The Standard Schnauzer is the original breed of the three breeds of Schnauzer, and despite its wiry coat and general appearance, is not related to the British terriers. Rather, its origins are in old herding and guard breeds of Europe. Generally classified as a working or utility dog, this versatile breed is a robust, squarely built, medium-sized dog with aristocratic bearing. It has been claimed that it was a popular subject of painters Sir Joshua Reynolds, Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt, but actual proof remains elusive.
Standard Schnauzers are either salt-and-pepper or black in color, and are known for exhibiting many of the "ideal" traits of any breed. These include high intelligence, agility, alertness, reliability, strength and endurance. This breed of dog has been very popular in Europe, specifically Germany where it originated. The breed was first exhibited at a show in Hanover in 1879, and since then have taken top honors in many shows including the prestigious "Best in Show at Westminster Kennel Club" in the United States in 1997.
Twice a year, when most other breeds of dog are shedding their coat, a Schnauzer’s coat will become dull and relatively easy to pull out and is said to have ‘blown’. At this point the coat can be stripped or pulled out by hand and a new wire coat will re-grow in its place. Stripping is not painful for the dog and can be performed at any stage of hair growth although it is easier to do when the coat is ‘blown’.
Alternatively, the coat can be regularly clipped with shears. Clipping as opposed to stripping results in a loss of the wiry texture and some of the fullness of the coat. Dogs with clipped fur no longer ‘blow’ their coat but the coat loses its wiry texture and becomes soft. The fur of clipped dogs tends to be more prone to tangling and knots, particularly when long, and is duller in color than that of stripped coats. In the case of the salt and pepper Schnauzers, the characteristic banded color of the hair is completely lost when maintained through clipping; each shaft of hair becomes entirely gray rather than being banded with multiple shades of gray, white, and black.
Clipping is most common in the U.S. as it can be difficult to locate a professional willing to hand strip (the process is quite labor-intensive). In Europe, it is very uncommon to see a wire-coated dog which is clipped. It may not be possible to hand strip a poor quality coat, i.e. one that is soft in texture, but soft coats (while relatively common in pet quality Miniature Schnauzers), are not a widespread problem in Standards.
Regardless of whether the body of the coat is stripped or clipped the 'furnishings' or longer hair on the legs and face must be scissored or clipped regularly and require daily brushing to remain free of potentially painful mats. Whether a Schnauzer is stripped or clipped, his coat requires a great deal of grooming. In most cases this means an owner must either take care to learn the required grooming - for which the dog's breeder should be a great resource - or the owner must take their dog in for regular, often expensive, trips to a grooming salon.
Docking and cropping
Inside the U.S. and Canada, ears and tail and dewclaws are typically docked as a puppy. Veterinarians or experienced breeders will cut tails and dewclaws between 3 and 7 days of age. Tails are traditionally docked to around three vertebrae. Ear cropping is usually performed at about 10 weeks of age in a veterinary clinic. Many breeders inside North America have begun to crop only those puppies retained for show purposes, or those puppies whose owners request it. There is still somewhat of a bias against natural ears in the North American show ring. However, there is a growing sentiment among breeders and judges that both ear types are equally show-worthy, and many North American show breeders enjoy both cropped and natural eared dogs in their kennels. However, unlike in Europe, the majority of North American breeders believe that the choice of whether to cut ears and/or tails should continue to remain with the breeders and owners. Outside of North America, most Standard Schnauzers retain both their natural ears and tail as docking is now prohibited by law in many countries.
Overall, the Standard Schnauzer is a very healthy breed. The 2008 health survey done by the Standard Schnauzer Club of America revealed that roughly only 1% of dogs surveyed had serious health issues. The final, full report can be found here but a general summary is as follows:
- Data was collected for 10-15% of eligible dogs;
- Median life span was 12.9 years
- Only a few serious diseases were noted;
- Potentially serious conditions affect less than 1% of dogs
- Apparent progress has been made in reducing the incidence of hip dysplasia
The two major hereditary within the breed are: hip dysplasia and hereditary eye disease. Both problems can be tested for and identified in breeding stock before they pass the trait onto the next generation, so the Standard Schnauzer Club of America recommends that every kennel test their breeding stock for hip and eye problems before breeding and to breed only healthy animals.
However, it is entirely up to breeders whether they choose to health test their animals and whether they choose use animals for breeding despite knowing they have tested positive for carrying a genetic disease. The SSCA also encourages all potential buyers to ask their breeder for up to date OFA and CERF certifications of the parent dogs before buying a puppy.
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals found at www.offa.org keeps a record of purebred animals that have passed an x-ray screening for hip dysplasia. Dogs must be a minimum of two years old to be OFA tested.
The cost of OFA testing is relatively high (about 150-200 USD per dog per year) and borne directly by breeders. OFA testing is not required for AKC registration of breeding stock or their offspring so the benefits of a good OFA test scores are more indirect and long range for individual breeders while a poor results represent a direct negative impact. Responsible buyers looking to buy from responsible breeders should only choose puppies from a litter where both parents have current OFA test certificates and scores of "excellent", "good", "fair".
The Canine Eye Registration Foundation is a registry for purebred breeding stock who have been certified free of any hereditary eye disease: results for this test can also be found at the OFA website. Dogs must be examined by an approved veterinarian who checks for the presence of heritable eye diseases. Testing is less inexpensive (about 20-40 USD) than OFA examinations but, like OFA testing, must be done annually to remain valid.
In popular culture
- From the AKC: "Rembrandt painted several Schnauzers, Lucas Cranach the Elder shows one in a tapestry dated 1501, and in the 18th century one appears in a canvas of the English painter Sir Joshua Reynolds. In the marketplace of Mechlinburg, Germany, is a statue of a hunter dating from the 14th century, with a Schnauzer crouching at his feet which conforms very closely to the present-day show Standard."
- "George, the cancer-sniffing Schnauzer, has received much acclaim. "
- Blu, Franklin's pet blue dog in Monica's Gang
- Colin, dog in the UK comedy series Spaced, became a regular feature in the middle of the first series.
- Shunaemon. dog from Fortune Dogs
- Asta, the dog belonging to Nick and Nora Charles, in the Dashiell Hammett novel The Thin Man, was a female Schnauzer (presumably a Standard, based on the size she's indicated to be). In the subsequent film series based on the novel, she was depicted as a male Fox Terrier.
- Junkers talkin schnauzer from Junkers Come Here