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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography
The Miniature Pinscher is not a scaled-down Doberman, although he is fearless and makes a terrific watchdog. Known as the “King of the Toys,” this little fireball is best suited to an experienced owner who can manage his willful nature. On the plus side, his antics are pure entertainment, and he is simple to groom.
It’s thought that the Min Pin was created by crossing breeds as diverse as the Dachshund, the old German Pinscher, the Manchester Terrier, and the Italian Greyhound.
Often referred to as “spirited and fearless,” the Min Pin has a high-stepping gait in which the feet of the front legs are lifted up and out with a bend at the wrist. It’s an appropriate gait for him, given that he thinks he’s hot stuff. He has no clue that he’s a little dog classified as a Toy breed. In his head, he’s a big guy. An active dog, the Min Pin is curious about everything, so safely put away all your medicines and anything else inappropriate for him to get into.
He’s a good family dog and protects his people by challenging intruders who are fifteen times his size with his bold bark. Though he’s quite affectionate with his family, he will never be the kind of dog who likes to ride around in a puppy purse; he’ll walk and prance, thank you very much. He’s a bit stubborn, sure, but his spirited temperament makes for a busy life. His complete sense of self-possession and small stature bring Napoleon to mind.
A tiny Houdini hound, a Min Pin can easily find a way out of a fenced yard and probably views the yard barrier as a challenge to be overcome. Check your fence for holes regularly, preferably daily, or you may look out your front window and see him high-stepping down the street. He’s also a climber.
Because Min Pins are so small and have so little body fat and fur, they get quite cold in the winter and need sweaters or jackets that cover the chest and belly. They can get bald spots (alopecia), which doesn’t help.
As with all Toy breeds, housetraining can be difficult. Begin the minute you bring your puppy home, and try to avoid opportunities for him to make mistakes.
The Min Pin’s short coat sheds, so brush him a couple of times a week to remove loose hair. Other than that, keeping his ears clean, teeth brushed, and nails trimmed is all that’s necessary in the way of grooming.
This is a bold and bright companion dog, agile, trainable, and with a famous — or infamous — sense of humor. He’s eager to participate in family outings, long walks, and organized canine activities such as agility and obedience. But the real secret of his success as a pet is his deep love and loyalty for his owner.
It’s both his virtues — affection for people and a clever nature — and his faults — tendency to dig, bark, and chase wildlife and cats — that make the Min Pin entirely unsuited for the outdoor life. The Miniature Pinscher is a companion dog and needs to live indoors as a member of your family. Making that even more critical is the fact that the Min Pin is very unlikely to stay in your yard, garage, or high-security canine enclosure.
The Min Pin is often thought to be a downsized Doberman Pinscher, but he predates that breed by at least 200 years. He originally paid for his keep as a ratter in German barnyards. It’s thought that he was created by crossing breeds as diverse as the Dachshund, the old German Pinscher, the Manchester Terrier, and the Italian Greyhound. The result was a spirited and fearless little dog.
He was first popular in Germany and Scandinavian countries, but not surprisingly his international star began to rise. The Min Pin was first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1925 as a Terrier because of his ratting expertise. The Miniature Pinscher Club of America was formed in 1929, and the dogs were reclassified as a Toy breed in 1930. In America they went by the name Pinscher (Toy) until 1972, when they were rechristened as the Miniature Pinscher.
Today, the Miniature Pinscher ranks 40th among the breeds registered by the AKC, down from 17th in 2000. As occurs with many breeds, he has changed positions because of public whim, possibly because he’s not the cute little lap dog some people thought he would be, or simply because other breeds have captured the public fancy.
A little dog with a big attitude and a bigger mouth, the Miniature Pinscher has no idea that he isn’t as big as a Doberman. He’ll charge right up to any threat, including a dog many times his size. He’ll try to protect his family, chase cats out of the yard, and sound the alarm when he thinks it’s necessary — which is constantly. And although he’ll fit in your puppy purse, he won’t like it there. This is a dog with a mind and a will of his own, not an accessory.
Don’t let his designation as a Toy dog fool you. Similar to his larger Terrier cousins, the Min Pin will dig, bark, and chase anything that moves, including squirrels, cats, and quite possibly other dogs. Unless he’s well-bred and well-socialized — and sometimes even in spite of such advantages — he’s prone to being a nuisance barker, suspicious of strangers and not great with children.
Min Pins can be wonderful with older children as long as the children don’t manhandle them. His activity level and energy is suited to children, and he loves being a family dog. Supervise interactions with toddlers so they don’t hurt the dog, or vice versa.
Because of his tendency to become protective and territorial, the assertive, proud, and stubborn Min Pin needs firm and consistent training from puppyhood on to control his nipping as well as any tendency he has to bark inappropriately. Don’t let him get away with bad behavior or it will quickly become a habit almost impossible to break. Also, like many small dogs, Miniature Pinschers are difficult to housetrain; firmness and consistency are the keys to success.
The Min Pin is innately curious and likes toys that move or make noises. However, he will likely try to eat the toys at some point -- he’ll disembowel a squeaky toy in no time. Flimsy rubber or plastic are not the best bets for him.
Start training your Min Pin puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 or 10 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. 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 their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Min Pin, 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 Min Pin is prone to some health problems. Here’s a brief rundown on a few of the conditions you should know about.
As with most small dogs, Min Pins' knee caps (patellae) can be unstable and may pop out of position easily — the common condition known as luxating patellas. This is one of the reasons it’s essential to keep your Min Pin on the lean side.
The hip disease known as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease occurs in Min Pins. It causes a reduced blood supply to the head of the rear leg bone, which then begins to degrade. The first sign of Legg-Calve-Perthes, limping, usually appears when the puppy is 4 to 6 months old. In many cases, treatment requires surgery to remove the head of the leg bone.
Mucopolysaccharidosis VI, or MPSVI, is a genetic defect in the way the body processes certain molecules. A buildup of dermatan sulfate (a complex molecule) can occur in specific areas of the body. Stunted growth, joint damage, clouding of the eyes (which can resemble cataracts) and heart valve damage are are few of the consequences of MPSVI. A DNA test can identify dogs who are affected, carriers, and normal. Breeding two carriers can produce affected puppies, so never buy a puppy from a breeder who cannot give you written documentation from the Josephine Deubler Genetic Disease Testing Laboratory at the Universityof Pennsylvania that the parents were not carriers.
Other conditions affecting the breed include diabetes, elbow luxation, congenital deafness, and eye problems like progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, and optic nerve hypoplasia.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard 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 genetic defects and deemed healthy for breeding. At a minimum, the breeder should have hip and knee evaluations for both breeding dogs from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and DNA test results for MPSVI.
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 have for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away.
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 good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
Not every Min Pin visit to the vet is for a genetic problem. Because of their size and athleticism, broken legs are not uncommon.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Min Pin at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of diet and exercise to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
Min Pins are really easy to groom — there’s almost nothing to it because of their short, smooth coat. Just use a bristle brush once or twice a week. They shed an average amount, but their small size means that there is less fur shed than from a larger dog with the same kind of short coat.
Bathe the Min Pin as you desire or only when he gets dirty. With the gentle dog shampoos available now, you can bathe a Min Pin weekly if you want without harming his coat.
As with all Toy breeds, dental issues are common. Brush your Min Pin’s teeth daily with a vet-approved pet toothpaste and have your veterinarian check them regularly. Nails should be clipped about every two weeks; you should not be able to hear the toenails click when the dog walks.
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 a great way to find 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. 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. And remember that breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical.
Find a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Miniature Pinscher Club of America and who has agreed to abide by its code of ethics, which precludes selling puppies to or through pet stores and calls for selling puppies only with a written contract. Choose a breeder who is willing to be a resource in helping you train and care for your new dog throughout his life.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only 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 a website that offers 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. 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.
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. Quickie online purchases 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 a Min Pin 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.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Min Pin 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 dogs of your dreams. An adult Min Pin 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 a Min Pin 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 Min Pins available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org 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 a Min Pin. 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 Miniature Pinschers love all Miniature Pinschers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Miniature Pinscher Club of America can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Min Pin 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 a Min Pin home for a trial 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 Miniature Pinscher, 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 Min Pin 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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