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Are Schnauzers Smart Dogs?: Mini, Standard & Giant Schnauzer IQ Comparison

The Schnauzers are some of the most iconic dog breeds to come out of Germany. And like the Poodle, they come in three size variations: mini, standard and giant. While all of them are excellent companions, you may be wondering if they’re intelligent dogs.

So, are Schnauzers smart dogs? All three size variations of Schnauzers are smart. Both the Mini and Standard Schnauzers are classed as “bright dogs,” ranking 12th and 22nd respectively. However, the 35th ranked Giant Schnauzers are “above average” for work & obedience intelligence. But while all three sizes scored high for this IQ, they really excel with their ability to solve problems and learn from past mistakes.

All Schnauzers ranked impressively high for dog intelligence. There’s no doubting the IQ of these dogs. However, what actually makes them intelligent dogs? Let’s examine the method of measuring true dog intelligence and other reasons that make Schnauzers super smart.

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Measuring the Intelligence of the Schnauzers

We measure a Schnauzer's intelligence based on their working and obedience abilities.

All three variations of the Schnauzer scored in the top 40 for obedience & working intelligence. While this may seem impressive (and it is!), you’re probably wondering how we came to this conclusion? It’s not like we arbitrarily came up with this ranking.

The current list of smartest dogs was published by canine psychologist, Stanley Coren. In his intelligence trials to find the world’s smartest dog breed, he discovered a type of dog IQ, called obedience and working IQ. But what is this exactly?

OWI, as we’ll call it, measures how quickly a dog can learn a new command. In addition, it also measures how well a dog can retain their obedience training. And although there is some correlation between dog IQ and how good they are at obedience training, it doesn’t tell the full story.

Coren’s Dog Intelligence Criteria

Back in 1994, Coren contacted all North American obedience trial judges to help in his intelligence trials. To his surprise, 199 judges agreed to help. The response was phenomenal.

With the criteria that Coren had developed, the obedience trial judges evaluated and ranked as many dog breeds as they could get their hands on. With the aggregated data, Coren was able to finalize a list of the smartest dogs and published his infamous book.

His studies and ultimately intelligence rankings are based on the following:

  1. The number of repetitions it took for a dog breed to learn a brand new command. Fewer repetitions meant a more intelligent dog, according to Coren.
  2. The success rate in which a dog breed will obey a known command on the first attempt. A higher success rate meant a more obedient and intelligent dog.

There are a lot of dog breeds in the world. Many of which, are a lot less common than you’d think. For this reason, not all dog breeds had enough data to qualify for the final rankings. In fact, only breeds with at least 100 tests had qualified in the end.

Furthermore, no mixed dog breeds participated in the trials. In other words, only dog breeds recognized by the AKC or the CKC participated in Coren’s trials.

The good news is that all schnauzer types were popular enough to receive sufficient “test subjects.” Plus, they’ve been a recognized purebred dogs with the AKC since the 19th century. It’s safe to say, all three Schnauzers had no problems being part of the test.

So, how did each perform?

Are Miniature Schnauzers Smart?

The Miniature Schnauzer is the smallest of the three Schnauzer variations. They’re roughly 11 to 14 inches tall and 10 – 15 pounds in weight. However, just because they have a “smaller brain” doesn’t mean they’re less intelligent.

In fact, out of the three Schnauzer size variations, the Miniature Schnauzer performed the best. As a result, they’re ranked the 12th smartest dog breed out of 138 qualifying breeds.

But what does this really mean? Miniature Schnauzers were placed in the “bright dogs” group. Dog breeds in this class are able to learn a new command with just 5 to 15 repetitions, which means they’re capable of learning a new command in 30 minutes!

What’s even more impressive is that Miniature Schnauzers will obey a known command (on the first attempt) with an 85% or better success rate. Not only are they quick learners, but they’re some of the most obedient dogs in the world!

Are Standard Schnauzers Smart?

The Standard Schnauzer is the medium-sized version and the second largest Schnauzer. They weigh roughly 30 to 45 pounds and stand up to 20 inches tall. The Standard Schnauzers are also the 2nd smartest schnauzer, coming in at 22nd place overall.

While it may seem like they’re well below the miniature, standards are actually in the same dog intelligence class. In fact, they learn commands roughly as quick as the mini. Plus, a Standard will be just as obedient.

There are a ton of popular dog breeds in the same intelligence class as the Mini and Standard Schnauzers. The class includes both Welsh Corgis, Cocker Spaniel, Bernese Mountain Dog, Pomeranian, Collie and many more.

Are Giant Schnauzers Smart?

The Giant Schnauzer, as you may have guessed, is both the largest and least intelligent of the three sizes. Weighing in at 60 to 80 pounds and towering up to 28 inches tall at the shoulder, these dogs are huge, and there’s no denying it.

Though they’re ranked the 35th smartest dog breed, they’re not far behind the Miniature and Standard variation. In reality, Giant Schnauzers are just one intelligence class below –  listed as “above average intelligent dogs.”

In terms of learning and obedience, they’re not far behind either. The Giant Schnauzer is able to learn a new command with just 15 to 25 repetitions. Plus, they’re also able to obey a known command 70% (or better) of the time.

And for reference, Giant Schnauzers are classed with Dalmatians, Yorkies, Samoyeds, Irish Setters – among other popular dog breeds. Being above-average is great, and it’s nothing to scoff at in the canine kingdom.

Other Reasons Why Schnauzers Are Smart

When it comes to obedience and working intelligence, we already know that all Schnauzers scored very well. But of course, this is just one dimension of dog IQ. It’s not the only component of canine intelligence. Even Stanley Coren admits there’s more to true dog IQ.

For example, if a Schnauzer doesn’t obey or want to learn a command, it doesn’t mean the dog isn’t smart. Just because they don’t obey you, doesn’t mean they don’t understand. Many dog breeds are stubborn, independent and/or free-spirited.

That said, there are three dimensions of dog intelligence. The other two are instinctive and adaptive intelligence. Both of which, are equally, if not more important than obedience & working intelligence.

However, obedience & working intelligence is the most objective. It’s the one component that we can actually create a “standardized test” while quantifying the results. Still, it’s important to know and understand the other dimensions that contribute to a dog’s IQ.

The All-Purpose German Dogs

Instinctive intelligence refers to the innate ability or skill that the dog was bred for. Back in the old days, people bred dogs for certain jobs or roles in society. Whether it’s to move livestock or guard the farm, each dog had a specific working purpose.

For example, Australian Shepherds are some of the best herding dogs in the world. Even with little to virtually no human training and intervention, Aussies will instinctively know how to round up livestock and drive them towards a direction. That innate ability is their instinctive intelligence.

It does not need to be taught, though it may need some guidance. And while all Schnauzers have high instinctive intelligence, each size variation has a different instinctive intelligence.

Mini Schnauzer’s Instinctive Intelligence

The Mini Schnauzer was originally bred down in size from its larger cousin, the Standard. As such, they were bred to be hunt down rats and other vermin. These little dogs were some of the best ratters in the business.

They aren’t used as ratters anymore. But they still retain the lively and mischievous personality that made them such great ratters back in the day. In addition, it’s not unusual to see the prey-instincts and drive come up during play.

So when you bring a Mini Schnauzer into the home, don’t be surprised if they start to chase a running squirrel. After all, these little dog’s instinctive intelligence is the ability to efficiently track and hunt down pesty vermin.

Standard Schnauzer’s Instinctive Intelligence

The Standard Schnauzer may have the highest instinctive intelligence out of the three. That’s because they were bred for many things, making them some of the most versatile working dogs you can find! They really did it all.

In the Middle Ages, the Standard Schnauzers were first developed to serve as multi-purpose farm dogs. That said, they were developed for various farm tasks, such as herding, ratting, guarding, hunting among other things.

The Standard Schnauzer’s instinctive intelligence needed to be high in order to be skilled at so many jobs and roles. This would explain things if your Standard starts herding and chasing prey all within the same day. Remember – it’s instincts!

Giant Schnauzer’s Instinctive Intelligence

The Giant Schnauzer is the biggest size variation of the three. They were actually bred up from the standard to create a sturdier and stronger dog. Though they’re still Schnauzers, they served different purposes than the others.

Similar to herding dogs, the Giant Schnauzers were bred to drive cattle from the local farms to the markets. It’s not exactly herding, but close to it. But because they’re so big, loyal and trainable, Giants were ideal for the job.

Today, Giant Schnauzers mainly serve as guard dogs or an integral part of the K9 police force all around the world. They’ll have some protective instincts ingrained in them, but their ability to move livestock is what makes them instinctively smart.

The Schnauzer’s Adaptive Intelligence

The final component of canine intelligence is adaptive intelligence. This refers to the ability of the dog to solve problems and learn for his or herself. That is, if the dog can quickly learn things without the help of humans, they typically have high adaptive intelligence.

Fortunately, we see this in all types of Schnauzers. As you may have guessed, this is extremely difficult to measure because it’s rather subjective. So, we’ve asked Schnauzer owners to share stories about their dog that suggests at high adaptive intelligence.

One owner tells us about her Giant Schnauzer:

A Giant Schnauzer quickly learns to differentiate between strangers and friends, or those who visit your home frequently. They greet the latter folks graciously once in your home.

– Zarad (Positively)

Giant Schnauzers are guard dogs, so the ability to recognize friendly people is crucial. But at the same time, their ability to learn how to differentiate people based on certain situations and cues is a sign of high adaptive IQ.

Being good at differentiating the good from the bad is something that all dogs can do. However, to be good at it and learn it in a short amount of time requires high adaptive intelligence.

Regarding her Miniature Schnauzer, this owner says:

My Mini actually learned how to open the handle of my office door. He just lunges at the handle, pulls it down and the forward force opens the door. Amazing, but scary.

– Chris B. (Owner)

Again, this Schnauzer is learning from past experiences. This Miniature has probably seen the owner pull down the handle to open doors many, many times. Because his dog was able to learn from previous experiences, he likely has high adaptive intelligence.

Of course, these are just a couple anecdotes of Schnauzers with high adaptive intelligence. But the reality is, if you asked any Schnauzer owner, they would most likely be able to tell you many similar stories just like these.

Problems With a Smart Schnauzer

Owning a smart dog breed isn’t for everyone. In fact, many owners will tell you that it’s much harder taking care of an intelligent dog breed. A more intelligent dog, such as any of these Schnauzers, means that they’ll likely have a lot more needs.

In addition to grooming, exercise, diet and the basics, smarter dogs tend to need more mental stimulation. Do you think Albert Einstein would be okay watching TV all day? Because they’re more intelligent, they get bored easier. Without it, you will most likely experience a dog with destructive behavior.

But what is mental stimulation and how do you provide enough for your Schnauzer? There are many ways to satisfy a dog’s mental needs. One of which is obedience training. But because few people have enough time to spend 1-2 hours on this daily, we suggest getting dog puzzles or smart toys to help.

Smart Toys for Smart Schnauzers

Here are just a few of my dog’s favorite puzzles that’ll keep your dog occupied and their brains sharp. We own intelligent breeds too, so we understand the struggle!

The first toy is the Outward Hound Hide n’ Seek Plush Toy. It’s a plush toy where you can hide your choice of stuffed animals (squirrels, bees, birds, etc.).

Your dog will need to figure out how to get these dogs out of their homes. It’s highly interactive and my Australian Shepherd absolutely loves this. Check it out here at Amazon.com.

Another favorite my dogs love is the Nina Ottosson Dog Puzzle. It comes in three variations but I went with the Hide n Slide because it looks the most “complex.” Hide your Schnauzer’s favorite treats in this and you’ll have them occupied for a while.

They’ll need to learn how to push the sliders to find the treats. But chances are, a Schnauzer might be able to figure this out quickly. If you’re interested, check it out here at Amazon.

You don’t have to go with one of my suggestions, as there are plenty of great toys you can find all over Amazon. However, these are the dog toys that I’ve personally tried with my own dogs and can actually vouch for.

The point is to get your Schnauzer something to deal with their high intelligence and demand for mental stimulation. The last thing you’ll want is for your Schnauzer to be unhappy because of the lack of mental activities in life.


So do you own any of these Schnauzers? Let us know in the comment section how smart your Schnauzer is! What are some smart things that your dog does?

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