Giant Schnauzer (Riesenschnauzer)

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black or salt&pepper
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Good with kids:
Pros Cons

  • playful

  • intelligent

  • great guardian

  • excellent with familiar children

  • independent and dominant

  • suspicious toward strangers

  • needs a lot of grooming

  • major exercise requirements


The Riesenschnauzer (or the Giant Schnauzer) is a large-sized, smart but somewhat self-willed breed created in Germany several centuries ago. Being a reliable multifunctional worker it’s still mostly utilised as a police and military dog in its native land. Nonetheless it has all prerequisites for becoming a faithful and loving pet for the person who is willing to devote substantial efforts to its training, socialisation and grooming.


The Riesenschnauzer is reckoned to be the youngest Schnauzer breed developed in the farming regions of neighbouring Wurttemberg and Bavaria as far back as in the XV centuries. In order to control unruly cattle farmers required much more powerful and capable dog than mid-sized Schnauzer. This wish necessitated the invention of the Riesenschnauzer, which was performed by crossing the average-sized Schnauzer with local smooth-coated herding dogs. It’s also very likely that rough-coated sheepdogs as well as the Great Dane and the Rottweiler contributed to its development. It is also very likely that the breed is related to the shepherd of Flanders, the Bouvier des Flandres.

For hundreds of years the Riesenschnauzer was used as an effective cattle-driving dog in the south of Bavaria and in the area between Munich and Augsburg. Nevertheless it could have been hardly met outside these regions until the beginning of the XX century. At that point extensive spread of the railroads mostly deprived this dog of its original job of a cattle drover. However lots of breed members were still kept by the owners of stockyards, beer halls and breweries where they functioned as ferocious guardians and vigilant watchers.

Up until the World War I the Riesenschnauzer acquired a reputation of a fabulous police dog and it’s still widely used in this role. Impressive strength, unwavering loyalty and great stamina of this dog became the reasons of its active involvement in both World Wars, which almost cost it its existence.

The first members of the Riesenshnauzer were brought to the United States in the 20s of the XX century, but its population in this country remained scarce until the 30s of the XX century. In 1930 the breed received recognition of the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the United Kennel Club (UKC) followed its lead in 1948.

Over the years this high-maintenance large dog failed to gain any noticeable popularity in both America and other lands in the role of a companion animal. It also couldn’t remove the German Shepherd from its position of a worldwide favourite police dog. In modern days the Riesenshnauzer is very common outside its native Germany where it still widely used in guarding and police work. It has also proved its supreme abilities in agility, flyball, cart pulling and obedience competitions.


The character of the Riesenschnauzer usually changes considerably from specimen to specimen. Some of them are tranquil and somewhat lazy, some are cheerful and sociable, some are happy to make a new human friend, others shun strange people. The trait, which has in common all these dogs, is their love for domination. If a person isn’t experienced enough in handling such confident and headstrong canine as the Riesenschnauzer will quickly assume the power over his/her household and family. Only early and continuous training and socialisation is able of making from the Riesenschnauzer an agreeable family pet. This Schnauzer is less snappy than other dogs of the same family and tends to be gentle with kids. However, there is no guarantee that a dog that behaves excellently with a familiar child will do so with a strange one.

The well-trained Riesenschnauzer is quite polite with unfamiliar people although it never loses vigilance and remains somewhat reserved in communication with them. Decades of selective breeding for police and guard work endowed this breed with immensely strong protective and territorial instincts so in most cases it makes a fierce guardian as well as a very trustworthy watcher. Be mindful though that you may end up with the specimen that doesn’t show necessary interest to such work.

Prepare to face serious troubles if you intend to introduce the Riesenschnauzer to the household with pre-existing canine and non-canine pets. This breed has strong propensity to dominate among other dogs and it may provoke cruel fights with other dogs in order to assert its alpha status. It’s also a passionate chaser of stray cats and other street animals although strong probability holds that it won’t pester familiar pets especially if they have grown together since an early age.

Health Problems

The most common problems for the breed include:

· canine hip dysplasia;

· elbow dysplasia;

· cancer;

· autoimmune disorders;

· osteochondrosis dessicans;

· hypothyroidism;

· epilepsy;

· bloat.


The maintenance of the Riesenschnauzer will consume rather significant amount of your time. It’s a must to carefully brush the dog’s coat three to four times a week with a stiff bristle slicker brush to keep it mats and tangles free.

Many owners prefer to visit a professional groomer as this breed needs to be trimmed and stripped as its hair grows (every four to six months). This can be done by hand or with special trimming machine. It’s rather a bad idea to shorten the coat of this dog by clipping as it may soil its original colour and unique texture. If your dog participates in Dog Show it must be rolled. However, the Giant Schnauzer doesn't shed.

The owner should clean dense and long beard of his pet after each and every meal otherwise food, water and saliva, which easily stick to it, will give off a highly unpleasant smell as well as cause mats in the hair. Other than that the dog should receive fairly standard care, which includes regular nail trimming, weekly teeth brushing and ear cleaning.


The amount of time and efforts, which is required to train the highly intelligent Riesenshnauzer, depends on personality traits of its individual specimen. In any case it’s crucial to begin teaching your pet basic commands while it’s still a docile and curious puppy. Taking into account the dominative and independent nature of this dog its trainer should make an impression of a natural leader in order to win its respect and obedience.

This breed usually enjoys an opportunity to challenge its brain so once it masters a primary training course it should be promoted to more advanced tasks. The sufficient socialisation bears the outmost importance for the Riesenschnauzer if you want to raise an adaptable and well-mannered dog.


The Riesenschnauzer is a great athlete, which needs several hours of vigorous physical activity every single day. It also should be provided with ample space to run and play so an apartment dweller will never make an ideal owner for this dog.

Bikers and joggers will find in the Riesenschnauzer an eager and indefatigable companion and active families will be able to take this dog in hiking trips. Sufficient amount of physical exercise will not only provide a good health for your pet but it will also ensure that it will always remains calm and even-tempered indoors.