How Smart Are Miniature Schnauzers? Everything We Know About Their Intelligence

salt and pepper miniature schnauzer laying on green grass looking directly at viewer.
© Debra Anderson/

Written by Mandy Trotti

Updated: September 22, 2023

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The miniature schnauzer is the smallest of the schnauzer breeds. This terrier dog breed from Germany is active and affectionate, making it an ideal family pet. But how smart are miniature schnauzers? Let’s explore what we know about their intelligence and how they compare to other dog breeds. 

Exploring the Intelligence of Miniature Schnauzers

Dog laying on pier of river, green background. Mini schnauzer pup, salt and pepper; black and white obedient dog. He has a long beard and striking eyebrows.

Miniature schnauzers are highly adaptable and excel in problem-solving.

©Debra Anderson/

So, how smart are miniature schnauzers? 

Canine psychologist Dr. Stanley Coren is known for his dog breed intelligence rankings, covered in his famous book, The Intelligence of Dogs. In the study, over 100 purebred dogs from the American Kennel Club and Canadian Kennel Club were tested and ranked by a panel of obedience judges. Every breed was ranked according to the number of repetitions it took them to learn a new trick and the success rate of obeying a known command on the first try. Sounds simple, right? While the overall concept and the tests themselves are simple, accurately measuring how smart a dog is can be challenging and somewhat subjective.

Canine intelligence is divided into three general categories: instinctive, adaptive, and working and obedience intelligence. Coren focused his studies on working and obedience intelligence, which means breeds that are naturally more instinctive or adaptive may be considered less intelligent than they are. The good news is miniature schnauzers are highly adaptable and excel in problem-solving.

Keep reading to take a closer look at what this means for their overall intelligence.     

The Cognitive Capabilities of Miniature Schnauzers: Understanding Their Problem-Solving Skills and Brain Size

Portrait of cute miniature schnauzer at the park.

Despite their small body, miniature schnauzers are very smart.

©Roman Zaiets/

A miniature schnauzer’s brain weighs about 69.76 grams and is roughly the size of a small citrus fruit, like a lemon. In fact, most dogs tend to have a similarly sized brain, but they differ slightly according to the breed and size. However, miniature schnauzers are small dogs with a height between 12-14 inches and weight between 10-20 pounds. Therefore, their brains are slightly smaller than that of a larger dog, such as a golden retriever. But how does that help us answer the question, “How smart are miniature schnauzers?”

Despite their small size, miniature schnauzers are highly intelligent. They are known for their advanced problem-solving skills and ability to understand complex commands by following their owner’s visual and verbal cues. They are naturally curious and eager to please their owners, so they quickly learn new commands.

Miniature schnauzers were originally bred from the larger-sized standard schnauzers as farm dogs and to hunt rats. In fact, they were the best ratters around. But most of them live in apartments or family homes as bright and loyal companions. Although they no longer use their skills as ratters, their problem-solving skills make them smart and obedient watchdogs.   

Miniature Schnauzers’ Learning Aptitude: How Quick and Adaptive Are They?

A dog of breed Miniature Schnauzer runs.

Miniature schnauzers solve problems in creative ways.


Adaptive intelligence refers to a dog’s ability to figure things out by using their environment and knowledge from previous experiences. Although adaptability can be one of the most important skills, it’s the most challenging skill to measure because it varies according to breed, environment, and individual experiences. But how smart are miniature schnauzers in terms of adaptability?

Miniature schnauzers have a great memory. As a result, they don’t require many repetitions to learn a new trick. In fact, they approach unfamiliar commands and situations creatively to solve the problem. They also quickly learn how to find their way around obstacles. Instead of trying to force their way through objects in their way, they assess their environment to maneuver around them efficiently. 

Miniature schnauzers are also very affectionate, making them a great option as a family pet. They tolerate strangers and most dogs, so they’re also a great companion to those with active social lives. Because of their high adaptability, they can comfortably live in apartments. However, miniature schnauzers living in apartments require additional enrichment through puzzle toys, daily walks, or learning new tricks to keep them stimulated.    

Intelligence Ranking: Where Do Miniature Schnauzers Stand Among Other Breeds?

miniature schnauzer purebred dog giving high five.

The miniature schnauzer ranks the highest out of all three schnauzer breeds.

©Natalia Bostan/

According to Coren’s intelligence tests, miniature schnauzers are the 12th most intelligent dog breed. They understood commands after five to 15 repetitions and obeyed previously learned commands on the first try 85% of the time. That’s pretty good. In fact, it’s better than many of the breeds Coren included in the obedience trials.  

While all schnauzers ranked highly, the miniature schnauzer ranked the highest. The standard schnauzer, while intelligent, ranked 22nd. On the other hand, the giant schnauzer ranked 35th, putting them in the “above average” intelligence category. These scores put all three schnauzer breeds above more than half of the tested dog breeds.  

But how smart are miniature schnauzers compared to the top dog breeds? The top 10 smartest dog breeds are considered the “brightest dogs.” These dogs can learn a new command in as few as five repetitions and obey a known command on the first try around 95% of the time. The top three breeds on this list include the border collie, poodle, and German shepherd. Although these breeds scored higher than all three schnauzer breeds, that doesn’t mean they can’t be high performers as well.

Unlocking Miniature Schnauzers’ Intelligence Potential: Training Techniques and Mental Stimulation

miniature schnauzer purebred dog playing with an orange ball outdoors.

Participating in dog sports is a fun way to exercise and bond with your miniature schnauzer.

©Natalia Bostan/

Now we know the answer to the question, “How smart are miniature schnauzers?” That means it’s time to learn how to unlock their skills. 

As mentioned, miniature schnauzers are highly intelligent and love to learn new things. Overall, they are an easy breed to train. However, their stubbornness can make them challenging to work with at times. Their occasional protesting means they might not be in the mood to train, or you need to adjust your approach. Figuring out what works best for both of you will be beneficial in the long run. Use reward-based training and divide training sessions into 15-minute intervals. Most importantly, remain patient and consistent, working your way up from basic commands to more complex ones over time.    


Miniature schnauzers are friendly and eager to please. They are also quick learners. These skills make it easy to train them, especially when starting from a young age. Since miniature schnauzers are highly intelligent, training needs to be quick and fun. Otherwise, too many repetitions can leave them feeling bored.  

Well trained miniature schnauzers perform well in several canine sports, including obedience, agility, rally, and earthdog tests. Even if you don’t compete, participating in dog sports is a fun way to bond with your miniature schnauzer. Working closely with your dog on their skills helps them become a better listener and helps you become a better trainer. You enjoy each other’s company while staying mentally and physically active. If you practice in a public area or join a group online, you might even make some new friends along the way.       

Mental Stimulation

To keep up with their medium energy levels, miniature schnauzers require daily exercise. Although the breed can adapt to living in the city or the country, they benefit the most from having a fenced area to run around freely. However, you don’t necessarily need a backyard to keep your dog mentally stimulated. Designated dog play areas, walks, learning new tricks, and interactive toys help keep them active. Keep in mind that miniature schnauzers have a strong prey drive. Therefore, you shouldn’t let them roam off-leash, even if they are highly trained. They can struggle to resist the urge to follow their nose once they find the scent of an animal like a rabbit or squirrel.

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About the Author

Mandy Trotti is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on pets and travel. Mandy has been writing professionally for three years and holds a Bachelor's Degree in English Literature from the University of South Florida, which she earned in 2022. A resident of Florida, Mandy enjoys going on walks with her rescue beagle, visiting botanical gardens, and watching the sunset on the beach.

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