The Affenpinscher is more than just a pretty face. The moustachioed little devil, as he’s nicknamed in France, has a bold manner that makes him a favorite of people who want a small dog with a "big dog" attitude. He has terriers in his family tree and got his start as a ratter in Germany. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring an Affenpinscher.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Affenpinscher gets up every morning and puts on his game face. He's not afraid of anything or anyone, and his alert nature makes him an excellent watchdog, even if his size renders him incapable of actually doing much in the way of protection. Toward his family and friends, he's loving and loyal. Toward mice, rats and other vermin, well, let's just say he's more than capable of keeping your home rodent-free.

This is an inquisitive and intelligent little dog. He's generally quiet, but anything or anyone who seems threatening will trigger him to bark a warning. When it comes to big dogs, he has no sense of his size and will take them on at every opportunity. In these cases, it's essential to protect him from himself.

Exercise is good for every dog, so make sure the Affenpinscher gets a walk or other activity daily. His athletic ability and intelligence make him a contender in dog sports such as agility, obedience and rally. When it comes to training, he's more tractable and obedient than some toy breeds. Keep learning fun and use positive reinforcement techniques, never force.

While it's tempting to carry this little dog everywhere you go, resist the impulse and let him be a dog. He'll be happier and better-behaved for it.

The Affen has a rough coat with a cape at the neck and shoulders, Groucho Marx eyebrows, and a beard. He needs some plucking and trimming to maintain a shaggy but neat appearance. Ask your dog's breeder to give you lessons in how to groom him or study the directions provided on the website of the Affenpinscher Club of America.

Affenpinschers are companion dogs. They need to live in the house, never outdoors.

Affenpinscher puppies are adorable, and it's one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Affen a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these little dogs, and you'll be well rewarded with a wonderfully funny dog.

Health Issues Common to Affenpinschers

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Affenpinschers have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include luxating patellas, eye diseases, hip dysplasia and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have patella and hip certifications from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease High $1,000-$3,000
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000

6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Affenpinshcer Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. To find a list of breeders, visit the website of the Affenpinscher Club of America; choose one who is committed to following the ACA's Code of Ethics.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Affenpinschers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Affenpinschers can live 10 to 12 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Affen to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Affenpinschers

Pet insurance for Affenpinschers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Affenpinschers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Affenpinschers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Affenpinscher is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.