A Black Bundle of Joy – ‘Affenpinscher’

Uday Kumar Varma

Following an introduction to the smallest breed of Dogs namely Chihuahua last week, it is now the turn of a breed that has the most unusual look. Affenpinschers are also known as Monkey-Terriers, as their face reveal strong simian features and their behaviour as impish and mischievous as a young monkey.

Raised as Ratters, they have evolved into a lovable and adaptable Apartment breed, noted for their unusual and magnetic looks, bringing both joy and pride to its possessor. Mostly black, furry and never amiss in arresting the attention of a passer-by, Affenpinschers are remarkable on every count.

Affenpinschers are what they call a Napoleon among dogs, a classic “big dog in a small body.

Curious, adventurous, stubborn, fun-loving, playful and active are some of the adjectives that define Affenpinscher, sometimes also called the ‘Monkey Terrier’.

Barely a foot tall at the withers, their height ranging between 9 and 12 inches;  heaviest of them weigh unto 6 kgs. They live unto 14 years but their average life-span is 12 years.They have a short nose with shaggier fur around their head that forms a mane. They tend to be very playful and feisty, making for amusing companions and on-lookers.

They come in many colours. The most common color, of course, is black but  Tan, Silver, Grey, Belge, even Red also show up though infrequently. Look at a black one, you are likely to be at a loss as to figure out how its face looks like, for its face is such a homogenous mass of black that it becomes difficult to differentiate the eyes, the nostrils and the mouth.


They have a German origin. The word ‘Affe’ in German means a monkey and  Affenpinscher translates to Monkey Terrier. The allusion to monkey is on account of their simian face but also because of their impish and often mischievous nature so characteristically displayed by them. This unique, even endearing aspect of their personality earns as much attention as admiration.

400 years ago, around 1600 CE, their job was to get rid of pests and rats in German stables. Later, they were brought inside to exterminate kitchen mice while also being a companion.The breed was created to be a ratter, working to remove rodents from kitchens, granaries, and stables. Over a period of time, however, their attractive and unusual appearance and their adaptability to enclosed human habitation, so typical to large cities and towns, made them a preferred pet.

It’s speculated that German pinschers and pugs contributed to the breed. Affenpinschers, in turn, helped to spur the development of multiple breeds, including the Brussels Griffon and miniature schnauzer.

The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1936. And it is still a rare dog breed in the United States today.

Apartment Pet

Often mistaken and classified as a Terrier, Affenpinschers aren’t strictly a terrier. Officially they are not classified as one but are placed under the category of  Pinschers and Schnauzers” in the FCI classification. 

The size and temperament of these dogs make them an ideal Apartment pet. They’re often adaptable and open to meeting strangers, and they only have a moderate barking level. Keeping an Affenpinscher, thus, became a status symbol, as it could be touted as a rare canine  possession, which indeed it is.

The affenpinscher is full of personality and loves to engage in amusing antics. But it does have a strong-willed temperament and doesn’t always want to comply with training, but it invariably comes round and still tends to be loving with its family.

Constant Care 

Affenpinschers aren’t high-energy dogs, but they still require a moderate amount of exercise each day. They also need consistent training and socialization to be well-mannered dogs.

Affenpinschers don’t shed much, but they do need a fair amount of grooming. Combing twice a week preceded by slicker brushing removes the loose fur and prevents matting. Trimming the hair every other month, particularly around their eyes will ensure a tidy appearance but more important than that, a clear sightline.

Baths will be necessary every couple of months or so, as the coat stays fairly clean. Usual ear, nail and teeth check is also advised.

Reluctant Trainee

Affenpinschers can have an independent mindset, which in turn makes them a bit stubborn when it comes to training. But they still are bright and eager to learn but can not sustain long training sessions. They have a short attention spell.

Affenpinschers often don’t like rough handling, such as being squeezed, which might not make them an ideal match for young children. They’re moderately tolerant of other dogs, especially when socialized together from a young age. But they might not be suitable around smaller household pets, especially rodents, due to their prey drive.


Affenpinschers are typically a healthy dog breed, but they still are prone to some hereditary health issues, including luxating patella, hip dysplasia, eye issues and breathing problems. It  can overheat easily due to its short nose, restricting their outings in harsh summers.

Cute but Temperamental

Like most terrier-type dogs, the Affenpinscher is proud and sensitive and does not take kindly to being teased. This wire-haired terrier-like breed stands less than a foot tall, but is very confident. 

Affenpinschers tolerate humans but adore their masters, but they prefer the company of adults. They don’t take well to rough play, chasing, or being held on a lap without the freedom to jump down on their own time. 

And never  underestimate this little dog’s ability to run off quickly (and stubbornly ignore your calls) if it sees a rodent it wants to chase outside.

These “mustachioed little devils,” endow to their owners a strange sense of pride, a source of envy to other dog-lovers-owners and puzzling to those indifferent to pets.

Uday Kumar Varma, a 1976 batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, was Secretary Information & Broadcasting, member of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and member of the Broadcasting Content Complaints Council, a self-regulatory body for general entertainment channels. As Secretary I&B, he spearheaded the nationwide digitisation programme.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.