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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The Affenpinscher is a wonderfully funny dog who lives up to his nickname of “mustachioed devil.” He thinks he’s a big dog and he is undoubtedly a great watchdog with his alert nature. He’s a bit small for households with young kids, but a smart and athletic companion who will keep your home rodent-free.
At some point in the 18th or early 19th century, someone had the bright idea of breeding the Affenpinscher down in size, allowing them to move up in the world by becoming companions to ladies.
The Affenpinscher is more than just a pretty face. The moustachioed little devil, as he’s nicknamed in France, has a bold manner that makes him a favorite of people who want a small dog with a “big dog” attitude. He has terriers in his family tree and got his start as a ratter in Germany.
The Affenpinscher gets up every morning and puts on his game face. He’s not afraid of anything or anyone, and his alert nature makes him an excellent watchdog, even if his size renders him incapable of actually doing much in the way of protection. Toward his family and friends, he’s loving and loyal. Toward mice, rats and other vermin, well, let’s just say he’s more than capable of keeping your home rodent-free.
This is an inquisitive and intelligent little dog. He’s generally quiet, but anything or anyone who seems threatening will set him to barking a warning. When it comes to big
dogs, he has no sense and will take them on at the least opportunity. In these cases, it’s essential to protect him from himself.
Exercise is good for every dog, so make sure the Appenpinscher gets a walk or other activity daily. His athletic ability and intelligence make him a contender in
dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally. When it comes to training, he’s more tractable and obedient than some toy breeds. Keep learning fun and use positive reinforcement techniques, never force.
While it’s tempting to carry this little dog everywhere you go, resist the impulse and let him be a dog. He'll be happier and better-behaved for it.
The Affen has a rough coat with a “cape” at the neck and shoulders, Groucho Marx eyebrows, and a beard. He needs some plucking and trimming to maintain a shaggy but neat appearance. Ask your dog’s breeder to give you lessons in how to groom him or study the
directions provided on the website of the Affenpinscher Club of America.
Affenpinschers are companion dogs. They need to live in the house, never outdoors.
The ancestors of the Affenpinscher were small terriers that kept stables free of mice and rats. They may date to the 15
th century, based on the depiction of a similar looking dog in an Albrecht Durer woodcut and later the appearance of small, rough-coated, bearded dogs in the paintings of old masters.
At some point, probably in the 18
th or early 19
th century, someone had the bright idea of breeding the dogs down in size, allowing them to move up in the world by becoming companions to ladies. They retained their ratting ability, however, and used it to keep milady’s parlor safe from mice.
The terrier-tough little dogs played a role in the development of the
Brussels Griffon and the
Miniature Schnauzer. They also became popular in other parts of Europe, including Great Britain.
The Pinscher Klub was founded in Cologne in 1895, and the American Kennel Club recognized the Affenpinscher in 1936. World War II nearly destroyed the breed in Germany, but crosses with
Brussels Griffons, to which it was closely related, brought it back.
Affenpinschers have never been among the most popular of AKC breeds, but for those who get to know them, they have an amazing appeal. The Affen ranks 136
th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
This is an affectionate and highly devoted dog who loves everyone in his family unreservedly. Your return from a two-minute trip to the mailbox is occasion for great celebration on the Affen’s part. He’s up for any adventure, whether it’s hitchhiking to Alaska and charming prospectors or going camping and chasing a stick into the lake. If your chosen lifestyle is a bit more laidback, that’s fine with the Affen. As long as he is with you, he’s happy and will adapt himself to your level of activity.
He’ll also entertain you. The playful Affen is adept at using his paws to manipulate toys, walking on his hind legs, and “singing” in a chorus if he has some Affen friends to join in. A walk is an opportunity for him to share with you every interesting find along the way. His size makes him a great travel companion.
At home or in public, he’s a fearless protector, completely unaware of his small size. He will always alert you to the presence of a stranger or other danger, but doesn’t tend to be yappy. He can be territorial toward other dogs, so it’s important to protect him from himself. He can get along with
cats, especially if he is raised with them. However, lots of Affens have a strong prey drive and will chase
An Affen’s fearlessness extends to carelessness about his physical safety. He’ll jump off high beds and has been known to climb fences to sit on the top rail for a better view. Provide steps to help him get on and off furniture safely.
The Affen may love his people, but he can be stubborn in his desire to have his own way. He’s also highly intelligent, and his thought processes can astound you. Those traits can mean that the Affen is challenging but rewarding to train. Be firm, consistent and patient with him, and your training will be successful.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and
parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an Affenpinscher, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
The Affen is a pretty healthy little breed, but individual dogs can develop orthopedic problems such as luxating patellas, a common knee condition in small dogs. Affens are also prone to skin conditions that may lead to hair loss on the flanks.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it is impossible to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the
dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for common defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
To help protect the breed’s health the Affenpinscher Club of America participates in the
Canine Health Information Center, a health database. Before individual Affenpinschers can be issued a CHIC number, breeders must submit patella evaluations from the
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and eye test results from the
Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Optional CHIC test results that can be submitted are OFA hip certifications, including one for Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.
Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. A dog need not receive good or even passing scores on the evaluations to obtain a CHIC number, so CHIC registration alone is not proof of soundness or absence of disease, but all test results are posted on the CHIC website and can be accessed by anyone who wants to check the health of a puppy’s parents.
Don't fall for a bad breeder's lies. If the breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines, her dogs have been "vet checked," or any of the other excuses bad breeders give for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an Affen at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Affen has a wiry coat that can be rough or smooth, but the words “smooth” and “rough” can be misleading. A smooth Affen has some feathering on the legs and a ruff on the neck. Dogs with a rough coat have hair with a slightly softer texture and heavier feathering. Some Affens have a coat that falls somewhere in between. Whatever type of coat he has, the typical Affen looks neat but a bit shaggy. You can be sure he’ll have leaves and twigs stuck in his coat after he’s been outdoors, so he does need regular grooming to maintain his appearance.
Tools you’ll need are a slicker brush, a stainless steel
Greyhound comb, a stripping knife, blunt-tipped scissors and thinning shears. Plucking dead hairs, called “stripping” the coat, is part of the package when living with an Affen. The Affenpinscher Club of America has an
illustrated guide to grooming the dog to get the look just right.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Small breeds are prone to periodontal disease, so brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the Affenpinscher and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Affenpinscher Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ACA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to take back an Affen he has bred at any time in the dog’s life if the owner can’t keep the dog.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the ACA and the American Kennel Club.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an Affen puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Affenpinscher might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for an Affenpinscher in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Affenpinschers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an Affenpinscher. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Affenpinschers love all Affenpinschers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Affenpinscher Club of America’s Rescue Network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Affenpinscher rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring an Affenpinscher home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Affenpinscher, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Affenpinscher to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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