Intelligent, obedient and affectionate, the miniature schnauzer is considered by many to be the ideal family pet. They are both protective and loving, and are happiest living as a member of the family.
All three sizes of schnauzer--the standard, giant and miniature--originated in Germany, probably in the kingdoms of Wurttemberg and Bavaria. Although all three sizes are related, they are considered separate breeds. The first, the standard, has been around since at least the late 1400s, as evidenced from paintings of the time, which portray the dog as a faithful household companion. The breed was used not only as a companion, but also to drive away rats and stand guard over produce carts at the market.
The miniature schnauzer, the newest breed, originated in Germany in the late 1800s, as a smaller version of its cousin, the standard schnauzer. Like standard schnauzers, the miniature version was adept at hunting rodents, but because of its smaller size was more suited to living as a house pet. The miniature was most likely developed by breeding the standard with the affenpinscher and the poodle. The schnauzer was not widely known outside of Germany until the early 1900s, becoming a beloved pet around the world after World War I. Today, schnauzers have achieved global popularity, and the giant schnauzer is even used as a guard dog and police dog in some countries.
Personality and Temperament
Miniature schnauzers are known as excellent watchdogs, wary of strangers and quick to warn their family if an intruder approaches. However, because they are obedient and eager to please, they can easily be trained to stop barking if the owner lets them know the person is not a stranger and is welcome. Miniature schnauzers are also extremely alert, which enables them to spot signs of danger early.
Miniature schnauzers are fearless and highly adaptable, equally as happy in environments as diverse as a country setting where they get plenty of exercise, or in the city where their activity is more limited. They also do well in any kind of climate, and can adjust easily to nearly any change in their situation. The one constant they do need, however, is a close relationship with their human companions. They want to be near their people at all times, living as part of the family and participating in whatever the family does. They often choose a favorite member of the family, but are loving and loyal to all of their human companions. One of their greatest joys is sleeping near their humans, either in the bed next to them, or in their own bed nearby.
Because miniature schnauzers are so intelligent, they are easily bored, and so plenty of activity and stimulation is vital. And while they are easily trained, they only respond well to positive reinforcement, and balk at harsh training or reprimands. They do perform well in obedience trials, however, and are also well suited to agility competitions.
Miniature schnauzers are compact and sturdy, with a wiry coat and prominent eyebrows, whiskers and beard. Standing between 12 to 14 inches at the shoulder, they usually weigh between 13 and 15 pounds. Three color combinations are recognized as the breed standard: salt and pepper, solid black and black and silver. In the United States, salt and pepper is the most common color combination, with black being more prevalent in the breedâ€™s native Germany.
According to American Kennel Club standards, the miniature schnauzerâ€™s eyes should be oval-shaped, small, dark brown and deep-set. The head is rectangular, with an unwrinkled forehead, thick whiskers and upper front teeth that overlap the lower front teeth. The neck should be arched and the backline straight. The tail should be set high and the feet should have thick, black pads and a round, short appearance similar to a catâ€™s feet.
In order to prevent tangling, miniature schnauzers need to be groomed and clipped about every five to eight weeks, something that can be done by a groomer or at home. Because they are double-coated, with a wiry top coat, they need to be hand-stripped or plucked if they are to be shown in the ring. They also need their beards and legs brushed at least weekly, and can be bathed up to once a week. However, because they shed less than other dogs, they tend to be more easily tolerated by people allergic to dogs.
Although an overall hardy breed, miniature schnauzers are prone to several health problems, including:
Hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, leading to weight gain, lethargy and illness. It usually develops between the ages of 4 and 10, and is the most common hormonal condition in dogs. Fortunately, it is also easily diagnosed and treated, and can usually be managed through the use of the synthetic hormone thyroxine, which must be given to the animal for the rest of its life.
Progressive retinal degeneration, an eye disease that causes deterioration of the nerve cells at the back of the head. It is more common in older pets, and usually leads to eventual blindness. The condition cannot be treated, but owners can make the condition easier for their pet to manage by creating a safe home environment that the dog can still navigate easily even after their sight has been lost.
Diabetes, a condition in which the pancreas does not function properly and produces inadequate amounts of insulin. Dogs may have increased thirst and urination, and even unexplained weight loss and sudden blindness. The condition is diagnosed through a blood test, and is usually treated with daily injections of insulin.
Epilepsy, a condition that typically develops between the ages of 2 and 5 and produces seizures. The seizures can be either minor or severe, and can last from several seconds to several minutes. The cause of the condition cannot always be determined, but the disease can usually be controlled with medication.
Pancreatitis, a disease that causes the pancreas to become inflamed, leading to vomiting, abdominal pain and loss of appetite. The condition can be diagnosed through blood tests, X-rays and ultrasound. The condition can be life-threatening, and in acute cases, food and water is often withheld for one to three days to give the pancreas time to rest, antibiotics may be given and in severe cases surgery may be necessary if cysts or abscesses have formed.
Portosystemic shunt, a condition in which blood does not flow through the liver as it should. Because the liver detoxifies the blood, if the blood bypasses it the toxins will not be filtered out and will instead be released into the bloodstream. Surgery may be necessary to redirect the blood flow, and intravenous fluids and dietary changes may also be helpful.
Cataracts, a condition in which the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, leading to eventual blindness. It can be caused by age, trauma to the eye, nutritional disorders, metabolic diseases or exposure to toxins or certain drugs. The condition cannot be prevented, but some dogs may benefit from surgery to remove the cataract.
Cryptorchidism, a condition that prevents one or both of the testicles from descending properly. It is usually inherited, and if the testicle is not removed, problems such as cancer could develop later in life. Castration is the recommended treatment for the condition.
Urolithiasis, a problem with the urinary tract that causes bladder stones to form. Several factors can lead to the condition, including genetics, diet, metabolic diseases, congenital problems and bacterial infections. The condition is usually treated with antibiotics to prevent infection, and removal of stones either by surgery or dietary changes.
Living With a Miniature Schnauzer
A miniature schnauzer can be a loyal, devoted and protective member of the family. Their intelligence and affection make them ideal friends and family pets, as does their eagerness to please and their adaptability. And because theyâ€™re never happier than when theyâ€™re with their human companions, they thrive on a close-knit relationship with their humans in which they are truly a member of the family.