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German Pinscher

Nicole Cosgrove

June 9, 2021

The German Pinscher is a medium-sized purebred from Germany bred to hunt vermin and to be an excellent watch dog and guard dog. Its name Pinscher comes from the German form of the French word pincer and means to nip or to seize. It is an intense dog and had a role in the development of several other breeds including the Dobermann, the Miniature Pinscher, the Schnauzer, Rottweiler and Affenpinscher. It is a working breed but is also highly admired for its intelligence, its looks and its devotion to its family. Today it perform very well in the show ring and in a variety of doggy sports. It also makes a good therapy dog and service dog.

The German Pinscher at A Glance
Name German Pinscher
Other names Standard Pinscher, Glatthaariger Pinscher, Reh Pinscher, Deutscher Pinscher
Nicknames None
Origin Germany
Average size Medium
Average weight 25 to 45 pounds
Average height 16 to 20 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years 15
Coat type Short, dense
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, red, brown, black and tan
Popularity Not that popular – Ranked 146th in popularity by the AKC
Intelligence Excellent – very intelligent breed
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle hot weather fine
Tolerance to cold Good – can live in fairly cold weather but nothing too cold
Shedding Low – does not shed a great deal
Drooling Low – not a breed prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – can gain weight if over fed or not well exercised
Grooming/brushing Low to moderate – easy to care for, brush regularly
Barking Occasional to frequent – some need training to stop on command
Exercise needs Very active – needs lots of exercise and mental stimulation
Trainability Moderately easy if you have experience
Friendliness Good but not approachable without socialization, training and supervision
Good first dog Good but best with those who have experience
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good but need socialization and best with older children
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization is essential and supervision too
Good with other pets Moderate – high prey drive socialization need
Good with strangers Moderate – socialization and training needed, supervise new interactions
Good apartment dog Good – if given enough exercise can adjust due to size, but best in a home with a yard
Handles alone time well Good – can be alone for short periods
Health issues Quite healthy – a few issues include hip dysplasia and eye problems
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $140 a year for a good quality dry dog food and pet treats
Miscellaneous expenses $220 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license and basic training
Average annual expenses $820 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,500
Rescue organizations Several including the German Pinscher Club Rescue
Biting Statistics None reported

The German Pinscher’s Beginnings

The German Pinscher is thought to date back to at least the 1400s though the first evidence of it is from a drawing dated to the late seventeen hundreds. It was used mainly on farms where it caught rats and other vermin, acted as a watch dog and guard dog and was kept as a family companion. During the 19th century they were also commonly used as guard dogs by coaches as well as rat hunter in the stables. Part of the reason it was popular was because its skill at catching vermin was instinctual and training was not needed in that area.

For a long time it and the Standard Schnauzer were classified together as Smooth-haired Pinschers or Wire haired Pinchsers and they were allowed to breed together. German breeders in the late 19th century decided to change this so that the breeds were separated. To do so breeders had to ensure three generations had the same coat before they could be re-registered under the new breed names. In 1879 the Kennel Club in Germany officially recognized the German Pinscher, in 1884 the first standard for it was written and in 1894 the German Pinscher Schnauzer Club was started to promote and protect the breeds.

But as with a lot of dog breeds especially in Europe with the arrival of World War I and then World War II numbers were impacted dramatically. The German Pinscher came close to extinction as there was a lot less focus on breeding dogs. Between the years of 1949 and 1958 no new litters were registered in Germany. Two breed colors disappeared completely, the salt and pepper and the pure black.

New Lease on Life

The man who is credited with saving the breed is Werner Jung, a German breeder who spent a lot of time looking for Pinschers on farms in West Germany. He took the ones he found and bred them with large Miniature Pinschers and then was able to smuggle from East Germany a red and black Pinscher to add to his breeding attempts. Thankfully his work was successful, but the dog remained mostly unknown apart from in Germany up until the 1970s.

In the 1970s the first German Pinschers moved to Europe and then in the 1980s some were imported to the US. It is possible some came earlier but this was the first time they were really noticed. In 1985 the German Pinscher Club of America was started. In 2003 it was fully recognized by the AKC and its popularity is ranked at 146th by them.

The Dog You See Today

The German Pinscher is a medium-sized dog weighing 25 to 45 pounds and standing 16 to 20 inches tall. In size when compared to the Miniature Pinscher and the Doberman it is half way in between the two. It is a powerful and agile dog but graceful and attractive too. It is compact and lean and has a square shape to its body. It has feet that are round and like a cats with toenails that are dark. Its tail is docked in places that still allows tail docking to between the third and second joint. It holds its tail out horizontal. Historically tail docking was done to prevent injuries when it worked, up its speed and make its back stronger. There was also a time when they thought it prevented rabies. Its coat is short, glossy and smooth and typical colors are black, tan, dark brown, red, fawn and yellow.

It has a typical Pinscher look, a wedge shaped head, high set v shaped ears and oval eyes. Its muzzle is the same length as the skull’s top and the lips and nose are black. Those eyes are medium sized and its ears can be cropped where that still happen in which case they are erect and if natural they fold over. Ears were cropped in the past to prevent injuries when working and for appearance sakes.

The Inner German Pinscher


The German Pinscher is a brave and alert dog with strong protective instincts. It will not only let you know if there is an intruder trying to get in, it will act to defend you and those it loves and its home. It is a serious natured dog, very intelligent and fairly versatile. Some can bark more than others and continue to bark after the alert so training may be needed to control it. It is not a breed for inexperienced owners, it needs people who are firm and in control at all times, who are strong and can handle it easily. Without that strong leadership it can become over protective of its items, over suspicious and hard to control.

German Pinschers are great companion dogs for the right owners. It has a lot of stamina and is energetic so needs active homes. It is very affectionate, happy, can be playful but is also loving and responsive. It is a very sensitive dog so it does not do well in homes where there raised voices, tension or with owners who scold it and use physical punishments and corrections. It is fiercely protective, completely devoted and has a lot of personality. It needs to be a part of family activity and needs companionship from its people. It does not like being left alone for long periods. Being so good with people is why it does so well as a therapy dog and as a service dog. It loves the attention it gets when it works with the sick or the elderly. Around strangers it is wary bordering on suspicious so socialization is important. Once it knows people are friends of the family though it will be fine.

Living with a German Pinscher

What will training look like?

Training the German Pinscher should be moderately easy for those who are firm and have experience. Its owner can not be passive or meek as then it will think it is the boss. It does have a stubborn side to it but the experienced can get around that. It is intelligent and can listen well to commands and follow them. Some even train quicker than many dogs needing less repetition before they have grasped something. They can easily be taken beyond basic obedience training as they tend to be eager to please. Positive training methods are best, not scolding or physically punishing them. Offer then treats to motivate them and praise and encouragement. When you set the rules stick to them, consistency is very important. Be firm as they will keep testing you if they sense any hesitation in you. They are good manipulators with heir expressive faces and it is easy to soften and then they have you! It does not like sessions that are too long and too repetitive and boring, so keep them short and fun.

Just as important as early obedience training is early socialization. This is important for German Pinschers as their wariness can turn to suspicion and even aggression. Without socialization it can also become overly possessive of you, its home and its things. Expose it from a young age to different people, places, situations, sounds and animals so it learns what the proper responses are and how to identify the good ones from the bad ones.

How active is the German Pinscher?

While it can live in an apartment if well exercised it does best in a larger home with a yard. That yard needs to be well fenced though as it will escape and run after prey if it can. It is a fairly active breed and needs two long brisk walks a day, along with opportunities off leash somewhere safe like a dog park, and play with you doing such things as fetch, Frisbee and so on. It can learn to jog with its owner or hike and would enjoy running alongside when you are bicycling. It needs an owner who likes being active too and is happy to spend around an hour a day at least with them. Just as important as physical exercise is getting enough mental stimulation too. It is a smart dog and it needs toys and tasks that challenge it. Since it does not like water, do not expect to take it swimming! As an active and working breed if it does not get enough of either physical or mental stimulation it will get bored, high strung, rowdy and destructive.

Caring for the German Pinscher

Grooming needs

The good thing about the German Pinscher’s coat is that it is easy to care for. It only needs brushing occasionally to take good care of it but it is an average shedder so there will be some loose hair around the home. Use a mitt to remove some of the dead hair and just give it a bath when it really needs it. Bathing most dogs too frequently can damage the oils they have in their skin and coat that they need. It will also need its teeth brushed at least two to three times a week using a toothbrush and paste that is made specifically for dogs. Your vet can recommend something if you are unsure.

Check its ears once a week for infection, signs can include the dog rubbing at its ears a lot, shaking its head, wax build up, redness and irritation. Clean them once a week too using a damp cloth or cotton balls with a dog ear cleanser. Never insert anything into the ear, as well as causing a lot of pain it can do serious damage. Finally it will need its nails clipped if they get too long. If it is scratching you when it puts its paws on you or you hear clicking, then it is time for a trim. Use proper nail clipper and be careful not to cut too close to the quick of the nail where there are blood vessels and nerves. Cutting there would cause a lot of pain and would cause bleeding. Have a vet or groomer take care of it if you are unsure, or have your vet show you how.

Feeding Time

This breed needs to eat about 1½ to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, and that should be split into at least two meals. How much exactly can vary depending on its size, health, age, metabolism and level of activity. It will also need access to fresh water at all times.

How is the German Pinscher with children and other animals?

The German Pinscher can be good with children with socialization and with firm control, and when raised with them. With older children it plays well, they help each other burn off excess energy and it is loving and affectionate too. This is not a breed best suited to families with small children though. Pinschers are possessive of their things, food, toys and even the owner they are most attached to. Toddlers are not good with those kind of boundaries! The problem is German Pinschers will snap if its teased, pulled at or its things get messed with. Make sure children are taught how to touch and play with it in the right way too. It does not get on well with other dogs, and as well as needing early socialization, it will need an owner that supervises closely around them. If another strange dog challenges it in any way it will not back down from that and it is especially dominant around other strange dogs of the same sex. If can be raised in a home with other dogs though. It has a high prey drive so strange small animals like cats, squirrels, mice and such will be something it will chase, catch and kill. If socialized and raised with them it can learn to accept them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

German Pinschers have a life span that averages at 12 to 14 years and are a healthy breed in general. Some health issues that can come up include hip dysplasia, eye problems, heart problems, von Willebrand’s disease and thyroid problems.

Biting Statistics

When looking at dog reports of attacks against people that caused bodily harm over the last 35 years in Canada and the US, there is no mention of the German Pinscher. This not an especially common dog though so it is less likely to be involved. The Doberman, its cousin has been identified in 23 incidents. The German Pinscher is not a people aggressive dog, and when with owners who are in control, set rules, socialize well and make sure it gets enough mental and physical action, it is not likely to be a problem. However any dog can have an off day, even well bred and raised ones.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A German Pinscher puppy will cost about $1500 since it is hard to find in North America. That would be from a decent breeder of pet quality dogs, if you want to buy from a top show dog breeder then it will cost a lot more. Try not to use less trustworthy options like puppy mills, pet stores or backyard breeders, these are not the kind of people you want to keep in business. Another option if you do not have to have a purebred dog is to check out shelters and rescues. A lot of dogs are hoping someone with a big heart who does not mind about what mix they are will take them in. Maybe your new companion is waiting there. Adoption fees run from $50 to $400 and medical concerns are usually taken care of.

There are also initial costs to consider when buying a dog. It needs some things like a collar and leash, crate, carrier, bowls and such. These cost about $200. Once you have it home you should take it to a vet as soon as possible. There it will be dewormed, micro chipped, have blood tests done, shots, spaying or neutering and such. These will cost about $270.

Ongoing costs are another factor to think about. Each year your dog will cost you money on things like health, food, toys and so on. Basic health care like flea and tick prevention, shots, and check ups along with pet insurance will cost about $460 a year. Miscellaneous items like basic training, toys, license and miscellaneous items will cost about $220 a year. Then a good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost around $140 a year. This gives a starting figure estimate of $820 a year.


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The German Pinscher is an agile, athletic and active breed. It is a manageable size though, but does need active owners, strong and experienced ones who can undertake socialization and at least basic obedience training. Grooming is easy for this breed but it is strong willed and suspicious of strangers. It also can be a frequent barker and it has a strong prey drive. With the right people it is loving, devoted, loyal and affectionate.

Featured Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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