An amalgam of breed dedication, superior pedigrees, and prudent owner
My wife and I decided in 2015 that we wanted to bring a dog into our lives. It seemed to be the
right time. We were young professionals, no children, resources, and land. Naively, we
reconciled ourselves to being “working dog” people and narrowed our breed interest to Dobermans,
German Shepherd Dogs, and Rottweilers. We were aware of Giant Schnauzers, but told by many that
they are a “challenging breed” and “not the right dog” for most people. We heard horror stories
of Giants being aggressive, overly driven, and destructive. We loved looking at them, but
assumed we were going to end up with a Doberman. We contacted some of the best Doberman breeders
in the world and anticipated a future puppy from one of their litters. Our understanding of
Giants forever changed on July 17, 2016.
We reluctantly contacted Skyline Giant Schnauzers during our Doberman search. We figured we
should actually see a Giant Schnauzer in person so we can “rule it out” from our interests. From
the inception of our relationship with Tonilyn (owner of Skyline), our impressions of Giants
changed, and are interests increased in the breed. She had more questions for us than we had for
her. There was infinitely more concern of our suitability for the dog, than the dog suiting us.
Tonilyn invited us out to see her dogs on July 17, 2016 and from the moment we stepped out of
our vehicle we fell in love with the breed and felt confidence with Tonilyn.
We met with other breeders before. This was completely different than other meet and greets
where you stand like a scarecrow and wait for a breeder to bring out a single dog. We got out of
our car and were introduced to the property by three adult Giant Schnauzers. No commotion, and
no “let’s create the perfect environment” for the introduction; just a very candid Tonilyn who
followed the dogs and said “I wanted to see how you would interact with the dogs”. We spent
hours at Tonilyn’s house that day. I believe she had six dogs on premise at the time. She
introduced us to the prospective parents of her future litter. We were awestruck. It was that
day we fully grasped what is a balanced dog. Her dogs are her life and it was obvious from our
interactions with her and her dogs. My wife and I decided on our six hour ride back to Northeast
Pennsylvania that we wanted a Skyline Giant Schnauzer. Us deciding we wanted a dog from Tonilyn
was the easy part. Tonilyn deciding if she wanted us to have one of her puppies was and is the
Saying that a Giant becomes a lifestyle is an understatement. He has literally penetrated every
component of our lives from sleep schedules, hobbies, budget, furniture selection, and who we
let in our house. He is a constant fixture in our lives and frankly, that is the only way to own
a Giant. Factually, it is also the only way you are going to own one of Tonilyn’s dogs or she
will take it back. Read her contract.
Hans is work. Hans is a ton of work and the learning curve was very steep. We never owned a dog
before. We learned how to post ears, prepare raw food, and adapt to a Giant’s personality. The
stereotypical puppyhood was easy. You do not truly understand a Giant until you own one. In our
opinion, they are unlike any other breed. They possess excessive energy requirements, intense
need for human contact, and an infinite desire for novel experiences. The rewards of owning and
being owned by a Giant however, are invaluable and something we can not imagine missing in our
Hans is innately smart. He is fearless and has uncanny human characteristics. Hans travels with
us. He is off leash trained. He is also fully trained in protection and advanced obedience. He
is as predictable in our front yard as he is in our living room and my wife’s dental office. He
understands humans. He is an absolute explosion in the face of a threat and a stoic gentleman
around toddlers. In full disclosure, we put a ton of effort into Hans. He has been socialized
with children since Day 0. We started legitimate training with him at three months. He was
subject to intensive professional training at six months of age. He had focused and
individualized training with a professional trainer for 72-96 stints at a time.
To give some insight into his requirements, our day starts at 5am with him when he wants to go
outside to do his business. He is walked approximately two miles and played with before 8am. My
father spends about two – three hours a day with Hans on days when we are both working. Hans
goes on runs and engages with tons of play and training every day. He easily gets in five miles
of walking and running during the day. This is a must for his physical and mental health. This
is 365 days a year in every imaginable weather. We participate in weekly professional protection
training. He is rarely crated for more than three hours at a time. He is in the car every day.
He goes to bed at 10pm, but usually becomes tranquil after 8pm. This is considerably more energy
needs than most other breeds. Trust us, he will let you know if you are not meeting his needs.
With that said, he has never damaged one piece of furniture in our house. He never dug a hole in
the yard. He has never jumped on a person unless instructed to do so.
We would love to say that the two-and-a-half-year-old Hans we have is the result of everything
we did right. Realistically, we did most things wrong. We were first time dog owners. And
despite our ignorance, Hans’ pedigree is the foundation for his potential and substantiation.
Hans’ trainer is a professional breeder and trainer with over 40 years of experience. He
describes Hans as a “once in a lifetime dog”. He also has experience judging Giant Schnauzers in
working events. He has endorsed on multiple occasions that most Giant Schnauzers he has
encountered are nowhere near as capable, driven, and confident as Hans. We have witnessed and
lived with the prolonged puppyhood of Giants. They do not seem to every really lose their
comedic nature. In brief, when compared to some other working breeds, it has taken Hans a little
longer to get from point A to point B because of immaturity. The difference with Hans has been
that he is now capable of point C and D, etcetera. His desire for newness has allowed us to
surpass the plateaus of many other breeds.
Hans has made our lives better and we can only hope that we reciprocate that to him. Contrary to
some belief, Giants are amazing family, personal companion, show, and working dogs. It would not
be as appropriate to say they are for experienced dog owners as it would be to say they are for
dedicated dog owners. Some observations we have made are the following:
On a personal note about the breeder, Tonilyn is amongst the most honest, dedicated, and
sophisticated individuals we know. She has made herself immediately available to us for the last
three years. We talk with Tonilyn on a regular basis and she has mentored us through every
component of owning a Giant. She has helped us trouble shoot ear-croppings, diets, and training.
She loves her dogs and I truly feel she maintains a belief that all her puppies are still her
dogs that are just living with other families. Many times breeder tout themselves as “show line”
or “working line” breeders. Tonilyn does not differentiate herself into either, but rather a
protector of the breed. Her dogs are known to Westminster and Schutzhund programs. She strives
to create dogs that adhere to the physical and mental conformation of the Giant Schnauzer and
her success at this is a matter of historical record. Her dogs are gorgeous and majestic, but
also confident and driven. Hans’ demeanor and build captivates the attention of every person who
has met him.
While it is easy to say we fell in love with a breed, it is more adequate to say we have been
blessed with a world class breeder. Unfortunately, not all Giant pedigrees are the same and we
have seen it. We have seen dogs from other breeders, and they grossly lack the Skyline epitome.
Pedigree ultimately shows a breeder’s commitment to breed protection and maintenance, and
therefore predictability. Tonilyn’s efforts have resulted in one of the greatest joys of our
lives, and I know that feeling has been reproduced for hundreds of others who own her dogs. A
common misconception is that Giants are not good for most people. We would however, argue the
opposite, and that is that most people are not good for Giants. Fortunately, we have worked at
being good for our Giant and it is infinitely rewarding. There is no luck with Skyline’s dogs.
It is simply the result of stellar breeding and prudent owner selection. If you wish to be part
of a world class breed from a world class breeder, Skyline Giant Schnauzers will be where you
your goals dovetail with another’s passion.
- You need to love exercise.
- You need to love being outside and especially in the cold.
- Find a trainer before you bring a puppy home and make sure Tonilyn approves.
- Giants mature later than most other working line dogs and their training needs to
respect that component.
- Giants mouth and you need to learn to stop it immediately.
- Giants need to be with you. There is no way around it.
- Giants have large fluid requirements and will want to guzzle late at night. Learn to
balance their exercise, eating, and drinking or you will be going for routine midnight
- They can be picky eaters and have temperamental intestines.
- Socialization is a lifelong task.
- Giants get bored very quickly and not capable of self-entertainment.
- You will need to learn how to groom your own dog. Most groomers lack the capabilities
and knowledge to care for a Giant’s coat and skin.
- Giants are rare and most people are going to want to meet your dog when in the public.
Protect your dog and do not allow a stranger to set your dog up for failure. Giants are
naturally protective and more so than most other breeds. Strangers are strangers. Not
everyone needs to pet your dog. We know Hans and he can really care less if he meets new
people. He will however, become subtly foreboding when someone quickly approaches him
and this is a trait you need to recognize, and stop a person before they just try to pet
your dog. Hans has never bit anyone except in bite class but admittedly, we do not allow
most people to pet Hans without first gauging their appropriateness. He is not allowed
to be face to face with children or other dogs. He flung around a large unleashed
Rottweiler at a park that tried to bite us. But with all these events cited, he has been
in large crowds during firework shows, regularly trains around other stimulated dogs,
and his best friend is a highly trained Dutch variant working line German Shepherd.
Understanding a Giant is understanding the balance of predictability and potential.
Drs. Mary Grace Rizzo-Fryzel and David Fryzel