Terriers can be generally described as rough and tumble, adventurous, and lively, but there is always at least one exception to every rule, and in this edition of Animal Facts, we’re going to shine the spotlight on one that shows that there’s two sides to every coin.
Depending on the situation, this pup can be tough like an officer, or suave like a gentleman. Join us as we take a closer look at the small dog with the big personality and one sweet ’stache—the Miniature Schnauzer.
To get down to the nitty gritty of the origins of the Mini Schnauzer, you have to start with its larger cousin, the Standard Schnauzer. The Standard Schnauzer was developed in Germany in the late 1800s as a mid to large-sized farm dog capable of ratting, herding, and guarding property. Eventually, the Standard was combined with small breeds such as the Affenpinscher and Miniature Poodle to create a pared down Schnauzer that was the ideal size for ratting.
The first Mini on record is Findel, a black female born in 1888. Seventeen years later, the first breed club (the Pinscher-Schnauzer Klub) was formed. In 1924, the Miniature was introduced to the U.S. in 1926, and although the Mini was granted registration with the American Kennel Club as a member of the Terrier group because of its ability as a ratter, they share no common ancestry with the Terriers of Great Britain.
While World Wars I and II negatively affected dog breeding, the Mini Schnauzer never waned in numbers or popularity. As a matter of fact, interest in the Mini soared after the First World War, and they’ve been on a roll ever since, coming in at number 18 on the AKC list of popular dog breeds.
Fun Fact: “Schnauze” comes from the German word for muzzle and is a reference to the Miniature Schnauzer’s square snout.
Size and Appearance
The Miniature Schnauzer should perhaps be described as “small” rather than “miniature.” Its height averages 11 to 14 inches at the withers and its weight can range from 11 to 20 pounds. Sturdily built with an athletic, boxy frame, the typical Schnauzer—Standard or Mini—is groomed to look like a Victorian gentleman or bearded lady, with close-cropped body hair, and facial hair that gives them a very human-like appearance. Hair is also kept longer on the legs and undercarriage.
The Mini’s double coat is made up of a wiry top coat and a soft undercoat that serves as a “lint trap” for catching loose hairs from the top coat, which makes it a great choice for allergy sufferers. Coat colors include solid black, solid white, salt and pepper, and black and silver.
Fun Fact: Back when Minis were used for ratting, their owners would sometimes mat their mustaches down to protect their faces from being clawed or bitten by prey.
Temperament and Family Life
The Miniature Schnauzer can generally be described as bold, spunky, and playful. Like other Terriers, their energy is boundless. They love to be where the action happens, taking in and taking on life at full speed…but more on this later.
If you want a dog that will romp around with the kids and keep a watchful eye on them too, the Mini is the dog for you. Minis are naturally leery of strangers and are very protective of their people. This protective instinct, combined with an ear-piercing bark, makes them a great watchdog. That said, when it’s time to relax and chill next to you on the couch they’re game for that too—as long as you don’t sit there all day.
Since Minis have a high prey drive, you should keep yours leashed in public places and you might want to keep a watchful eye on them when they interact with their smaller pet siblings. Like all Terrier-types, this breed loves to dig, especially if they smell a potential snack on the other side of the fence. To thwart escapes, be sure your fence extends a few feet into the ground, pour a concrete footer, or attach an L-footer to the bottom of the fence.
Also, when a Mini Schnauzer walks into a room they own it—or at least they think they do. Same applies to the dog park, and since they have no idea how small they are, they have no problem standing up to a larger dog…until they do have a problem. So it’s important to keep your bossy buddy in check.
Intelligence and Training
The Mini Schnauzer is one of the smartest dog breeds around and is typically easy to train. That said, they can also be very stubborn and independent, and will even ignore you if they don’t want to do something.
To train your buddy, you’ll have to firmly establish yourself as the authority figure and nip bad behavior in the bud. Be firm, but never harsh. If he or she sees that can get away with something, they’ll do it habitually. It’s best to begin training any dog as early as possible, before they get “set in their ways,” so begin training when your dog is a puppy, and if you can, hire a professional.
Fun Fact: The Mini Schnauzer and German Shepherd make a great security team. The Mini’s siren-like bark will alert the Shepherd to come in and defend your livestock, property and family.
As mentioned before, the Mini Schnauzer is a highly intelligent working breed that loves to play. That means that your little tough guy or gal will have more than their fair share of energy to burn, so it’s important to develop an exercise regimen that will not only burn energy, but also prevent boredom.
A well-planned daily exercise routine for a Mini should incorporate one or two 20 to 30 minute walks, a session of high-intensity play, and mental stimulation. Fun, engaging activities like fetch, Frisbee toss and tug of war are great ways to hold your dog’s interest, burn off energy, and help them stay in shape. A backyard agility course is also a great way to improve your pup’s coordination, and keep their reflexes and mind sharp. And to satisfy the urge to dig, be sure to designate a spot in the yard for digging or get a sandbox for your little barking backhoe.
Speaking of keeping the mind sharp, make sure you have a wide selection of toys that you and your buddy can choose from. Your Mini’s toy box should include puzzles, toys that are handled manually, and others that are meant to move on their own (this type of toy will cater to their ratting instinct). You should also include a few toys that your pup can play with while you’re away from home, so you’ll still have a house to come home to.
Health and Lifespan
A well-cared for Mini Schnauzer can live 12 to 14 years, but like all breeds, they’re susceptible to certain health problems.
Cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and entropion (which causes the eyelid to turn inward) are eye diseases that Minis are prone to, but can be treated or surgically corrected. Kidney and bladder stones, Von Willebrand’s disease (a form of hemophilia), and Myotonia Congenita (an illness that is similar to muscular dystrophy) are conditions that can affect the breed, but can be managed with medication, dietary changes and other treatments.
A condition that is potentially life-threatening for the Mini is an ailment similar to acid-reflux, called Congenital Megaesophagus. This illness causes food and liquid to become trapped in a dog’s esophagus, resulting in regurgitation and causing further complications, like pneumonia, which can be treated, but there is no treatment for the disease itself.
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