No one is really sure how the miniature pinscher came about. The breed is quite old predating even the Doberman pinscher. Some believe that the min-pin is a cross between a German pinscher and dachshund others perhaps a cross between German pinscher and Italian Greyhound. What is known with fair certainty is that they were bred to hunt vermin.
The Miniature Pinscher
This is an odd breed of small dog. Even though the dog seems a new breed here in the United States, they are actually an older breed than the Doberman Pinscher.
How Do We Know the Breed is So Old?
The age of the breed and its purpose
Well, for one the breed named for Karl Friedrich Louis Dobermann, the Doberman (the pinscher designation has been dropped) is quite a bit younger. Karl Friedrich even declared that he wanted his dog to look like the miniature pinscher only about four times larger. The misconception about the age of the breed here in the U.S. is largely due to the fact that the Doberman was introduced here long before the min-pin was.
The min-pin above has the most common coloration for this breed; black with tan points. Note that this particular dog is "unmodified." Her ears have not been cropped nor her tail docked. She looks like a small hound.
Other color combinations include red (which is really a reddish tan and all one color) and chocolate which has the same general coloring as the black and tan, but with a chocolate brown coat with tan points instead of black with tan points.
A Working Dog
Though the breed is thought of as a toy breed here in the U.S., and yes they are categorized that way with the American Kennel Club, the dog was actually bred to be a barn dog. His primary function was to hang out in the barn or near grain stores and hunt vermin. This "profession" meant there was little need for this small dog to have much human contact.
King of the Toys
When the breed was introduced here in the U.S. in 1919 the AKC was asked to categorize them as toys. Here the breed has never been considered a working dog, despite it's back-ground, and has been treated and bred as a companion dog from the very beginning.
Despite it's working-class history, the toy designation is fitting. They are warm companionable dogs that bond closely with their human companions. They are also quite loyal.
Appearance, Size, Temperment and Quirks
The "ideal" miniature pinscher
The miniature pinscher is well balanced front-to-back, has a sturdy, compact build and a smooth short-haired coat. She requires very little grooming with occasional baths and brushing. As a breed they are proud, vigorous (almost too much so) and very alert. In fact, despite it's small size (below) it makes a good watch-dog.
When walking the dog has a high-stepping gait, somewhat like a hackney horse. A sign of happiness and confidence is the tail arched over the back. The breed is also quite fearless, completely self-confident and has a feisty presence.
The breed, at maturity, should be between ten (10") and twelve and a half (12.5") inches from paw to shoulder. A min-pin will weight anywhere from eight to ten pounds.
First and foremost if you have younger children you may not want a min-pin. Despite their confident nature they can be easily injured. Children tend to play rough and this could be bad for both the child and the dog. As you should know any dog may bite if injured. That said, they are great companions to older children (tweens and teens) or kids who know to treat this little warrior gently.
Long time dog owners will do better with this breed. Even though they are quite intelligent the breed is hard to train. This is due to a combination of independence and short attention span on the part of the dog. Still with patience and encouragement the miniature pinscher can be taught an astounding number of commands.The breed is also known to associate words with objects independently.
As a breed he is assertive, active, outgoing, and self-confident. They are very energetic and do better with a fenced yard to run around in. Still, if you don't mind walking them more often than other breeds, they make good apartment dogs. They are also good watch-dogs as they are quite alert, loyal to their humans, and wary of strangers.
This does not mean that your little power-house will act aggressively toward unknown humans. Simply introduce your pinscher to new humans so that he or she will have confidence and establish trust through your good will.
The Houdini of Dogs
Min-pins have a number of habits that can astound new owners. As mentioned they are quite intelligent. For that reason they are very good at figuring out how to get out of a fenced-in yard. In these cases curiosity about what is beyond the fence drives them to go explore. Because they are so bright they can figure out how to escape what the owner will swear is an escape proof enclosure.
I'll Hide, You go Seek
When resting or napping outside they may like to bury themselves under leaves. Indoors the "burrowing" habit might be under a blanket, bed-covering or a "just from the dryer" load of laundry. Min-pins love clean warm clothes.
Since this is a common trait with min-pins do be careful where you sit.
Go for a Spin
Because he seems to have limitless energy your min-pin may also start spinning madly around when excited. I've had three in my life-time and they all do this. They are so fast in fact that you my get dizzy watching this display, but your canine pal never will. It's odd, but funny to watch.
The Perfect Companion
This dog loves to cuddle and play
Even though the preceding paragraphs indicate a fiercely independent and headstrong dog they can be surprisingly affectionate.
Few things are more comforting to a min-pin than a warm human to curl up with. She'll lay in your lap, at your feet, behind your knees and just anywhere you are just to be close. Body contact is a must.
If that's not endearing enough don't be surprised if he has to check in on you every so often just to see where you are and what you are up to.
If they are in the mood a min-pin loves to play. Don't expect "fetch," but "keep away" and "tug-of-war" are activities they all seem to enjoy. Then there is what I call "catch the rat." If I put my hand under a blanket or sheet and start moving it around my boy cannot resist chasing it around and trying to pin it down.
Time, enthusiasm, and patience pay off
Because they are such high energy dogs they have short attention spans and are easily distracted. However, with patience, time, and genuine enthusiasm you can train your min-pin to do astounding things. The key here is to never get upset (they want to please you after all), take all the time in the world, and any time your min-pin gets it right lots and lots of enthusiastic praise.
Like any dog, they don't come understanding English, but the min-pin is very anxious to please you. This means he will continue to try to understand you and do your bidding until you give positive feedback. They do this even when when you aren't trying to train them.
Don't believe me? Watch the video below; this "red" knows an astounding number of tricks.
Grooming, Feeding, and Care
Care is really pretty easy
As stated earlier this dog needs little grooming. With the short coat and little shedding, the min-pin simply needs to be brushed once in a while and given the infrequent bath.
Min-pins also tend to self-groom. It is not unusual to see them licking or nibbling on their paws much like a cat. There's nothing wrong with their paws, they just like to stay clean.
Grooming may also extend to you. Mine likes to lick my ears to make sure they are nice and clean.
She will eat whatever you eat so take care. Some food items that are OK for humans are not good for min-pins. Onions, avocado, nuts, and chocolate are all bad for dogs regardless of breed. And no matter what kind of pain she may be in never ever give a dog aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol; all three are are deadly poisonous to dogs.
Your min-pin thinks she's human so she'll eat what ever you give her even if it's bad for her.
Also, it won't take long for her to figure out how to beg. That means she'll leave her food alone until she's had her share from your plate and then go and eat her own food.
What often happens is the dog will over-eat, gain weight, and suffer the consequences. Yes, min-pins will pack on the pounds if you don't exercise some control. So my advice is to feed them from your plate after you are completely done and feed them very little at that. This will help keep his or her weight down and help establish you as the alpha. Alpha's always eat first.
As to dog food a good kibble is best. Make sure it is a smaller size kibble and that it has a good balance of meat protein and vegetables matter.
Because these dogs are so hyperactive and so anxious to please they can also "wolf-down" food much faster than they can actually swallow it. What will then happen is a short and somewhat horrifying "gagging fit" as he tries to deal with having gobbled up way too much food at one time. Don't panic, he'll work it out and everything will be fine in a few minutes.
These dogs also tend to hyperventilate when overly excited which may lead you to believe that you need to get him some special medicine from the veterinarian to handle what is clearly asthma. It isn't asthma though, it is just the nature of the dog. Simply give him a nice slow petting, talk gently to him, and he'll calm down and start breathing normally again.
Min-pins don't seem to care much about the rain, but they do get cold. In chillier climates it might be a good idea to get him a doggie sweater or vest to wear when out in cold weather.
The Min Pin Smile
Yes, this dog can smile
Finally, this breed has excellent muscle control around the mouth.
In fact the highlight of your day may be the off chance you see her smiling at you. Just look closely at the corners of her mouth; she can turn them up just like human lips do.
Notice the wrinkles just below the eyes on either side of the mouth.
And yes, that is a smile!
His range of sound is nearly operatic
Min-pin can also vocalize an astounding range of notes and sounds. He can bark, howl, whine, grunt, huff (a silent bark really), and croon. Not only can they hit a huge number of notes on the Diatonic scale, they can also emit a remarkable number of sounds along most of those notes.
For example my older min-pin had been admonished a number of times for barking when he wanted something. He eventually caught the hint (he wouldn't get what he wanted if he barked) and he began to resort to forming his mouth into a bark shape while expelling air with some force. His vocal chords never came into play, but he still made a sound.
Sort of a dog whisper if you will. I called this his silent bark.
He can howl with the best of them, his bark is high-pitched and rapid, and he create a sustained growl. There are also the occasional odd noises that span notes or even sounds. For such a small dog they have an amazing range.
Now all that said they are not a particularly noisy dog. They only vocalize when they really need to.
They aren't ideal for everyone, but you'd be hard pressed to find a better companion dog than a min-pin.
They are easy to take care of, aim to please, are loyal and protective, and love to cuddle. Though they can be difficult to train, once you get them started they can learn an amazing number of tricks.
Their clowning ways are endearing and their constant discovery, learning, and exploring are endlessly entertaining.