When learning to evaluate the Affenpinscher it can be difficult for several reasons. It is a rare breed with few, if any, dogs exhibited in large areas in the United States, requiring judges to travel in order to be exposed to good specimens of the breed. Additionally, there are few long term breeders to use as mentors or large kennels with many dogs to observe. Affens have only one specialty weekend per year with entries of 40 to 60 dogs and a supported entry in Palm Springs in early January most years. For these reasons, it is imperative to make an effort to find, observe and examine Affens when the opportunity presents itself. We have an excellent Illustrated Standard available from the National Club and on the AKC Judges’ Resource page.
Major characteristics which make the breed so endearing to its owners and delightful to judge are taken from the ACA Illustrated Standard introduction: “This is a small, sturdy, harsh coated, shaggy looking little dog who is comical, inquisitive and alert.” This describes what you need to see as they enter the ring. We do not want heavy, coarse or big dogs; they are square and up on leg, not long in body or low on leg which are “drags on the breed”.
Shape, proportions and angles are unique and different from other Toy dogs. Affenpinschers have a “short vertical neck”. The word “moderate” is used seven times in the AKC Standard in reference to the chest, tuck up and especially front and rear angulation. This creates correct Affenpinscher movement—jaunty and light but without excessive reach and drive. He is built to pounce, jump and twist to capture a rodent, not chase it down. When in the ring they should not be raced but moved at a speed to show off agility and lightness. Their gait should be sound on four legs but with no hackney or crossing over even as they tend to converge at increasing speed. Per the standard “it is jaunty, light, free, sound and balanced”.
They are very determined and alert but also comical. They will walk and dance on their hind legs to attract attention. This is a breed characteristic and should never be penalized in the ring. When moving they may remind you of Charlie Chaplin as the “little tramp” in the movies, comic in appearance but serious in purpose.
Now you are ready to examine the head, face, structure and coat textures on the table. You must put your hands on the head, very gently please, and feel the shape of the head (round but not domed). The muzzle, which needs to be level with a vertical stop, is equal in length to the distance between the inside corner of the medium, round, dark eyes. Use your thumb to feel the muzzle for length, levelness and the stop. Do not be afraid to “mess up their hair”. Ears come in many shapes and sizes according to our standard but what is important is for them to be symmetrical and add to the expression. Affenpinschers do not actually look like monkeys but rather remind you of a monkey. This is created by their expression, attitude and actions—not just the face.
Affens must have a prominent pouty lower lip. This is created by the longer lower jar which is broad but with no upsweep. They have a slightly undershot or reverse scissor bite with a square muzzle. No teeth or tongue should show which would detract from the correct monkey-like expression. This is not a brachycephalic breed. The eyes and lower lip and hair standing away from the face creates the impish, intelligent, comical and determined expression in the Affenpinscher.
Now with these very important Affenpinscher breed characteristics in mind we can discuss colors, coat textures, ears, tails and grooming. In the US, unlike FCI and other foreign countries which allow only black Affens, our little monkeys come in lots of colors; black, black and tan, red, belge, silver, all with or without a black mask. You will see mostly black ones in the US but many of them will have silver shadings on the head and legs and white hairs interspersed in the coat. All are perfectly acceptable. It is important to know Affens have two distinct types of coat. The body (jacket) is harsh and coarse but not “wirey”. The head is softer but profuse and stands off to frame the face. On mature dogs you will find hair which is longer from the occiput along the neck to the withers and over the shoulders. This forms a “cape”, not to be confused with a “mane” or “ruff”.
In the past 15 years the practice of docking tails and cropping ears has decreased in many breeds and Affens are no exception. Prior to the 1990s, it was rare to see a natural tail or ears. Now almost all are shown “au naturelle”. Our standard is very specific in this matter. Tails may be docked or left natural, with no bias allowed for either. The same with ears as long as symmetrical and all are equally acceptable. Or to put it another way—we don’t care about it and neither should you! Look at the entire dog, not just its parts. No one attribute is more important than another. Shape, coat, head, expression, attitude—look at and judge the whole dog. Our standard specifies the “overall appearance…is more important than any individual characteristic”.
Now a word about grooming and how styles and emphasis change. Our standard states, “Shaggy but neat” and that can be interpreted differently by many people. This does not mean sculpted, sprayed, scissored or over-teased. You must feel free to put your hands on their heads and feel coat and actual textures, shape and bone. You must (gently) feel the stop and tail set and substance.
The biggest challenge in judging a new breed may be setting priorities. No dog is perfect and all have faults of varying degrees. Each breed has certain attributes that are essential and possibly faults that are almost unforgiveable. The Affenpinscher Club of American Illustrated Standard is invaluable in stating eight things which are “Priorities
1. Monkey like expression.
2. Preferred height 9 ½” to 11 ½”.
3. Square appearance, bitches may be slightly longer.
4. Hind legs set under body.
5. Substance must be sturdy.
6. Temperament is comical and inquisitive.
7. Gait is sound, tracking four square converging with speed.
8. Coat is harsh, neat but shaggy.
Using this eight-step guide, judging the whole dog and not just parts and staying positive you should do justice to our breed. This breed makes you smile and laugh with its antics. Just remember “comic seriousness” and you will have the essence of the Affenpinscher.
Featured image: Photo from the article “Racing To The Top” – ShowSight September 2017, courtesy of Kathie Timko, Gizmo Affenpinschers.