The Giant Schnauzer (Riesenschnauzer) we know today was broadly bred from two strains of dogs. One strain, known as Rough Coated Pinschers, later called Schnauzers, from the Stuttgart and central area of Germany, which were smaller, but had the typical head, expression and build; they were useful around stables as they were skilled rat and mouse catchers and very good with horses.
This type were crossed with the larger Bavarian mountain dogs which had been bred by the farmers of the region as general working dogs, ratters, herders, drivers and guards; these dogs had gradually spread into and around the Munich area and were known as the Munich (Münchener) Schnauzers. Thus a certain conformity was achieved.
There are two coat colours, Black and the rare Pepper and Salt.
A lively, determined, rugged dog with an incredible brain and a great sense of humour. They are courageous, loyal and loving, but not for the light-hearted as they require a firm and consistent hand, to convey to them that they are not the leader of whatever pack they find themselves in.
This tendency to be “the boss” is not exclusive to the Giant Schnauzer, but combined with his intelligence makes for a considerable challenge. The males, as may be expected, are more of a challenge than the female.
However, with a lot of time spent on socialization and basic training from an early age, kind, fair handling and stretching and expanding that amazing intelligence you will have a dog that is very hard to beat.
Generally this is a healthy breed, although there have been cases of cancer starting in the toe that are believed to have a genetic link.
Dogs that are used for breeding have to be eye tested annually for hereditary cataracts and, although not mandatory, it is good breeding practice to have the hips tested for dysplasia before the dogs are bred from, - the mean, above which it is not recommended to use a dog for breeding, is 14.
In British bred Pepper and Salt Giants there have been cases of skin problems. The average life span is 11-12 years.