The affenpinscher is regularly described as the oldest toy breed. It is certainly thought that small rough coated dogs have been known in Europe since at least the Sixteenth Century. Some believe that the dog portrayed in Van Eyck and Durer's work are of affenpinscher type although a number of different toy breeds also lay claim to these works
The first substantiated accounts appear to be around the end of the 1800's. It appears that by this time the affenpinscher was well established in Germany particularly in the south, being valued for their entertainment value as well as their ratting and watchdog instincts. It was becoming increasingly popular in other parts of the continent, especially Belgium and France.
The Affenpinscher is believed to have contributed the Miniature Schnauzer and the Brussels griffon ancestry. However, WW1 decreased the numbers. The breed has never really recovered in Germany and reached an all time low of 7 registered in 1984.
There are now more Affenpinschers in the United States than the rest of the world put together, and nearly all the imports that established the breed in Britain came from there, although there have been imports from Holland and more recently Germany.
The first Affenpinscher registered with the Kennel Club in Britain was a dog called Affie in 1897. Some were introduced during the fifties but the breed did not take off then.
The current British affenpinschers have all developed from the successful attempt at establishing the breed mounted in 1974 by Wendy Boorer, Toni Teasdale, Jenni Wiggins and Betty Hargreaves. The first bitch was brought in and registered with the Kennel Club in 1975. Although things were very difficult initially, the breed has gone from strength to strength gathering loyal devotees at a rapid rate. The breed now registers around 100 puppies per year. The Affenpinscher Club was formed in 1982 and the breed gained Challenge Certificate status at Championship show level at Crufts in 1992. The championship show entries are now around sixty to seventy dogs. To date we have had 32 British Champions made up.
The affenpinscher is best described as loving, loyal and lively. Affenpinschers are devoted to their humans and will do their utmost to be with them, whether you are sitting on the sofa or digging the garden in the rain.
They are not excessive barkers, but will warn you, with a short sharp burst of barking, if something different is going on around the house, as you would expect from a watchdog.
They are courageous little dogs who will size up to any dog no matter how big. Generally, however, they get on well with other dogs. Provided that they are properly introduced they are also capable of living harmoniously with cats and other pets.
As with all toy dogs, affenpinscher's are perhaps not the best choice of pet for a very young child or toddler. This is mainly for the dog's sake as young children can be unintentionally rough and damage little bones and limbs. However with sensible levels of supervision they can prove ideal companions for older children.
The affenpinscher is part of the toy group and should be no higher than 11 inches at the shoulder ideally. The colour should be black although some grey in the coat is allowed. In other the USA other colours are permissible and include red and black and tan.
The most characteristic part for me is the monkey expression. This should be achieved by the round jet black sparkling eye (not too big) and the correct muzzle length with a really kissable upturned chin and under jaw. Just looking at an affenpinscher's face should cheer you up and make you smile.
They are a study compact square little dog, with a characteristic high stepping front movement. Their tail should be carried (when moving) up and over their backs (but not too tight !)
The coat is a very important part of the breed and should be harsh. The coat should be slightly longer on the head and shoulders than on the back and legs (especially on the male). If you wanted to show your affenpinscher then you should tidy up the ears, feet and tail, otherwise an occasional brush should keep the dog looking its best. This is not a high maintenance dog.
I have found the breed to be eminently trainable and obedient for a toy dog. Many of the breed have KC Good citizen awards at various levels and other owners have trained the affenpinscher to be able to compete at obedience shows
In keeping with their name they can be prodigious climbers and this can sometimes be a problem when they launch themselves from the furniture and certainly in small puppies, should be curtailed to prevent injury. Another endearing monkey-like habit of the breed is to clasp toys and bones in their paws, to manipulate and steady them. It is not unknown for them to wrap their tails around things to steady themselves as well.
Possibly the main drawback is that affenpinschers once they are fully grown can be greedy and as with any dog it is very important not to allow them to become overweight. Luckily affenpinschers don't need a lot of exercise. They will be just as happy with a run in the garden as a hike up a Munroe. Again in common with all toy breeds they should not be walked excessively until they are at least 6 months old.
Affenpinschers are generally very healthy and there are no genetic health problems known to breeders.
Are affenpinschers for you ?
It you want a small, loving, happy and slightly unusual companion, with low maintenance then Affenpinschers are for you. Once you've got one you'll wonder why you waited so long! The problem is that they are addictive and one is never enough. Remember however that this is a numerically small breed with only 100 puppies born per year so you may have to wait for a puppy. They are definitely worth the wait !