Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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Why not take the quirky-looking German Affenpinscher and the tiny Mexican Chihuahua, mix them together and develop a whole new breed? Well, that is exactly what was done when the Affenhuahua was developed as part of the ‘designer doggy’ movement. Though both small, these dogs are actually very different in terms of both their appearance and personality so the Affenhuahua is a whole new ball game! Typically, these dogs are alert and courageous – full of bravado. On top of this, they are naturally territorial and quickly become protective of both their home and their family.

While slightly taller than the diminutive Chihuahua, the Affenhuahua is still a tiny dog, rarely reaching heights of more than 30cm. They have rounded skulls and comically large ears that often stand erect and may be covered in fur. Their small frames and slim legs give the impression of a fragile and dainty dog, however, their larger than life personality wholeheartedly contradicts this!

About & History

As with many hybrid creations, it is thought that the Affenhuahua was originally developed in the United States during the last 30-40 years. Designer dogs have broadly been created due to a consumer demand for ‘new and improved’ dogs that are often considered healthier than their pedigree parents.

The Affenpinscher

The Affenpinscher is a rather rare dog that many will go their entire lives without seeing or even hearing about. They are often described as being ‘monkey-like’, and indeed, the word ‘affe’ means ‘monkey’ when translated from German to English. This small dog would traditionally hunt vermin in stables, granaries and homes. As well as this, they were kept by local families who found them charming and easy to get along with.

Most experts concur that the German Pinscher would have been one of the pedigrees from which the Affenpinscher descended. Interestingly, the Affenpinscher was used to develop the Griffon Bruxellois but was then crossed back to it when breed numbers became worryingly low after the Second World War. The Kennel Club recognises the Affenpinscher within their Toy Group and actually describes them as a ‘devil dog’!

The Chihuahua

The ancestors of the Chihuahua have been around for thousands of years but it was in the mid 1800s when the first dogs were standardised and in the 1880s they were sold by Mexican merchants to tourists, particularly those from the United States. It was in the bordering state of Texas that the breed was further refined and the Chihuahua really rose up in the ranks, becoming a popular pet dog.

Their status was further boosted when celebrities, such as Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, began to purchase them, with many people following suit around the world, keen to have a ‘handbag dog’. Being the smallest breed in the world, it is little wonder that the Kennel Club has classified them within their Toy Group.


The Affenhuahua does bear quite close resemblance to the Affenpinscher but is noticeably smaller and more delicate looking. They have a circular skull, large triangular ears and dark, intelligent eyes. Their muzzle is short but they should have a noticeable stop. Their body is compact and lean, supported by slender limbs. Their tail is medium in length and curls towards their head, but not in an exaggerated manner.

A little dog, the Affenhuahua weighs between 2.5kg and 5kg and, to the withers, measures from 22cm to 30cm. For many, their charm lies in just how very tiny they are. The Affenhuahua’s coat is short to medium in length and can have a rather ‘scruffy’ appearance, with longer fur on the face, ears and tail. While many individuals will be black, several coat colours are accepted including brown, fawn and cream. Some breed members will have white or grey markings.

Character & Temperament

With two parents that are far from lacking in confidence, it is to be expected that the Affenhuahua is a self-assured and boisterous dog that is rarely worried by any situation. They are curious and enjoy exploring, even happy to approach and play with dogs ten times their size!

Though Affenhuahuas are typically friendly and playful with children, some will have a low tolerance for being pushed about or picked up and it is possible that they will become growly and snappy if children ignore their warnings and body language when asking to be left alone. On top of this, their size means that they can be prone to injuries (including broken bones) if children drop them or stand on them by accident. Due to these two things, only older children should be allowed to play with the Affenhuahua and they must always be in the company of an adult.

Some breed members can be troublesome and will be constantly getting up to mischief, searching for something to entertain themselves with. They are clever and lively, always keeping owners on their toes. Especially during their puppyhood, they need to be watched like a hawk as they can be destructive.


As the Affenhuahua is a brainy breed, they can pick up on training cues pleasingly quickly. They tend to have good memories and don’t usually need to be asked the same thing twice. However, it is not all plain sailing as they will only participate in training sessions if they feel like it and can be remarkably stubborn. Due to this, they need to be persuaded with their favourite treats (think pieces of hot dog and chicken rather than kibble!).

Training should begin from when pups are very young so that they simply see it as part of their normal life. It is not something that stops when the dog matures and does need to be continued for the duration of their life to ensure that they continue to behave when inside and outside of the home.


A number of health complaints can affect the Affenhuahua and owners are encouraged to read up on them. There can be a misconception that hybrid dogs are free from disease. While it is true that those that have been responsibly bred may be less likely than their pedigree parents to have certain genetic diseases, this does not guarantee a clean bill of health.

Tracheal Collapse

When a dog’s windpipe ‘collapses’ their airway is obstructed and they will cough and struggle to breathe normally. The cough is often described as a ‘goose honk’ as it can be very harsh. Sometimes the symptoms are mistaken for something else, such as Kennel Cough or heart disease, so it is important to get an accurate diagnosis.

X-rays and fluoroscopy can help provide an accurate diagnosis and these are typically performed in an anaesthetised patient. Medicines, such as steroids and cough suppressants, can help alleviate symptoms and it is always advised that dogs are walked with body harnesses or off lead rather than with a neck collar.

Patellar Luxation

An orthopaedic condition that is classically seen in smaller breeds, patellar luxation is a disease that affects the hind limbs whereby the kneecap does not sit in place as it should. As a result, there can be local cartilage disintegration, inflammation and pain.

Some will only be mildly affected and will cope well with lifestyle changes (such as maintaining an appropriate body weight) and medications (including anti-inflammatories). However, those that are worse off may well need a surgery to correct the issue.

Legg-Calvé Perthes Disease

Affected dogs experience a spontaneous degeneration of bone at the top of their leg. The hip joint is then unable to work as normal and this is associated with substantial discomfort and mobility issues.

Most experts agree that the likely cause is an issue with the local blood supply. X-rays can help to confirm the diagnosis and a surgery to remove the affected bone is often advised for many. On top of this, most dogs will benefit from physiotherapy, hydrotherapy and pain relief medication.

Exercise and Activity Levels

These dogs have quite low exercise requirements and short walks around the block to let them ‘do their business’ are typically all they need. This makes them an excellent choice for those living in an urban area with minimal green space around.


The Affenhuahua does not shed much and requires brushing only once a week, making them very low maintenance indeed. Those with longer fur on their face should get used to having it combed and cleaned on a regular basis.

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