Loyal, curious, and famously amusing, this almost-human toy dog is fearless out of all proportion to his size. As with all great comedians, it’s the Affenpinscher’s apparent seriousness of purpose that makes his antics all the more amusing.
The Affen’s apish look has been described many ways. They’ve been called ‘monkey dogs’ and ‘ape terriers.’ The French say diablotin moustachu (‘mustached little devil’), and Star Wars fans argue whether they look more like Wookies or Ewoks. Standing less than a foot tall, these sturdy terrier-like dogs approach life with great confidence. ‘This isn’t a breed you train, ‘a professional dog handler tells us, ‘He’s like a human. You befriend him.’ The dense, harsh coat is described as ‘neat but shaggy’ and comes in several colors; the gait is light and confident. They can be willful and domineering, but mostly Affens are loyal, affectionate, and always entertaining. Affen people say they love being owned by their little monkey dogs.
Though not classified as a terrier, the Affenpinscher was originally bred to work like one. His job was to exterminate rats and other pests in German stables of the 1600s. (The name Affenpinscher is German for “monkey dog” or “ape terrier.”) Eventually, Affens were brought indoors to rid the kitchen of mice. In time, they became dual-purpose dogs: ratters by day, and by night devoted bed-warming companions for the lady of the house.
The Affen is thought to have been an influence on the development of such later European breeds as the Brussels Griffon and the Miniature Schnauzer. Clubs devoted to the breed sprung up around France and Germany in the late 1800s, and in 1936 the American Kennel Club welcomed Affens into its ranks. The immense charm that propelled them from stable to the kitchen to boudoir has made Affens a force in the show ring. In 2013, an Affen named Banana Joe delighted America by winning the Westminster Kennel Club’s Best in Show. Affens have also succeeded in agility, obedience, and therapy.
The grit that made them such effective ratters has never left the breed. Writer Desmond Morris reports that during a trip to Alaska he witnessed a tiny but fearless Affenpinscher chase off a grizzly bear!
Temperament: Confident / Famously Funny / Fearless
Height: 9-11.5 inches
Weight: 7-10 pounds
Life expectancy: 12-15 years
Affenpinschers are generally healthy dogs, and responsible breeders will screen their stock for health conditions such as luxating patella, heart anomalies, vision problems, and hip dysplasia. Like other shorter-faced breeds, Affens can experience breathing problems during hot weather if they are permitted to overheat and then have difficulty panting in order to lower their body temperature, as dogs don’t sweat to keep cool.
Recommended Health Tests From the National Breed Club:
- Ophthalmologist Evaluation
- Patella Evaluation
The Affenpinscher’s medium-length, wiry coat should be groomed twice a week, first with a brush and then with a metal comb. Any mats should be pulled apart with the fingers. The hair on the head is usually brushed forward over the face, and then an inverted V-shape is cut to expose the eyes. Similarly, the hair on the bridge of the nose is trimmed into a fan shape to keep the eyes clear. The Affen’s coat does not grow quickly, so a trimming a pet Affen every few months should suffice. The breed’s national parent club, the Affenpinscher Club of America, provides a detailed grooming guide. Affens should also have their nails trimmed and their teeth brushed regularly.
One of the attractions of the toy breeds is that their small size makes them ideal apartment dogs. While Affenpinschers can be perfectly happy living in close quarters, the breed is classified as ‘moderately active,’ and as such, they do need exercise. Indoor play, both with his owner and just between himself and a toy, can be enough to make up a large chunk of an Affen’s exercise regimen. Even so, a brisk walk once or twice a day is required. In addition to providing exercise, these walks give the Affen a chance to socialize both with people and other dogs.Loyal, curious, and famously amusing, this almost-human toy dog is fearless out of all proportion to his size. As with all great comedians, it's the Affenpinscher's apparent seriousness of purpose that makes his antics all the more… Click To Tweet
Affenpinschers are courageous, bold, and often feisty. Basic obedience training is recommended. The breed has an undeserved reputation as being difficult to train because Affenpinschers are independent-minded and can be stubborn. The key is that they are very intelligent and generally eager to please the humans they have bonded with. Keep in mind that they are easily bored and tend to lose interest during long training sessions. Shorter, more frequent sessions with a trainer who has experience working with toy breeds are usually quite successful.
The Affenpinscher should do well on high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.