Just as Terriers were a favorite farm dog of the English, the Schnauzers have been a favorite farm dog of Germany for hundreds of years. In fact, ancestors of today’s Schnauzers can be seen in history as far back as the 14th century. These dogs have always been multi-talented, herding cattle, serving as guard dogs, ratting, and even pulling carts filled with produce to market. The Schnauzer breeds are believed to be a culmination of early ancestors of German Poodles, German Spitzes, and other early hunting, Terrier, and Pinscher types. In fact, the Schnauzer was originally referred to as the Wirehaired Pinscher. The name “Schnauzer” comes from the German word for “muzzle,” or “schnauze,” a feature that—along with the characteristic facial furnishings of the mustache, beard, and brows—sets the dog apart from other wire-haired breeds. The Standard Schnauzer is the oldest of the Schnauzers, and it is the originator of both the Giant and Miniature varieties. All Schnauzer varieties possess the same excellent working abilities and amiable companion qualities that make them the ultimate all-purpose dogs.
It wasn’t until the 1880s that the Germans began to breed the Miniature Schnauzer, since a smaller version of the already popular medium-sized Schnauzer was desired. To achieve this miniaturization, it is believed that the Standard Schnauzer was bred with the Affenpinscher to create a smaller version of the breed. It is widely thought that at this time some Spitzes, Poodles, and Brussels Griffons were also bred in, in order to set the salt and pepper and solid black coat varieties. Before the time of professional pest control, a dog’s ratting abilities were essential to keeping people safe from pest-borne illnesses. It is largely believed that this was the motive behind the miniaturization of the Schnauzer into the Miniature Schnauzer, since they could access more spaces than their larger brethren.
Just as the mini variety of the breed was being developed in Germany, World War I broke out. The breed development had to be put on hold for the time being, but at the end of the war, the Miniature Schnauzer regained popularity and the development of the breed continued. Subsequently, the first Miniature Schnauzer litter was born in America in 1925, prompting the start of America’s love affair with this plucky breed.
Schnauzers are renowned for their versatility and ability to be trained to do a number of jobs, from watchful family guardian to all-around farm dog. They are intelligent, eager to learn and work, responsive to their handlers, and courageous. They make for excellent family pets or working dogs. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is incorrect for this breed.