Affenpinschers may weigh just 10 lbs. (or less). But they have big personalities. Willful, domineering, entertaining, and affectionate—the Affenpinscher is equal parts loyal companion and fierce protector.
Likely one of the oldest toy breed dogs in the world, the Affenpinscher originated in Germany, where Affenpinscher means "monkey-like terrier." Some breeders reportedly crossed early Affenpinschers with Pugs, German Pinschers, and others to develop the modern breed.
In the 1600s, these tiny working dogs raced through horse stables and kitchens to exterminate rats and mice—earning them the nickname "Ratter" or "Ratting Terrier." Though the Affen isn't classified as a terrier, they're comparable in both form and temperament.
It didn't take long for the Affenpinscher's lovable nature to get noticed. The adorable breed soon became a favored pet. And these little pups often led double lives: working dogs by day, devoted household companions at night.
The Affenpinscher is a balanced, terrier-like breed with wiry hair that the breed standard describes as "neat but shaggy" in appearance. It walks with a light, confident gait.
Due to their somewhat odd appearance, Affenpinschers have been likened to Wookies and Ewoks and given multiple nicknames—including "ape terrier" and "monkey dog." The French refer to Affens as "diablotin moustachu," which means "mustached little devil."
Coat and Colouring
The breed is best known for its dense, rough, wire-haired coat. It's usually about one inch long. But longer hair on the Affen's head, eyebrows, and beard gives the breed a monkey-like expression.
Affenpinschers come in black, gray, silver, red, black and tan, or belge (a black-and-reddish-brown mix). Black coats can have a rusty cast—with white or silver hairs mixed in. The shades of red coats range from red to a tan tinged with orange.
Distinctive Physical Traits
Though small, Affenpinschers aren't delicate. They're solid, compact dogs that are as long as they are tall—giving them a square appearance. The breed's ears sit high on the head and may be dropped, semi-erect, cropped, or erect. Affens also have a slight underbite and a short muzzle that narrows to a blunt nose.
A big dog in a petite package, the Affenpinschers is alert, inquisitive, and feisty. These pups are also loyal and affectionate with their families and fearless in confrontations with strangers.
Though generally quiet, Affens are enthusiastic barkers. They make excellent guard dogs, willing to face down aggressors of all sizes. But these guarding tendencies can sometimes extend to other resources, including food and toys. So, Affenpinschers may not be ideal for families with small children. That said, socialization can help with this and other undesirable behaviors.
To ensure your Affenpinscher doesn't become overweight, measure out meals, and reduce portions if necessary. Affens thrive on a high-quality diet designed for their life stage (e.g., puppy, adult, senior). You might also consider foods specially formulated for small breeds.
Regular grooming—including baths—is required to keep Affens looking their best. Brushing with a small brush and metal comb can help remove cast-off hair and mats. And professional groomers can ensure your Affenpinscher keeps its "monkey-faced" appearance. (Since Affens have slow-growing hair, you can go a few months between trims.)
Trimming nails, cleaning ears, and brushing teeth should also be part of your Affenpinscher's grooming routine.
Affens were bred to work and still require frequent exercise. But a short daily walk, games, or indoor playtime with toys is often enough to wear out this moderately active breed. These tiny athletes may also enjoy participating in dog sports—such as agility, tracking, and both rally and competitive obedience.
Affenpinschers have a reputation for being difficult to train due to their stubborn, independent natures. But obedience training is essential. It helps keep your dog's guarding tendencies in check—making them safer around other pets and children.
These bold, courageous dogs are quick learners and relatively eager to please. They respond best to positive reinforcement and rewards (not harsh reprimands). Affens quickly lose interest during long training sessions. So, opt for shorter, more frequent bouts of obedience training, and switch up activities to keep your pup engaged.