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Affenpinschers – Judging The Breed

Courtesy of AKC

By Beth Sweigart

The Affenpinscher, long, the scruffy black dog in the toy group went unnoticed for a long time, till all that changed in the late 90’s.  Today we see Affenpinschers winning groups and best in shows both here in the United States and in Europe as they have never done before.

Here in the US the breed has enjoyed a steady growth in both popularity and success in the show ring since Bob Sharp won Affens a first all breed best in show with his charge, “Bear” Ch. Cocagi Kamehameha ,who belonged to his daughter, in 1978.  Jerome Cushman showed his own Ch. Hilane’s Lonesome Cowboy with success in the toy group and was a contender for BIS.  Later Maripi Woolridge showed “Bully”  Ch Osgood’s Farm’s Bull Market, for the Fines and Peggy Browne won with the bitch Ken Jo’s Affen Annie for Barbara Sayres and Tommy Glassford showed for Pat Dresser many winners including Ch. Dress Circle Good Grief the then BIS record holder.

It was about this time that my real involvement with the breed started when Peter and I began showing Ch. Osgood Farms Mighty Mouse, a Bully son, for Dr and Mrs Brian Shack.  Mouse did a fair amount of BIS winning for an Affen at that time.  Having an Affen in our care made us aware of just how charming and unique they are.

At Crufts dog show in 1994 we had the good fortune to acquire the Affen bitch Gerbrae’s Maid in Splendour as a pup just under a year.  We bought her with the Shacks in mind to own her, but they disdained as she had a natural tail and ears something very unusual for an Affen in 1994.  We kept her and thus began my career as a breeder-owner of Affens.  “Doris” as she was called was bred 3 times after completing her CH in record time beating the Shacks “Mouse” from the classes and going on to group placements.  Doris had a charming personality as well as being a lovely bitch, but it was as a brood bitch she excelled.  Bred twice to Jerome Cushman’s Hilenes Solar Eclipse, she produced many group, BIS, and national specialty winners.  Her daughter is the bitch breed record holder Ch Yarrow’s Lucy in the Sky “Moraina” which I gave to Jackie Stacy to co-own became the foundation bitch of her breeding program.  Doris’s son Ch Yarrow’s Super Nova “Cosmo” became the breed record holder, top toy dog, and the first Affen to win the group at the garden.  In fact “Doris” is the common factor traced in most of the top winning affens both in the US and in Europe, including breed BIS record holder and Westminster Best in Show winner, Ch Banana Joe V Tani Kazari, her grandson.  Doris was truly serendipitous and lived till the age of 12 leaving a legacy of top winning Affens.

Photo Courtesy of Affenpinscher Club of America

With Affens appearing more and more in groups and best in shows, we can wonder how best to judges this unique and monkey like breed. Affenpinscher in german translates roughly to “monkey terrier”  and that is just what they both look and act like a lot.

The breed is thought to have originated in Germany and was not a glamour breed but more a street urchin type dog kept in sculleries to rid surrounding areas of vermin.  Thus his quick terrier like demeanor.  He is not a generally outgoing dog but will pause to assess the situation and proceed from there.

Before judging the breed remember they are toy dogs that think they are the size of a rottweiler- approach them with confidence.  I suggest when first starting the examination to first go over the head.  Feel for ear placement, size and shape of the head, and stop.  Then take a look at the mouth after you have gained the dogs confidence.  No Affenpinscher likes a stranger to grab his beard and try to lift his lip.  The approach I suggest will make the examination go much smoother.

That said lets proceed with what one looks for when judging the Affenpinscher.

First and foremost we are looking for a small, square dog.  Square is hard to find and should be rewarded.  The Affen is a sturdy little dog and should not look too leggy nor should he be short legged and dumpy.  After you have assessed the correct outline study the head and expression.  Is this a monkey like character?  He should be.  His eyes should be dark and expressive, neither too large giving him the look of a griffon or too small which also creates a look of a foreign expression.  His teeth should meet in a reverse scissors bite and should not show when his mouth is closed.  This gives him the distinctive affen pout which is not nearly as exaggerated as the griffon’s strong upturned jaw.  The ears can be either erect, dropped, or cropped.  Though once almost universal very few affens now have cropped ears.  The head has a domed back skull and is not overly large.  When studying the affens face remember the proportions—the standard states the distance between the eyes and to the nose should be equal.  It is this proportion which enhances the monkey like expression and is one of the key differences between the affen and the griffon.

The neck should be fairly short and fit well into his shoulders.  He should have moderate angulation fore and aft.  Good rib spring will give the sturdy look the standard calls for.  Though a toy dog he should not be weedy.  He should have a level topline with a short strong loin and a high set tail.  The type of tail the standard states is of little importance and can be docked or natural.

The Affen’s coat is unique though it comes in many colors, red, wheaten, belge, black, black and tan, black and silver, and even a dark silver grey, they should all have the same harsh texture.  The short hair over the back and loin gives way to the longer hair over the neck and shoulders forming the distinctive shawl or mane.  This longer hair is slightly softer in texture.  The Affen should never look overly trimmed—this would destroy his “street urchin appearance”.  Tidying for the show ring is of course necessary.

When moving the affen has a distinctive gait, almost like a goose step.  This is particular obvious in puppies and not as much so as they grow older and mature.  Coming and going the Affen should move sound and true.  Even though a toy dog he should be a sound mover.  I really like to assess dogs on the move as this is when you can really tell how they carry themselves.  Watch carefully to see how each exhibit maintains his outline and holds himself together when moving freely on a loose lead.

As judges we should be aware of the Affen’s unique character.  They take themselves VERY seriously.  We find this seriousness very amusing, it is part of their charm.  They are not always the “hail fellow well met” character of perhaps the Griffon but are more likely to assess you carefully on a first meeting.  Puppies can be especially wary and should be given extra care and time especially when first approaching them.

I hope some of these insights are helpful and also that both prospective judges and owners feel free to contact me at anytime with questions.  Affen people love to talk about Affens!

Also anyone on the Affenpinscher Club of America judges education committee would be happy to help anyone wanting to learn more about our breed.

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Posted by on Sep 10 2013. Filed under Featured, The Buzz. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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