Schnauzer basics are pretty straightforward - a squarely built dog modeled on his older cousin, the Standard Schnauzer. Much of the breed standard covers areas of good basic dog construction. It is in the details that the nebulous realm of correct type begins to emerge to distinguish the Mini Schnauzer from other small, long legged breeds.
The first clue is found in his name - the only member of the terrier group who does not carry the name of "terrier". He is a Schnauzer, patterned after and crafted from working dog stock. He has no known terrier ancestors and is in fact , exhibited as a terrier only in North America.
So, you may look for your first element of correct type in the front - he should have a "working dog" front assembly, with flat sloping shoulders, and a long upper arm that sets his front legs under the body. There should be a moderate forechest, deep and v-shaped. The area between his front legs should never be flat, wide or empty! And those front legs must not be too short - the distance from the ground to elbow should be approximately one half the height at the withers.
The next important indicator of correct type is easy to spot. A MS with a hard, level topline may be well-constructed, but he lacks type. A Mini Schnauzer's topline should slope downwards slightly from withers to tail and retain an element of that slope on the move. Any MS that "runs downhill" should receive scant attention from breeder or judge!
One often misunderstood element of correct type is the shape of ribcage. While a slabsided, narrow adult is unworthy of his breed; barrel chested, fat dogs with bulldog fronts are not typey - they are faulty! Ribs should be well sprung from the spine, but taper and flatten behind the elbows to allow for clean movement. The ribs should also extend well back to create a short loin and deep body. A Schnauzer with a tuck-up may look elegant, but he lacks type.
A short back is universally sought after by knowledgeable breeders, but short backs must be evaluated in context with the length of body. A MS should not have a short body. Measured from forechest to stern, body length should be about equal his height at the withers.
The short back is created when the neck is set on top of the body and the tail set (not just carried) high on the croup. There should be plenty of dog in front of the withers and plenty of "butt" behind the tail. A MS who appears short because he lacks forechest and shelf usually lacks front and rear angulation as well, resulting in a lack of reach and drive.
An important aspect of breed type is to be found in the rear. Mini Schnauzers should have well angulated, powerfully muscled rear legs with short hocks. When properly made and hung from a broad pelvis, there is a natural tendency for adult MS to stand with the rear legs rather wide. (There is an even stronger tendency for handlers to stack them this way - rears should be evaluated when the dog is sparred or stands on his own. Clever handling may be creating a virtue where none exists.) A narrow rear may be straight and move cleanly, but it is absolutely contrary to correct breed type.
Coat and color must not be overlooked. MS should carry a true wire jacket. Salt and pepper color should be created by clear color bands on the hair shaft. Blacks and black & silvers should not be forgiven softer coats, or evidence of dye. It is not typical for the black pigment of the scissored furnishings to be as intensely colored as the stripped jacket!
While trimming and furnishings play no part in establishing correct type, this aspect of presentation should be evaluated to determine if they are creating the illusion of it. True breed type is a product of bone and muscle - not hair.
Of course, the head is one of the more important elements - proudly carried on a moderately long, well-arched neck, the head should resemble a slightly tapering wedge, made of clean lines and flat planes. Broad skulls, pronounced stops and heavy cheeks are not " Schnauzery" - they are just plain fat heads. One indicator of good head type can be found in the shape of eye - without a small, dark, almond-shaped eye, correct expression is impossible. Schnauzer eyes should peer keenly at you from under the brows - not bug out like headlights.
The final test of type is movement and in this breed it is demanding.
In profile, his working dog construction calls for free and easy reach and drive, with good pickup of hocks. coming and going he is to move in parallel planes! This is at odds with conventional wisdom that convergence is necessary for a moving dog to retain his center of gravity. Nonetheless, a single tracking MS with great reach and drive lacks type -as does the parallel moving animal who exhibits the pendulum movement characteristic of a fox terrier, head held high, front feet barely skimming the ground. The key to correct movement is in balance and speed adjustment. Many handlers compensate for this dilemma by moving MS more slowly on the down and back.
In a nutshell the details that stamp a Miniature Schnauzer with the essence of breed type - a correct head and expression; a short, sloping topline; working dog front; a deep, well-sprung ribcage; powerful rear; working dog movement - all of it contained within a square framework and wrapped in a properly worked wire coat.
By remembering the details, the critical elements of correct type, we can prevent being taken in by the sound but generic "showdog" or misled by the low on leg, barrel chested, fat headed pretender. At all times, breeders and judges must remember that while good basic conformation may make an animal a good dog, only the individuals who exhibit the important elements of correct type may be considered good Schnauzers.