Fletch enjoys watching his human pals go berserk when he locks them out of the car. As fast as they put the key in the door, he pushes down the lock button. He is one smart Schnauzer. But then they all are.
“We have unfortunately rewarded this behavior by laughing,” said his owner Diana Garner of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. And now Fletch has moved his new game indoors. He recently locked a sliding glass door, leaving Garner stuck outside in the 40-below chill. “The whole time Fletch stood and wagged his tail on the other side of the glass, quite proud of his trick.”
The Standard Schnauzers’ intelligence and sense of humor entertain owners. “They’re known as the dog with the human brain,” said Darlene Cornell of Newburgh, N.Y., breeder referral coordinator for the Standard Schnauzer Club of America. “They learn things quickly so you have to teach them right from wrong. Sometimes they are smarter than their owners. They have a super attitude, but you have to show them affection and spend a lot of time with them. They’re extremely social and enjoy the company of humans as well as other dogs.”
Intelligent & Exuberant
Lori Elvin of Grafton, Ontario, Canada, lives with six Standard Schnauzers and an Australian Shepherd. “The best word I can think of to describe Standard Schnauzers is exuberant,” she said. “Everything is done with flourish and gusto, from greeting your return to warning you of strangers approaching the house. They live and love life to the fullest and are not sedate, decorative dogs.”
Albert, a Standard Schnauzer owned by LeAnn Shank of Bellwood, Pa., enjoys running on exercise treadmills. “Albert jumps on the treadmill and barks and just insists that you turn it on,” she said. “You can see the joy in his eyes.”
That Schnauzer spunk and intelligence are part of the dogs’ appeal. It’s also part of the challenge. “Standard Schnauzers are an excellent breed for those who want to devote time and energy into training and working with their dog,” said Arden Holst of Los Angeles, former president of the Standard Schnauzer Club of America. “Their intelligence is a double-edged sword, however, because if you do not train them, they learn things on their own, things you may not want them to know, such as how to get into the garbage or out of the fence.”
Standards are the original of the three Schnauzer breeds but they’re few in number. The American Kennel Club registered 598 in 2000, a ranking of No. 96 out of 148 breeds. Breeding usually occurs among responsible hobbyists rather than commercial breeders, keeping the breed out of the public eye. The work associated with these dogs, from grooming to keeping up with their energy, limits demand. Carol Ann Richie of Oakton, Va., president of the Standard Schnauzer Club of America, becomes concerned when breed numbers get too low, because this can affect the size and strength of the gene pool. However, many Schnauzer owners are glad the popularity remains low. This keeps interest primarily with owners and breeders dedicated to the dog rather than those motivated by money and trends.
The Standard Schnauzer’s origins are mysterious, though it’s believed to be the result of crossbreeding black German Poodles, Wirehaired Pinschers and gray Wolf-spitz. The centuries-old breed was brought to the United States about 100 years ago and has long been appreciated for its intelligence, fearlessness and versatility. In their native Germany, Schnauzers were farm dogs whose duties included herding livestock and guarding produce carts in the marketplace. Since then, they have performed police and search-and-rescue workincluding explosives detectionand served as tiny dispatch carriers and therapy dogs.
They are devoted family dogs but generally do best with canine-savvy people. They are not an ideal choice for a first dog. “The Standard Schnauzer can be stubborn and dominant if not raised with a good pack leader,” Elvin said. “Standard Schnauzers can be very manipulative and charming, and before the owners know what is going on, the Schnauzer is running the household. If they feel the owners are not in charge, they will assume this position, deciding who can enter the house and yard.”
The breed’s strong watchdog qualities have persisted over the centuries. “A well-trained and socialized Standard should voice the arrival of strangers,” Elvin said. “Once the stranger is greeted by the owner, they should relax.”
Standards generally train easily and are eager to please, but they can become bored with repetition. The trainer has to keep the dogs motivated with upbeat, fun sessions. In the show and event rings, Standards respond to the crowd’s enthusiasm, enjoying the activity and attention. In 1997, Ch. Parsifal Di Casa Netzer, owned by Rita Holloway and Gabrio Del Torre of Newark, Delaware, won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Show. “Schnauzers enjoy being shown,” Cornell said, “and show judges look for that in a dog. These dogs are show-offs.”
Jules, one of two Schnauzers owned by Joey Warren of Wenatchee, Wash., has done well in obedience trialsexcept on two occasions when his personal style interfered with his performance. During one event, Jules kept his walking pace perfectly but embellished his usual gait by bouncing like a kangaroo. “Everyone thought it was hysterical,” Warren said, “except for the judge.” During an obedience trial at a second show, Jules raced toward Warren correctly when she called him but continued past her to hop outside the ring and visit someone he recognized in the crowd. He then returned and completed the command properly. “He knew what he was supposed to be doing,” Jules said. “He just added something on.”
Standard Schnauzers often zip successfully through agility events. As former rat catchers, they are athletic dogs built for movement and speed. For dogs that grow bored with repetition, agility obstacle courses provide variety and keep them interested. Some Schnauzers have a knack for herding, a holdover from the breed’s original duties as farm dogs.
Potential owners must consider the dog’s grooming requirements. They can clip or strip the dog’s coat, scissoring and clipping to refine the look. While full-body baths are seldom necessary on a stripped coat, the longer whisker and leg hairs require shampooing and combing. Pets not competing in the show ring can be clipped and bathed at intervals from six weeks to a few months. Beard and leg hairs may need occasional combing to avoid matting.
Standard Schnauzers have remained a robust, healthy breed and breeders are working to rid them of hip dysplasia. Incidences of hypothyroidism, treated easily with medication, are low. Cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy are uncommon but do occur occasionally.
Most Standard Schnauzers enjoy an active lifestyle. “They play outside,” Warren said. “They play tag in the house. Nothing plays like a Standard. And they make up games.”
Cornell finds her dogs to be quick studies. Case in point: Darrick, one of her Schnauzers, helps her clean up after dinner. He carries each of the four empty doggie dishes from the living room into the kitchen.