The Giant Schnauzer is the most recently developed of three distinct breeds that all have their origin in the agricultural areas of neighboring Wurttemberg and Bavaria, where they were used to help shepherds with sheep, cattle and other livestock as far back as the 1500s. Since there were no railroads at that time, the Schnauzer was particularly helpful in driving flocks and herds to market. The mid-sized Schnauzer, now known as the Standard Schnauzer, was used in Germany for centuries as a rodent-controller and was attractive to sheepmen. Cattle farmers (called drovers) wanted a much larger and stronger dog to drive their herds. The Giant Schnauzer developed by crossing the medium-sized Schnauzer with existing smooth-coated driving dogs. Rough-coated sheepdogs, and much later Great Danes and maybe Rottweilers, were added to the mix. It is thought that the Giant Schnauzer is closely related to the driving dog of Flanders, the Bouvier des Flandres.
For many years, the Giant Schnauzer was known as a great cattle-driving dog in the south of Bavaria and in the region between Munich and Augsburg. However, it was virtually unknown outside of Bavaria until the early 1900s, with the advent of the railroads which made cattle-driving obsolete. The breed remained popular with butchers and at stockyards, breweries and beer halls, where they made outstanding urban watch dogs and property guardians. Up until World War I, Giant Schnauzers also gained nationwide attention in Germany for their police work, at which they continue to excel. This breed served Germany in both World Wars, practically to the point of extinction. By the time the Giant Schnauzer appeared in the United States, German Shepherds were firmly established and prized as police dogs, making progression of the Giant Schnauzer’s use in police work very slow. Ultimately, they became valued as companions and show animals in this country, in addition to their guarding abilities. They participate in agility, flyball, cart pulling, obedience, protection work and anything that keeps them physically and mentally challenged. In Germany, they continue to be used in security positions and are known for their protection, bold nature and unwillingness to back down from conflict or controversy.
The average life expectancy of the Giant Schnauzer is between 10 and 12 years. This is comparable with the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years), and most breeds similar in size. Potential hereditary defects and disorders more commonly found, but not necessarily found, in the Giant Schnauzer Dog are as follows:
- Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA): Disease in dogs that involves destruction of red blood cells (RBCs)
- Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus): An extremely serious medical condition where a dog’s stomach becomes filled with gas that cannot escape.
- Cataracts: Refers to any opacity of the lens of the eye. Dogs of either gender can develop cataracts
- Crohn's Disease
- Epilepsy: Refers to a group of clinical signs that result from over-stimulation of the brain.
- Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
- Hypothyroidism: Inadequate production and release of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)
- Narcolepsy: Disorder of the neurological mechanisms that control sleep – especially the state of deep sleep
- Retinal Dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Group of degenerative eye disorders that eventually lead to permanent blindness in both eyes.
- Selective Malabsorption of Cobalamin (vitamin B-12)
- cancer of the digits (toes)