The American Kennel Club recognizes three types of schnauzers: the miniature schnauzer, the standard schnauzer and the giant schnauzer. Though they look like small, medium and large versions of the same dog, they are considered separate breeds. Aside from differences in size, they also have different health risks and life expectancies. All three tend to be intelligent, loyal companions.
The obvious difference between schnauzers is the size. The miniature schnauzer stands 12 to 14 inches tall at the shoulder, compared to the standard's 17.5 to 19.5 inches. The miniature schnauzer weighs between 11 and 20 pounds, compared to the standard schnauzer's 30 to 50 pounds. The giant schnauzer really is a giant compared to his smaller relatives, standing 23.5 to 27.5 inches tall and weighing up between 65 and 90 pounds.
The American Kennel Club recognizes three sizes of schnauzer, however some breeders offer "teacup" or "toy" versions of the miniature schnauzer, ranging between 3 and 11 pounds. These dogs are not recognized for showing and carry potential health risks that come with being a much smaller version of the breed standard.
The miniature schnauzer's health concerns include eye conditions, such as cataracts, entropion and progressive retinal atrophy. Other risks include megaesophagus, urolithiasis and Von Willebrand's disease. The standard schnauzer contends with hip dysplasia, cataracts, pulmonic stenosis, hemophilia, hypothryoidism and bladder stones. Due to his size, the giant schnauzer is prone to bloat. Other health concerns include hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy and autoimmune thyroiditis. Both the miniature and standard schnauzer have a 12- to 14-year life expectancy, compared to the giant schnauzer's shorter 10 to 12 year life span.
The standard schnauzer is the prototype for the other schnauzers, dating back hundreds of years; he is shown in artwork as early as 1492. He was bred with the affenpinscher and the black poodle to create a smaller schnauzer -- the miniature schnauzer -- who would excel at ratting. The giant schnauzer was created by breeding the standard schnauzer with larger smooth-coated dogs, rough coated sheepdogs and the black Great Dane.
All three schnauzers are devoted to their families, always on the alert for intruders, making them good watchdogs. The standard schnauzer tends to be more accepting of children, cats and other dogs than his larger and smaller cousins, perhaps because of the influence of the other breeds in the giant and miniature schnauzer lineage. Generally, no matter what size of schnauzer you share your home with, you're likely going to live with an intelligent, loyal family member.