The Miniature Pinscher

King of Toys or court jester, this tiny might needs a firm hand and a sense of humor


Forget the image of toy dogs as fragile and in need of pampering when considering the Miniature Pinscher. This delicate-looking little dog has a constitution of steel and an impish character that can reduce the overbearing owner to tears of frustration, for he will rule the roost with a tiny iron paw if allowed to do so.

Unlike the Miniature Poodle, which is a scaled-down version of the Standard Poodle, the Min Pin is not a smaller version of anything, especially the much-larger Doberman Pinscher. Both may have descended from the German Pinscher, a medium-sized black and tan dog bred to control vermin in the barnyard, but there the relationship ends. The Doberman includes Rottweiler and perhaps the Black and Tan Terrier; the Min Pin reportedly came from crosses with breeds as diverse as the Dachshund1 and the Italian Greyhound.

Part of the confusion in origin comes from the word "pinscher," which is a descriptive term like "terrier" or "setter" that denotes the dog's method of working, not his heritage. In German, "pinscher" means "biter" and derives from the dog's habit of jumping on and fiercely biting its quarry. The German pinscher family includes the Affenpinscher, a toy breed with a wiry coat, and the schnauzers.1 The name may also be borrowed from the English "pincher," meaning "one who seizes or pinches."

The Min Pin is also not related to the Manchester Terrier in either the standard or toy sizes. The Manchester is an English breed; the Min Pin hails from Germany.

So what is the Min Pin? It is a diminutive dog with an elegant way of going, a spunky dog with a sense of humor, an energetic dog with a bouncy personality that brightens days and sometimes causes apoplexy in its owners. Bred to keep farm kitchens free of mice and rats, this little guy can be ferocious when necessary and scrappy on a whim.

In short, as breeders and owners say, the Min Pin is not for everyone.

The Miniature Pinscher ranked 23 in litters registered with the American Kennel Club with 7650 litters in 1993, up from 6889 litters the previous year. The breed also ranked 29 in individual registrations with 14,987 in 1993, up from 13,353 in 1992. The increase can be attributed to several factors, including the breed's perfect size for apartment dwelling and the saying among breeders and owners that, if this is the breed that captures your fancy, "you can't have just one."

Physical appearance.

The Miniature Pinscher ranges from 10-12.5 inches in height with the preferred size being 11-11.5 inches. Dogs shorter than 10 inches or taller than 12.5 inches are disqualified from the show ring. Males are square-bodied; females may be slightly longer than tall.

The whole picture of the Min Pin is one of refined elegance, both standing still and moving. The strong but not coarse head, slightly arched neck, level topline, and sleek, well-muscled body give the little dog the appearance of strength in a Lilliputian package. The coat is smooth, hard, straight, and lustrous in solid red, stag red (with black hairs intermingling), black-and-rust, or chocolate-and-rust. The rust markings are well-defined, not bleeding into the black or chocolate and are found on cheeks, lips, lower jaw, throat, lower half of forelegs, inside of hind legs and lower portion of hocks and feet, and in twin spots above the eyes and on the chest. Small spots of white not to exceed one-half inch in size are acceptable. Any other color or pattern is a disqualification, as is a thumb-print of black or chocolate on a rust leg. The thumb-print is associated with the Manchester Terrier and is prohibited in the Min Pin.

Min Pin ears are usually cropped2 but can be left natural. The tail is always docked.

The high-stepping gait of the Min Pin completes the picture of grace and style and reminds observers of the flashy gait of hackney horses bred to pull the carriages of upper class Europeans and southern gentlemen. Moderate shoulder angulation and good reach in front coupled with strong hindquarters lend to the naturally flamboyant trot.


Min Pin temperament is described in the breed standard as "fearless animation, complete self-possession, and spirited presence." These qualities often lead to problems with unsuspecting first-time owners.

"This is not a lapdog breed," writes Michelle Lowell in Your Purebred Puppy. "He can be so much the temperamental tyrant when overly accommodated that spoiling is not recommended."

"You should find dynamite in a small package or something is wrong," according to a pamphlet from the Miniature Pinscher Club of America.

The Min Pin is curious, suspicious of strangers, vigorous, curious, inquisitive, funny, fearless, curious, energetic, and curious. He will escape from confinement whenever possible to satisfy his curiosity and indulge his need for activity.

Min Pin breeders recommend that buyers purchase an exercise pen with a lid for backyard respites as the tiny dog will leap out of a pen in the blink of an eye and can disappear before a human can react. The tiny dogs are so quick that they should never be allowed outside the yard unless carried or attached to a leash. He should also be watched whenever a door is opened, for he will take advantage of every opportunity to explore.

Although it is a tough and gingerly breed, the Min Pin cannot withstand the rough-and-tumble play of boisterous children. Even though he may bound from sofa to chair to floor and back again, the Min Pin is not sturdy enough for rough handling. However, he does well with older, well-behaved children.

The Min Pin may be the King of Toys, but he must learn from an early age that he is not King of the House. Walking on a leash, coming when called, and standing on a table are probably the most important lessons to be learned. Since obedience training is a must, the owner may as well put his time and effort to good use and work towards obedience titles. Shirley Meyers and Paula Lacker, both local Min Pin breeders, also train and compete in obedience classes. Meyers is working her champion bitch Charm towards a utility title; they have already earned a companion dog excellent, the second title in the triumvirate.

Firm, persistent, consistent, and gentle are the operative words in Min Pin training. No harsh corrections and no "He's so cute (or tiny), I can't bear to correct him," for both these extreme attitudes will result in disaster. Once the dog realizes he can't bluff you with his antics, he'll most likely come to enjoy the training time and the opportunity to please. On the other hand, the Miniature Pinscher Club of America offers this: "As typical of the Min Pin personality, the more a crowd laughs, the more he will mis-perform!" So don't opt for this breed unless you have a keen sense of comedy and can take a joke.

The Min Pin needs a room of his own to which he can be confined when he cannot be supervised. Since he can easily climb on furniture_ even tables and counters if he's determined to do so -- any small item that he may steal or choke on should be put away. This means no tubes of lip balm, pens and pencils, bowls of hard candy, children's toys, combs, paper clips, coins, etc. -- in short, anything that the dog can pick up and carry off.

Health and care

In spite of its tiny size and fine bones, the Min Pin is a hardy, healthy dog with few genetic problems. He is susceptible to generalized progressive retinal atrophy, an inherited eye abnormality that eventually causes blindness. However, he may suffer from unintentional rough handling of a child and should never be dropped, even from sofa-height, even though he might jump from the same height on his own.

Coat care is minimal. A brisk rubdown with a hand mitt or towel ensures a shiny coat. Frequent baths are not necessary and may dry the skin; instead, the dog can be wiped down with a washcloth dampened with warm water. Always make sure the dog is dry before an outdoor excursion.

As with other breeds, teeth should be kept clean and nails trimmed to avoid problems.

Because of its small size, bright attitude, and high-stepping gait, the Min Pin is a favorite of pet stores. At a recent dispersal of a commercial kennel, more than 50 Min Pins were sold. Obviously, anyone interested in raising puppies for money can fit many Min Pins in a small space. However, they cannot possibly give the puppies the attention they need and deserve in order to become well-adjusted family pets. Furthermore, small dogs raised in crates and cages without opportunity to walk on different surfaces, exposure to the sights and sounds of daily living, or basic housetraining is likely to be fearful of new experiences and difficult to teach appropriate defecation and urination habits.

A Min Pin purchased from a reputable and responsible breeder should be clean, well-socialized, and healthy. The breeder should advise the buyer on appropriate care and training and be available for assistance. All pet Min Pins should be spayed or neutered by agreement between breeder and buyer; breeding these tiny dogs is not an easy proposition, and only the best quality animals should join the gene pool.

[More on finding a dog]

Norma Bennett Woolf

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