What To Know About an Affenpinscher

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on July 14, 2022
7 min read

Affenpinschers are a comical German breed in the toy group. They’re unique dogs that are beloved by their owners. 

The word affenpinscher roughly translates to “monkey dog” in German. These dogs are small but fierce. They’ll be one of the most loyal companions that you could ask for if you choose to bring one home. 

Body size. Affenpinschers are small dogs. The males and females are all about the same size. 

They have an average height of nine to 11.5 inches at the shoulder. Healthy dogs can weigh anywhere from seven to 10 pounds. Make sure to talk to your veterinarian if you’re concerned that your dog is underweight or overweight.

This small size means that affenpinschers are highly portable dogs. They’re comfortable in apartments and are eager to travel with you. 

Body shape. Affenpinschers have well-balanced bodies. Their overall appearance is of a neat but shaggy pet. 

Their chests are moderately broad and deep. They have straight front legs that end in small compact feet. Their feet should be round and have black pads and nails. 

Affenpinschers have round, domed skulls. Their muzzles are short and narrow to a blunt nose. Their heads are topped by ears that may or may not be cropped. 

Some owners choose to crop their pets' ears for purely aesthetic reasons, but this isn’t required by the breed standard, and many veterinarians don’t approve of the practice. 

When cropped, their ears come to a point and should always stand erect. Natural ears might stand erect on their own, but they can also be semi-erect or drooping.  

The tails are also sometimes docked for, again, purely aesthetic reasons. In this case, they should only be one to two inches long. Natural tails are set high and carried erect. They should curve gently over their backs when the dogs are up and moving.  

Lifespan. The affenpinscher lifespan is normal for their size. The dogs live an average of 12 to 15 years. 

Coat. Affenpinschers have wiry coats that are short in some regions of their body and long in others. The coat is uniformly rough in texture. 

Mature dogs should also have manes and long eyebrows and beards. Despite this diversity of coat lengths, the overall effect is typically that of a well-blended but shaggy appearance. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) lists five possible coat colors for this breed. Possible affenpinscher colors include: 

  • Belge
  • Black
  • Black and silver
  • Black and tan
  • Red

They could possibly have a black mask as well. 

Eyes. Affenpinschers have large, dark eyes that often sparkle with a brilliant light. They should never bulge or protrude too much from their sockets. 

Personality. The affenpinscher personality is alert, curious, and inquisitive. They enjoy engaging with their owners and environments. 

They’re loyal to their loved ones and will fearlessly defend both their families and themselves from threats that are far larger than they are. 

The affenpinscher temperament should generally be quiet, but they can become excited when they feel threatened. 

The AKC rates them a three out of five for their affection for their families. 

Grooming. Affenpinschers have moderate grooming needs. You should go over their coat twice a week — first with a brush and then with a metal comb to work through tangles. 

Their coats often fall into their eyes and need to be trimmed every few months. You can learn to do this yourself or find a professional groomer that you trust. 

Trim their nails regularly so they don’t bother your dog as it walks. Check their ears regularly for debris or signs of infection. Brush their teeth on a daily basis with a dog-safe toothpaste to complete their grooming routine. 

Feeding. Make sure that your pet has access to clean water at all times. 

Your Affenpinscher will benefit from high-quality dog food. Many different brands are available, so try to find one that your pet enjoys. Make sure that the nutritional requirements are specific to their stage of life. This can include puppy- and senior-specific varieties. 

If you decide that you want to make an at-home blend for your dog, you need to first consult a veterinarian. It can be very difficult and time-consuming to make your own food. You need to make sure that you’re meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs or they could develop serious health problems. 

Also, make sure that you know what human foods are safe for your dog to eat before feeding them anything from your kitchen. 

Exercise and mental stimulation. Affenpinschers have moderate exercise needs. Thanks to their small size, they should get a good workout just playing with toys around the house. You should also take them on brisk walks once or twice a day, though. 

The walks provide them with both mental and physical stimulation. They give the dogs a chance to explore the world and socialize with other dogs. 

This is helpful because the AKC rates them a three out of five for both their energy levels and need for mental stimulation. 

Veterinary visits, medications, and immunizations. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine all of the vaccinations that your pet needs. In general, all dogs need a core set. 

This includes vaccinations for:

You should also discuss additional, non-core vaccinations with your veterinarian.  

Dosages for flea and tick medications are based on your dog's weight and used as needed. Oral and skin-based applications are available from your veterinarian or other distributors. Many of these medications can be effective against a variety of pests and parasites, so talk to your veterinarian to figure out the best one for you. 

Heartworm medication is also recommended year-round in all parts of the U.S.

In general, the affenpinscher breed is quite healthy, but there are still some problems that your pet could be born with or develop throughout their lifetime. 

Affenpinscher health issues can include: 

  • Patellar luxation. This is a common cause of lameness in dogs. It’s due to problems with your pet’s knee joint. They could be born with it or develop the problem from an injury. The treatment will depend on how severe your dog’s condition is but could include surgery.
  • Orthopedic issues. Examples include hip and elbow dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that occurs when the ball and socket of your dog's hip do not fit together properly. Instead of sliding smoothly, the bones grind against each other. Eventually, they wear down and make it difficult for your dog to move. Your veterinarian can evaluate your dog's joints and see how likely they are to cause problems throughout your dog's life. Elbow dysplasia is a comparable condition occurring at the elbow joint.
  • Heart anomalies. Heart problems can be present at birth or develop throughout a dog's lifetime. You should have your veterinarian regularly examine your pet’s heart because early signs of some heart issues can have few symptoms. 
  • Vision problems. The Affenpinscher Club of America recommends annual eye exams to monitor your dog's eye health. Cataracts are an example of a common vision problem in dogs. Cataracts cause the lenses of your dog's eyes to become cloudy and opaque. They eventually lead to blindness. They can sometimes be treated with surgery, but older dogs adjust to them with relative ease. 
  • Hip Necrosis. This is a degenerative hip condition that was formerly called Legg-Calves-Perthes disease. For unknown reasons, your dog's upper thigh bone becomes brittle and can easily break. This usually occurs before your dog is a year old. Signs include pain and lameness in their rear legs. The condition will likely require surgery to treat.

You should also keep an eye on your affenpinscher in hot weather. They can struggle to breathe in the heat and sometimes have difficulty panting, which is how other dogs cool down their bodies. 

There are a few things that you should keep in mind before choosing to make an affenpinscher part of your family. They’re only moderately good with young children and other dogs. This is because they don’t like being grabbed, squeezed, or chased. They do well with older kids who have learned how to treat them properly. 

The breed can be independent and stubborn, but they’re still reasonably easy to train. They should get basic obedience training as young as possible, though. Keep the sessions short and frequent to keep them interested. Dogs want to please you, so positive encouragement works best. 

You should keep your affenpinscher away from any rodent pets, like hamsters. They were bred to hunt rodents and are capable of eliminating your small pets. 

These dogs shed a moderate amount but are still considered a hypoallergenic breed. They almost never drool, and they bark an intermediate amount. 

Affenpinschers were created in Germany sometime in the 1600s. Although they’re not technically terriers, like terriers, they were bred to be ratters. 

Their journey started with chasing rats in the stables. They were so good at their job that they were promoted to the kitchens. At this point, housewives became so enamored with these small dogs that they slowly transitioned into faithful companions instead of working dogs. 

Clubs developed for these dogs in France and Germany in the 1800s. They became rather popular after that and were used to develop other breeds, like the Brussels Griffon and the miniature schnauzer.

The first affenpinscher to win Best in Show in the Westminster dog show was named Banana Joe. He won in 2013. 

These dogs are fierce companions. The writer Desmond Morris even reported once seeing an affenpinscher chase off a grizzly bear when he was traveling in Alaska. Despite this fierce demeanor, they also make for great therapy dogs thanks to their amusing looks and antics.