Affenpinscher 101: The Monkey Terrier

This breed profile explores the history, characteristics, and temperament of the unique Affenpinscher dog breed while sharing fun facts about this beloved canine companion.

Dec 14, 2023By Natasha Elder
affenpinscher 101 the monkey terrier

With its inquisitive eyes, comically expressive face, and boundless energy, there’s something for everyone to love about the Affenpinscher. This pint-sized pup is small in stature, but certainly not in personality and it has been entertaining families around the world for centuries. Let’s learn all about Affenpinschers.

1. Affenpinschers Were Bred to Hunt Vermin

affenpinscher historical sketch university amsterdam
Image credit:Wikimedia

The history of the Affenpinscher is interesting, to say the least. The Affenpinscher breed has been around since the 1600s when it was developed in Germany to keep stables, granaries, barns, and farmland free from rats and other pests. Dogs bred for this specific purpose are called ratters or mousers and their only job is to catch and kill vermin.

But the Affenpinscher ended up doing such a great job that by the end of the 17th century, they were brought indoors to make sure kitchens were mice-free zones. At this point in history, Affenpinschers stood 12 to 13 inches, or 30 to 33 centimeters, tall. This transition from outdoor to indoor dog saw an eventual decrease in the size of the breed to 9 to 12 inches, or 23 to 30 centimeters, which is the height they’re known for being today.

Affenpinscher dog retro
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Over time, the Affenpinscher's unique personality traits became impossible to ignore and the breed – after working its way into the home – worked its way into the heart too. As of the 18th century, the Affenpinscher was considered to be a companion dog. By the late 1800s, the breed was a popular housedog in Germany, France, and a few other European countries. By the 1930s, the Affenpinscher had made its way to America and was officially recognized as a dog breed by the American Kennel Club in 1936.

Although the Affenpinscher’s popularity in the United States has dwindled slightly over the years, it remains a popular breed in European countries to this day.

A Dog With Many Names

Like German Shepherds are known as Alsatians in the United Kingdom and Caucasian Shepherds are called Russian prison dogs and a variety of other names depending on where they are in the world, Affenpinschers also go by a few alternative names. Two of their most notable monikers are Monkey Terrier and Moustached Little Devil. Their name is often also shortened to Affens or Affies by those who love the breed – or those who just struggle to pronounce the name!

When it comes to the proper name for this breed, the word “Affen” means “monkey” or “ape” in German while “pinscher” is a type of German dog breed (more on that a little later in this article!). The name was inspired by the fact that the dog’s face strongly resembles that of a monkey, plus its personality can be described as monkey-like.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The name “Monkey Terrier” is merely the English translation of its German name, which makes perfect sense. But where on earth does the nickname Moustached Little Devil come from? France, that’s where. In France, the Affenpinscher is known as “Diablotin Moustachu” which translates to “Moustached Little Devil” in English. Again, this nickname is inspired by the dog’s facial features and, shall we say boisterous, personality.

Affenpinschers Are Among Many Native German Dogs

Did you know that, of the 350 dog breeds recognized by the World Canine Federation, 40% of all dogs in the world come from just three countries? This whopping percentage is made up of dog breeds native to France, England – which each have 57 registered breeds -- and Germany with its 47 registered breeds.

It seems that Germany knows a thing or two about breeding dogs. Affenpinschers are just one of 47 officially recognized dog breeds that come from Germany. Some of their German relatives are:

  • Bavarian Mountain Scent Hound
  • Biewer Terriers
  • Boxers
  • Dachshunds
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Pointers (Shorthaired, Longhaired, and Wirehaired varieties)
  • German Pinscher
  • German Shepherds
  • German Spitz
  • Great Danes (that’s right, though their misleading name might have you thinking they come from Denmark, Great Danes are German dogs!)
  • Hovawarts
  • Leonbergers
  • Small Münsterländers
  • Pomeranians
  • Rottweilers
  • Schnauzers (Standard, Miniature, and Giant varieties)
  • Weimaraners

2. Affenpinschers Live for 12 to 15 Years

joey banana joe black affenspinscher dog
Image credit: Wikimedia

It’s a well-established fact that smaller dogs live longer than big dogs. However, within the small dog category, there is a bit of variation in average lifespans. For example, Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Toy Poodles, and Yorkshire Terriers will often live up to 20 years while other smaller breeds like English Bulldogs have an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years. So where do Affenpinschers sit on the small dog life expectancy scale?

Affenpinschers have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. Of course, this is just an average and there have been some cases where an Affenpinscher has reached its 20th birthday and very often Affenpinschers will enjoy 16 or 17 years with their owner before passing away of old age.

Several factors influence how long an Affenpinscher will live. Genetics, breed-specific health issues, and diet all have a direct impact on the life expectancy of Affenpinschers.

3. Small Affenpinschers Have BIG Personalities

affenpinscher running grass competition
Image credit:Omlet

They say dynamite comes in small packages, and whoever “they” are probably came up with this saying after spending time with an Affenpinscher. What they may lack in size, they sure make up for in personality. This dog breed is known and loved for its iconic temperament.

You might take one look at an Affenpinscher and think it must be meek, gentle, cuddly, and calm, but appearances can be deceiving. On the contrary, they’re typically described as:

  • Fearless
  • Bold
  • Courageous
  • Confident
  • Curious
  • Loyal
  • Territorial
  • Serious
  • Strong-willed
  • Amusing
  • Friendly
  • Social
  • Of high intelligence

As with any dog breed, it’s not always a walk in the park with this canine. Affenpinschers have plenty of positive personality traits, but their strong character makes them notoriously difficult to train and housebreaking can be difficult. In addition, the territorial aspect of their temperament means that they don’t do very well with sharing (food, toys, or attention!) and they’re generally not considered to be the best dog for families with children.

4. Affenpinschers Prefer Their Kind

pair affenpinscher pups toadstool
Image credit: Your Purebred Puppy

Much like status as a great house pet, there’s something else that has stuck with the Affenpinscher over time: it’s ratting nature! Because of this deep-rooted drive to hunt vermin, Affenpinschers are not good at sharing space with Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, or other rodent pets as they will try to hunt them. But rodents aside, how does the Affenpinscher get along with other animals?

For the same reason as outlined above, Affenpinschers aren’t compatible with small animals. Surprisingly, they get along fairly well with cats – especially those in their own family. In certain circumstances, such as when a cat is skittish or if an unfamiliar cat enters the Affenpinscher's territory, the Affenpinscher will give chase.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

And, finally, how do Affenpinschers get along with other dog breeds? Not very well, unfortunately. Like most working dogs, when they were originally bred, Affenpinschers were bred to work on the farms alone, so it makes sense that they have trouble getting along with other dogs outside of their breed. However, this is not always the case and every rule has an exception so if the Affenpinscher is introduced to other dogs and socialized with them early on, they could be compatible.

5. Affenpinscher Coats Come in Many Colors

red affenpinscher monkey terrier coat
Image credit: Fire Mountain Affens

Affenpinschers have wiry coats that are either kept short or grow to a medium length. In the official breed standard, the Affenpinscher is described as “having a neat but shaggy appearance” and their coat is defined as “rough, harsh, and covered in dense hair” which is a perfect description.

This funny little fellow is usually solid black but can be other colors too. The American Kennel Club has laid out the accepted breed standard colors as:

  • Black
  • Black & Tan
  • Black & Silver
  • Red
  • Belge (a reddish-brown shade of black)

In terms of special markings or patterns, Affenpinschers can sometimes have a black mask on their face or a small white spot on their chest but that’s about it. Affenpinschers need regular grooming (once or twice a week) and they will need their coat stripping on an annual basis. This involves manually pulling out dead hair from their coat, either by hand or using a special stripping tool.

6. Got Allergies? Get an Affenpinscher

Last but not least, let’s talk about how Affenpinschers are considered to be hypoallergenic and, as a result, fantastic pets for people with allergies. Affenpinschers do not shed a lot, and when they do their hair takes a long time to grow back so shedding is very irregular. Additionally, because the Affenpinschers coat is so wiry and dense, it retains dander exceptionally well.

When people think of allergies, they tend to focus exclusively on the fur of an animal being the culprit that causes them to sneeze and sniff. Though fur is undoubtedly a big trigger, it’s not the only one. People can also have allergy attacks from a dog’s urine, sweat, or saliva. And the latter is where the Affenpinscher ticks yet another box.

On top of shedding such little fur, Affenpinschers produce very little slobber. Some dogs drool more than others, but Affenpinschers barely drool at all.

Natasha Elder
By Natasha Elder

Natasha is a mother, a wife, a writer, and a serial cat owner. Though she is currently in mourning, her heart not ready for another feline family member just yet, she has always lived life with four paws beside her. She loves – you guessed it – cats, as well as creatures of the fluffy, scaly, and finned variety. Natasha longs to meet Sir David Attenborough one day and is passionate about responsible pet ownership