According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Giant Schnauzer is a larger and more powerful version of the Standard Schnauzer. Since the Giant Schnauzers arrival in America in the 1930s, they have become popular show dogs. They are also gaining traction as loyal companions, police working dogs, and personal protection dogs.
The 1928 English edition of “German Dogs in Word and Picture” gives an account of the origins of the Giant Schnauzer. According to the writer E. von Otto, the Giant Schnauzer is a result of breeding between the medium-sized “bear Schnauzer” and wire-haired Pinschers. The breed was eventually crossed with the black Great Dane to make them larger and stronger. From the early days, the Giant Schnauzer gained popularity as a cattle and driving dog. They were considered intelligent, strong, and versatile. Butcher shops and breweries used them as protection dogs. Even though there is no bloodline relation, E. von Otto thought that the early Giant Schnauzer were similar in appearance and behavior with Bouvier des Flandres.
The Pinscher-Schnauzer Klub (PSK), which was formed in 1921, created the early standards for the three sizes of Schnauzers. The PSK still maintains breeding registrations, competition records, and studbooks for various types of dogs under its jurisdiction. The original PSK Standard for the Giant was translated to create the AKC standard. However, over the years, the two standards have diverged. The PSK standard was revised to define the Giant Schnauzer as a distinctive working dog. In 1971, the Giant Schnauzer Club of America defined a new standard that is similar to PSK standards in most respects. This new standard was approved by the AKC. However, the AKC and PSK standards for show penalties and breeding stock qualities are interpreted differently in the US and abroad.
The Giant Schnauzer in Europe
In Europe, the Giant Schnauzers are thought of as companion and working dogs. They are robust, strongly built, and loyal to their owners. Their intelligence makes them easy to train. They are used often as police, army or personal protection dogs. The Giant Schnauzers are more likely to be seen in Schutzhund (German for “protection dogs”) competitions than beauty shows. In fact, Germany requires that Giant Schnauzers earn the Sch-I working certifications before they can take Sieger conformation classes.
The Giant Schnauzer in America
The breed of Giant Schnauzers arrived in America in the early 1930s. However, at the time, the fanciers were more interested in the German Shepherd. For the next 25 years, the Giant Schnauzer breeders maintained a low profile. They bred the Giant with available stocks and did not take any step to publicize the breed to the general population. So, the breed stayed under the radar until 1960. Registration records show fewer than 50 new Giants a year. They were rarely seen at shows. In a certain way, it was actually good for the breed. The owners and breeders at the time were a closed circle. They shared their secrets with each other. There was more cooperation in the community. They helped each other by loaning their breeds because the competition was not steep. Even though only a few Giant Schnauzers showed up in the competition circles in those early days, still some achievements are worth mentioning:
- In the early 1930s, imported Calo v Saldern won an AKC champion title. It was the second Giant to achieve this title.
- After World War II, American-bred Ch. Black Boy of Imperial and Ch. Benno v. Basmatte had group placings at the competitions.
- In 1946, the first Giant Schnauzer Champion Dog Excellent degree (CDX) was awarded to Alaric of the Rhine Crossing, UDT. Later his son Glenolden’s Danish Saxo Scout, UD, was also a contender. It paved the way for a new breed of champion dogs in the obedience trial competitions.
In 1962, the Giant Schnauzer Club of America (GSCA) was founded. With GCSA helping import and promote stocks from Europe’s most successful breeders, the interest in the Giant Schnauzer has exploded. Terry v. Krayenrain is the most famous import. Some other noteworthy imported lines are:
- Widderhof (pepper/salt)
de la Steingasse suffixes
These imports and their descendants have become a growing presence in Group competitions and Best in Show winners. They are competing successfully in both conformation and obedience shows. They are used widely as police dogs and personal protection dogs. There is even an American-bred Schutzhund III title holder.
Current and Future Breeds
With show successes and greater visibility, the Giant Schnauzer has captured the public’s imagination. The demand for this breed has risen steadily. Here are the AKC registration figures to give you an idea of the rise in breeding:
1962: 23 individual registrations
1974: 386 individual registrations
1984: over 800 individual registrations
1987: nearly 1000 individual registrations
However, some breeders are exploiting this growing demand. They are using their mediocre Giants to breed with anything. This will hurt the reputation of the Giant Schnauzer in the long run. As a responsible buyer, you should make sure that you are working with breeders who use the best stocks. The breeder’s decision makes the breed what it is. But a breeder will only produce the highest quality breed if a buyer demands it. The Giant Schnauzer is a magnificent dog. So, you should feel proud to demand a well-bred one.