The Affenpinscher is one of the oldest native dog breeds, but unlike earlier times, its species is very rare these days. Dedicated German breeders and fortunately also Affenpinscher clubs in Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and overseas ensure the survival of these lovable small dogs.
Long before it got its current name Affenpinscher, this little dog was a popular housemate and guardian at the same time. Although this breed is one of the oldest in Germany, its origin cannot be located with certainty. There is speculation about peat dogs that have been domesticated since the Stone Age. The ancestors of the small dogs with the shaggy fur actually always lived with humans, but there are hardly any concrete references to the Affenpinscher.
These undemanding but extremely useful helpers lived in numerous households to catch rats and mice. One of the earliest artistic depictions of an Affenpinscher-like dog comes from Jan van Eyck in his painting “The Arnolfini Wedding” from 1434. Also immortalized later Albrecht Dürer, who lived in Nuremberg, has a similar animal on one of his woodcuts and Empress Sissi is said to have owned an Affenpinscher. Van Eyck, Arnolfini wedding via Wikimedia Commons The widespread distribution, based on southern Germany, is explained, among other things, by guest gifts, that were given to travelers as living souvenirs. This is how the small, lively dog was called in France: “Little devil, mischievous child or bearded goblin” Diablotin Mustache. The appearance of the Affenpinschers, which has hardly changed to this day, was possibly due to mixing with regional pinschers, wire-haired Nordic schnauzers or flat-faced Asian breeds such as the pug.
The Affenpinscher finds one of the first written mentions in the book “The dog and his races” by the zoologist LJ Fitzinger, published in Tübingen in 1879 and a chapter in Brehm’s animal life is also dedicated to him in 1890, where he is described as a “lively and entertaining animal, devoted to humans in the highest degree, flattering and caressing towards his friends and very good in fighting with other dogs ”. The appearance was quite inconsistent before it was recognized as a separate breed. In the same litter there were both rough-haired and smooth-haired puppies, so that both litters were considered the same species. The coat colors varied in many shades and with white markings from light yellow, reddish, gray, blue-gray to black. The foreface was even longer than it is today. The similarity with Griffons and Schnauzers led to frequent mix-ups, but Affenpinschers have clear anatomical differences: The lids of Pinschers are cut in the shape of an almond and a curved snout is characteristic of the Griffon – not least the lower incisors that are visible when barking and panting and the nose that is set back, the round button eyes and the unique growth of hair on the head make up the typical monkey face. At the turn of the century, these miniature dogs were very popular, so the PSK Pinscher-Schnauzer-Club was founded in Cologne in 1895. Canada and America recognized the Affenpinscher as a separate breed in 1936, but in the traditional dog breeding nation Great Britain it was not noticed until 1957 due to the numerous terrier breeds. The FCI umbrella organization, the British Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club each developed their own slightly different standards.
The head shape is more spherical than elongated with a pronounced high forehead and pronounced stop. High-set, V-shaped ears are worn turned forward, small erect ears that are worn straight are desirable. Black eyelids with an almost circular shape give this breed the typical perky look. The short, straight nasal bridge ends in a full, round nose with wide open nostrils. Tightly fitting lips cover the jaws, with the slightly upwardly curved lower jaw showing an overshot. The canines and incisors, arranged in a slightly rounded row, should be invisible when the muzzle is closed and the tongue should not look out either. Due to the short jaw, the absence of teeth PM1, PM2 or PM3 is tolerated. The short, straight neck without dewlap is joined by the compact body. Its upper profile line is straight but sloping slightly. The moderately broad, laterally flattened chest extends deeper than the elbows. The lower profile line shows a slightly tucked belly. The aim of breeding the natural tail is a curved saber or sickle shape. The fore and hindquarters are well muscled, with the forelegs lying close but not too close together. Fluid triple gait is created by the so-called cat paws (front paws in a short, round shape with tight, arched toes and coarse pads), the rear paws are slightly longer. The hard coat with a dense undercoat ensures optimal heat regulation. The typical monkey face is created by the radially protruding strands on the head and the wreath-shaped border around the eyes. In addition, bushy brows, a stately beard and lush hair on the cheeks complete the characteristic expression of the Affenpinscher. The FCI standard stipulates only black as the coat color; in America, for example, the Kennel Club there also allows cream and silver.
Affenpinschers are versatile, adaptable dogs that enchant everyone with their dazzling charm. However, their small body size is of little consequence when it comes to defending the family fearlessly and spiritedly: The little monkey, as it is affectionately known, is absolutely not a lap dog, but an agile, intelligent dog with healthy self-confidence, physically and mentally wants to be used to capacity. Dog sports, long walks in nature and enough varied activities at home consolidate the close human contact that he seeks intensively. The big, small personality shows the full spectrum of his emotions from affectionate to vigilant to cheeky, but he is mostly reserved towards strangers. He usually gets along well with other dogs, so a visit to a dog park is just the thing for this pleasant family dog. The Affenpinscher is well suited for dog beginners and families with children, as it is very eager to learn, playful and easy to train due to its impartiality. The little goblin doesn’t like monotonous command drills or, even worse, boredom. Then his innate endurance suddenly turns into stubbornness, but with an interesting game, the good mood quickly comes back.
Hereditary diseases rarely occur in Affenpinschers. This is based on the one hand on the low number of puppies of currently 20 – 30 puppies per year and on the other hand the controlled breeding reduces health risks. Examinations are not prescribed by the associations, but responsible breeders have the predisposition to possible heart diseases and problems with the visual system as well as epilepsy tested. Dog owners can prevent a patellar dislocation (a displacement of the kneecap) by curbing the temperament of their Affenpinscher a little if necessary and not letting him jump down from a clear height too often. Grooming is done with weekly brushing, but the characteristic monkey look is only really expressed through professional trimming twice a year.
The Affenpinscher at a glance
Origin: Germany FCI Standard No. 186, Group 2 Pinschers and Schnauzers, Molossoids, Swiss Mountain Dogs Section 1 Pinscher and Schnauzers Height at the withers: Males and females 25 – 30 cm Weight: Males and females 4 – 6 kg Coat colors: black Eyes: round, full, dark Ears: forward Twisted, small erect earsBody structure: compact, square buildingUsage: companion dogCharacter: affectionate, cheeky, vigilantHealth risks: patellar luxation, epilepsy, heartLife expectancy: approx. 14 – 16 years
Image: © Depositphotos.com / f8grapher