German Pinscher – The Old World Rat Catcher Has Come A Long Way
The German Pinscher is an ever-watchful, highly intelligent dog breed. These muscular and sleek short-haired dogs are medium-sized and highly courageous, making them an excellent watchdog. Learn all about the German Pinscher dog breed in this inclusive article.
German Pinscher At A Glance
- Breed: German Pinscher
- Breed Group: Working Group
- Temperament: Spirited, Brave, Animated, Intelligent
- D.H.T. Outdoor Ranking: 7/10 For Temperate Climates
- Worldwide Popularity: Low
- Breed Origin: Germany
They are so smart that they are known to not listen if the command doesn’t make sense to them. These dogs are playful, affectionate and very quick to learn. Their high degree of intelligence means they can get bored easily and don’t like being locked up.
You might go as far as saying this is one of the older breeds in Europe. Their lineage goes back as far as the German Bibarhund of the fourteenth century1. According to the same source, the dogs continued in Europe until the 1600s. At that time they were bred with Black and Tan Terriers to produce the Rattenfanger. This was another working dog, excelling as a ratter and also as a watchdog.
The breed continued with several more centuries of success on the European continent. They started to gain some popularity with the emergence of the dog show in the 1800s. Later in the same century, the breed would finally acquire its own official standard. Officially that was in 1884.
And then came the great wars with both World War 1 and World War 2. During this time, people weren’t paying much attention to some dog breeds and the German Pinscher almost became extinct. As a matter of fact, not a single litter was registered in West Germany during the years of 1949 and 1958. Yeah, you read that right. 9 years and not a single litter registered in the dog breeds country of origin.
The Pinscher-Schnauzer Klub in West Germany took it upon themselves to solve the extinction issue. They took 4 exceedingly large (by breed standard) Miniature Pinschers. Together with a German Pinscher female (obtained via smuggling from East Germany where they still existed), they were bred to re-create the breed in West Germany.
Nearly all of the German Pinschers alive today came from this fateful meeting of 5 dogs. Quite the tale if you ask me.
The GP is a sleek, strong, and elegant dog. The breed is typically well built, standing around knee height to most adults. Their wedge-shaped head and dark, penetrating eyes can make them seem quite menacing when those ears go back and they show their teeth. But, these intelligent dogs are no monsters, just the remnants of a well-bred rat hunter.
The German Pinscher is a medium-sized, well-built dog. They have a muscular, but not over-bearing physique reminiscent of the build of a well-trained martial artist or mid-weight mixed martial arts fighter. What I’m trying to say is they are built to be agile, athletic and strong for their size. The chest is solid, the legs medium length, not too long, not too short. The head is slightly slanted and wedge-shaped. The eyes should be oval and not bulging out. If cropped, the ears will typically remain erect.
The breed stands between 17 and 20 inches (43-51 centimeters) in height at the withers. And with a weight of 25-40 lbs, they can be a decent watchdog. You can see the resemblance in them to the Doberman, which is actually a descendant breed of the German Pinscher.
Black, rust and solid red are the official coat colors of the German Pinscher. The coat is short and sleek with a shiny appearance, especially when the coat is black. The GP also comes in a lovely blue/black and tan.
Legs & Feet
The legs are strong and muscular, but not muscle-bound. The medium-length legs do no harm in propelling the dog forward and their strength along with their well-balanced round feet allows the dog to be incredibly agile. They are a quick dog despite the medium length legs.
The GP doesn’t like the cold that much. Make sure you care for their paws in winter and don’t let them get injured from salt or cold. Booties might look silly, but they will keep your dog’s feet healthy.
Tail & Hindquarters
The hindquarters of the GP are sleek, firm and muscular. The tight rear end and the lean and muscular legs give the dog the appearance of almost having a webbed leg. Webbed from thigh to the abdomen that is. The tail is shorter, typically docked between the second and third vertebrae.
- Life Expectancy: 12-14 years
- Height (at the withers): 17 – 20 inches (43 – 51 centimeters)
- Weight: 25 – 40 pounds (11 – 20 kilograms)
Recommended Dog House Dimensions
The recommended dog house dimensions can be found on the dog house dimensions charts for 440 recognized breeds which includes this dog breed. Remember, if you are building your own dog house be sure to use materials that are safe, like certain kinds of wood. But to save you time, here are our dog house minimum size recommendations:
- Door Height: 22″ or 55.8 cm
- Door Width: 14″ or 35.5 cm
- Inside Ceiling Height: 27″ or 68.5 cm
- Interior House Length: 44″ or 111.7 cm
- Interior House Width: 28″ or 71 cm
- Floor Space: 8 1/2 feet squared or 0.79 meters squared
The expected costs are averages based on our research. These costs are presented in USD and again is an average. Costs will likely vary depending on where you live and the local going rate of things in your particular region, area or country. If you want to know about a particular country, leave a comment and we’ll find out for you.
Breed Average Puppy Cost: $960-$1450 USD
Starter (Veterinary) Costs: $720 USD
This is our estimate for initial purchase, shots and a few things like food, a bed, leash, that sort of thing. Basically, this will get you set up but the costs will be greater once the dog is old enough to get spayed or neutered.
Anticipated Annual Care Cost: $ 440
How The German Pinscher Reacts To…
German Pinschers are not known to have any problems with babies or children, although I wouldn’t leave either unattended with one. They are intelligent dogs, who are compassionate and sweet and will often keep an eye out for your kids and guard the house. This includes guarding the kids so keep them in check if your kid has a neighborhood bully who comes around. The GP might just decide to guard against the bully! Well, not likely but they are really loyal dogs.
The GP is great with other dogs. They can be a bit off with really small dogs though. And when faced with an aggressive large dog, if the German Pinscher feels their human is threatened, they will leap into action. They are very brave, courageous even to the point of foolishness. Use caution when introducing to aggressive dogs (for obvious reasons) or really small dogs like chihuahuas as the GP is a rat hunter. Not to say chihuahuas are rats, but they can be really small, and the GP might get confused and think it’s a small animal to hunt or kill. Use caution, my friend.
I would proceed with caution. The German Pinscher is a rat hunter. Now, cats are definitely not rats, but they are still smaller than the GP. I’ve seen GPs chase cats right headfirst into walls. They tend to be like a bull in a china shop when they see a smaller animal. They have that ‘terrier factor’ that terrier owners like those with Jack Russel experience, can attest to. If you introduce cats from a young age and train the dog accordingly, it should be okay, but again, please proceed with caution.
The GP is an intelligent and sweet dog. They are also loyal and slightly territorial. They make great watchdogs but might want to watch for your cat. I wouldn’t trust them with a guinea pig or any other rodent or small animal either for that matter. This breed was bred for centuries to hunt rats. Don’t think you can change that, because you can’t. So, if you’re one of those people with a plethora of pets, maybe reconsider and get a ‘safer’ dog. If you only have humans in the house (or maybe a fish tank) then the G. Pinscher is a fantastic and loving dog.
The GP is an active and intelligent dog. Often thought of as fearless, these muscular dogs love to play and have fun as much as they love to chase squirrels. Those things in mind, you’ll definitely want to make a habit of regularly going out to the park to get your pooch to have a good run around. Bring a frisbee or a tennis ball and let your dog have a good tear.
Again, anything that resembles a small rodent will be nearly irresistible for this breed. Not that you will need a reason to entice your dog to play, but should you ever, get a toy for them that resembles a squirrel or a rat. They were bred for centuries to hunt rats. It is still very much a part of the German Pinscher’s mentality.
Grooming & Coat Info
The coat of the German Pinscher is short and tight. Not much is required in the way of grooming. The worst grooming issues you might face with this breed are after they get a hold on a rodent. You can imagine.
Generally speaking, this breed really doesn’t need much more than the occasional bath (don’t all dogs need this?) and keep their nails trimmed monthly. Keeping an eye on their ears is also a smart thing to do, but again that’s a part of keeping your dog in good shape no matter what the breed.
There aren’t too many issues with this breed shedding. Like many breeds, they do shed, but it’s not crazy to deal with. Their tight coat doesn’t shed that much, and if you just give them a brush once a month it tends to keep the shedding down significantly.
Health & Nutrition
The gene pool of the German Pinscher is relatively small. Due to this fact, there are a few not-so-uncommon genetic related health concerns that must be watched for. These include cataracts5, hip and elbow dysplasia, von Willebrand disease, thyroid problems, and cardiac disease. Of course, we would all hope that if one were to exhibit signs of one of these disorders/diseases that it would be removed from any chance of breeding. The problem is when these sorts of genetic issues don’t show until later in life. A breeder may not always see signs of some of these during or before the first litter or two of puppies. But, with proper breeding practices and an increasing gene pool, there is still hope to correct some of these genetically caused problems.
Several studies have been done which have concluded that both persistent hyperplastic tunica vasculosa lentis and hereditary cataracts are genetically passed diseases found in the German Pinscher4,5. One such study found that both HC and PHTVL are inherited diseases in German Pinschers10. This study was completed in Finland.
The German Pinscher is a highly intelligent dog in the working class. They used to be the hunters of rats in the medieval kingdoms of Europe, or so the tale goes. Like any of the rat hunters, like the Jack Russel for instance, the German Pinscher has a difficult time NOT tearing off after a squirrel or chipmunk. They are highly intelligent though, which does make them highly trainable (so long as a squirrel isn’t teasing them with its bushy tail).
This animated dog is a pleaser. They love nothing more than to make their owner proud. Yet, the dog also possesses a strong sense of confidence and charisma. Again, you really need to treat this dog like any of the more intelligent dogs. The German Pinscher has a sharp and keen mind that needs as much exercise as its body. Keeping them trained and disciplined is the way to a happy dog and family with this breed. A great way to keep them not only in good shape, but also mentally stimulated is by introducing them to some dog sports.
Although the German Pinscher was historically trained to be used as a rat hunter, their modern counterparts have a much less rat filled existence. The breed is currently regularly trained to be watchdogs and also companion dogs, due to their sweet nature and intelligence.
This is a great, comprehensive guide to owning the German Pinscher. I recommend it.Jeremy Shantz
Frequently Asked Questions
Do German Pinschers bark a lot?
To answer this question, you have to understand the nature of the German Pinscher. In short, the answer is no. But, the GP is a solid watchdog. They will not typically bark… for no reason. They will, however, let you and the whole world know if they think someone is trying to break in. This makes them an excellent dog for a family (who doesn’t have other pets, at least not smaller rodent-like ones) as they will guard the house and alert you to danger.
Do German Pinschers shed?
The German Pinscher has a sleek, short and impressive coat. Unfortunately, they do shed, not a lot, but it happens. They are also not what you would call a non-allergenic breed. Therefore, if you are allergic to dogs, you’ll want to skip the German Pinscher. Otherwise, this is an awesome breed.
Are German Pinschers good with kids?
Yes. GPs are great with kids. They will guard and protect the children of the family, as well as the home. It’s in their nature to be watchful. Despite their affectionate and playful nature, the German Pinscher doesn’t get along so good with pets, especially those of the rodent variety so if your child has a pet rat, then the GP will not make a good mix. For the rat that is.
- Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds, D. Caroline Coile, PH. D.; 2015 Barron’s Educational Series
- American Kennel Club
- Unusual vascular ring anomaly associated with a persistent right aortic arch and an aberrant left subclavian artery in German pinschers – J Menzel, O Distl – The Veterinary Journal, 2011 – Elsevier
- Prevalence and formation of primary cataracts and persistent hyperplastic tunica vasculosa lentis in the German Pinscher population in Germany – Sophia Pfahler, Julia Menzel, Rolf Brahm, Carsten U. Rosenhagen, Birgit Hafemeister, Uta Schmidt, Wolfgang Sinzinger, Ottmar Distl – First published: 27 March 2014 – Wiley Online Library
- Federation Cynologique Internationale
- Dog House Times – Dog House Size Charts By Breed
- The German Pinscher Club of America
- The Canadian Kennel Club
- Results of ophthalmologic screening examinations of German Pinschers in Finland–a retrospective study – M Leppänen, J Mårtenson, K Mäki – Veterinary Ophthalmology, 2001 – Wiley Online Library
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© 2020, Jeremy Shantz. All rights reserved.