The Miniature Schnauzer is a breed of small dog of the Schnauzer type that originated in Germany in the mid-to-late 19th century. Miniature Schnauzers developed from crosses between the Standard Schnauzer and one or more smaller breeds such as the Poodle or Affenpinscher. The breed remains one of the most popular, and as of 2008 is the 11th most popular breed in the U.S.
Miniature Schnauzers normally have a small, squarely proportioned build, measuring 12 to 14 inches (30 to 36 cm) tall and weighing 11 to 15 pounds (5.0 to 6.8 kg) for females and 14 to 18 pounds (6.4 to 8.2 kg) for males. They have a double coat. The exterior fur is wiry and the undercoat is softer. The coat is trimmed short on the body, but the longer hair on ears, legs, and edge of the body, a.k.a. the “furnishings”, are retained. They can be found with various colorations, including salt & pepper, black & silver, and black. White and parti may also be found, though these colors are not recognized in some countries. Miniature Schnauzers are often described as non-shedding dogs, and while this is not entirely true, their shedding is minimal and generally unnoticeable. They are characterized by a long head with bushy beard, mustache and eyebrows; teeth that meet in a “scissor bite”; oval and dark colored eyes; and v-shaped, natural forward-folding ears. (When cropped, the ears point straight upward and come to a sharp point.) Their tails are naturally thin and short, and may be docked (where permitted). They will also have very straight, rigid front legs, and feet that are short and round (so-called “cat feet”) with thick, black pads.
The Official Standard of the Miniature Schnauzer describes temperament as “Alert and spirited, yet obedient to command. Friendly, intelligent and willing to please. They should never be overaggressive or timid.” As such they tend to be excellent watchdogs. They are often guarded towards strangers until the owners of the home welcome the guest, upon which they are typically very friendly to them. “Miniature Schnauzers are not by nature aggressive, as are some of their Terrier cousins. They should be relatively fearless. Once mature, the Schnauzer has a strongly developed territorial instinct. They are ideal watch dogs as they defend vocally rather than physically. … A good Schnauzer will bark at anyone who may appear a threat to his home. … Schnauzers are not random, incessant barkers. They are discriminating and intelligent guard dogs that assume this duty naturally.” However they do tend to express themselves vocally, and may bark to greet their owner on arrival home, and can be reserved with strangers. Properly socializing them with other dogs and people is important.
The breed is generally good with children, recognizing that they need gentle play. Miniature Schnauzers are generally highly intelligent and easy to train. They are highly playful dogs, and if not given the outlet required for their energy they can become bored and invent their own “fun”.
Schnauzers are highly prey driven (as benefits a ratting dog), and will attack other small pets such as birds and rodents. Many will also attack cats, but this may be curbed if the dog is raised with cats from a young age.
The earliest records surrounding development of the Miniature Schnauzer in Germany come from the late 1800s. They were originally bred to be farm dogs in Germany, to keep the rats and other vermin out of the barn. In the breed’s 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 duplicate in miniature. Crossing to other breeds, such as the Affenpinscher, Poodle and Miniature Pinscher, had the side effect of introducing colors that were not considered acceptable to the ultimate goal — and as breeders worked towards the stabilization of the gene pool, mismarked particolors (mixed colors) and white puppies were removed from breeding programs.
The first recorded Miniature Schnauzer was in 1888, and the first exhibition was in 1899. With their bold courage, the Miniature Schnauzer was originally used for guarding herds, small farms, and families. As time passed, they were also used to hunt rats, because they appeared to have a knack for it, and its small size was perfect to get into tight places to catch them.
The AKC accepted registration of the new breed in 1926, two years after they were introduced to the United States. The American Kennel Club groups this breed with the Terriers as it was developed for a similar purpose and has a similar character to the terrier breeds of the Britain and Ireland. The Miniature Schnauzer was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1948. The United Kingdom Kennel Club however, does not accept the Miniature Schnauzer as a true Terrier because it does not originate from the terrier breeds of the British Isles. Like the Tibetan Terrier and Boston Terrier it lists the Miniature Schnauzer in the Utility group for shows run under the UK Kennel Club rules such as Crufts. The FCI accepts the Schnauzer breeds but, again, does not list the Miniature Schnauzer as a Terrier.
While generally a healthy breed, Miniature Schnauzers may suffer health problems associated with high fat levels. Such problems include hyperlipidemia, which may increase the possibility of pancreatitis, though either may form independently. Other issues which may affect this breed are diabetes, bladder stones and eye problems. Feeding the dog low- or non-fatty and unsweetened foods may help avoid these problems. All Miniature Schnauzers should have their ears checked regularly and dried out after swimming due to a risk of infection, especially those with uncropped ears.
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