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Affenpinscher: Breed Characteristics, Personality Traits & More

MJ Shaffer

Last Updated: March 20, 2023 | 8 min read | Leave a Comment

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The Affenpinscher makes up for his diminutive stature with his high self-esteem. Exuding confidence and enthusiasm, the French refer to Affenpinschers as “diablotin mustache,” meaning mustached little devils. Affenpinschers make confident and entertaining companions in many circumstances.

Bred to eliminate stable rats like a terrier, Affenpinschers take whatever job they’re given seriously. With a combination of grit and charm, they are loyal companions. Given their history as vermin killers, they generally get along well with other dogs but may hold a grudge against small furries like hamsters and guinea pigs.

The Affenpinscher’s expressive face is one of his most precious assets, but he’s a great household pet for many reasons. The Affen’s coat hardly sheds, and his wiry fur tends to trigger allergies less than most. Low maintenance and lots of personality combine in this one happy package.

Affenpinscher
    • weight iconWeight7 to 10 pounds
    • height iconHeight9-11.5 inches
    • lifespan iconLifespan12-15 years
    • color iconColorsblack, grey, silver, red, black and tan, or belge
  • Child Friendliness
  • Canine Friendliness
  • Training Difficulty
  • Grooming Upkeep
  • Breed Health
  • Exercise Needs
  • Puppy Costs

Breed History

Little black affenpinscher in the park
Happy and charming, the Affenpinscher packs a big dog attitude in a small package.

The Affenpinscher originated in Germany, and dogs of this type have been used to eliminate rats since the early 1600s. A breeder in Lubeck, Germany, began to create the smaller Affenpinscher type as mousers within the house. Initially slightly larger than the current breed and simply called Ratters, these early dogs had free run of the area where they lived and slept in the stables. Early Ratters included Schnauzer-type dogs and were being crossed in with Pugs, German Shorthaired Pinschers, and a German breed of Silky Pinschers to produce many current German breeds.

An English book on the Brussels Griffon suggests that as early as the fifteenth century, a breed of small rough, coated dogs have been used as Ratters and were the forerunners of the modern Affenpinscher. By the early to mid-1700s, the Affenpinscher type became fixed. From this point, the dogs have changed very little in style. These Affen-type dogs appear in many works of art from masters of the period.

Lovers of the Affenpinscher began to gather in clubs in France and Germany in the late 1800s. In 1936, the American Kennel Club recognized the Affenpinscher in its registry. They moved from the stable to the show ring, and today, the Affen excels at many sporting dog events like agility, and they also excel in obedience and as therapy dogs.

Temperament

This breed’s courage and big personality need supervision lest he provokes the ire of a much larger dog, but his bold attitude makes him a delightful companion. He wants to please and takes himself seriously, so he is typically obedient and trainable.

Affenpinschers adapt readily to changing circumstances and environments, making good canine travel companions due to this flexibility. Affenpinschers are alert and protective of their families. As courageous as he is, he can be just as gentle. His thought process is uncannily clever. The Affenpinscher seems unaware of his small size, which can put him at risk of injury when his attitude puts him in a situation he doesn’t have the size to handle.

Size & Appearance

Little black affenpinscher in the park with a person kneeling next to them
His sturdy build gives him stamina and agility.

The Affenpinscher weighs between 7 and 10 pounds. Despite the Affen’s small size, he exudes an air of self-importance and self-confidence. Although small, he isn’t delicate. He moves with purpose and aplomb, and his stride has good reach and efficiency.

His AKC breed standard describes his body as thickset, compact with good balance, and well-boned. Characterized by his monkey-like face, the Affen sports round, dark, brilliant eyes topped by ears that may be cropped and stand upright or hang naturally, standing erect, semi-erect, or dropped. Additionally, his round skull has a short muzzle with an undershot jaw (a level bite is acceptable as long as his monkey-like expression is maintained).

Coat & Colors

Cute small red Affenpinscher dog breed on a leas
Red coats may range from mahogany to clay red.

Affens’ coats are handy to keep. They require little grooming to stay neat, and his dense, harsh coat is longer on his head than most of his body. His eyebrows and beard stand off from the head and complete his monkey-like expression. The mature Affenpinscher has a mane of strong hair running back to the base of the neck at the top of the shoulder.

Affenpinschers’ coats may be black, grey, silver, red, black and tan, or belge, a dark red to sable color of both the Affen and the Brussels Griffon. Red is recessive to black, so the black and tan factor with an additional expression of the red gene produces this darker-reddish tipped-in-black shade known as belge. A black Affen may have some rusty hairs or even a few silver or white intermixed. Some may have black masks.

Living Conditions

Affenpinschers are uniquely suited to a traveling lifestyle, and as long as their exercise needs are met, they could make excellent RVing companions. The breed is generally quiet, but their loyalty to their family makes them fearless towards any threat. If you plan for your Affen to travel with you, spend time socializing him as a puppy to new faces and locations.

Training

Affenpinscher exhibiting at a dog show in New York
Affenpinschers are eager to please, but they tend to think independently.

You’ll need to keep them entertained during training sessions because they dislike the boredom of repetition. Affens benefit from learning the basic obedience commands come, sit, down, and stay. Once they’ve learned these basics, they’re ready to tackle other challenges like agility, obedience, or lure coursing.

Health

Affenpinschers have relatively few health problems compared to other toy breeds. They suffer from a few issues, such as luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, Legg-Calve-Perthes, and eye diseases. Fortunately, Affenpinschers are free from genetically linked disorders.

Cataracts

Cataracts tend to appear with age, and Affenpinschers are prone to developing them. Surgery is an option for this disease that causes its signature cloudy appearance of the eye, but many older dogs adjust to blindness as long as their owner makes accommodations in the home.

Distichiasis

Affenpinschers are more likely than many other breeds to develop distichiasis, a condition where extra hairs grow inside the eyelid. These hairs rub the eye and may cause corneal ulcers and chronic eye pain. Treatment options are available and generally resolve the issue once the hairs are removed.

Glaucoma

Another eye problem to which Affenpinschers are prone is glaucoma. Glaucoma causes fluid to create pressure when it cannot drain properly from the eye. If left untreated, the increased intraocular pressure leads to blindness. Glaucoma is painful, and symptoms include tearing, squinting, corneal opacity (the clear front part of the eye becomes cloudy), and redness in the whites of the eyes. As glaucoma advances, the eye itself may look like it’s swollen or bulging. When you take your new pup to the vet, discuss annual eye screenings to help protect his vision.

Joint Displaysia

Affenpinschers are one of the many breeds which can suffer from hip dysplasia. Feeding your puppy for steady but slower growth may help avoid this painful condition. Any potential breeding dog should have an Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP Evaluation, and buyers should seek puppies from parents with good evaluation results.

Legg-Calve-Perthe

Affenpinschers are prone to Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. This devastating disease typically affects small dog breeds in their first year of life. Legg-Calve-Perthes causes the ball at the top of the femur to lose its blood supply, breaking down inside the hip joint. Surgery to remove the ball of the femur can save the animal, but complete hip replacement may prove necessary.

Luxating Patellas

If your dog is limping, he may be experiencing a dislocated kneecap or patellar luxation. Patellar luxation is usually a genetic condition affecting small breeds. Your dog may hold up a hind for a few steps as he runs but then switch back to using it normally. This condition can lead to stiffness and arthritis later in life, and treatment varies with the severity of the disease. While mild cases of patellar luxation may be treated with NSAIDs to alleviate discomfort, severe cases generally require surgical intervention.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

If your dog appears to be losing eyesight and has no visible cataracts, he may have Progressive Retinal Atrophy. PRA is particularly troubling because it is asymptomatic until his loss of sight is significant. Your buddy may be unwilling to enter a dark room or bump into things in a new environment, and his retinas may seem shinier than usual. If you notice your dog acting like he cannot see well, make an appointment to screen him. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for PRA, but you can modify his environment to make things easier for him.

Nutrition

When your Affenpinscher pup first comes home, feed about a half-ounce of quality puppy food for each pound of body weight, broken into three meals per day until he is six months old. Your Affen pup will be tiny, so make sure the kibbles are small enough for his puppy teeth to chew effectively. Feed for slow but steady growth in his first year to minimize the risk of hip dysplasia.

As he grows, graduate him to an adult dog food balanced for toy breeds and feed him twice daily. Affenpinschers are active but can put on excess weight. Excess weight makes it harder for them to breathe, especially in hot weather. If your dog starts to gain excessively, switch to a weight control food so his intake is the same in volume but lower in calories. Be sure he exercises daily, but be careful about increasing the intensity if he shows any ill effects.

Grooming

Black Affenpinscher looking up standing in snow with snow on snout
Their hair sheds very lightly, but all year long, including in the Winter.

Wiry-coated Affenpinschers stay tidy with weekly grooming, first with a brush and, later, with a metal comb. Keeping them brushed out helps lower their allergenicity for people hoping to reduce dander in the home. Any mats should be removed by hand and gently worked from the coat. Because his coat grows slowly, he only needs to be trimmed or stripped every few months.

Part of the Affenpinscher’s charm is his funny face. His hair is brushed forward over his face. An inverted V is cut to expose his eyes. The hair on the bridge of his nose is also trimmed to keep his eyes clear. Affens don’t shed like some dogs but require their coat to be stripped periodically to stay neat. Although any dedicated Affen owner can learn to strip his coat correctly, the job is generally delegated to a professional groomer.

Breeders & Puppy Costs

 little puppy pinscher in the palm of a person's hand
This toy terrier is more active than most and is also fearless and charming with a bit of sass.

Affenpinscher pups cost between $800 and $2,000. So you can expect to pay that for a healthy puppy. Be sure the breeder you choose stands behind the health of their dogs and the parent pups have Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certification.

Rescues & Shelters

Stray red Affenpinscher looking out a window
Affens or Affen crosses may be waiting for a forever home at a shelter near you.

Although Affenpinschers are on the rare side, they’re not for everyone. Adopting your Affenpinscher will be less expensive than buying from a breeder. Start your search at www.affenpinscherrescue.org.

Allow your new best friend time to adjust to his new household, and ensure his successful transition to your home by remembering that Affens need to trust their people, and trust takes time. Affens handle change better than many breeds, but any pup must learn his way in new surroundings.

As Family Pets

In General, This Breed Is:

  • A dog with courage beyond his size.
  • Known for his monkey-like facial expressions.
  • Loyal and devoted.
  • Adaptible to change.
  • Willing to challenge dogs larger than himself, so should be monitored in their presence.
  • Eager to please, but on his own terms.
  • An excellent travel companion.

Final Thoughts

The Affenpinscher’s humorous, high-energy approach to life makes him a delightful companion. He is a perfect blend of bravery and affection and will cuddle beside you in one moment and fiercely stand up to protect you in the next. Devoted to family but aloof with strangers, the Affen fits almost anyone’s lifestyle and can hit the open road with you as you travel.

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