Miniature schnauzers are a bright and energetic dog breed. They’re the smallest of the three schnauzer breeds. This makes them portable and apartment-friendly pets.
They can adapt to rather diverse lifestyles, so almost anyone would consider them a good choice for a pet — whether you live in a city, have kids, or already have other animals.
Characteristics of Miniature Schnauzers
How big do miniature schnauzers get?As their name implies, miniature schnauzers are a smaller breed of dog — though they’re not small enough to count as part of the so-called toy category. Both males and females are, on average, 13 inches tall. Most purebreds fall within an inch of this average.
Healthy versions of both males and females should weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. You should consult a veterinarian for diet and exercise advice if your miniature schnauzer is much lighter or heavier than this.
This small body size means that the dogs are compact and portable. They’re content in small homes and can easily fit into travel plans.
Body shape.The body of a miniature schnauzer is commonly described as stocky and robust. Ideally, their body length is proportionally square with their height. This makes them sturdy and strong — traits that people bred into them to create good rat hunters.
Miniature schnauzer characteristics also include rectangular heads with pointed ears set high on the skull. Uncropped, the ears fold into the skull in the shape of a small v. This — along with their muscular bodies — can sometimes give them a sporty look.
Their muzzles are fairly blunt and produce thick whiskers.
They have muscled shoulders and small, round feet — sometimes referred to as cat feet.
Their tails are set high on their hindquarters and are most often erect. Show dogs will need to have docked tails to avoid penalties — but this isn’t a real concern for a family pet.
Lifespan.Like most small dogs, the miniature schnauzer can live longer than a decade. The average miniature schnauzer lifespan is 12 to 14 years. So, you can expect to share a reasonably long part of your life with this dog — particularly if you get one when they’re still a puppy.
Fur and eyes.Miniature schnauzers have double coats — meaning they have two layers of fur that grow at different rates and have distinct textures.
Generally, their coats feel hard and wiry when groomed for show. If you leave them unclipped, though, their soft and curly fur will come out. If you’re raising the dog as a family pet, you might want to consider grooming it in a way that encourages this softer side.
Their medium-length fur can come in a variety of color combinations. These include:
- Solid black
- Black and silver
- Salt and pepper
Their eyes should be oval-shaped and highly attentive, typically dark brown and deeply set within their faces. However, they can also be light brown and may protrude slightly from the face.
Face.One of the most striking features of miniature schnauzers is their very expressive faces. Some people even say that they can convey human-like expressions — some of which can be quite comical.
This is thanks to their bushy beards and eyebrows. The eyebrows stand out as thick protrusions above their deep-set eyes, and they have matching, pointed beards that grow beneath their mouths. The color of these features depends on the color of the rest of their coat.
Personality.A miniature schnauzer’s personality is generally quite pleasing. The American Kennel Club (AKC) ranks these dogs a five out of five in terms of affection. They’re biddable and eager to please with a moderate energy level — making them great for families.
They’re adaptable dogs that can handle a number of different situations. This can include living a life filled with toys and fun walks — because they enjoy stimulation — in an apartment. They’re equally happy trotting through fields and over farmland. They were, in fact, bred by farmers with this kind of life in mind.
They have a protective nature and are only moderately receptive to strangers, although — once you’ve won them over — you’ll find that they’re highly trainable and loyal family members.
Caring for Miniature Schnauzers
Grooming.To look its best, your miniature schnauzer will need more grooming than the average dog breed. To keep your dog show-ready, miniature schnauzer care involves removing dead hairs by hand — a process called hand stripping.
Most of the time though, families will opt to just use a groomer instead. In this case, your dog will need its coat trimmed about every five to eight weeks.
They should only need a bath once a month — but this can vary greatly depending on what they’ve been up to. You should give them a bath whenever they become too dirty or smelly for your liking.
Also, be sure to give your dog’s nails a trim around once a month. Check inside of their ears once a week for any signs of dirt or wax. Clean them whenever you notice buildup.
Feeding.Make sure that clean water is available for your dog at all times.
Miniature schnauzers are usually happy with most high-quality dog foods. You can buy some at the store or make a mix yourself. Just consult your veterinarian first to create an ideal mix of nutrients in your home blend.
Since the dogs don’t need to stick to strict routines, you can work out a feeding schedule that works best for your life. Make sure, though, that you don’t overfeed your dog. This breed can struggle with obesity — so talk to your veterinarian for help keeping your dog trim and healthy.
Exercise and Mental Stimulation.Miniature schnauzers are a lively dog breed that requires moderate to high levels of both physical and mental engagement.
Make sure to give them daily doses of exercise. They like walks as well as time in enclosed areas playing fetch or having fun with the family.
Just make sure not to let them off of their leash in open spaces. Their rat-catching nature means that they’re likely to run off in pursuit of a squirrel or other small animal.
Given a miniature schnauzer's temperament, it’s easy for them to become bored. They don’t like too much repetition. Keep them engaged with new toys and activities. Socialization is also a great idea — particularly from an early age.
They also enjoy — and excel at — canine sports thanks to their combined obedience and agility.
Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations.Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs, but all dogs should get a core set.
This includes vaccinations for:
- Canine parvovirus
- Parainfluenza virus
These can begin as early as six weeks of age. There are also other non-core vaccinations that you can discuss with your veterinarian.
Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors.
Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you.
Health Problems to Watch for with Miniature Schnauzers
Miniature schnauzers are a healthy breed of dog that requires minimal amounts of veterinary care.
You should have their eyes and hearts examined annually to ensure maximum wellness.
Conditions that they’re particularly susceptible to include:
- Liver shunts
- Kidney stones
The Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine also classifies miniature schnauzers as one of a handful of breeds at risk for Sick Sinus Syndrome. With this condition, your dog's heart will sometimes literally stop beating. They’ll faint if this persists for more than eight seconds.
Most of the time, it’ll start working again before long — but your dog may benefit from a pacemaker if they’re diagnosed with this condition. This is a relatively safe procedure in dogs but is expensive and only available at a few veterinary hospitals.
Special Considerations for Miniature Schnauzers
One thing to keep in mind before bringing a miniature schnauzer home is that they’re a very vocal breed. The AKC gives them a five out of five for their need to bark at every little thing.
Luckily, they counteract this somewhat negative trait by having very low levels of drool and only moderate amounts of shedding.
They get a score of five out of five for being good with kids and a three out of five for being good with other dogs — so they can integrate well into families of all shapes and sizes.
Intriguingly, the world doesn’t agree on what group of dogs miniature schnauzers belong to. In Australia and the United Kingdom, they’re counted in the utility group. In Canada, they fall into the working group, and in the U.S., they’re members of the terrier group.
They’re the only terrier in the U.S. group to not have any British background — which is the main reason why they have such distinct personalities from others in this category.
History of Miniature Schnauzers
Miniature schnauzers were first created in Germany in the mid to late nineteenth century. They’re a cross between the larger standard schnauzer and smaller breeds — including poodles and Affenpinschers. However, they very closely resemble small versions of standard schnauzers.
They were bred by farmers to live productive lives catching rats on farmland — and are happy patrolling fields to this day.
The breed was first recorded in 1888 and had its first exhibition in 1899. The AKC recognized them as a distinct breed in 1926 — only two years after they were originally brought to the country.
A miniature schnauzer was the first of this breed to win best-in-show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.