The Harlekinpinscher

Short of the love between a parent and their child, there may not be another love as pure and wonderful as the love between a person and their dog. - , CountryLiving


A few of my Tweeps have asked what breed Zoie is. Her brindle markings confuse a lot of people. She's a Harlekinpinscher - better known as a Harlequin Pinscher.

The Harlequin Pinscher is essentially a Miniature Pinscher that was developed with a patterned coat, can be merle, brindle, piebald or any combination of those. They are not as robust as their Min Pin counterparts.

I scrounged around for a site that concisely sums up these dogs. And then, naturally, I opted to introduce all my waffle.

Let's take a look at what Dog Breed Info has to say about the breed, and whether or not their information is accurate.

Why does my dog look so weird?

The Harlequin Pinscher [or Harlekinpinscher] is a small, compact, square dog. The head is in proportion to the body. The skull appears flat, tapering forward toward the muzzle. The muzzle is strong and in proportion to the head. The teeth should meet in a scissor bite. The topline is level or slightly sloping toward the rear. The slightly oval eyes are dark. The ears are set high and either cropped or left natural. Natural ears should be rose prick ears, erect with the top half folding forward. The front legs are straight. Dewclaws are usually removed. The small feet are cat-like in shape. The tail can be cropped or left long, however cropping is illegal in most European countries. The short, smooth, hard coat lies close to the body. Coat colors include blue or red merle.
That's fairly accurate. They also borrow a bit from the Italian greyhound, as this was one of the more gracile breeds used to bring the Harlequin back after its demise after WWII.

The Harlequin Pinscher was created in Germany in the late 18th century by crossing the Miniature Pinscher with various other small terrier breeds such as the Rat Terrier and the Toy Fox Terrier. After World War II the breed was almost extinct, but a group of breed fanciers are working hard at establishing this rare breed as a registered purebred.
Again accurate.

Why does my dog behave so weirdly?
 The Harlequin Pinscher is a hardy little fellow who is proud, courageous and fearless. He is loyal to his master, spirited and alert with high energy and an inquisitive expression. Intelligent, lively and brave. Generally good with other pets and children so long as the humans provide proper leadership toward the dog. Its behavior depends entirely upon how you treat the dog.
That's pretty much Zoie's attitude.
The term “pinscher” describes the manner in which these dog work using their mouths to bite, or “pinch.”

Do not let this sweet little dog fall into the Small Dog Syndrome, human induced behaviors where he believes he is pack leader to humans. That is when problems start to arise. The dog will become demanding, headstrong and will begin to bark more than you wish. If you allow this, the dog may become a tyrant. 
Understatement of the year. I believe Zoie's behavior can be attributed to her early years. She likely went from a mill to a home. That home needed to dump her because the owner was terminal. When she was dumped, she ended up at a rescue. Her foster had larger dogs, some with illnesses that needed more attention, so she was left to fend for herself. 
I give her a bit of slack when she's on a churlish bent. Her training is going too slowly, no thanks to my mother's demon dog.
If you are not this dog’s pack leader, it will become protective and may become very aggressive with other dogs. It can also become rather suspicious towards strangers. 
Aggressiveness is one of my fears. I need to get her out so she can socialize.
The Harlequin Pinscher can learn extremely well and wants very much to do so. It is certainly beneficial for its socialization to take the dog to puppy courses where it can meet other dogs and people. You will be amazed at how fast the Harlequin Pinscher understands and obeys you. Pay particular attention when housebreaking this little Pinscher, since a little puddle from such a small dog can easily be overlooked; the dog may get the idea that you are happy to accept it fulfilling its natural needs indoors. 
Beware, this little dog will chew small objects and may choke on them.
Small objects? Small?! Seriously? The damn dog tore out the fabric on the underside of my box-springs. She made a hammock out of them. She felt the need to hide back then. She's eaten a blanket or two, and chewed holes in my pockets to get at training treats.

She has also destroyed her brothers' toys. Balls, tuggys, stuffed toys.... all decimated. She loves to shred stuff.
 Do not overfeed this breed. 
I don't overfeed her. Her diet is quality food mixed with grass, beetles, bees, bird poop, actual birds hiding in bushes, and every living thing she can possibly fit into her mouth including whatever she pirates from the damn kitchen table.
A balanced Harlequin Pinscher will not have the behavior problems listed above. If it truly has rules, boundaries, limitations, a true pack leader and a daily pack walk, it will be a wonderful family companion.

Absolutely true.

An unmentioned behavioral issue is separation anxiety. Zoie, out of all our dogs, has bonded the strongest. Jeff had knee surgery. She waited for him to come home. The landing was her perch. She lay there with her muzzle between the banister's posts so she would be the first to hear and sniff him when he returned. Likewise, she doesn't handle kenneling up very well. 

How about those health pitfalls common among purebred dogs?

Other than me lobbing her into the sun when she steals my mother's chicken breast off the table. Yeah, that just happened. And it happened in front of the physical therapist here to work Jeff through post-op exercises. I have never been so embarrassed in my entire life.

As for breed complications?

This breed is prone to food and skin allergies, patellar luxation, cryptorchidism, hypoglycemia, epilepsy, hearing loss and glaucoma.

I brought Zoie to the vet a few months back because she had sudden case of hives after pretending to be a weasel in the grass. It looked pretty bad. Dr K prescribed prednisone and Benadryl. She has experienced some breakouts since then but we have the medication on hand to treat her. I'm pleased to report that none of the other complications have developed as of yet.

Skip to 2:00 for the best weasel runs.

How much room does this weird thing require?

The answer is pretty straightforward:

The Harlequin Pinscher is good for apartment life. It is very active indoors and will do okay without a yard. This little dog should be protected from the cold.

BUT, your weird dog is an escape artist. A master escape artist. She'll be out of your yard if she can fit her silly mesaticephalic skull through a gap in the fence. The same if you don't train your Harlequin to patiently wait a few feet away from your apartment door.

These dogs are extremely active when not in potato mode. That mode is a welcome break from chaos; these pups love to burrow under blankets and pillows. Ours also loves body heat. Yours might decide that napping on the couch with you is enjoyable.

That reminds me: Harlequins love their various weasel modes. They love it so much that they are likely to wake you up at the same time every day. "Hey, Hey! I have to potty! Hey! Wake up!"

How long do they live?

Their lifespan averages 15-17 years provided they are healthy. 

Please, do not own a min pin (or any dog) if you only plan to have them for a short while. You are making a life commitment to a steadfast friend. 


Are they easy to take care of?

The Harlequin Pinscher's smooth, shorthaired, hard coat is easy to groom. Comb and brush with a firm bristle brush, and shampoo only when necessary. You can remove loose hair by wiping the coat with a warm, damp cloth. This breed is an average shedder.

That is accurate. I would only add: Please pay special attention to your dog's teeth. Harlequin Pinschers, like Italian Greyhounds and many other toy breeds, are notoriously prone to gum disease. Contributing factors are a long narrow skull with tight lips and a dry mouth. Dog saliva is alkaline and contains antibacterial enzymes. The normal bacterial flora which lives in the dog’s mouth helps keep harmful bacteria from flourishing but not a lot of this will come into contact with the outer gum line. The dog's tight lips will hold food particles against the gum line until it is removed by you.

Toenails are another big issue for Harlequins. Please trim them regularly. You can also ask your vet or a groomer to do that deed for you. 

Harlequin Pinschers need a daily walk. Play will take care of a lot of their exercise needs, however, as with all breeds, play will not fulfill their primal instinct to walk. Dogs that do not get to go on daily walks are more likely to display behavior problems. They will also enjoy a good romp in a safe, open area off lead, such as a large, fenced-in yard. Make sure any yard in which they can run loose has a fence high enough to prevent their determined efforts to escape and explore.

Yeah, see above regarding escape artists, also. 

Zoie's favorite outdoors game is Ring Around the Fire Pit. It's a wide circuit accompanied by plenty of barks and play bows. She wears the hound out, and that's a good thing!

Eventually, I hope to be well enough to go on walks again. Hershey was always my walking companion. I think Zoie would do well with us.


In the end, Dog Breed Info is spot on with almost everything about this breed. I would have liked to see the Harlequin's Hackney Gait mentioned.


A side note about their bark: Harlequins create a sound that can measure 100 decibels (db) or more. Okay, I'm sorta kidding about that. That aside, protecting your hearing should be a priority. Take steps to stop excessive barking, which can quickly become a nuisance to your neighbors.

Please feel free to comment with any interesting tidbits I overlooked.

All italicized text is reproduced here for commentary.

Citation: "Harlequin Pinscher Information and Pictures", Dog Breed Info, pulled 25 July 202.

Dog Breed Info helps by "assisting rescues and pet owners in dog breed identification in an easy list style with thousands of pictures. Find the right type of dog for your family. Purebreds, mixed breeds, care, training, natural dog behavior and even trivia games."