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Breed Priorities: The Miniature Pinscher

By Nikki Riggsbee

What features make a good Miniature Pinscher? The character of the dog seems important, for the dog appears to do it all himself, performing at the end of a string that the handler holds. With a smooth coat, there is no hair to cover flaws or to be a significant feature of the breed. What did the experts identify as priorities, and did they agree?

Twenty-six Min Pin breeder-judges were identified and invited to participate in a breed survey. Twenty-three agreed to do so, and one declined. Thirteen completed surveys were returned, although one did not rank the list of faults.

The surveyed breeder-judges have been in this breed for nearly thirty years and have been approved to judge it for almost fifteen years, on average. Many are approved to judge groups, while some judge just one or a few breeds. On average, they have judged Min Pins for almost 15 years. Several have judged their national specialty, and most have judged Miniature Pinscher specialties.

Prioritizing Virtues

The breeder-judges were given a list of breed virtues from the Miniature Pinscher standard to prioritize from the most important to the least important. The following is the list of Min Pin characteristics in sequence by the breeder-judges’ average priority, with 1 being the most important.

1. Hackney-like action
2. Back level or slightly sloping
3. Fearless animation and spirited
4. Tail set high, held erect, docked
5. Forelegs and hind legs move parallel
6. Croup level with topline
7. Feet small, catlike, toes well-arched
8. Ears set high, standing erect
9. Eyes full, slightly oval, dark
10. Forechest well-developed
11. Body length of males equals height at withers
11. (tie) Scissor bite
13. Rear legs well-angulated
14. Pasterns strong, perpendicular
15. Thighs well-muscled
16. Muzzle parallel to top of skull

The greatest agreement was on “Hackney-like action” (1st), with all but two putting it in the top quartile. Only one placed it first, though, and seven placed it second. The next greatest agreement was on third place, “Fearless animation and spirited,” which had two-thirds of the experts place it first – most important of all. Three-quarters of the group concurred on “Back level or slightly sloping” (2nd), and two-thirds of those ranked it third.

Only three other virtues had majority agreement. “Tail set high, held erect, docked” was ranked fourth, “Eyes full, slightly oval, dark” ninth, and “Thighs well-muscled” averaged fifteenth.

Six of the thirteen surveys, not quite a majority, had a consensus on most of the other features, although it wasn’t the same six experts agreeing on each. One – “Rear legs well-angulated” (13th) – was ranked all over, from first to last, with five putting it in the bottom quartile.

Several virtues had split decisions, with a large plurality having a strong opinion in one direction, and nearly as many having a very different opinion. The bi-polar items included “Croup level with topline” (6th), “Feet small, catlike, toes well-arched” (7th), “Ears set high, standing erect” (8th), “Forechest well-developed” (10th), and “Body length of males equals height at withers” (11th). So check with your mentor.

There was a 3-point gap in ranks between third and fourth place, emphasizing the importance of the first three items. Nearly two points separated sixth place “croup” from seventh place “feet,” identifying the first six virtues as more valuable.

Some characteristics had very close averages, including a tie at eleven (“body length” and “scissors bite”), where one more survey would change the relative rank. “Tail set” (4th) and “Legs move parallel” (5th) ranked very close to each other as did “Feet” (7th) and “Ears” (8th).

Ranking Faults

The breeder-judges also ranked a list of Miniature Pinscher faults taken directly or indirectly from the standard. The following is the list of faults in sequence by the average rank, from most serious to least serious. One survey did not rank the faults, so the average of the twelve who did produced this sequence.

1. Wry bite
2. One-half inch square of white on chest
3. Coarseness
4. Front feet turning in or out
5. Head and tail not carried high when moving
6. Not compact and short-coupled
7. Front legs moving straight forward in front of body, not bending at the wrists
8. Legs not straight when viewed from the front
9. Eyes small or light
10. Muzzle fine and delicate
11. Legs lacking strong bone development
12. Depth of brisket not level with elbows
13. Too prominent foreface
14. Cropped ears do not stand erect from base to tip
15. Hocks long
16. Poorly defined rust-red markings on black dog

The Min Pin standard has a disqualification for “white on any part of dog which exceeds one-half (½) inch in its longest dimension.” I intended to ask about a patch of white on the chest that was no more than a half-inch in any direction. In other words, if it isn’t a DQ, how serious is it? But instead I wrote, “One-half inch square of white on chest.” This was not what I intended. Actually, a ½ square inch would or could be one inch in one direction and a half-inch in the other, which is a DQ. So, it was a poorly stated fault and required geometry, so let’s throw it out.

The greatest agreement was on first place “Wry bite.” “White on chest” (2nd) was next, but it was poorly stated and is a disqualification, which I never include intentionally. The smallest majorities were on the bottom three: “Cropped ears do not stand erect from base to tip” (14th), “Hocks long” (15th), and “Poorly defined rust-red markings on black dog” (16th).

Half the group had a consensus on “Coarseness” (3rd), “Front feet turning in or out” (4th), “Legs not straight when viewed from the front” (8th), “Eyes small or light” (9th), “Muzzle fine and delicate” (10th), “Legs lacking strong bone development” (11th), “Depth of brisket not level with elbows” (12th), and “Too prominent foreface” (13th).

Several faults had bi-polar results. Among those were “Front feet turning in or out” (4th), “Legs lacking strong bone development” (11th), “Too prominent foreface” (13th), and “Cropped ears do not stand erect from base to tip” (14th).

Three faults were ranked all over, with no discernable agreement. Those faults were, “Head and tail not carried high when moving” (5th), “Not compact and short-coupled” (6th), and “Front legs moving straight forward in front of body, not bending at the wrists” (7th).

The list of virtues had six with majority opinions, and the faults had only five. I wonder if there would have been greater agreement if there had been more participants.

Essential Characteristics

The breeder-judges were asked to name four to six characteristics that a Miniature Pinscher must have, the primary characteristics that they look for when they judge.

Attitude, confidence, fearlessness, and animation were among the most important characteristics named – without these, it isn’t a Min Pin. Sound, good movement with the typical hackney gait was named by all of the breeder-judges. They want balance and good outline, especially a compact body with a good topline and erect tail carriage, and they want to see that outline on side gait. Good feet was mentioned by many.


The breeder-judges were asked to place six Min Pin dogs and six Min Pin bitches based on outlines only. The outlines were made from photos of real dogs. Some judges weren’t happy with some of the outlines. As with real judging, there are no perfect dogs. Others pointed out that typical movement was critical in evaluating this breed, but did the best they could from the outlines.

Select your Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex from the Miniature Pinscher outlines before seeing what the experts did.

The top male based on the best average placement was Min Pin “C;” he was also placed first by almost half of the breeder-judges. Those who selected him said he had “a very nice outline of a compact square dog,” “balance, head, neck, topline, feet,” correct “balance,” a “slight slope to his topline,” “the only forechest,” and “correct ear carriage.” Min Pin “A” had the next best average, but was placed 1st by only one of the judges. Those who liked “A” said he had “a nice profile,” “body length equals height at withers,” “forechest developed,” and “good turn of stifle.”

There was a tie for the bitch with the best average placement between Min Pin “U” and Min Pin “Y.” Bitch “Y” received more first placements, though, so she’ll be declared the favored bitch. Those who chose her said she had “a smoother transition from neck to shoulder,” “best body and balance,” good “head, neck, topline, and feet,” “nice, square, not exaggerated,” and “nice angles.” Those who picked Min Pin “U” said she had “a nice square body,” “sloping topline and good tail set,” and “short body, nice neck, good head.” Several noted that “U” and “Y” were quite close.
Each of the Min Pin outlines except dog “F” was placed first by at least one breeder-judge. Every dog outline was left out of the ribbons at least once, and each bitch was unplaced by multiple judges. As in real dog shows, different judges select different dogs.

Our Best of Breed was Min Pin “C.” He had the best average overall, was placed first by nearly half the breeder-judges, and was selected BOB by almost a third of the surveys. Interestingly, Min Pin “E” was next most often selected as BOB, although he was fourth place among the dogs. Those who liked him, apparently, really liked him. BOS was bitch “Y.”

Additional Comments

Some of the comments offered by the Miniature Pinscher breeder-judges:

• The most important thing in judging Min Pins is to judge the whole dog.
• Some important faults were not listed – shelly, lack of substance and lack of underjaw.
• It’s not a Min Pin if it isn’t self-possessed, animated, and spirited.
• They must be out at the end of the lead looking at everything going on around them.
• The Min Pin is a profile-moving breed; I can’t judge the dog without seeing that moving profile.
• A Min Pin should first look like a Min Pin (short back, good profile, balanced front and rear, good color, good head), and then it should move like a Min Pin with hackney action.
• Judges must not make the breed one-dimensional by only looking at side gait.
• Attitude is critical – without this, he is not the “King of Toys.”
• I want to see expression, eyes that are talking to me and trying to figure out what I want and why I am looking at him.
• A Min Pin doesn’t need a handler, except that the rules say somebody has to have control of the dog.
• I am always looking for our trademark trait – the movement. Without that, it is only another little dog.

Thanks to the Min Pin breeder-judges who took the survey and shared their expertise.

Click here to read the complete article from the Canine Chronicle The Annual 2013-14 Issue, Vol. 39 Number 1.

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Posted by on Jan 2 2014. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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