The Giant Schnauzer which was developed in the 17th century is one of the working breeds of dogs. It is the largest among the three Schnauzer breeds; the other two are Standard Schnauzer and Miniature Schnauzer. A number of breeds have been used in its development, like the black Great Dane, the Bouvier des Flandres and the German Pinscher. This breed was originally developed for the farm to assist the farmer by driving livestock to the market and guarding the property. But, later on this breed moved to the city and was used for guarding breweries, butcher’s shops, stockyards and factories. It was unknown outside Bavaria until it was used as a military dog in the World War I and World War II, which soon made it popular.
Their coat is dense and coarse which protects them from weather and vermin. This breed is normally found in two colour shades: Solid black and another one called pepper and salt, where bands of alternating white and black hair appear as grey from a distance and give an illusion of pepper and salt. They have cropped ears and docked tails, if legal. They also have distinct beard and eyebrows. These dogs participate in various dog sports, including Schutzhund and are also used as a police dog.
The Giant Schnauzers first emerged in the 17th century, from Swabia in the German state of Bavaria and Wurttemberg. These were considered as the rough-coated version of the German pinscher breed. Their origin is not so clear, but sources speculate that they have originated from some combination of black Great Danes, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Boxers, Bouvier des Flandres, Thuringian Shepherds and the Standard Schnauzer.
This breed was originally used as a multipurpose farm dog to guard property and drive animals to the market. By the 20th century, it began to be used as the watchdog at the factories, breweries, butcheries and stockyards
In modern times, this dog is trained for obedience, dog agility, herding, search and rescue, schutzhund and is also used as a police dog. It is shown in conformation shows and used for carting too. The European Schnauzer clubs focus more on the working ability of this dog rather than treating it as a show dog.
The Giant Schnauzer is called ‘Giant’, but it is not larger than other large dog breeds like, the Great Dane or the Rottweiler. The AKC breed standards describe the height of the males to stand from 25.5 to 27.5 in (65 to 70 cm) at the withers and for females from 23.5 to 25.5 in (60 to 65 cm). These are square in shape and generally resemble a larger version of the Standard Schnauzer.
The tail is docked and the ears are cropped, if it is legal. If the ears are not cropped, then they are small button ears carried high on the head. The head is half the length of its back and the cheeks are flat and well muscled. They have a dense, wiry and weather-resistant coat.
The Giant Schnauzers are one of the known quiet breeds, but are inherently suspicious of strangers and can be sometimes very territorial. It usually accepts the novel people and situation, once introduced. They have a high potential to be aggressive but mostly are reserved. It can be said that they are amiable in response and if aroused can be commanding too.
They are described as trustworthy with children and are highly energetic and spirited. They are very intelligent but get bored easily and can behave in a destructive manner. They can be trained easily and remain deeply loyal to their masters. Some breeders believe that the pepper and salt Giant Schnauzer are more docile than the black ones.
This breed collects drool and the food particles, and so requires a regular grooming. If they are used as show dogs, their coat should be stripped every two to four weeks. But, if they are simply used as a companion animal, their coat can be clipped. Some of them might show allergy to the shampoo.
The Giant Schnauzers are prone to some health problems like hip and elbow dysplasia, some eye problems such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, glaucoma, cataracts, multifocal retinal dysplasia and generalized progressive retinal atrophy. There are also some skin diseases like flank alopecia, vitiligo and follicular cysts found in them. Skin cancer is common in the dark coloured-dogs.
Some of them develop central diabetes insipidus, autosomal recessive hypothyroidism, selective malabsorption of cobalamin, narcolepsy and cataplexy. They can be sensitive to sulphonamides and gold too. Mostly they die due to lymphoma and liver cancer, followed by heart attacks and failure.