Originally from Germany, Affenpinschers are a sturdy, comical Toy Breed historically believed to have been used in the home and farmsteads as a ratter. Woodcuts and paintings depict- ing small Terrier-like dogs that are prob- able precursors of the Affenpinscher place this little dog in Europe in the late 1400s-1700s, although official records and formal breeding programs for this breed did not exist until the late 1800s. In the United States, the Affenpinscher was first listed in the American Kennel Club (AKC) Stud Book in 1936.
From Jerome Cushman’s authoritative book on the Affenpinscher, he notes that, “in German the word affenmartig means ‘monkey-like’ and the word pinscher means ‘Terrier’” In France, they are often referred to as ‘Diablotin Moustachu’, or ‘mustached little devil’, possibly referring to not only their looks, but also to their often times goofy and mischievous behavior.
ABOUT THE AKC STANDARD
The American standard for the Affenpinscher was adopted from an abbreviated translation of the German standard in November, 1936. The Affenpinscher standard is specific for size, eye color, structure and a number of phenotypical traits, but broader and open to interpretation in describing other aspects of the breed. For example, ears may be cropped or not, upright (prick ear) or bent, but must always be symmetrical. The American standard allows for a broader coat color spectrum spanning silver, reds, beige and black. This color variation is in marked contrast to European standards where black is preferred and no other color is encouraged or allowed to be exhibited. From the Breed Standard, “The total over- all appearance of the Affenpinscher is more important than any individual characteristic. He is described as hav- ing a neat but shaggy appearance.” However, In the AKC Club standard, the description of a monkey-like expression is included no less than four times, emphasizing the relative importance of the distinctive facial traits.
The breed’s temperament is described as, “game, alert and inquisitive with great loyalty and affection toward its master and friends. The breed is generally quiet, but can become vehemently excited when threatened or attacked and is fearless toward any aggressor.” Having lived with Affens for many years, for a small dog, Affenpinschers have more than their share of attitude. A favorite description of the monkey dog refers to their ‘overinflated sense of their own self-importance’. It may be a Toy, but they don’t know it!
Affenpinschers in New Mexico, “The Land of Enchantment”! What place could be more fitting for such an enchanting little breed? After retiring from a twetny-five year career with Johnson & Johnson and Cameron’s successful real estate management business, we left California and decided to return to New Mexico as our base of operations for a burgeoning travel and dog-showing lifestyle. As AKC Breeders of Merit, we have bred and shown Bou-vier des Flanders for nearly thirty years, but wanted to expand our canine horizons into something different. Affens fit the bill perfectly because of their comic temperament, easy-going nature, small size, portability and minimal shedding. They are accommodating to active lifestyles, wonderful at agility or content to be couch potatoes. We absolutely love our Bouvs, but come bed- time it is much easier to fit six Affens on the bed!
As in so many things in life, getting our first Affen ten years ago was a combination of planning and sheer luck. Monkey dogs are relatively uncommon and getting one usually means going on a waiting list of a somewhat limited field of breeders. So, we were thrilled when our long-time handler friends, Jorge and Susie Olivera, contacted us to ask if we would be interested in adopting a stunning little Champion, Tamarin Tequila. She certainly wasn’t perfect, but she was perfect for us. Comical, fearless, adorable and eager to insert herself into our pack of Bouvs; she became our introduction to the breed that has slowly taken over our lives.
Compared to most of the AKC breeds, there are only 500 or so Affen- pinschers in the United States. This rarity presents its own set of challenges for judges, breeders and pet fanciers because it can be difficult to get hands-on experience getting to know their unique set of traits, correct pheno- type, temperament and attitude. As previously mentioned there are profound differences in the standard between the United States and international standards regarding dentition and color. So, what a judge may see at Crufts may not correlate to what is seen in the Unit- ed States. A strong judges’ education program helps develop competent, objective evaluations of our breed.
In our opinion, one of the developing threats to the quality of purebred Affenpinschers stems from their scarcity and the unscrupulous cashing in by commercial breeders not interested in the show ring, improving the breed or careful attention to maintaining a relatively healthy breed. Specifically, reputable breeders of Affens have an almost maniacal attention to avoiding eye and joint problems. Many years ago, a friend of ours fell in love with Tequila and want- ed an Affen of her own. She wasn’t willing to wait, so found several breeders selling ‘Quality Affenpinschers’ online for a fraction of the cost of a monkey dog from health-tested, AKC Champion Dam and Sire. She purchased a female that grew to be nearly four inches over the height standard and almost unrecognizable in facial expression, coat and temperament relative to the standard and Affenpinschers seen on the show circuit. To a great extent, there is truth and danger in the adage about getting what you pay for!
Because of the Affen’s small size, it isn’t uncommon for litters to be as few as one puppy, but more typically in the 3-5 range. Survivability can sometimes be an issue with any litter, but as litters get larger, so does the probability of mortality. We’ve had our share of heartache so having a strong genetic foundation can’t be overstated. Knowing this, breeders are always scouring the country and the world for genetic compatibilities to strengthen the breed. This is a sturdy little breed, but genetic weakness can be an insidious threat if not managed proactively.
For the new breeder, it can truly be daunting to enter the world of Affens. Start with love of the breed and add in healthy doses of education, diligence, willingness to listen and hard work;
it pays off. Reputation is hard fought and hard won. There aren’t any shortcuts, but it helps to latch on to a willing mentor and listen religiously to what they offer in terms of developing a sound-breeding program. Everyone has misses in judgment, but a good mentor can help keep those to a minimum. At some point, breeders will likely want to develop a relationship with another breeder who may have a puppy, bitch or sire to incorporate into their breeding program. Remember, they are guarding their reputation as well, so respect that and go into the relationship educated and aware of potential pitfalls.
As in most purebred breeds, amateur handlers can feel disadvantaged and discouraged from venturing into showing their own dogs. One of the reasons we love breeding and showing Affens is the camaraderie that develops between other owners, handlers, pet owners and breeders. Fortunately, there are many long time breeders and handlers who are more than willing and generous in helpful hints to improve grooming and handling. We have always maintained that, outside the ring, we absolutely enjoy our relationships with other Affen fanciers and are quick to share a glass of wine or a story. But, in the ring, the gloves come off and we compete the best way we know how.
Is it all serious competition? Hardly! This is a comical breed, so we learn to laugh at ourselves and our little dogs and those we encounter along the way. Who hasn’t missed a ring call or been caught snoozing when supposed to be in the ring? Oh, and did we mention how notoriously unpredictable Toy Dogs can be? It only takes a time or two of not realizing that your dog has decided it’s time for a break and you just have to acknowledge the applause until they’re done.
After all, they’re only human!