Known as the “King of Toys,” the miniature pinscher dog packs a whole lot of personality into its tiny frame. Standing just 12.5-inches tall at most, and weighing in at around 10 pounds, it would be fair to stay the min pin (as the breed is often referred to) has no idea he is a little dog, or perhaps he simply doesn’t care. Affectionate, smart, and loyal, the min pin makes a wonderful companion and family pet (though care needs to be taken around younger children), who will guard his home and people until the end. This popular breed is easy to care for, has few health issues, and is lots of fun to be around.
Miniature pinscher colors range from black, chocolate, tan, red, rust, and combinations of all of the above. They have dark eyes that are almost oval-shaped, and high alert ears that are sometimes cropped—which adds to their alert stature. Their short, hard coat requires little maintenance, and they are infrequent shedders.
Miniature pinschers have a very unique style of movement that is almost a prance and is referred to as their “hackney gait” by breeders and those who show the breed. It is one of many things that helps the breed to be so charming and attract so many fans.
There is a lot to love about the miniature pinscher temperament because they definitely have personality plus, and make smart and loyal companions who are perfectly sized for lap snuggles (they only weigh around 10 pounds). Tiny as they are, the min pin is no pushover and makes for a surprisingly great little guard dog. “Miniature pinschers are feisty little dogs who don’t care how big the dog or person is who is threatening them or their family,” Kim Babineau, DVM, of Central Nova Animal Hospital in Truro, N.S., says.
Cathy Beasley of Shadowmist Miniature Pinschers, an American Kennel Club (AKC) breeder of merit, says, "Even large dogs will probably be more afraid of the min pin than the min pin is of them. They're called in the “King of Toys” for a reason: They're fearless to a fault and can get hurt because they will defend their territory or their person to the end."
Despite the fact they can be aggressive when required, they make great family pets, but more so in families with older children. “They are a breed that may snap if they get their tail pulled,” Babineau warns, “But every dog is different, you may get a min pin who’s sweet and timid and wouldn’t do that.”
Whether your min pin gets on well with other pets likely depends on how they are socialized. “If they are brought into a house where there are already other pets, they will likely be fine, and a min pin isn’t going to be intimidated by bigger dogs in any way so will likely stand up for themselves and hold their own with rough play,” Babineau says. “But bringing other pets into their household may not work out so well.”
Though the miniature pinscher is energetic, it has low needs in terms of how much effort you need to put into exercising them. “They’re small, and so are their exercise requirements. You can take them on a short walk to the park and let them run a bit, and that’s ample,” Babineau says.
Miniature pinscher’s barking can be an issue, so if you’re looking for a quiet breed, this vocal little watchdog probably isn't for you. “They’re going to want to alert you to everything, all the time,” Beasley warns. This can be especially true if they are under stimulated, and it is worth remembering a tired dog is a good dog, so putting in more time to play can help with the issue.
As smart little dogs, min pins are considered easy to train, but they can have a stubborn streak. As always, it is advised you start young, and be consistent in order to help your puppy learn how they are expected to behave. “They can be tiny terrors if you don't put the time in to train them,” Beasley warns. Signing up for puppy obedience training classes is a really good idea with min pins, especially if you’re a first-time dog owner.
As mentioned before, they can get on well with other cats and dogs in their household so long as they grew up with those animals, and depending on how well socialized they are—your individual dog’s temperament is going to play a part in that too.
Min pins are not the kind of dogs who do well left alone all day as they want to be around you all the time. They’re social dogs who want to be part of the action, especially when that involves playing fetch or other games with their people.
Despite the fact min pins don’t actually need tons of exercise, like most dogs they love going out for a good romp and can make excellent hiking companions. They are also perfect snugglers, and will happily vegetate on the sofa with you to catch up on your soaps or favorite reality TV shows. They are a versatile little dog and are happy doing whatever you are doing. Really, they want to be your BFF and will adore their number one person above all others.
Regular teeth brushing is advised, with toothpaste formulated for dogs, as dental issues can happen in many toy and small dog breeds (and when problematic can be expensive to address).
As energetic little dogs, min pins love to go out for walks but don’t have huge requirements in terms of exercise. They are very playful, and Beasley says they love to play with their toys. “Tug of war is a firm favorite with my dogs, and they can get lots of exercise in the home through play.”
Miniature pinschers are smart and quick to catch on. They want to please you and tend to enjoy the mental stimulation of training. Training should be consistent, with plenty of positive reinforcement. You should have realistic expectations in terms of what they can manage at what age. In Beasley’s experience, you really can’t start trying to house train them until they are three months old. “They have such tiny bladders. As a rule of thumb when you wake up, let ‘em out. After you feed ‘em, let ‘em out; after they play hard, let ‘em out,” Beasley says.
Generally considered to be robust little dogs, the miniature pinscher life span can reach up to 16 years, and they stay fun and energetic for much of their long lives.
Babineau says miniature pinschers aren’t known for being susceptible to any particular conditions or illnesses, but the majority of times she sees them in her office is due to the fact they are so small and fine-boned. “They’re fearless, and especially when they’re younger they can break their leg just by falling off a couch,” Babineau says.
This is one reason why Beasley says it is a good idea to give your miniature pinscher a little gated off area—she calls it her puppy condo—where they have their bed and toys, and a safe space to run around in. “You can’t keep your eye on them every second, and by doing this you don’t have to worry,” Beasley says, adding that her dogs will retreat in there even when they do have run of the house. “They love going in and burying themselves into their beds to feel secure.”
As always, it is a good idea to ask your breeder about any health issues they have screened for, and check-in with your vet for suggestions on how to best look after your min pin as part of your pet’s routine medical care.
The miniature pinscher has been around for centuries, originally hailing from Germany, where it was first bred as a rat catcher by farmers. Although documentation only states the breed has been around for 200 years or so, you’ll find images of min pins in far older artworks and it is likely the breed has been around far longer.
In the late 1800s, min pins became popular as pets in Germany and were first exhibited at a dog show in Stuttgart in 1900. It was almost 20 years before the first min pin was brought to the U.S., and was first registered with the AKC in 1925.