“So can I have a dog then”......
probably not what my dad was expecting to hear from a 9 year old me, when he told me that he and mum were splitting up. Dad is allergic to dogs, so a dog was completely out of the question until this point. I’m sure my Dad was relieved that it wasn’t a same day swap. A Dad-out, dog-in situation, but not long after Dad moved out, Sweep moved in – a salt and pepper Miniature Schnauzer puppy. I fell in love with him instantly and soon learned what a fantastic breed the Miniature Schnauzer is. Back then in the late 1980’s, before the internet and social media, a Schnauzer, in my neck of the woods was practically unheard of. We rarely bumped into any other Schnauzers out on walks and most people didn’t know what breed Sweep was. Since then, their popularity has grown and now they seem to be everywhere and I for one, understand why.
At first glance of a Schnauzer, you may think they resemble grumpy old men, with their bushy eyebrows, beards and stern square stature. But looks can be so deceiving. They are a highly intelligent, fearless, attentive, fun loving and loyal breed. They are what you could describe as compact dogs. I would say a perfect size. Their size means they don't need big spaces to live in. They can sit on your knee and you can just about still see the TV between their ears, however they do have high energy levels and require daily exercise. The terrier in them means they love to be outdoors, sniffing smells, chasing squirrels and barking at strangers (human or animal). A Schnauzer does love the sound of their own voice. As it turned out, Dad didn’t suffer with his allergy too much around Sweep. Schnauzers are known as a non-moulting breed, so we would often spend our time together chasing Sweep round the house and garden, which would inevitably tire us out before Sweep! Their minimal moulting coats make them a popular choice for dog lovers with allergies or those who can't abide dog hair (I fit into the latter category!) but they do require regular grooming which can be costly. When Sweep went over Rainbow Bridge, mum found the house far too quiet and soon brought home Poppy, another salt and pepper mini. By this time, I had moved into my own place but loved visiting and of course Poppy sitting when mum went on holiday.
Poppy was very similar to Sweep with her traits, but she was a lot more loving. Sweep was his own man. Very independent and aloof, yet loyal. He'd sit across the room keeping a close eye on me rather than sitting on my knee like Poppy did. Poppy was a sweetheart, although she did have issues. When she was a puppy she encountered an incident with some children which left her fearful of them for the rest of her life. Generally though, Schnauzers are good with children but as with any breed, careful supervision, handling and teaching is required for both child and puppy. We later discovered that Poppy came from a puppy farm. She was a lucky one. She came to a loving home and thankfully was in good health and lived a long and happy life (14 years). Unfortunately due to the increased popularity of the breed and the high price tag of a puppy, the unscrupulous people in our society see them as a commodity - a way of generating quick and “easy" cash. They don’t care about the dogs they use for breeding or the puppies they breed. Puppy farming is of course rife for many of the country's favourite breeds and it is so important before buying a puppy of any breed that you do your research into the breeder. Eventually it was time for another Schnauzer in my life. After a long search we found Alfie. Alfie is our black mini, our little genius. He loves to learn and having completed the Kennel Club bronze, silver and gold classes at Rixton Dog School, we have continued with an Advance Class for the last 12 months which both Alfie and I thoroughly enjoy. He loves learning new tricks and the bond that the training gives me with Alfie is so special, it’s an absolute joy to interact with him in this way.
Miniature Schnauzers are intelligent, so they can be easy to train, however, they are also independent dogs which can make them somewhat stubborn.... very stubborn at times. Alfie certainly knows his own mind as did Sweep and Poppy! Unfortunately Alfie suffered with separation anxiety, even if we just nipped out of the house for 10 minutes he became very distressed being left alone. We tried various things to try and ease his anxiety when he went out but nothing seemed to improve the situation. It became very distressing for us, as of course, the last thing we wanted was to cause him such upset. Our plan had always been to have two dogs, so the time then came for Ronnie to join our family.
Since Ronnie’s arrival, Alfie's separation anxiety has all but disappeared and he and Ronnie are now the best of play mates – sometimes even partners in crime!
Ronnie too has the typical Schnauzer traits. His barking in the garden at birds, cats and even just leaves blowing in the wind drives us crazy at times! He is currently following in Alfie’s footsteps at dog school working on his silver award! So if you are looking for a companion who will tell you if someone or something comes within 10 feet of the house. Someone who will walk with you to the top of Snowdon but be equally happy with a stroll around the block (providing it’s not raining - they’re not big fans of rain!). A companion who doesn’t leave dog hair and slobber around the place but can be prone to pinching socks and slippers and one who is good with children and is easily trained then look no further than a Miniature Schnauzer - they make THE best companions.
Huge thank you to Lesley for taking the time to write about this awesome breed, and these awesome boys, with such passion and love. xx