Affenpinscher Dog Breed

Affenpinscher

Affenpinschers are intelligent and playful dogs with unique faces you’re not likely to forget. They love socializing and learning new skills—though sometimes on their own terms.
Affenpinscher
Breed Group
Dog Size
Other Traits
Temperament

Affenpinscher

height
  • 9-11.5 inches
weight
  • 7-10 pounds
life span
  • 12-15 years
breed size
  • small (0-25 lbs.)
good with
  • seniors
  • dogs
  • families
temperament
  • outgoing
  • willful
  • playful
intelligence
  • high
shedding amount
  • occasional
exercise needs
  • medium
energy level
  • active
barking level
  • when necessary
drool amount
  • low
breed group
  • toy
coat length/texture
  • wiry
  • medium
colors
  • black
  • red
  • gray
  • fawn
patterns
  • black and tan
other traits
  • hypoallergenic
  • easy to groom
  • high prey drive
  • apartment-friendly
  • strong loyalty tendencies

With their wide-set round eyes, short muzzles, and wiry fur, it's easy to see how the distinctive affenpinscher earned his name—once you translate it, that is. "Affenpinscher" essentially means "monkey-like dog" (affen = monkey, pinscher = terrier/dog). However, his spirited personality and unique face inspires a different comparison for those familiar with the breed. "Affenpinschers are a big dog in a small package," says Mary Burch, CAAB. "This breed is loyal, curious, and famously amusing; his face is almost human-looking, and he is fearless." 

Though small enough to be part of the toy breed group, the affenpinscher carries himself like a boss. While they're likely a rare sight at your local dog park, when you do see one it'll make a lasting impression. "Their complete sense of their own self-importance is very comical in such a small dog," says Paul Doupe, corresponding secretary of the Affenpinscher Club of America.

Their historical background as masterful rat- and mouse-catchers may be why affenpinschers have that swagger and fierce intelligence. Though these dogs require a moderate level of maintenance and enjoy long life spans, it's their remarkable personality that gives affenpinschers their appeal.

Appearance

Standing under 1 foot tall and weighing in at 10 pounds or less, affenpinschers are petite pups. Their wiry, medium-length fur (not to mention that "in-charge" personality) can make them seem a little more robust than what you normally see in the toy breed, adding width to their chest and legs. 

The wiry fur also gives him a round head, contributing to the monkey-like face. Longer fur at the muzzle also hints at why the French nicknamed affenpinschers diablotin moustachu ("mustached little devil"). Like other breeds with wiry fur, their coat needs to be combed at least twice a week to prevent matting—though its stronger texture helps keep them from shedding often

Black affenpinscher laying down
With their smooshed faces and fur that fans out around their head, affens earn their name: "Affenpinscher" essentially means "monkey-like dog."
| Credit: PhotoStock-Israel / Getty

Along with their distinctive faces, they have round black eyes that blend in with their common black coat. However, affenpinscher colors can be red, beige, black, grey, and a black and beige combo. 

Temperament

These adorable dogs have remarkably complex personalities. "Affenpinschers are a small dog with stamina, agility, and great courage, yet upon occasion displays sensitivity and gentleness," says Burch. "They are intelligent, quick learners and possess a unique thinking process." 

Doupe also speaks highly of the affenpinschers' unique temperament:  "As an affen owner, you will never be bored," he says. "They do very well not just in conformation, but also in obedience, trick dog, agility, and barn work—or they are equally happy to just snuggle up beside you on the couch. I have one who insists on sleeping on my pillow beside me." 

Though they are often quick studies and can have playful and affectionate sides to their personalities, affenpinschers tend to approach life on their terms. This is why they may not be a great choice for families with young children, as they don't like to be hugged, squeezed, or chased. 

Their pronounced intellect also means affenpinschers get bored really easily. They need opportunities to get out their energy and love social interaction. "They desire to always be with someone or around people and hate being left alone," Burch says.

Long-haired affenpinscher dog in dog show
Credit: STAN HONDA / Getty

Living Needs

The affenpinscher is a happy medium between lap dog and athletic pup, so they're a good fit for both apartments and homes with fenced-in yards. They'll find ways to stay active indoors, though they will need daily walks for exercise, entertainment, and social stimulation. If you do have a yard, Doupe advises to be aware of your surroundings and keep a watchful eye out for predators—again, these guys are tiny. "We personally do not leave them unattended outdoors, as we have hawks flying over," he says.

Though their independent nature can put them at odds with small children, well-behaved or older kids who can respect the affenpinscher's boundaries will find a loyal friend. Affenpinschers also get along with other dogs in your household, especially if they're raised together. 

Though they can get along with other pups, affenpinschers can forget their petite size and attempt to boss around bigger dogs. This tendency is rooted in their relatively high prey drive that developed from being bred as ratters centuries ago. Because of this, affenpinschers may not coexist happily with cats—and definitely not with any rodent pets such as hamsters and gerbils. As with all dogs, make sure to socialize your affenpinscher puppy early so they can thrive in different environments. 

Black affenpinscher full shot sitting in grass
Black affenpinscher dog stands in grass
Left: Affens typically find ways to stay active indoors, but they also need daily walks for exercise, entertainment, and social stimulation. | Credit: Yvonne Van der Horst / Getty
Right: Though the breed is most commonly seen with black fur, affenpinschers can be red, beige, black, grey, and a black and beige combo. | Credit: Yvonne Van der Horst / Getty

Because they're small dogs, affenpinschers may need assistance getting up stairs and on or off furniture. They love to be around their families and will seek you—and your lap—out, so it might be a good idea to invest doggy steps so they can climb up to you on the couch.

Care

Affenpinscher dogs are little smarties, but they also have a mind of their own, which is important to remember during training

"The breed has an undeserved reputation as being difficult to train because affenpinschers are independent-minded," Burch says. "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." Burch recommends shorter and more frequent positive reinforcement training sessions—and if you can, work with a trainer who specifically has experience with toy breeds. 

Fluffy black affenpinscher puppy held in one hand
Little affenpinschers can forget their size and try to boss around bigger pups. As with all dogs, socialize your affenpinscher puppy early so he can have good manners and thrive as an adult.
| Credit: Didkovska Ilona / Shutterstock

While no dog is truly hypoallergenic, affenpinschers don't shed much and could be a good choice for those who have allergies. But their medium-length, wiry coat can become matted if not brushed at least twice a week. Burch suggests grooming first with a brush and then following up with a metal comb. And because the affenpinscher's coat doesn't grow very fast, you can go quite a while between trims (anywhere between six weeks and two months).

Health

Like other toy dogs, affenpinschers generally enjoy a long lifespan; Doupe says it's not unusual for affenpinschers to live past 15 years. 

While they're generally healthy dogs, there are some issues to watch out for, as with all breeds. Breeders and veterinarians should screen for luxating patella, heart 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 to lower their body temperature, as dogs don't sweat to keep cool," Burch says.

Luncheon of the boating party painting featuring affenpinscher dog
An affenpinscher can be spotted in French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir's famous painting, "Luncheon of the Boating Party."
| Credit: DEA PICTURE LIBRARY / Getty

History

Affenpinschers date back to at least the 16th century, though some experts believe the breed was known as far back as the 1400s, based on depictions of dogs in the works of German artist Albrecht Dürer and Flemish artist Jan van Eyck. Back then, affenpinschers primarily were working dogs bred to hunt mice and rats in homes. 

However, their charming personality may be what captured the heart of the European society women who became particularly fond of affenpinscher dogs in the mid-1800s. Clubs dedicated to affenpinschers popped up in France and Germany by the end of the 19th century. In the early 1900s, affenpinschers were companions to German film stars and internationally famed socialites—including Evalyn Walsh McLean, who once owned the Hope Diamond. 

The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1936 and captured the U.S. with their unique appearance (newsreels referred to the pups as "monkey dogs"). But World War II lead their popularity to decline, as the dog could not be imported from Europe. Though breeding efforts have boosted their numbers since, affenpinscher dogs are still considered a rare breed. If you'd love to add one to your family, you'll likely have to get on a waiting list of a reputable breeder.

two black affenpinscher dogs lying in grass
Credit: Ekaterina Gorokhova / Getty

Fun Facts

  • Artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir may have been a fan of this tiny breed—affenpinschers have been spotted in many of his works, including the famed "Luncheon of the Boating Party." 
  • Affenpinschers often entertain themselves by playing a solo game of catch, or by walking on their hind legs.