German Pinscher

German Pinscher Dog Breed

Ron Willbie, Animal Photography

German Pinscher dog

Ron Willbie, Animal Photography

  • Breed Group: Working
  • Height: 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder
  • Weight: 25 to 45 pounds
  • Life Span: 12 to 14 years

In need of a strong leader, the assertive and determined German Pinscher is easy to train and intelligent. He's a strong watchdog, has lots of energy, and he's devoted to his family as long as small mammals aren't included. The German Pinscher remains playful well into adulthood and his smooth coat is easy to groom.

Breed Characteristics

Adaptability
How easily a dog deals with change.
3 stars Dog Friendly
Tendency to enjoy or tolerate other dogs.
3 stars Shedding Level
Amount and frequency of dog hair shedding.
3 stars
Affection Level
Amount of warmth or friendliness displayed.
4 stars Exercise Needs
Level of daily activity needed.
4 stars Social Needs
Preferred amount of interaction with other pets and humans.
3 stars
Apartment Friendly
Factors such as dog size and his tendency to make noise.
3 stars Grooming
Amount of bathing, brushing, even professional grooming needed.
2 stars Stranger Friendly
Tendency to be welcoming to new people.
3 stars
Barking Tendencies
Breed's level of vocalization.
3 stars Health Issues
Level of health issues a breed tends to have.
4 stars Territorial
A dog's inclination to be protective of his home, yard or even car.
5 stars
Cat Friendly
Tendency toward a tolerance for cats and a lower prey drive.
3 stars Intelligence
A dog's thinking and problem-solving ability (not trainability).
4 stars Trainability
Level of ease in learning something new and a willingness to try new things.
4 stars
Child Friendly
Dogs that tend to be more sturdy, playful and easygoing around children and more tolerant of children's behavior.
3 stars Playfulness
How lighthearted and spirited a dog tends to be.
4 stars Watchdog Ability
A breed that is likely to alert you to the presence of strangers.
5 stars
  1. Adaptability
    How easily a dog deals with change.
    3 stars
  2. Affection Level
    Amount of warmth or friendliness displayed.
    4 stars
  3. Apartment Friendly
    Factors such as dog size and his tendency to make noise.
    3 stars
  4. Barking Tendencies
    Breed's level of vocalization.
    3 stars
  5. Cat Friendly
    Tendency toward a tolerance for cats and a lower prey drive.
    3 stars
  6. Child Friendly
    Dogs that tend to be more sturdy, playful and easygoing around children and more tolerant of children's behavior.
    3 stars
  7. Dog Friendly
    Tendency to enjoy or tolerate other dogs.
    3 stars
  8. Exercise Needs
    Level of daily activity needed.
    4 stars
  9. Grooming
    Amount of bathing, brushing, even professional grooming needed.
    2 stars
  10. Health Issues
    Level of health issues a breed tends to have.
    4 stars
  11. Intelligence
    A dog's thinking and problem-solving ability (not trainability).
    4 stars
  12. Playfulness
    How lighthearted and spirited a dog tends to be.
    4 stars
  13. Shedding Level
    Amount and frequency of dog hair shedding.
    3 stars
  14. Social Needs
    Preferred amount of interaction with other pets and humans.
    3 stars
  15. Stranger Friendly
    Tendency to be welcoming to new people.
    3 stars
  16. Territorial
    A dog's inclination to be protective of his home, yard or even car.
    5 stars
  17. Trainability
    Level of ease in learning something new and a willingness to try new things.
    4 stars
  18. Watchdog Ability
    A breed that is likely to alert you to the presence of strangers.
    5 stars

Did You Know?

The German Pinscher played a role in the ancestry of the Doberman and other Pinscher breeds and is closely associated with the Standard Schnauzer. He is smaller than the Doberman but bigger than the Miniature Pinscher.

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.

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 be a good choice for you, though, only 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 toward 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.

Other Quick Facts

  • When you look at a German Pinscher, you see a medium-size dog with a strong, square build; a powerful, elongated head that resembles a blunt wedge; medium-size dark oval eyes with a sharp and alert expression; and ears that are erect if cropped or V-shaped with a folding pleat if uncropped. The tail is docked.
  • The German Pinscher’s short, smooth coat lies close to the body and comes in several colors: Isabella (fawn); various shades of red, including stag, which is red intermingled with black hairs; and black or blue with red or tan markings.
Next: History ›

The History of the German Pinscher

This breed originated in Germany and is related to the Doberman Pinscher, Miniature Pinscher, Affenpinscher, and the Giant, Standard and Miniature Schnauzers. Schnauzer. They appear in books dating to 1884, when they were called Smooth Haired Pinschers, and a picture dating to 1780 shows a dog that looks similar.

The breed was nearly lost due to the privations of World Wars I and II but was saved by German fancier Werner Jung. He traveled throughout Germany in 1958, seeking out Pinschers on farms, and even smuggled a black and red bitch from East Germany. The farm dogs, the smuggled bitch and four oversize Miniature Pinschers revived the breed, and most German Pinschers today descend from those dogs.

The breed first came to the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The American Kennel Club recognized the German Pinscher in 2003. The breed currently ranks 138 th among the dogs registered by AKC.

‹ Previous: Overview

German Pinscher Temperament and Personality

The robust and assertive German Pinscher is a highly intelligent dog with a strong prey drive. His highly territorial nature makes him a natural protector and a highly alert watchdog. He is strong willed with a strong work ethic and is a devoted family companion for the energetic owner willing to put time into training him. He is adaptable to city or country life, but no matter his geographic location, he needs daily exercise. A home with a securely fenced yard in which he can romp is best. Highly active and adventurous, he’s a great choice for the person who wants a go-everywhere, do-everything dog.

Though courageous and vigilant, he should never be vicious or aggressive. Except toward rats, moles or other vermin, of course. He has natural hunting ability and will deploy it at any opportunity to keep your home and yard free of pests.

Obedience training is a must for this smart and independent dog. Because of his spirit and strong will, the German Pinscher is not a good choice for an owner who casual about training—he is likely to get the upper hand.  When he wants his own way, which is often, count on him to be manipulative and stubborn. He can also be possessive of people and belongings, a habit that should be discouraged. Be firm and consistent but never harsh when training this breed. He likes to learn if training is interesting and he knows what you want. Work closely with a trainer to get the best from him.

The German Pinscher is good with children when he is raised with them. Due to his energy and drive, he is probably best suited to a family with older kids (9 years and up). 

One thing you should know about this breed: he has a tendency to jump up when greeting family and friends. Begin teaching him from an early age to keep all four feet on the ground when meeting people. Also, the German Pinscher loves tearing up toys. Don’t be surprised to see your puppy tear the stuffing out of a soft toy.

Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.

Talk with a reputable, experienced German Pinscher breeder. Describe exactly what you’re looking for in a canine companion, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Choose a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized by the breeder from birth.

‹ Previous: History
Next: Health ›

What You Need To Know About German Pinscher Health

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 hip evaluations from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHIP), an OFA evaluation for von Willebrand 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.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a German Pinscher at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.

‹ Previous: Personality
Next: Grooming ›

The Basics of German Pinscher Grooming

The German Pinscher’s short, sleek coat makes him easy to groom. A bath every three months (or when he gets dirty) in a mild shampoo is all he needs, plus a brushing once a week with a natural bristle brush or mitt. Use coat conditioner/polish to brighten the sheen.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually once a month. Brush the teeth frequently for good overall health and fresh breath. Check the ears weekly for dirt, redness or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. If the ears look dirty, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with a gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner. Introduce the German Pinscherto grooming when he is very young so he learns to accept it, particularly nail trimming, patiently.

‹ Previous: Health
Next: Finding ›

Finding a German Pinscher

Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing a German Pinscher Breeder

Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder 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. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids” without any context as to what that means or how it comes about.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what the dogs are like to live with and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.

Look for more information about the German Pinscher and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the German Pinscher Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the GPCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores and calls for the breeder to obtain recommended health clearances on dogs before breeding them.

Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated  with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

The cost of a German Pinscher puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life. 

Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult German Pinscher might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog from German Pinscher Rescue or a Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a German Pinscher in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the German Pinschers available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.


2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a German Pinscher. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescue

Most people who love German Pinschers love all German Pinschers. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The German Pinscher Club of America’s Rescue Network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other German Pinscher rescues in your area.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a German Pinscher home with you to see what the experience is like.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:

What is his energy level?

How is he around other animals?

How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?

What is his personality like?

What is his age?

Is he housetrained?

Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?

Are there any known health issues?

Wherever you acquire your German Pinscher, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your German Pinscher to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

‹ Previous: Grooming

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