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Miniature Schnauzer

Nicole Cosgrove

The Miniature Schnauzer is a relative newcomer to the world of dogdom; the existence of the first one was recorded in 1888. It fits very well into the modern, post-industrial world, however, because it is a product of one of today’s most popular activities-downsizing.

Here is the Miniature Schnauzer at a Glance
Name Miniature Schnauzer
Other Names Zwergschnauzer (Dwarf Schnauzer)
Nicknames None
Origin Germany
Average size Small
Average weight 10 – 18 pounds
Average height 13 – 14 inches at the shoulder
Life span 12 – 14 years
Coat type Wiry, curly
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Black, white, black and silver, salt and pepper
Popularity High
Intelligence Very smart
Tolerance to heat Average
Tolerance to cold Average
Shedding Minimal
Drooling Not a drooler
Obesity Can be a problem
Grooming/brushing Needs regular brushing
Barking Barks, but can be trained not to
Exercise needs Fairly high
Trainability Very high
Friendliness Friendly dog
Good first dog Yes
Good family pet Yes
Good with children Yes
Good with other dogs Okay
Good with other pets May chase cats, small critters
Good with strangers Warms up fast
Good apartment dog Yes
Handles alone time well Not that well
Health issues Kidney stones, Van Willebrand Disease, progressive retinal atrophy
Medical expenses $280 average annual, not counting insurance
Food expenses $55 average annual
Miscellaneous expenses $65 average annual
Average annual expense $345 not counting insurance
Cost to purchase $500-$1,000
Biting Statistics Unknown

The Miniature Schnauzer’s Beginnings

First there was the Standard Schnauzer, whose forebears were herding and guarding their charges all the way back in the Middle Ages. There was much interbreeding, and it is thought that the modern Schnauzer is a mix, among other dogs, of German Pinschers, German Poodles, and a breed known as the Wolfenspitz. The name “Schnauzer” is German for “snout,” and refers to the dog’s strikingly bushybeard, eyes and moustache, which sometimes is referred to as being like a walrus’ moustache.

New Lease on Life

The Standard Schnauzer continues to be a very popular dog, but during the nineteenth century some farmers were looking for something that could slip down holes and go after rats. At that point the Standard was bred to smaller dogs, including toy Poodles and a little critter called the Affenpinscher, which in German means “monkey terrier.” Thus was the Miniature Schnauzer born, and it has been high on the list of favorite dogs ever since. The American Kennel Club recently listed it as the seventeenth most popular dog in the United States.

The Dog You See Today

The first thing anyone notices, of course, is that “walrus moustache” along with the bushy beard and eyebrows, which is pretty much a direct copy of the Standard Schnauzer. The dog under all that facial hair is built square and medium small, about thirteen to fourteen inches high at the shoulders and weighing in the neighborhood of anywhere from ten to eighteen pounds. The head is rectangular.

The eyes are dark and oval shaped. The teeth are smallish and meet in a scissors bite. The ears are v-shaped and, left to themselves, fold forward. When they are cropped, which serves no purpose and is becoming increasingly unpopular, in fact illegal in many countries, the ears point straight up. The tail is short and thin.

The Miniature Schnauzer has a double coat. The outer coat is wiry and stiff, and the inner coat is soft. The coat’s colors vary. The hues considered standard by the American Kennel Club and other similar organizations are black, black and silver, and salt and pepper. There are white Miniatures around, but they are generally not seen as fitting the breeds official type, although they probably don’t really care. Dogs are more sensible about such things than people are.

The Inner Miniature Schnauzer


Just as the Miniature Schnauzer gets is looks from its larger Standard forebear, it gets its personality there, too. The Standard was bred from generations of farm dogs that had to be smart, fast and courageous. They could not afford to be timid, because they had to be willing and able to boss livestock around, and those animals were typically a lot bigger. At the same time, they could not be too aggressive, because their job was to guard and protect, not attack the herd or flock. They needed to be good watch dogs that would alert the farmer or drover to any peril. They had to be willing to do what they were told, and not go running off to seek new and exciting adventures.

The Miniature Schnauzer is all of those things. It is intelligent and almost always eager to please. It is alert and on the watch for any peril. It makes a very good watchdog, and will bark when it senses a threat; but it is not overly aggressive, and not likely to bite or attack a stranger. In fact, it usually gives strangers the benefit of the doubt, and will warm up to them quickly as long as the owner gives it the okay.

At the same time, Miniature Schnauzers have a strong prey drive; remember they were bred small to make them more effective rat chasers and trappers. Not surprisingly, given the ratting they were bred for, their chosen prey is most likely to be on the smaller side. Cats and squirrels need to beware of these guys. Those ratter genes also mean that the Miniature is a digger. Left to his own devices it may make a mess out of your yard.

Living with a Miniature Schnauzer

Training this dog

Fortunately, the Miniature Schnauzer takes very well to obedience training, actually likes it, and also enjoys being trained at skills.

Miniatures are fun to train, and take both obedience and skills training extremely well. They learn quickly and easily, and have long memories. Of course this means they can learn the wrong things just as well as they learn correct behavior, and once they have learned, they don’t let go. One of their best defenses against having to do what they are told, or not do what they are forbidden, is a high degree of selective hearing. You’re standing there, wagging a finger, telling them No, No No, and you might as well be on another planet. Your Miniature will simply aim its walrus mustache in another direction and go deaf. And when it does get away with something once, it will keep it up and even escalate. They are really stubborn that way.

How active are they?

If you live in an apartment you might wonder if a Miniature Schnauzer is the right dog for you. The answer is, maybe yes, maybe no. It is not a large dog, and doesn’t need a large amount of physical space. It is very affectionate and loving, and with proper socialization it will get along with other members of the household.

On the other hand, Miniature Schnauzers are active dogs. They don’t need that much space at rest, but they don’t like to spend that much time resting, either. They need exercise and activity, and they need and crave attention. This is not a dog you should plan on leaving to itself for long periods of time. It will get lonesome. It will also get bored and restless, and being a smart dog, it will come up with all kinds of creative ways of allaying that boredom and restlessness.

If anything, the Miniature’s fairly high activity level means it needs work; although it is small, it is a working dog, and needs to have a job so that it, and its owner, can be happy.

Caring for the Miniature Schnauzer

Grooming needs

The Miniature Schnauzer has moderate to high grooming needs as while it is low shedding its coat is wiry and will need regular trimming and clipping, about every 6 weeks. People with allergies tend to have low reactions to this dog making it what some call hypoallergenic. It has a double coat and the small amount of loose hair it has gets caught on the undercoat rather than falling off around the home.

It will need to be brushed daily with a short wire brush to remove the loose hair and keep up with mats and tangles. Mats that are stubborn will have to be cut out. Make sure around the eyes and ears are trimmed regularly too. The armpits can be a place where mats are likely to form and can be missed. A couple of times a year the whole thing should be clipped to a shorter length to even it out. Its beard and mustache will need cleaning after eating each day. If you have a show dog it will need to be trimmed and stripped rather than clipped. Clipping and trimming can be done by yourself but if you have no experience it will need to be done at a professional groomers.

Brush its teeth at least twice a week to take care of its teeth and doggy breath. Check its ears for infection and give them a wipe clean. Have its nails clipped when they get too long, another task that can be completed by a professional groomer if you have no knowledge as dog nails need some care taken.

Feeding time

When feeding a dog it should be done at meal times rather than letting them graze all day. The Miniature Schnauzer will try to get you to give it more food but resist as obesity could be an issue. Its level of activity, age, size and general health should guide you to how much it has. Somewhere between 1/2 to 1 cup of high quality dry dog food is a guide. Split this into two meals. High quality dog food has more nutrients and less empty fillers so is far better for your dog.

Does the Miniature Schnauzer get on with children and other animals?

On the whole, Miniature Schnauzers make great family pets. They are good around children, and don’t get super jealous or competitive around the kids or other family pets. Although as instinctive watchdogs they will bark at strangers, they warm up to them quickly, and in a Miniature’s eyes, once not a stranger you are a lifelong friend.

What Might Go Wrong

Health Concerns

Miniature Schnauzers are generally a very healthy breed; but there are few medical problems that they are prey to. Here are the disorders that you might need to be concerned about.

Liver and other disorders associated with too much fat in the diet. Miniature Schnauzers, like many smaller breeds, have a tendency to become obese, and this can lead to problems with the liver and associated organs. The answer here is simple prevention-watching your pet’s diet, making sure it doesn’t overeat, and feeding it low fat dog food.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This is partly genetic and partly environmental. In this case the eye’s retina deteriorates over time, leading to gradually more limited vision and ultimately blindness. Most dogs adjust, even to blindness, and can continue to lead good lives.

Urolithiasis. A fancy word for kidney stones. Dogs get them just like people do. It happens more often in female dogs, and usually starts when the pet is six or seven years old. The stones are typically composed of a magnesium/ammonium/phosphate combination called struvite. The signs are such things as difficulty urinating and blood in the urine. A trip to the veterinarian is in order.

Von Willebrand Disease. This is a genetically caused blood disease that Miniature Schnauzers are vulnerable to. The symptoms are nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and other forms of bleeding. Once again, a trip to the veterinary clinic is called for.

Biting Statistics

Miniature Schnauzers are known to be aggressive towards other dogs and other smaller animals sometimes. This is part of the reason why making sure they are properly trained and socialized from an early age is done. Looking at data of dog attacks on people while the Miniature Schnauzer is itself not mentioned there is a report of a Schnauzer joining a Pit Bull and fatally attacking an adult.

Any dog given mistreatment, poor handling, or the right situation can become aggressive. The Miniature Schnauzer is unlikely to attack a person though as long as it has been raised well. Make sure you understand the dog you are raising and can give it what it needs in terms of exercise, stimulation, training, care, love and living space.

Your Puppy’s Price Tag

Miniature Schnauzers are not the most or least expensive purebred dogs to adopt. The price can run anywhere from $500 to $1,000, so it is probably not a bad idea to shop around a little. If you can locate one at an animal shelter, and are okay with getting an older dog instead of a brand new puppy-some people will tell you that’s the best way to go for a lot of reasons-the cost will be considerably less, maybe a couple of hundred dollars.

Next you will need to have the puppy spayed, if it is a female, or neutered if it is a male, which typically costs about $190. The veterinarian will also give the pup its first set of inoculations, do deworming, and other first round medical work, for another $70 or so. Then of course you will need to get a license, a leash and collar, and a few other small items like that, for another $35 or $40.

Once you have your pup home, it’s time to think about obedience training, which is always a good idea, even for a dog like the Miniature Schnauzer that is fairly responsive to do-it-yourself training. You can expect a first round of obedience work from a professional to cost in the neighborhood of $110.

Your dog will need food, but you get a bit of a break there. Small dogs don’t eat that much, and a year’s supply of dog food for the Miniature should not run much more than $55. And you won’t be wanting to overdo treats, because of the risk of obesity, so figure no more than another $25 a year for that.

With the increasing cost of veterinary work these days, many owners opt for puppy insurance. If you choose to go that route, you are looking at about $225 a year, maybe more.

Overall, not including any insurance, you can expect to spend about $345 a year on your new pup.


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Miniature Schnauzers are popular dogs for good reason. They are a nice size for a pet. They are friendly, easy to train, get along well with kids and pets, and are striking in appearance. They can be stubborn, and have a few bad habits like digging and chasing cats, but these are things that can be dealt with through training. They can do well in apartments, but also love being outdoors. Overall, they are a great bet for both new owners and people who have already owned dogs.

Featured Image Credit: Grigorita Ko, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.