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Dog of the day - Affenpinscher

The Affepinscher can be traced back to the early 17th century, however the dog is depicted in paintings by Dutch artists as the 15th century. These terrier-type dogs originated in Germany and were used in stables, shops, farms, and homes for their ratting abilities.

Eventually they were bred to down in size to be companion dogs. We don't know the genetic origins of the dog, as much of their history was lost during the world wars. They may have been bred from Pugs, German Pinschers, and a now extinct breed known as the German Silky Pinscher. Affenpinscher-type dogs also contributed to the development of other breeds, including the Brussels Griffon and the Miniature Schnauzer.

The Berlin Lapdog Club began to formulate a breed standard for the Affenpinscher in 1902, but the true breed standard was not finalized until 1913.

This standard, translated to English, was adopted by the American Kennel Club and the Affenpinscher was officially entered into the AKC in 1936. The first Affenpinscher registered with the AKC was named Nollie v. Anwander, one of four German imports belonging to Bessie Mally of Cicero, Illinois.

World War II interrupted the breeding of the Affenpinscher in the United States. It wasn't until the 1950s that interest in the breed revived. The Affenpinscher ranks 125th in popularity among the breeds and varieties recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Affenpinschers are tiny, ranging from just 9.5 to 11.5 inches tall and weigh 7 to 9 pounds. The Affenpinscher is affectionate and curious, always on the alert. He's loyal to his family and will do his best to protect them from harm. They are easily excitable and make excellent alert dogs. They don't generally do well in a multi dog household and can be prone to challenging larger dogs. They do not do well with children and can be snappy. These dogs will do much better in a home with adults.

Affenpinschers need early socialization and exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences when they're young.

Affenpinschers are unfortunately prone to a number of health conditions.

  • Patellar Luxation: Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella is not properly lined up. This causes lameness and an abnormal gait that appears like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always appear until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgery.

  • Legg-Perthes Disease: Generally a disease of small breeds, this condition--a deformity of the ball of the hip joint--usually appears at 6 to 9 months of age and can be confused with hip dysplasia. It can cause and arthritis. It can be repaired surgically, and the prognosis is good with the help of physical therapy.

  • Hip/Elbow Dysplasia: This inheritable condition causes the thighbone/elbow to be misaligned with joint. It can cause pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip/elbow dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you're buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems. Hip/elbow dysplasia is hereditary, but it can also be triggered by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling.

  • Heart Murmurs: Heart murmurs are caused by a disturbance in the blood flow through the chambers of the heart. They're an indicator that there may be a disease or condition of the heart that will need to be monitored and treated.

  • Von Willebrands Disease: Von Willebrands Disease is a hereditary disorder in which blood does not clot properly.

  • Anasarca - Anasarca puppies, also referred to as walrus puppies, or occasionally water puppies, rubber puppies, or swimmer puppies, are born with an abnormal and lethal amount of fluid under their skin.

  • Cushing's disease - Cushings Disease occurs when the body over produces cortisol. This chemical help them respond to stress, control their weight, fight infections, and keep their blood sugar levels in check. Too much or too little of it can cause problems.

  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca - chronic, bilateral desiccation of the conjunctiva and cornea due to an inadequate tear film. Syptoms include tearing and dry eyes. As the dog ages it can lead to blindness

  • Legg-Perthes disease Legg-Calve-Perthes disease causes a dog to limp on the affected leg. The limping often begins gradually and progresses over a period of several weeks, eventually causing the dog to place no weight on the affected leg. In some cases, pain and lameness can develop suddenly. It is uncommon for Legg-Calve-Perthes to affect both hips. An affected dog usually limps on only one rear leg.

  • Oligodontia - Oligodontia is an absence of more than six teeth, usually with only a few teeth remaining and is a polygenic condition.

  • Patent ductus arteriosus - The ductus arteriosus is an arterial shunt between the aorta and the pulmonary artery, the two main blood vessels leading from the heart. It is normally present during fetal development. When this defect is inherited, it appears to run in families. Affected dogs should not be bred, even if the condition is successfully treated.

If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. In Affenpinschers you should expect to see health testing for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von willebrand's disease, thrombopathia, and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site.

The Affenpinscher is an ideal dog for apartment living, especially if you have neighbors who don't mind occasional barking. Short, brisk walks or a suitable length of time in the fenced backyard is enough exercise for this sturdy but only moderately active dog. Because he's so small, the Affenpinscher should be a full-time housedog, with access only to a fully fenced backyard when not supervised. These dogs won't hesitate to confront animals much larger than themselves which can be dangerous. The Affenpinscher can be difficult to housetrain and required a lot of patience.