The Right and Wrong Way to Discipline Your Mini Schnauzer Puppy

Don in a garbage bin

In the universe of irresistibly cute things, mini schnauzer puppies rank pretty high on the list. If their bushy eyebrows, mustache, and beard aren’t enough to win you over, their grit and curiosity will seal the deal. But when puppies act like, well, puppies, it doesn’t take long for what you once thought charming to become a source of major frustration.

Once you’ve brought one of these adorable angels into your home, you quickly realize you have a whole lot of training to do. Mini schnauzers are super smart, and they love attention. Your goal is to harness those attributes to your own advantage. From potty basics to teaching them not to chew on your hands, houseplants, or your prized Oriental rug, turning a furry toddler into a well-behaved member of the family takes time, patience, and know-how. The information below will provide you with the right – and wrong – way to discipline your mini schnauzer puppy.


What Is My Mini Schnauzer Puppy Thinking?

Your pup waddled into your house and immediately started exploring everything around him. That meant smelling, as well as a lot of chewing. He grabbed onto your hair and your child’s favorite blanket or princess dress, and he wouldn’t let go. Those behaviors are a continuation of what he was doing before he got to you, and he has no idea that he’s supposed to act differently now.

Until you brought your puppy home, he spent all of his time with his littermates. His last few weeks in the kennel were filled with investigation. He tumbled and tugged, play-wrestled, growled at, and play-bit his brothers and sisters. He delighted in new toys, textures, smells, sounds, and tastes, all the while improving his coordination, increasing his strength, and generally learning how to be a dog.

The feedback from his littermates and mother was delivered instantaneously. When he was ready to be weaned, the breeder provided him with solid food, but his mother did her part by walking away when he’d try to nurse. If he did something that annoyed her, she corrected him instantly and modeled better behavior. When he bit another puppy too hard or played too roughly, he’d hear a yelp — and if he didn’t stop being a bully, the other pups would retreat. That taught him that if he wanted to play, he needed to lighten up.

Now that you’re his family, you need to continue teaching him in the very same way. You need to respond to undesirable behavior in the moment that it happens and redirect him to something better. If you’re not able to address it in that moment, then just pretend it never happened because that’s the way your puppy sees the world.

This is an extremely important point. If your mini schnauzer puppy has pooped on the floor, chewed your favorite slipper, or toppled a long-nurtured houseplant and you weren’t there when it happened, you have to let it go because your pup has already forgotten about it. If you punish him after the fact, there will be no connection to what he did, whether it was two minutes before you walked into the room or two hours. Your correction won’t teach him anything other than that you are someone he should be afraid of.

Your goal is to catch him in the act whenever you can and then – depending on the specific behavior – gently let him know that he’s done something wrong. Wherever possible, offer him a better behavior and immediately reward him when he pursues it. That may seem awfully hard, but there are ways to make it easier on yourself.


So, Should You Be Disciplining Your Mini Schnauzer at All?

The short answer to this important question is NO, at least not in the traditional sense. You may have memories of a family member dragging a dog to a mess on the floor or grabbing a damaged shoe and rubbing his face in it, yelling and possibly even striking the dog with a rolled-up newspaper. The dog cowered and whimpered and slunk away. Though his owner may have believed he “taught him a lesson,” what the pup learned had nothing to do with his own behavior. He learned that the person who did that to him was unpredictable, loud, and scary.

Puppies learn very quickly, which is especially true for mini schnauzer puppies. They are very smart and eager to please. It’s important for your puppy to know that you are someone he can trust. He needs to associate you with love, praise, and lots and lots of treats! Being gentle, consistent, and encouraging will teach him all the right lessons.

Now that you understand the basics of how your puppy thinks, let’s take a look at some of the most common behavioral issues that mini schnauzer puppy owners have to deal with and the best way to correct each one.


The Basics: How to, and How Not to, Correct Your Puppy’s Behavior

 Let’s go through a few basic rules about the right and wrong ways to correct your mini schnauzer puppy. There are only a couple of right ways to let your pup know they’ve done something wrong, and plenty of ways that are damaging. Your goal is to teach rather than punish. This means any action that inflicts pain or evokes fear is counterproductive.

Don’t ever:

  • Hit (whether with your hand or an object like a rolled-up newspaper)
  • Yell or scream
  • Spank
  • Grab his muzzle roughly
  • Shake him by the ruff
  • Jerk him hard with the leash
  • Drag him to the site of his misbehavior and rub his face in it


The disciplinary action that often works best with miniature schnauzer puppies is to actively ignore the dog. We’ll discuss this approach at length below.


Other options include:

  • Providing an unemotional, calm verbal correction such as “no” or “oops” or any disruptive sound
  • Making a sound that startles and distracts (i.e., using a soda can with pennies in it)
  • When on a leash, offering a quick, light leash correction – just enough to get his attention
  • Shooting him with a light squirt of water with a water gun or spray bottle
  • Putting the dog in “time out”
  • Withholding treats


Whenever possible, accompany your correction with the introduction of an alternative, desirable behavior and reward the new behavior with a treat, toy, praise, or play.


The Miniature Schnauzer Personality

Miniature schnauzers have big personalities, and the characteristics that make them so beloved – their intelligence and feistiness – can also be crazy-making. Even as puppies, they’re smart enough to recognize when something is working for them. Though every mini schnauzer is different, almost all of them thrive on being the center of their world. A miniature schnauzer puppy will interpret every bit of attention as a win – even if the attention he’s getting is for having been naughty.

The good news is that you can use those traits to your advantage. Depending upon the mischief he’s gotten into, a quick and consistent rebuke or active withholding of attention will likely be all they need to learn that it’s not working for them, and not to do it again. Likewise, these bright little dogs will have no trouble understanding that desired behaviors lead to love, praise and treats.

Let’s take a look at how this applies to specific behaviors.


Disciplining Specific Mini Schnauzer Behaviors


The Behavior: Barking

Mini schnauzers are natural barkers. They were bred to be guard dogs, and their genetic wiring runs deep. If inappropriate barking isn’t corrected, it will eventually grow from being triggered by strangers at your door to passersby – or birds – that they see out the window. They’ll bark at other dogs and people who they see when you’re out for a walk, and once they’ve figured out that their barking draws your attention – even if it’s for you to tell them to be quiet — they’ll use it to get their way in other areas. You’re watching television, but they want to play? They’ll bark at you until you throw the ball. Give in and throw it, and you’re doomed to be barked at every time they want to play, go outside, or want a treat.

The Correction: Active Ignoring

When your mini schnauzer puppy starts barking, immediately turn your entire body away from him. This active ignoring is exactly the opposite of what he wants, so it’s equally important that once he stops, you immediately praise and reward. 

As an alternative, you can arm yourself with a small spray bottle or squirt gun and shoot him a quick spray of water when he barks. Most dogs do not like this mild correction and will quickly connect it to their own barking. 

Whichever correction you use, reward your puppy with praise or a treat as soon as he quiets while using the word “quiet.”  He’ll see that barking leads to discipline and that stopping gets him attention and a reward.


The Behavior: Jumping Up on People

Jumping up on people is typical of every puppy, but correcting it early is especially important when you’re dealing with a miniature schnauzer. These dogs are smart enough to figure out that jumping on a person results in being petted, played with, and given treats. What was cute from a puppy can seem aggressive from an adult dog. They either get petted, get scolded, or get picked up. They’ve gotten the attention they wanted, even if it’s in a different form. Why would they ever stop a behavior that’s so winning?

The Correction: Active Ignoring

Actively ignoring your mini schnauzer puppy when he jumps on you is the fastest way to stop this behavior, but the correction requires consistency on your part and cooperation from everybody your puppy comes into contact with. If the pup doesn’t get attention from you but does from your neighbors and friends, then he’s getting mixed messages.

The best way to address both the puppy’s behavior and your visitors’ natural desire to enjoy the puppy’s company is to enlist them in your training. Ask them to ignore the puppy when it’s jumping but to reward him with attention, a treat, or some praise as soon as he sits (or at the least when he stopped jumping.)


The Behavior: Pulling on the Leash

Everybody wants a dog that walks nicely on the leash, but that’s not something that comes naturally. It requires time, training, and consistency, and the best time to start is when your mini schnauzer is a puppy. He wants to explore everything around him, and because the breed is both curious and stubborn, pulling is to be expected. Fortunately, it is also easy to correct.

The Correction: Turn Around and Walk in the Other Direction

Think of pulling on the leash as a similar behavior to jumping up on people or barking. Your puppy has something very specific that he wants – or in this case, he has someplace very specific that he wants to go. Even if you tell him no or give him a gentle pop on the leash to get his attention, as long as you keep moving in the direction that he’s pulling, he’s gotten his way.

The better way to address this is to respond the second your pup starts to pull by turning around and walking in the other direction. Doing so will be both jarring and will teach him an important lesson … that pulling gets him the exact opposite of what he wants.

It may seem counterproductive to do this – especially if you and your puppy have the same destination in mind! But if you offer this correction with consistency – and praise and reward your pup when he is walking nicely by your side – he’ll get the message.


The Behavior: Biting, Chewing, and Tugging

All puppies explore by using their mouths. They’ll chew on toys, furniture, rugs and plants, and they also bite when they play, just as they did with their littermates. The first few times your mini schnauzer chews on your fingers will be endearing, but when he uses those needle teeth on your four-year-old or latches on to her dress and runs the other way, you’ll quickly realize it’s a behavior that needs to be curbed – even if it wasn’t meant to be aggressive.

The Correction: Distract, Discipline and Replace

Your mini schnauzer puppy will use his mouth in multiple misplaced ways, and the answer to almost all of them is to stop the behavior through distraction, the consistent use of the word “no,” and offering a rewarding alternative such as an appropriate toy or a treat.

Think about what happened when your pup was still with his mother and brothers and sisters. If he bit too hard, he heard a yelp from his peer – and if he bit his mom, she probably barked. That sudden sound would have been enough to make him open his mouth and unlatch from whatever he’d sunk his little teeth into – and there’s a lesson in that. You can yell ‘ouch’ if you’re being bitten – but ‘stop’ works just as well and can also be applied to him chewing on the furniture, the cabinets, or your shoes. The instant that he releases, he deserves praise and something else that he can chew on – whether it’s a treat or a toy.

This is a lesson that will need to be repeated constantly. Puppies do not generalize, so it will take some time for him to learn that it’s just as wrong to chew on you as it is to chew on your neighbor, and it’s just as wrong to chew on the rug as your slippers. The message needs to be delivered over and over and over.

Important Reminder – You can only discipline your pup for chewing if you catch him in the act. If you walk into a room and find your cashmere sweater in tatters on the floor, all you can do is pick up the pieces. Yelling at the pup, smacking him, or shoving the shreds in his face will lead to nothing but confusion and fear.


The Behavior: Soiling in the House

When it comes to having an accident in the house, there is no need to issue any kind of discipline. Housetraining accidents are generally a matter of the pup’s age and are often exacerbated by insufficient opportunities to get it right. In other words, your mini schnauzer puppy’s bladder and control may not yet be where you want it to be. The best thing to do is to take him outside with greater frequency.

The more times he gets praised for doing his business outside, the more clearly he’ll get the message that this is what he’s supposed to be doing and where he’s supposed to be doing it. And if you catch him in the act, scoop him up and bring him outside, even if he’s already done. If you come upon an accident that’s been left behind, there’s no need to rub his nose in what he left behind in the house. No good will come of that. Just clean it up.

There are so many rewards that come from bringing a mini schnauzer into your home, but there’s no such thing as a puppy that arrives with perfect behavior. Patience, love, and kindness are the keys to ending up with the family member that you’ve dreamed of.

Terri Klein