestock. Later, these attributes led to this breed’s use for police and military organizations throughout Europe.

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, giant schnauzers began to be imported to the United States, where enthusiasts worked to develop the breed standard and earn club recognition. The current breed standard was approved by the AKC in 1983 and is in relative harmony with European breed standards, though it should be noted that there are some subtle differences.

In addition to a solid work repertoire, schnauzers have a long history of capturing attention in the show ring—particularly in the U.S., where the breed is primarily bred for show and companionship. In Europe, the breed is largely still bred for working roles. 

Giant schnauzer in river
Buchsammy / Moment Open / Getty Images 

Giant Schnauzer Care

The giant schnauzer was bred to work, so it should come as no surprise that this dog needs a job to do and plenty of training to keep its guarding instincts from becoming a liability. Early socialization and ongoing obedience training will assist this breed in becoming a well-adjusted companion.


A large dog like this will require plenty of exercise and a big backyard. Count on two long and vigorous walks a day totaling about an hour. The breed is well-suited for running and hiking, and such activities will tire both the mind and body. They also do well outdoors, so a fenced area to roam and run will provide another outlet for energy. However, the giant schnauzer is a loyal family dog and shouldn’t be kept outdoors for extended periods.


With a wiry double coat, a schnauzer needs ongoing grooming. Plan to brush your dog weekly and bathe it as needed. In addition, a regular visit to a grooming service will be necessary to clip or strip the coat and maintain those bushy eyebrows and characteristic snout ‘stache. 


These dogs are intelligent and alert—which can be seen from their aptitude for police work. They are well-suited for obedience training and excel at this and other canine competitions, including agility and field trials.

Giant schnauzer puppy on pillow


Young giant schnauzer outside


Giant schnauzer laying by river
Konoplytska / iStock / Getty Images 

Common Health Problems

Careful breeding has helped to ensure the integrity of the breed and minimize health problems of the giant schnauzer, but like all purebred dogs, there are some health conditions to be aware of. The National Breed Club recommends that you buy from a breeder that can provide ophthalmologist, thyroid, and hip evaluations.

Other health concerns that sometimes affect giant schnauzers include:

  • Skin Allergies: Various allergies may cause irritated, itchy skin, compelling your dog dogs to scratch, lick, and chew their skin to the point of injury.
  • Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD): When the joint cartilage fails to develop into bone, a dog can experience lameness or limping.
  • Hip/Elbow Dysplasia: Both hip and elbow dysplasia occur when those specific joints are not functioning correctly, causing a dog to limp, have trouble getting up, and other symptoms.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): The rods, cones, and/or the pigmented layer of a dog's eyes deteriorates and wears away to eventually cause blindness.
  • Hypothyroidism: This condition occurs when a dog doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones, causing extreme fatigue, weight gain, and other symptoms.
  • Von Willebrand Disease: This is a serious blood clotting disorder caused by the dog's lack of a specific protein.

Diet and Nutrition

An active breed, the giant schnauzer will benefit from two well-balanced meals a day. Balance your dog’s energy output with caloric intake for a healthy dog. Treats may be a useful aid in training, but keep them in moderation to prevent weight gain.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Giant Schnauzer

A big breed like the giant schnauzer requires a big commitment—as does adopting any dog. Make sure you do your research to identify whether this dog fits your lifestyle. Talk with breeders and read up on the breed’s history and use. If you have the time and energy to train and maintain a giant schnauzer, they'll repay you with a giant amount of love!

Finding a giant schnauzer is easier compared to some other purebred dogs. The community of enthusiasts for this breed may not be as large as it is for dogs in the top 10 most popular breeds with the AKC, but the giant schnauzer is 78 out of 193 breeds. The National Breed Club and AKC registry make good resources to find breeders. schnauzer that may be in search of a loving home. Expect to pay a breeder between $2,100 to $5,500 for a purebred giant schnauzer puppy.

It’s also a great idea to check with national and regional rescues to find a giant schnauzer puppy.

Check out these resources to get started finding your dog:

Giant Schnauzer Overview

  • Very confident and loyal

  • Intelligent and easily trained

  • Alert nature ideal for a watchdog

  • Can be aloof and territorial

  • Sometimes-overpowering build

  • Requires regular grooming

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you are interested in the giant schnauzer, here are other large breed dogs to add to your look-up list:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Do giant schnauzers get along with other dogs?

    Owing to their history of farm and livestock guardians, giant schnauzers can be territorial with other dogs. Socializing them early and often in controlled settings is the best way to teach proper canine interaction. And while they can be successfully kept with other dogs, they’re also a breed that copes well with being the only canine.

  • Are giant schnauzers good with small children?

    Giant schnauzers can be very devoted family dogs and good with children, but their large size can be a liability with smaller children, so they require close supervision.

  • Are giant schnauzers aggressive?

    This breed can be aggressive because it is protecting its territory, making it an excellent guard dog. Owners should take note that the dog also has massive bite strength. The giant schnauzer is also naturally wary of strangers and new situations unless it's socialized to experience new people and experiences.

  • Why do some giant schnauzers have their ears cropped and tails docked?

    Cropped ears and docked tails were said to historically create an alert appearance and to keep the dog's protrusions from tangling in farm equipment. These practices are illegal in some areas in the U.S. so find out the legalities before choosing to crop ears or dock the tail of your dog. Though controversial and hotly debated, many giant schnauzers still have their normally big floppy, hairy ears cropped for protection from insects, dirt, and water, while tails are surgically trimmed to stand erect and stay safe.