The Affenspinscher

This small pup, known for its pert monkey-like expression, is full of curiosity and confidence. Loving but mischievous, there’s a whole lot of dog in this pint-sized package. Is the Affenpinscher right for you? Let’s find out.

Early History 

Considered one of the oldest of the Toy breeds, the Affenpinscher has been around for centuries. Dogs unmistakably Affen-like can be seen in European artwork dating back to the 1600s. The dogs pictured are larger than today’s Affenpinscher, but unmistakable.

The breed’s earliest known roots trace back to Germany. Loosely translated, “affen” means “ape,” and “pinscher” means “terrier.” As far as back as the 1500s, various small terriers were staples in homes, shops, and farms throughout Germany and most of Europe. Their purpose? To control the rodent population. The Affenpinscher was one of the smaller terriers used for this purpose—and they excelled at their task.

Affens were selectively bred to emphasize their ratting skills and maintain their distinctive appearance. In the course of history, we’ve lost the exact mix of breeds, but experts believe that Pugs and various German Pinschers were among the breeds used to create the Affenpinscher.

Bred down in size intentionally, the Affenpinscher got smaller, but their tenacity and fearlessness as a ratter remained. This breed was also prized for security—the Affenpinscher is a notoriously curious and vigilant dog that tends to consistently alert owners to any visitors or strangers. The Affenpinscher also caught the attention of those in search of a small lapdog. Ratter, alarm-system, and cuddler extraordinaire—this is a versatile little dog.

By the late 19th century, Affenpinschers had gained popularity as companion dogs. It’s easy to understand why. With a fun and entertaining temperament combined with such a unique appearance, the Affenpinscher attracts attention. Versatile and useful in the home, they proved a great choice as a family companion who also kept the rat population under control.

A Standard Evolves 

The majority of the Affenpinscher’s earliest development took place in Munich. In 1896, the Affenpinscher was officially recognized by the German Kennel Club, and by 1913, the Affenpinscher breed standard was created. The breed made its way to the States and was accepted into the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1936.

Today’s Affenpinscher is a toy-sized, wiry-haired dog with a very plucky personality. Despite their small size, this is quite a sturdy dog, not fine-boned or delicate in any way.

The AKC standard looks for an ideal height ranging from 9.5″ to 11.5″ at the withers. The Affenpinscher is somewhat square in shape, with the body length typically matching his height.

And that face! The Standard states that the Affen’s head should be carried confidently with a monkey-like expression, the eyes are round and dark.

The dense, rough coat is about an inch long on the body and shoulders. A longer, softer coat rests on the head, neck, chest, and stomach. The breed is accepted in a variety of colours, including black, gray, silver, red, black and tan, or beige.

Photo Ilona Didkovska/Adobe Stock


Few and Far Between 

If you’ve never come across an Affenpinscher, you’re not alone. In 2022, the Affenpinscher ranked 148th on the list of 199 breeds registered by the AKC.

In 2013, an Affenpinscher named “Banana Joe” won the coveted Best in Show title at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (WKC). His victory brought significant attention, showcasing the Affen’s unique appearance and entertaining personality on a worldwide scale. But while they’ve gained recognition and charmed admirers all over the world, this breed remains quite rare.


Living with the Affenpinscher 

The Affenpinscher’s personality is anything but small. They’re widely regarded as one of the comedians of the dog-world, entertaining and delighting their people. They are confident, curious, and full of personality. These are wonderful family companions, but as with all breeds, there are a few quirks and considerations.

While the Affenpinscher is a sturdy, tough little dog, they’re well-known for their dislike of being manhandled, forced up, or otherwise “bothered.” For this reason, the Affen has earned a perhaps unfair reputation as a dog that’s not ideal for kids.

In actuality, the Affenpinscher can be a great family pet, but small children need to be supervised around dogs and taught that chasing, squeezing, holding down, or otherwise pestering these (and all) dogs will lead to problems. Some breeds might just roll with it… not the Affenpinscher.

While the Affenpinscher is generally good with other pets, a home where hamsters, bunnies, or other small rodents are pets might not be ideal. Given their history, their instinct will most likely be to dispatch little critters.

With other dogs and cats, they’re generally comfortable—early socialization is the key to success. Intelligent and alert, the Affenpinscher is like a four-legged alarm system. Very little will slip past them. You’ll almost certainly be alerted by barking should anyone come to your door.



Photo Ilona Didkovska/Adobe Stock


Training and Socializing

The Affenpinscher is rather suspicious by nature. This tendency to be aloof or unfriendly can be easily overcome with plenty of early, positive socializing activities. They bond closely with their people and can be territorial.

In true terrier style, the Affenpinscher has earned a reputation as somewhat stubborn and hard to train. Yes, this breed is independent and opinionated, but this is a trainable dog. Affens love to please their people, and they’re very smart—both good traits when it comes to training.

Patience, practice, and making it fun will pay off. The well-mannered Affenpinscher is a delight to be around. They’re pleasant and respectful but cheeky and full of pep.

When it comes to housetraining, here again, patience is required. Like so many of the Toy breeds, Affens can be a little slow to master the whole potty routine. It takes time and patience—and crate training is very strongly advised.


Activities for Affenpinschers

Exercise requirements are minimal. A walk each day will keep them content. Affenpinschers love to play and are renowned for their ability to learn tricks, so factor in some “fun time” for these little comedians each day.

Outside supervision and, ideally, a fenced-in yard are best. They are territorial and, frankly, seem unaware that they’re actually a very small dog. Affenpinschers have been known to pick fights with much larger dogs.

For those who like to travel or simply want to take their dog along with them on their daily outings, the Affen is a good choice. This confident little dog is pretty much up for anything and happy to be a part of whatever you’ve got in mind.

As for activities, this confident but clown-like dog is a natural for therapy work. Their unique appearance and ability to learn lots of tricks will delight anyone in need of a smile. Sturdy and well-built, they’re also a fit for sports like agility and obedience.


Caring for Your Affenpinscher

This dapper little dog is not a challenge to care for or groom. The coat is thick and rough to the touch. They don’t shed much, but that wiry coat does need to be brushed regularly with a slicker brush. Occasional stripping and trimming will be required to keep them looking their best.

The Affenpinscher is a rare breed—hard to find and truly unique in appearance. It’s hardly any wonder that many people simply go bananas when they find themselves in the presence of these mischievous little monkey-dogs. With their expressive faces, their sweet but spunky disposition, and their fearlessness, they really are the complete ‘big dog’ package in pint-sized form.


If you like the Affenpinscher, you might also consider the…

Brussels Griffon                            Pug                            Miniature Pinscher

Inset Photos Left to Right: Okssi/bigstock, LustreArt/bigstock, cynoclub/bigstock

» Read Your Breed For more breed profiles, go to


This article originally appeared in the award-winning Modern Dog magazine. Subscribe today!

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