Larry Slawson received his Master's Degree from UNC Charlotte. He has 15+ years of experience with dogs and various pets.
Throughout the world, there exists only a handful of dog breeds that can be consistently described as loyal, loving, and protective of their family members. One of these dogs is the Affenpinscher. Originally bred in the 1600s for the purpose of ratting and small-game hunting, this breed is now favored for its companionship qualities within the home. This work examines the Affenpinscher and provides an in-depth analysis of the animal’s behavioral patterns, temperament, and general traits. This includes a discussion of the Affenpinscher’s health concerns, grooming and exercise requirements, as well as water and nutritional needs. It is the author’s hope that a better understanding (and appreciation) of this remarkable breed will accompany readers following their completion of this work.
"My fashion philosophy is, if you're not covered in dog hair, your life is empty."
— Elayne Boosler
- Common Name: Affenpinscher
- Binomial Name: Canis Lupus Familiaris
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Canidae
- Genus: Canis
- Species: Canis Lupus
- Subspecies: Canis Lupus Familiaris
- Other Name(s): Affen; “Monkey Dog”
History of the Affenpinscher
- Life Span: 12 to 14 years
- Group: Toy
- Area of Origin: Germany
- Date of Origin: 1600s
- Original Function: Small-game hunting; Lapdog
- Family: Terrier; Pinscher
Little is known about the Affenpinscher’s origins. Nevertheless, multiple theories have been put forward to explain its strange beginnings. Some dog experts argue that the Affenpinscher descended from the Griffon Bruxellois, while others protest that it was the other way around (with the Griffon Bruxellois originating from the Affenpinscher). Others have even suggested that the dog could have originated from the Jagdterrier as a wiry-haired miniature.
Perhaps the best theory, however, is that both the Affenpinscher and Griffon Bruxellois are descendants from the (now) extinct German Pinscher. In spite of these theories, no reliable information has been found to confirm (or deny) these hypotheses, leaving much of the Affenpinscher’s history shrouded in mystery.
While the Affenpinscher’s origins are extremely convoluted and lost to history, the dog’s original purpose and function is relatively clear cut. Based on historical records, it appears that the dog was first developed for the purpose of ratting in Central Europe. As a terrier breed, the dog would have been well-equipped to combat Europe’s extensive rat populations from this time period. In addition, experts believe that the Affenpinscher likely served as a companion to hunters for small-game hunting in its early stages of development (a testament to the dog’s resilience and fortitude).
Despite this early function, it wasn’t long before the Affenpinscher’s role expanded to incorporate other functions within the home. Around the 1800s, the dog’s remarkable companionship qualities started to be recognized by dog lovers. This new role was “officially” formalized by the Berlin Lapdog Club with its recognition of the breed in 1902. This was followed shortly by the American Kennel Club, and their recognition of the Affenpinscher in 1936.
Although considered a rare breed in the modern era, the Affenpinscher continues to maintain this companionship role today.
Appearance and Coloration
- Weight: 7 to 9 pounds (male and female)
- Height: 9.5 to 11.5 inches (male and female)
The Affenpinscher is a relatively small and stocky breed known for their square-like body, straight back, and deep chest that takes on a barrel-like appearance. Considered well-balanced in their overall appearance, the Affenpinscher is also medium-boned with an athletic demeanor.
In regard to their overall size, few dogs within this breed exceed 9 pounds, or 11.5 inches in total height. Following their well-balanced look, withers on the Affenpinscher should be quite proportionate to the dog’s overall length. Deviations from this rule are considered major faults.
Overall head on the Affenpinscher should take on a rounded appearance that is followed by a heavy, well-defined forehead. Accentuating the skull is a short muzzle highlighted by a black nose and dark lips. Completing this region is a series of deep, rounded eyes that are surrounded by long hair, along with a pair of upright ears that are covered with fine-like hair. Taken together, observers often comment that the Affenpinscher takes on a “monkey-like” appearance with its facial features; a feat that has earned this particular breed the nickname of “monkey dog.”
In regard to the forequarters, the Affenpinscher possesses a pair of relatively straight legs with close elbows. Front angulation on this breed’s forequarters is moderate, whereas shoulders should be angled slightly backward. Likewise, shoulder blades and upper arms are generally quite proportionate in their overall size to one another. Completing the forequarters is a pair of small, rounded feet that are highlighted by black padding and nails.
Hindquarters follow many of the same characteristics of the front, with well-balanced legs set below the croup, along with hocks set deep underneath the body. Angulation in the rear is moderate (matching the forequarters), with the hindlegs appearing straight when viewed from behind. Feet are the same as the front, and are generally small and rounded with black pads and nails.
Tails on the Affenpinscher are usually docked short by owners, and are carried high by the dog. Approximate length of docked tails is in the vicinity of 1 to 2 inches for most. However, some individuals choose to leave their Affenpinscher’s tail natural (a point that is generally accepted by the AKC).
Coat and Coloration
Coats on the Affenpinscher are relatively stiff and course in their overall texture. Generally speaking, facial hair is usually quite shaggy (and is even described by experts as “monkey-like” in appearance). Along the shoulders and body, hair typically grows upward of 1-inch in length. Fur along the rear and tail, however, are slightly shorter.
In regard to color, Affenpinschers are renowned for their solid black coloration, but can be found in a number of colors. This includes grey, silver, black and tan, red, or beige. Small white spots along the chest are acceptable; however, large patches of white are considered major faults.
Is the Affenpinscher Right for Your Home?
- Energy Level: 4/5
- Exercise Needs: 3/5
- Playfulness: 4/5
- Affection Towards Owners: 4/5
- Friendliness Towards Other Animals: 3/5
- Training Difficulty: 2/5
- Grooming Level: 4/5
Note: Scale of 1 to 5 (1=Lowest, 5=Highest)
The Affenpinscher is a highly-alert and inquisitive breed that is incredibly loyal and affectionate toward their owners. Generally described as a quiet breed, the Affenpinscher is usually quite reserved. Nevertheless, provocation can result in aggressive behaviors (particularly from other dogs) as this breed is exceptionally bold and courageous (similar to the Chihuahua). They can also be quite stubborn (to a fault); a trait that often results in mischievous behavior and an unwillingness to accept commands on occasion.
Is the Affenpinscher Good With Children?
Yes and no. Although the Affenpinscher often does well with children of all ages, some members of this breed have shown relatively low tolerance for rambunctious kids. This is especially true for kids that enjoy roughhousing. If introduced to children during their puppy stages of development, however, the Affenpinscher often makes a great companion for kids (especially older ones), as early socialization helps to create a positive bond that will last a lifetime.
As with all dogs though, children (especially toddlers) should always be supervised when in the presence of the Affenpinscher. Likewise, parents should dedicate substantial time towards instructing their children on proper handling of pets. Failure to do so will not only lead to unpleasant encounters, but could also result in serious injuries to your dog due to improper holding.
How Smart is the Affenpinscher?
Generally speaking, the Affenpinscher is a remarkably intelligent breed. According to most estimates, the breed ranks #37 for the world’s smartest dogs (pethelpful.com). As such, the Affenpinscher is capable of learning a wide array of tricks and commands throughout their lifetime. Due to its stubbornness and propensity for mischief, however, many owners will find that this particular breed can be quite difficult to train on occasion. As a result, they require an exceptionally patient owner with the ability to dedicate substantial time toward training regimens.
As a relatively long-haired breed, the Affenpinscher requires daily grooming to maintain its overall coat. Weekly brushings are a requirement for this particular breed, as well as regular hand-stripping to prevent excessive shedding and matting. Most experts recommend the use of a metal “greyhound” comb to accomplish this. To prevent tangles, it is also recommended that owners spray their Affenpinscher with a detangler spray (safe for dogs, of course) weekly, while simultaneously using your fingers to gently break up mats and tangles (dogtime.com).
As with most dog breeds, potential owners should also pay close attention to their Affenpinscher’s nails. Regular nail trimming is a crucial aspect of dog grooming that should never be ignored. Failure to heed this warning can (and will) result in painful injuries to your Affenpinscher’s feet over time, as longer nails have a tendency to become snagged on carpet and rougher terrain. Likewise, owners should pay particular attention to their Affenpinscher’s ears, ensuring they are kept clean on a regular basis. When examining your pet’s ears, be sure to check for excessive earwax buildup, the accumulation of hair, as well as various dirt and debris. Prompt removal of these foreign substances will go a long way in preventing the onset of sores and infection within your dog’s ear canal.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, potential owners of the Affenpinscher should also pay careful attention to their dog’s dental hygiene. This is an aspect of grooming that is often ignored by owners, but is, ironically, one of the most important to maintain. Plan to brush your dog’s teeth on a daily basis when possible. This will help to ensure that foreign particles and food-based debris are eliminated from your Affenpinscher’s mouth. This, in turn, will go a long way in the prevention of tartar buildup, tooth decay, bad breath, and painful cavities that are detrimental to your dog’s well-being.
Exercise and Training Requirements
How Much Exercise Does an Affenpinscher Require?
In regard to exercise, experts agree that approximately 30 minutes of activity (daily) is enough for the Affenpinscher due to their smaller size. Exercise can include daily walks, as well as various games, and off-leash activities. Potential owners shouldn’t let the Affenpinscher’s small size fool them, however, as this breed possesses a great deal of stamina and energy (due to its origins as a ratter). As a result, more active owners will be pleased to note that this breed can easily accommodate additional playtime and exercise in excess of the half hour requirements. Just be sure to include additional water breaks into these routines, as the Affenpinscher’s smaller size can cause them to dehydrate faster than larger dogs (especially when running).
Is the Affenpinscher Easy to Train?
As a smart and intelligent breed, it is crucial for owners to understand that mental stimulation (alongside physical exercise) is necessary for the Affenpinscher. As a result, owners should plan to incorporate various learning activities into their exercise routines that focus on new tricks and commands.
Most experts agree that training for the Affenpinscher should begin at an early age, with 7-8 weeks being an ideal time to begin for most dogs. Due to their relatively stubborn nature, owners should also consider incorporating obedience training into their regimen to prevent improper behaviors from becoming habits over time. This can be done at home, or by a professional trainer.
As with most breeds, a high-quality dog food should always be the number one priority for your pet. These meals can be prepared by a manufacturer, or at home following the guidance and supervision of your dog’s veterinarian. Although it is tempting to provide table scraps to your Affenpinscher, experts agree that human-based foods should always be avoided with your dog. Human foods, in general, are known to contain numerous toxic substances and particles that can be detrimental to your Affenpinscher’s overall health. If you are unsure which foods to avoid, the following list outlines 10 different foods that you should avoid giving to your dog.
How Much Food Should an Affenpinscher Eat Per Day?
As with all dog breeds, feeding requirements vary significantly with every pet and depend greatly on your dog’s weight, energy level, and age. For this reason, owners should work actively with their veterinarian to establish a feeding cycle that fits their dog’s specific needs. Generally speaking, the average Affenpinscher will require approximately 0.25 to 0.5 cups of dog food (dry) daily. This should be divided into two separate meals throughout the day. More active dogs will require additional food to replenish lost calories. Likewise, less active dogs will require only the minimal food recommendation.
As a breed that loves to eat, it should be noted that the Affenpinscher will not hesitate to eat food that is lying around. As a result, individuals should avoid giving their dog excess snacks, and try not to leave food lying around for their pet to eat throughout the day. Failure to heed this warning will almost certainly result in obesity issues for your Affen over time.
How Much Water Does an Affenpinscher Require?
Maintaining proper hydration is also extremely important for the Affenpinscher. Similar to humans, nearly 70-percent of a dog’s body is comprised of water. Therefore, owners should pay active attention to their dog’s water needs throughout the day as their requirements can change in response to both outside temperatures and their daily activity levels. As with most breeds, standard water requirements are usually determined by your dog’s weight. For every seven pounds of weight, an Affenpinscher should consume -approximately 6 ounces of water per day. For example, a 7-pound dog would require 6 ounces of water in a day’s time. More active dogs will require slightly more than this (in the vicinity of 11 to 12 ounces), whereas less active animals will require only the minimum requirements. Likewise, hotter weather will warrant additional water throughout the day, whereas colder environments will be far less taxing to your Affenpinscher’s hydration levels.
What Type of Home is Good for an Affenpinscher?
Selecting an Affenpinscher as a pet is a major life-decision that should be evaluated carefully by prospective owners. Due to their incredibly small size, individuals should note that the Affenpinscher is a full-time housedog that should never be left outdoors. As a result, this particular breed is highly-suitable for city-based living environments such as townhomes, condos, and apartments. And while the Affen can certainly prosper in more rural-based homes, great care should always be taken when allowing your dog outside to play as their small size makes them an ideal target for larger animals, birds, and pets. Likewise, prospective owners should also note that the Affenpinscher requires a great deal of playtime and interaction with their owners. As such, individuals who are too busy to spend quality time with their Affen (on a daily basis) are not recommended for this particular breed.
Is the Affenpinscher Good With Other Pets?
Yes and no. Although the Affenpinscher often gets along well with dogs and cats in the home (especially when they are raised with these animals from an early age), they are not a good choice for homes with smaller pets. This includes birds, ferrets, gerbils, hamsters, and rabbits. Why is this the case? The Affen was bred specifically for ratting purposes. As a result, these dogs pose an extreme danger to rodent-like pets which can trigger the dog’s natural hunting instincts. Although training can help to alleviate some of this aggression, it is nearly impossible to eliminate this natural tendency altogether.
Is the Affenpinscher a Good Guard Dog?
Yes and no. In spite of their small size, the Affenpinscher is one of the most courageous dogs in the world. Not only are they fearless, but they will also actively engage with strangers (including other animals) that pose a threat to their family. Unfortunately, their small size is extremely problematic for this role as they pose little threat to would-be intruders. For this reason, the Affenpinscher is best-suited for the role of watch dog, as they are highly attuned to their surroundings and will quickly make their owners aware of the slightest disturbance. For guardianship roles, however, owners will be better-served by a larger breed such as the Doberman Pinscher or Rottweiler.
Selecting an Affenpinscher Puppy
As mentioned above, deciding to adopt an Affenpinscher is a major life-decision that should never be taken lightly. This also applies to the selection of puppies, as great care should be taken when adopting a new dog from a breeder. When examining litters, potential owners should evaluate Affenpinscher puppies with several things in mind. To begin with, both of the puppy’s parents should have certificates from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) as well as the Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) which certify that the dogs are free of eye diseases and knee problems. In addition, you should always plan to inspect each puppy carefully, comparing their appearance to the basic breed standards established by the American Kennel Club. Any deviations from their accepted rules are considered major faults, and are usually indicative of a poor and unreputable breeder.
Temperament of each puppy is also important to consider, as every dog (like humans) is different in their overall personality. Never act on impulse when buying a prospective puppy, as you may end up with a dog that does not “fit” your particular personality and lifestyle. Responsible breeders can aid you with this process, as they have spent considerable time with each puppy.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, always ask breeders for health clearances which helps prove that each puppy has been cleared for various health conditions. Not only does this ensure that you are getting a healthy puppy, but it also helps prove that the seller is a responsible breeder who cares for the health and safety of their animals.
Recommended Medical Tests and Evaluations for the Affenpinscher:
- Hip and Elbow Evaluation
- Eye Exam
- Dental Examination
Owners should actively work with a qualified veterinarian in their area to develop a nutritional and preventive-care plan for their Affenpinscher. Proper diet, nutrition, and early detection of health issues can go a long way in helping your dog achieve a happy and healthy life.
For the most part, the Affenpinscher is a remarkably healthy breed with only a few major health concerns. This includes hip and elbow dysplasia, as well as luxating patella, and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Other issues that are common with this breed are heart disease, cataracts, allergies, and hypothyroidism. Blood-clotting diseases (such as von Willebrand’s disease) are less common. However, they do occur and should be tested for at an early age. Since each of these diseases and ailments are highly treatable, it is vital that owners ensure that their Affenpinscher receives regular checkups by a veterinarian. Prompt treatment of these issues will go a long way in preventing long-term issues and complications.
With proper care, owners can expect their Affenpinscher to live between 12 to 14 years, though it is common for this breed to live several years beyond this.
Pros and Cons of the Affenpinscher
- Requires little exercise on a daily basis due to their small size and stature.
- Makes for an excellent watchdog due to their natural awareness.
- Beautiful dog breed with distinct appearance.
- Possesses an extremely outgoing personality that can be best described as “clownish.”
- Extremely stubborn (to a fault).
- Tends to bark excessively.
- Requires grooming on a regular basis.
- Can be difficult to train due to their stubbornness.
- Difficult to housebreak.
In closing, the Affenpinscher is a remarkable breed renowned for its outgoing personality, loyalty, and devotion toward its owners. Fearless and incredibly humorous, few dogs in the canine realm are capable of matching the Affenpinscher’s unique personality. And while this particular breed can be incredibly stubborn and independent (to a fault), owners will be hard-pressed to find another dog that is as loving and devoted to their family. It is for these reasons that the Affenpinscher will likely remain a favorite of dog lovers for the foreseeable future.
- American Kennel Club. The New Complete Dog Book 22nd Edition. Mount Joy, Pennsylvania: Fox Chapel Publishing, 2017.
- Coile, Caroline. The Dog Breed Bible: Descriptions and Photos of Every Breed Recognized by the AKC. Hauppauge, New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 2007.
- Dennis-Bryan, Kim. The Complete Dog Breed Book. New York, New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2014.
- Larkin, Peter and Mike Stockman. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Dogs, Dog Breeds, & Dog Care. London, England: Hermes House, 2006.
- Mehus-Roe, Kristin. Dog Bible: The Definitive Source for All Things Dog. Irvine, California: I-5 Press, 2009.
- O’Neill, Amanda. What Dog? A Guide to Help New Owners Select the Right Breed for their Lifestyle. Hauppauge, New York: Interpret Publishing Ltd., 2006.
- Schuler, Elizabeth Meriwether. Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Dogs. New York, New York: Simon & Schuster, Incorporated, 1980.
- Slawson, Larry. “The Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds.” (PetHelpful). 2019.
- Slawson, Larry. “The 10 Best Dogs for Children.” (PetHelpful). 2019.
- Wikimedia Commons
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Larry Slawson
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on January 25, 2021:
Thank you, Pamela! I'm so glad you enjoyed. Haha, I wish my wife and I could get one of these dogs. Unfortunately, our kids probably wouldn't do too well with one.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 25, 2021:
This is an adorable dog. Your article gives so much great information, Larry. I do not have any rambunctious children, so this would be a good dog for me.
Larry Slawson (author) from North Carolina on January 25, 2021:
Thank you, Liz! I'm so glad you enjoyed!
Liz Westwood from UK on January 25, 2021:
This is a detailed, well-structured and very informative fact file on this dog breed.