If you want to adopt a dog without having to religiously vacuum the floor and pick fur off your clothes, the schnauzer could be for you. These dogs shed very little. And they come in both giant and fun sizes, so they're good for homes big and small.
Yes and No
So you want to know whether schnauzers lose their hair -- well, the answer is yes. And no. Sort of.
Basically, the bigger the schnau, the more he sheds. Giant schnauzers most definitely shed. Miniature schnauzers shed so little that the popular misconception is that they don't shed at all. Although that's a little too good to be true, you're still mostly in the clear, if not totally fur-free.
The Hypoallergenic Hype
A lot of the time, people who think they're allergic to dogs aren't -- they're allergic to dog dander. Ten percent of Americans have this allergy, so if you're one of those one in 10, a schnauzer is a good fit for you. They produce significantly less dander than some other dogs do, and the American Kennel Club recommends them for people with allergies. Miniature schnauzers shed so little and produce so little dander that they are a good fit for people who can't have other breeds.
The fact that they don't shed much doesn't mean that miniature schnauzers don't need to be groomed. These dogs are frequently sheared at the groomer so that their thick, wiry hair doesn't mat or get too dirty. Short-hair schnauzers' fur falls out infrequently and in tiny amounts.
Whether your schnauzer is big or small, frequent brushing also helps prevent shedding from becoming too noticeable.
Abnormal Hair Loss
Schnauzer fur is strong, but not invulnerable. If your schnau falls ill or has a hormonal problem, he could end up losing hair. Hypothyroidism, for example, makes the hair fall right out. Ringworm causes concentrated hair loss at the infection site.
Hair loss also can be linked to a hormonal imbalance. If the schnauzer's body produces too much cortisone or estrogen, that can also make his hair fall out -- typically around his genitals if estrogen is excessive. A thyroid disorder results in abnormally thin hair that falls out easily, especially around the sides, the thighs and the tail.
Other diseases and disorders also can make a schnauzer lose hair. If your schnauzer is having trouble keeping his fur, and especially if you notice localized bald spots, it's definitely time for a trip to the vet.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.