With the energy and drive of all working breeds, the German Pinscher also displays the love and devotion that make him an outstanding companion.
- Dog Breed Group
- Working Dogs
- 1 foot, 5 inches to 1 foot, 8 inches tall at the shoulder
- 25 to 45 pounds
- Life Span
- 12 to 14 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
See All Characteristic Ratings
The German Pinscher dog breed is muscular and agile, powerful yet graceful. A medium-sized dog with an elegant appearance, he's admired as much for his beauty as for his intelligence. He's a working breed and guard dog, and a devoted and loving family dog.
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The German Pinscher has the energy and drive of all working breeds, but he's also an outstanding companion. He loves being with his family and will meld himself into every facet of your life.
The German Pinscher's playfulness will continue well into adulthood, and he may continue to disembowel squeaky toys long past teething (dental floss is the best repair tool). When German Pinchers are in a spot of trouble at home, some will look you right in the eye and smile, showing their teeth in a big grin.
The German Pinscher was originally developed as a working dog who hunted and killed vermin (that means he'll still nail them today, so he's not going to be good in a home with pet rodents). Today, he still has the energy of a working breed and has proved himself to be an all-around kind of guy when it comes to canine sports and careers. You can find German Pinschers in the conformation ring, at obedience rallies or agility trials, and at work in tracking. He also works as a service dog, therapy dog, and as a pampered pet who enjoys the comforts of family life.
He can be assertive and overbearing, and he'll take over your heart and home in a matter of seconds. Don't kid yourself: he needs a firm, experienced owner who is consistent in training and good at establishing rules right from the beginning. If you tend to wimp out or you want a placid dog, find another breed — this one will walk all over you.
However, he will also be completely, utterly, and permanently devoted to you. This devotion supports his ability to be an excellent guard dog. Despite an independent streak, he likes to be in the middle of all family activities, right there with you.
The German Pinscher will alert bark with a strong voice. If any intruder risks entering your home, this dog will defend it with everything he's got. And he's quite capable of taking care of an intruder: While he's not the largest guard dog around, maxing out at about 45 pounds, he's incredibly skillful at the job.
Given that he looks like a small Doberman Pinscher or a humongous Miniature Pinscher (he was a foundation dog for both of those breeds), and that he's suspicious of strangers, he can make some people nervous. He will accept your friends without problems; it's the folks you don't know who might hear that strong voice he's famous for, the one that sounds like it's coming from a much bigger dog. He saves that voice for special occasions.
A German Pinscher is intelligent and quick to learn, and he can reach all levels of training and competition. He also has a personality that will test limits (both his own and yours). Apartments make adequate homes if you properly exercise your German Pinscher, but it isn't his ideal situation. He does better with a yard to run in--a properly fenced yard, to prevent any escape-artist tendencies. He has a strong prey drive and will chase any animal deemed interesting (unfortunately, you are not the one doing the deeming).
He must be trained — start him at a young age. Since he's so intelligent, the task isn't difficult, even though he isn't as eager to please you as are some breeds; he really needs a firm and consistent owner. Use positive reinforcement and establish consistent rules, because German Pinschers are known for their strong temperament — given half a chance, he'll take control of the house.
But if you take the time and effort, the end result of training the German Pinscher is worth all the time it takes. For one thing, you don't want to end up living with a strong, wary, protective dog who's out of control; for another, it's highly satisfying to train such a smart and capable canine.
Socialization is just as important as obedience training for the German Pinscher, and it helps avoid aggressiveness. As a puppy he should be socialized to other dogs, puppies, adults, and children. Most obedience schools offer socialization classes, and he can also run errands with you, take long walks, go to the dog park, and have playdates with canine friends and two-legged children.
Although a German Pinscher is a loving family companion, he's not recommended for homes with children under the age of nine because of his strong and assertive nature. This can be overpowering even to some adults, but especially to a child.
However, if he's the dog for you, then there's no denying that the happy, loving, intelligent German Pinscher will make your family, life, and home complete.
- The German Pinscher is not recommended for homes with children under the age of nine.
- A working breed, he needs daily exercise and cannot be left untrained or unexercised. Expect a healthy amount of exercise each day to curb negative behaviors.
- The German Pinscher can fare all right in an apartment as long as he's walked at least twice a day. However, he's better suited to a home that has a fenced yard.
- He has a strong prey drive and will chase anything that he deems worth chasing. He should be kept on lead while not in a secured area, and fences should be secure enough that he can't slip through them.
- The German Pinscher is a strong-willed breed that needs a consistent and firm owner. He has been known to take over a home if rules are not set when he's young. With training and consistency, however, the German Pinscher will learn quickly and well.
- Naturally suspicious of strangers, the German Pinschers makes an excellent guard dog. By the same token, he needs to be socialized from a young age to prevent the development of aggressive behavior.
- The German Pinscher enjoys jumping up to greet loved ones, but proper training can correct this trait.
- He will alert bark and he has a strong, loud voice, but he won't bark unnecessarily.
- He thrives when he's part of a family and can participate in family activities. He isn't a breed who can live outside, and he's unhappy being forgotten while life is busy.
- The German Pinscher can become destructive when he's bored. He's also known for his ability to gut toys at an alarming rate.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
Originally developed to eradicate vermin, the German Pinscher originated in Germany somewhere between the late 1700s and late 1800s. There is no clear evidence of when he was developed, but a painting that dates from about 1780 portrays a dog similar in appearance to the German Pinscher.
He was a foundation dog for many breeds, including the Doberman Pinscher and the Miniature Pinscher. The breed was founded by the Rat Pinscher, also known as the Rat Catcher or the Great Ratter, a breed that became extinct in the early 1800s. The German Pinscher was recognized as a breed in 1895.
During the World Wars, the German Pinscher came close to extinction. Two breed colors did in fact die out: the pure black and the salt-and-pepper. After World War II, a West German named Werner Jung began breeding German Pinschers and saved the breed. German Pinschers were first imported into the United States in the late 1970s.
The German Pinscher is a squarely built, muscular, medium-sized dog. The average height is between 17 to 20 inches for both males and females. They usually weigh between 25 and 45 pounds.
The German Pinscher is strong-willed, devoted, and in need of a consistent and firm owner. He can take over a home if rules are not set when he's young. With training and consistency, German Pinschers will learn quickly. Naturally suspicious of strangers, he is an excellent guard dog.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner.
Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, the German Pinscher needs early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your German Pinscher puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
He's like a mischievous kid who will test your boundaries. Sure, he'll housetrain quickly, and he's quite trainable in other respects as well, but he wants to know what he can get away with.
You need mental and physical strength to control a German Pinscher and gain his respect. He must have a strong leader whose authority is tempered with patience and respect. If you aren't a calm person or are unable to say no and truly mean it, or you're not really interested in taking on in-depth training, look elsewhere.
German Pinschers are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all German Pinschers will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In German Pinschers, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for 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 (offa.org).
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don't display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred--so 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.
- Cataracts: Cataracts cause opacity on the lens of the eye, resulting in poor vision. The dog's eye(s) will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve vision.
- Von Willebrand's Disease: Found in both dogs and humans, this is a blood disorder that affects the clotting process. An affected dog will have symptoms such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding from surgery, prolonged bleeding during heat cycles or after whelping, and occasionally blood in the stool. This disorder is usually diagnosed between three and five years of age, and it can't be cured. However, it can be managed with treatments that include cauterizing or suturing injuries, transfusions before surgery, and avoidance of specific medications.
German Pinschers are active and need daily exercise either through a good run in the backyard or two long walks on lead. Supervise your German Pinscher when exercising, since he'll go bounding off after anything that's worth chasing. He'll be all right in an apartment if given enough exercise, but he prefers a home with a fenced yard in which he can play. He isn't suited to living outdoors full-time in a kennel or dog run, however; he thrives being with his family.
He's a working breed and enjoys having a job to do. An unstimulated, untrained, and unexercised German Pinscher can head down a scary path of boredom and destruction. Give him something to work on while you're gone, such as interactive toys or Kongs with frozen peanut butter. He's no couch potato, content to lounge about all day enjoying bonbons.
Crate training benefits every dog and is a kind way to ensure that your German Pinscher doesn't have accidents in the house or get into things he shouldn't. Like many other dogs, a German Pinscher can be destructive as a pup, and when even when he enters adulthood. Crate training is for his own safety. A crate is also a place where he can retreat for a nap.
Crate training at a young age will help your Pinscher accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized. Never stick your Pinscher in a crate all day long, however. It's not a jail, and he shouldn't spend more than a few hours at a time in it except when he's sleeping at night. He isn't meant to spend his life locked up in a crate or kennel.
Exercise, training, and laying down house rules for your German Pinscher all will help ensure that your companion is well behaved. It alleviates stress for you and him and provides opportunities to bond.
Recommended daily amount: 1 to 2 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
Keep your German Pinscher in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your German Pinscher, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat, Color and Grooming
The coat should be shiny and smooth in texture, short and dense with no bald spots. The German Pinscher sports a variety of colors, including various shades of red, stag red (in which there are black hairs intermingled with the red), and Isabella (a light bay or fawn color). German Pinschers can also be black or blue with tan or red markings.
The German Pinscher is an average shedder and requires minimal grooming. Brushing his coat with a cloth or rubber mitt about once a week will get rid of any excess hair.
Brush your German Pinscher's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
Trim his nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally to prevent painful tears and other problems. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them, and if you cut too far you can cause bleeding — and your dog may not cooperate the next time he sees the nail clippers come out. So, if you're not experienced trimming dog nails, ask a vet or groomer for pointers.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your German Pinscher to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children and other pets
The German Pinscher usually does well with children if he's brought up with them from puppyhood. But because of his assertive nature, he does best with older children, preferably those over the age of nine. An older Pinscher who's unfamiliar with children will probably do best in a home with kids who are mature enough to interact with him properly.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should be left unsupervised with a child.
The same holds true for the German Pinscher's attitude toward some kinds of pets; he does best if he's been raised with them, or at least socialized to them when he's still young. But remember that he was developed to hunt and kill vermin. He's got a high prey drive that's hardwired, and no amount of training will keep him from going after a pet rat. He's not a good match with small mammals.
German Pinschers are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many German Pinschers in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a German Pinscher rescue.
Below are breed clubs, organizations, and associations where you can find additional information about the German Pinscher.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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