Breed facts: Utility group
In association with the Kennel Club, Nick Mays provides you with everything you need to know about the Miniature Schnauzer. Super-smart and loyal, see if one of these handsome little dogs could be your new best pal.
The Miniature Schnauzer is a small breed with a big personality and is ideally suited to the role of family pet. Like all terrier-like dogs, he is a sturdy, game little fellow, with great determination and a huge sense of loyalty to his family. He is also a friendly, loving dog who craves human attention and wants to be a part of the family’s activities. He’s an extremely handsome dog; his characteristic bushy beard, moustache and eyebrows convey an air of age and wisdom which isn’t too far-fetched a notion, as the Miniature Schnauzer is a very intelligent dog!
The Schnauzer originated in Germany, where it has been known as far back as the 15th century. For centuries, these dogs were kept as herders, guardians, ratters and simply as companions, and eventually developed into three distinct sizes: Giant, Standard and Miniature. The Miniature Schnauzer is the youngest breed of the three, being developed during the late 19th century. In its earliest stages, several small breeds were employed in crosses to bring down the size of the well-established Standard Schnauzer, with the goal of creating a miniature version. Schnauzers were crossed to other breeds, such as the Affenpinscher, Poodle and Miniature Pinscher, resulting eventually in the dog we know and love today as the Miniature Schnauzer.
The earliest recorded Miniature Schnauzer was born in 1888, and the first to be exhibited was in 1899. With their bold courage, the Miniature Schnauzer was originally used for guarding herds, small farms and families. As time passed, the breed was used to hunt rats because its speed and small size were perfect to get into tight places to pursue and catch the rodents. In 1928, the Miniature Schnauzer had reached the UK and quickly proved itself to be a very popular breed. The first specialist club for the breed – The British Miniature Schnauzer Club – was formed in 1933, but this only existed for three years. After this the breed’s interests were looked after by the Schnauzer Club of Great Britain although, oddly, membership of the club was not opened to Miniature Schnauzer owners until 1945. A new Miniature Schnauzer Club was formed in 1953 and is the sole specialist club for the breed to this day. Miniatures were first registered with Standard Schnauzers up until 1932, when they were issued a separate register. In 1935 the breed’s name was altered to Affenschnauzer by the Kennel Club (KC) and the first KC Challenge Certificates (CCs) awarded to the breed were under this name. However, just over a year later, as a result of an objection from The German Miniature Schnauzer Club, the new name reverted back to Miniature Schnauzer.
The first set of CCs were were offered to the breed in 1935 at the West of England Ladies’ General Championship Show. First bred in America in 1925, the Miniature Schnauzer was recognised by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1926. It received separate AKC recognition in 1933, up until then being grouped with the Standard Schnauzer. However, whereas the AKC groups the Miniature Schnauzer as a terrier, the UK KC list it as a utility breed, as it did not originate from the terrier breeds of the UK. Similarly, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) accepts the breed but also does not class the breed as a ‘true’ terrier.
- A big dog in a small body
- Ideal family pet
- Never dull
- Amenable to training
- Tough and hardy
- Unique and unusual colouring
- Excellent watchdog
- Splendid character
- Charming temperament
- Handy size, sturdy and stylish
- Non-shedding coat
- Always a faithful companion
- Utterly dependable
- Zestful and full of fun
- Easy mixer
- Radiates happiness
Temperament & Training
Some breeds have an air of intelligence – or look intelligent – but the Miniature Schnauzer doesn’t just look intelligent; he is intelligent! Owners will recognise the breed’s qualities of being incredibly alert, lively and mischievous. Miniature Schnauzers thrive on attention and are quick to learn vocal and hand commands. They fit in well with family routines and habits, enjoying being part of the family pack. However, they are equally happy to be a one-person dog and are ideal for all ages, including active people or those of retirement age. They also make excellent guard dogs as they are quick to bark at strangers – or intruders – but do not become aggressive. Again, this makes them ideal as family pets. Like all dogs they need to be socialised with children and other pets from an early age, but they are quick to learn, accepting commands readily. Miniature Schnauzers do very well in obedience and ringcraft, and several have gained their KC Good Citizen awards.
These dogs are very energetic and can sometimes become bored if not given the attention they crave. Regular exercise and a proper diet are essential to keep your Miniature Schnauzer from becoming bored and possibly destructive. The breed is very adaptable and will be happy in most home environments, including apartments, but regular exercise is essential – they don’t like being cooped up for long periods. Good long walks – or runs – and plenty of games keep the Miniature Schnauzer engaged and fit, which is what they enjoy. And their energetic natures are good for their owners getting exercise, too!
Health & wellbeing
Miniature Schnauzers are very robust, active and sturdy dogs with very few health problems. As far as hereditary breed defects go, cataracts (both hereditary and congenital hereditary forms) and generalised progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) can occur – albeit rarely – in the Miniature Schnauzer. Every effort is being made by breeders and the Miniature Schnauzer Club to eradicate such problems from the breed, and the club strongly recommends that all Miniature Schnauzers be eye tested annually by a vet registered under the British Veterinary Association/KC Eye Scheme.
Puppies can be tested for the congenital form at six to eight weeks and it’s recommended that you only buy a puppy that has been tested. Hereditary cataract and PRA need annual tests as they both develop later. The former can only be diagnosed from about six months so all puppies should be tested again at 12 months, and annually after that. PRA may not appear until three years of age upwards. The Club recommends that all dogs should be tested annually, up to the age of eight years. Other than this, Miniature Schnauzers remain healthy and active all of their lives, although naturally they begin to slow down a bit as they reach old age. As to longevity, they can live for up to 15 years and are one of the longer-lived dog breeds, which again makes them ideal as family pets.
Where to get a Miniature Schnauzer puppy
It’s always best to contact the breed club to enquire whether any members have puppies in your area. If you go to a breeder recommended by the club, you can meet the puppies with their mother – which is always recommended – and ask advice on selecting the ideal puppy from experts within the breed. It’s also useful to join a breed club, even if you don’t want to show your Miniature Schnauzer, as you will maintain contact with other owners and there will always be an experienced owner or breeder on hand to ask for help if you encounter any problems with your dog, such as feeding, training and general care. The Miniature Schnauzer Club also operates a breed rescue service. Thankfully, as the breed is not numerically popular, there are not many Miniature Schnauzers in rescue, but there are usually older dogs whose owners cannot keep them for whatever reason. They will usually make great pets, being already trained and used to people and will quickly adapt to their new owners, as they crave human company. The breed rescue officers will be able to match the right dog for you. As the breed is longlived, dogs of eight or nine years old still have plenty of life left in them and deserve a chance of happiness in a new home.
KENNEL CLUB BREED STANDARD Thinking of getting a Miniature Schnauzer?
Here’s what to look out for: A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of a breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the KC website (www. thekennelclub.org.uk) for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure.
Sturdily built, robust, sinewy, nearly square (length of body equal to height at shoulders). Expression keen and attitude alert. Correct conformation is of more importance than colour or other purely ‘beauty’ points.
Well balanced, smart, stylish and adaptable.
Alert, reliable and intelligent. Primarily a companion dog.
Head & skull
Head strong and of good length, narrowing from ears to eyes and then gradually forward toward end of nose. Upper part of the head (occiput to the base of the forehead) moderately broad between the ears. Flat, creaseless forehead; well muscled but not too strongly developed cheeks. Medium stop to accentuate prominent eyebrows. Powerful muzzle ending in a moderately blunt line, with bristly, stubby moustache and chin whiskers. Ridge of nose straight and running almost parallel to extension of forehead. Nose black with wide nostrils. Lips tight but not overlapping.
Eyes & EARS
Eyes medium-sized, dark, oval, set forward, with arched bushy eyebrows. Ears neat, V-shaped, set high and dropping forward to temple.
Jaws strong with perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Moderately long, strong and slightly arched; skin close to throat; neck set cleanly on shoulders.
Shoulders flat and well laid. Forelegs straight viewed from any angle. Muscles smooth and lithe rather than prominent; bone strong, straight and carried well down to feet; elbows close to body and pointing directly backwards.
Chest moderately broad, deep with visible strong breastbone reaching at least to height of elbow, rising slightly backward to loin. Back strong and straight, slightly higher at shoulder than at hindquarters, with short, well developed loin. Ribs well sprung. Length of body equal to height from top of withers to ground.
Thighs slanting and flat but strongly muscled. Hind legs (upper and lower thighs) at first vertical to the stifle; from stifle to hock, in line with the extension of the upper neck line; from hock, vertical to ground.
Short, round, cat-like, compact with closely arched toes, dark nails, firm black pads, feet pointing forward.
Previously customarily docked. Docked: set on and carried high, customarily docked to three joints. Undocked: set on and carried high, of moderate length to give general balance to the dog. Thick at root and tapering towards the tip, as straight as possible, carried jauntily.
Gait & movement
Free, balanced and vigorous, with good reach in forequarters and good driving power in hindquarters. Top line remains level in action.
Harsh, wiry and short enough for smartness, dense undercoat. Clean on neck and shoulders, ears and skull. Harsh hair on legs. Furnishings fairly thick but not silky.
All pepper and salt colours in even proportions, or pure black, or black and silver. That is, solid black with silver markings on eyebrow, muzzle, chest and brisket and on the forelegs below the stifle joint, on vent and under tail.
Ideal height: dogs: 36cm (14ins); bitches: 33cm (13ins). Too small, toyish-appearing dogs are not typical and are undesirable.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
5 Miniature Schnauzer facts
The Schnauzer is the only breed known to take its name from one of its kind to win a prize at a show. This was at the International Show in Hanover, Germany in 1879. The winner of the wirehaired Pinscher class was a dog called ‘Schnauzer’, a name that translates literally as ‘small beard’ (which the breed has) and thus the present-day name for the breed came into being. Lifespan Miniature Schnauzers have a long lifespan, living for up to 15 years of age, although there have been accounts of some dogs living to the age of 17! Grooming The Miniature Schnauzer has a wiry coat and thus does not moult, which is a plus point if you are houseproud! This also makes the breed ideal for anyone with allergies. All-over grooming with a brush and comb is required at least twice a week. Hand stripping is required for show dogs but clipping is straightforward and easy for a smart family pet, although the body colour does pale as the dog ages. It is necessary for your dog to be properly clipped by an experienced dog groomer every 8 to 12 weeks to keep his coat manageable. Miniatures Schnauzers also come in white; however, they are not recognised by the KC at this time. Feeding Miniature Schnauzers are very unfussy eaters and thrive on a good, standard dog food diet. They are equally happy with proprietory dog food as they are with natural foods such as meat and fish, and enjoy gnawing on a bone. However, rich and fatty foods should be avoided as some dogs can occasionally suffer from pancreatic problems as a result of over-feeding such foods. Weight Weight range: 6.4-8.2kg (14-18lbs) for dogs and 5-6.8 kg (11-15 lbs) for bitches.
The Miniature Schnauzer Club Mrs A P Kidd (secretary), tel. 01785 760557.
The Schnauzer Club of Great Britain Mrs E Kelly (secretary), tel. 01245 357333
Northern Schnauzer Club Mrs S McGrann (secretary), tel. 01526 860087.
With thanks to the Miniature Schnauzer Club and Liz Longdin for information and input with this article.
About the author Nick Mays is a journalist specialising in the animal media. He lives in Yorkshire with partner Sheena Stratton, three children and four dogs. He runs Fanciful Media and Publications with Sheena and was, for many years, chief reporter at Our Dogs newspaper and also worked as editor of Our Cats. Nick is also author of several books on animal care.