German Pinschers

The German Pinscher is not a smaller variety of Doberman but an older breed with a much longer history. He was used as a versatile farm dog and ratter, but the breed nearly disappeared after World War II and was brought back only through the help of his descendant the Miniature Pinscher. Today he is primarily a family companion and show dog, popular for his medium size of 25 to 45 pounds and protective personality. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering acquiring a German Pinscher.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

If you are looking for a mid-size dog that is bold, territorial and alert, the German Pinscher may be what you have in mind. He is an excellent watchdog and has the size and ability to be protective if needed. He will only be a good choice for you, though, if you have leadership skills. The German Pinscher is highly assertive, determined and manipulative; he will run your house if you let him.

Early socialization and training are essential with this strong-willed (read: stubborn) dog. German Pinschers take well to training, but they are independent thinkers and want to do things their own way. It's important to establish rules, be consistent and, above all, prevent the dog from getting bored. Give him a job to do or he will find one for himself, and you probably won't like it. Use positive reinforcement techniques such as play, praise and food rewards. Like most dogs, German Pinschers become bored when left to their own devices, but when they live with a family who is willing to spend plenty of time training and exercising them, they thrive.

The German Pinscher is best suited to a family with children 9 years and older who can understand how to treat him with respect. He may or may not get along with cats. He has a strong prey drive and will likely chase cats or other small furry animals outdoors, but some German Pinschers get along well with indoor cats if they have been raised with them. Unless you're sure they are best friends, use common sense and separate them when you can't be there to supervise.

The German Pinscher has high energy levels and needs much more activity than a simple walk around the block. Choose this breed only if you are a high-energy person yourself who enjoys active daily exercise with a dog. He's well suited to just about any dog sport or activity you can teach, including agility, obedience, rally and tracking.

The German Pinscher can be aggressive towards dogs or other animals he doesn't know. If your home has a yard, it should be securely fenced to prevent the dog from leaving the premises as well as to prevent other dogs from coming onto the property and causing trouble. That doesn't mean an underground electronic fence. If the German Pinscher wants to leave the yard, a shock isn't going to stop him.

The German Pinscher is not suited to outdoor or kennel life. He should certainly have access to a securely fenced yard, but he should be indoors with his family when they are home.

Brush the German Pinscher's smooth coat weekly to remove dead hair. Trim his nails as needed, and keep his ears clean and dry to prevent infections. Good dental hygiene is also important.

Health Issues Common to German Pinschers

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.

That said, German Pinschers are pretty healthy, and breeders want to keep them that way. The German Pinscher Club of America, which is the American Kennel Club parent organization for the breed in the United States, participates in the Canine Health Information Center Program.

For a German Pinscher to achieve CHIC certification, he must have OFA or PennHIP certification for hips, an OFA evaluation for von Willebrand's disease, and an eye clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation. A cardiac exam is recommended but not required. Breeders must agree to have all test results, positive or negative, published in the CHIC database. You can check CHIC's website to see if a breeder's dogs have these certifications.

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.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Low $1,500-$6,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy German Pinscher Puppy

A list of breeders can be found on the website of the German Pinscher Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to be bound by the club's Code of Ethics, which prohibits its members from selling puppies to pet stores and outlines the responsibilities of its member breeders to the dogs they produce and the people who buy them.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in German Pinschers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. Since a German Pinscher can live to be 12 to 15 years old, even an adult dog will be with your family for a long time.

Puppy or adult, take your German Pinscher 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.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers many breeds and popular mixes, or that ships with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you'll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

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 German Pinschers

Pet insurance for German Pinschers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because German Pinschers are much 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 German Pinschers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your German Pinscher 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.