Feb 14

Is Your Dog a Chihuahua or Miniature Pinscher?

Min Pin or Chihuahua?


Nano is a Min Pin-Chihuahua mix.

Nano is a Min Pin-Chihuahua mix.

Because of their similar size and sometimes similar coat color, MIniature Pinschers are often mistaken for Chihuahuas. However, Miniature Pinschers are very different than Chihuahuas. The Chihuahua breed is an ancient breed (circa 5th century A.D.) from Mexico and South America while the Miniature Pinscher originated half-way across the world  in Germany and much more recently (mid-19th century A.D.).

Nano the Chin Pin

To the left, you see Nano, a Miniature Pinscher-Chihuahua mix, or a Chin Pin, as I affectionately call him. He has several features in common with one breed or the other. Later in the post, I detail each Min Pin characteristic and compare it to that of the Chihuahua, but here are just a few of Nano’s characteristics that lead me to believe he is a Chin Pin:

Min Pin features:

    • The ears are erect. Chihuahua ears are set at a 45 degree angle.
    • His proportion is “square.” The body of a Chihuahua is longer than its legs.

Chihuahua features:

  • His eyes are wide set and round. Min Pins have oval-shaped eyes.
  • His skull is slightly rounded, or “apple” shaped. Min Pins have a sloped forehead. His rounded skull can be seen in the picture below.


Features of both:

  • Nano’s size is bigger than that of a Chihuahua and smaller than that of a Min Pin. He weighs in at 8.5 lbs and is approximately 8 in. high.
  • Nano is energetic to say the least. Both MIn Pins and Chihuahuas have this characteristic, and I think Nano got a double dose of those genes!

Don’t Call Me a Chihuahua

I love all dogs, including MIn Pins and Chihuahuas. However, our first miniature pinscher, Zeus, took offense to being called a Chihuahua. We were at a party and standing outside on the porch with a group of 10-15 people. Zeus was being the perfect gentleman. Then, one of our friends came out the back door and said, “What is that? Is that a Chihuahua?” Instantly, Zeus started barking at him in his most ferocious tone.


Zeus is not a Chihuahua. Photo credit: Min Pin Mania.org

 Though not irrefutable, I truly believe that Zeus picked up on the man’s attitude and tone of voice. I’m not sure he knew the man was making fun of him, but Zeus certainly took the man’s actions and tone as agressive. Zeus let our friend him know that he didn’t appreciate being called a Chihuahua.

Miniature Pinscher Origins

The Miniature Pinscher is part of the German Pinscher family, which contains both small and large dogs. However, Miniature Pinschers are not miniaturized Dobermans. The Miniature PInscher is actually an older breed than the Doberman Pinscher. It is generally believed (Land, 2006) that the miniature pinscher has been in existence since at least the 1800s while Louis Doberman bred the first Doberman pinscher in 1890 (Land, 2006). Thus, miniature pinschers are not “miniature Dobermans” at all.

Miniature Pinschers are not Miniature Dobermans
Both are pinschers, but Min Pins are an older breed

As stated above, Miniature Pinschers originated in Germany from the Dachshund, Italian Greyhound and other pinschers like the German Pinscher. Earlier terms for the MIniature Pinscher are Zwerg Pinscher and Reh Pinscher. “Reh” refers to a small red deer, which some say the miniature pinscher resembles. The video below shows a red Mn Pin bounding like a deer.

Dog Bounding

A 3 year old MIniature Pinscher bounds like a Reh deer. Video Credit: Cristie Cray on You Tube

Breed Characteristics

The American Kennel Club breed standards are widely used in the U.S. to describe the “ideal” dog of a particular breed. Breed standards can also help pet owners determine the breed(s) of his or her dog. A dog’s ancestry is often not known if the dog was a rescue or is a mixed breed. I don’t mean to imply that mixed breed dogs don’t make good pets. Most of my dogs have been mixed breeds, and I think mine are the best dogs in the world, except yours, of course. However, it is important to know, or have a good guess, of the breed of your dog because different breeds have different needs. Below is a description and discussion of the AKC Breed Standard of the Miniature Pinscher.

General Appearance: Miniature pinschers are described as: “…Characteristic traits are his hackney-like action, fearless animation, complete self-possession, and his spirited presence.” (For details about the hackney-like gait, see the related blog post, Hackney-like Gait of a Miniature Pinscher.)

Size, Proportion, Substance: To meet AKC breed standards, miniature pinschers must be between 10 in. and 12.5 in. in height, when measured from the withers. The MIniature Pinscher is a “square” dog in proportion of body length to height. For example, if the height is 11 in., then the body should also be 11 in. This in contrast to the Chihuahua, which has a body longer than its height.

Head: “Skull appears flat, tapering forward toward the muzzle. This is in contrast to a Chihuahua’s head, which should have an “apple” skull where the forehead is rounded.”

“Ears set high, standing erect from base to tip.” While the Miniature Pinscher’s ears are set high and stand erect, a Chihuahua’s are set at a 45 degree angle.

Colors: Several coat colors are recognized for Miniature Pinschers.

Solid clear red
Stag red (red with intermingling of black hairs)
Black with rust markings (informally known as black and tan)
Chocolate and rust

  • Don’t Buy Min Pins with Dilute Coat Colors

    Blue and Fawn Coat Colors are Associated with Genetic Disease

Disqualifying Colors: “Any color other than those listed above” is a disqualification, especially the “dilute” colors blue and fawn. Blue (dilute black) and fawn (dilute red) coat colors are associated with a genetic disorder, color dilution alopecia, and breeding dogs with these coat colors will increase the occurrence of the disease within the Min Pin population. Breeding dogs with dilute coat colors certainly is not congruent with the “betterment of the breed,” which is what any reputable breeder tries to achieve.

Other disqualifying coat markings include the following: “Thumb mark (patch of black hair surrounded by rust on the front of the foreleg between the foot and the wrist; on chocolates, the patch is chocolate hair). White on any part of dog which exceeds one-half inch in its longest dimension.”

Gait: To summarize the breed standard, the Min Pin gait is proud and strong. A high-stepping hackney-like action adds to the regal look that lends to the nickname “King of Toys.” To see more about the hackney gait, see the related post, The Hackney-like Gait of a Miniature Pinscher.

Temperament: “Fearless animation, complete self-possession, and spirited presence.” I’m sure that most Min Pin owners can identify with this description of the Min Pin temperament. I am going mention another trait of Miniature Pinschers that is not always desirable: independent thinking. Miniature Pinschers were bred as stable ratters and often left to their own devices much of the time. Thus, when your Min Pin uses its independent thinking to entertain itself in your house, chaos can ensue.

[yop_poll id=”4″]

Great Pets

Chihuahuas, Min Pins, and Chin Pins all make great pets, as I can personally attest. Often, determining your pet’s breed background is just informational to you, but it can also help in understanding your pet’s perspective and the way it thinks, which can aid in training and increase your enjoyment of your dog.  In addition, some breeds are more prone to certain diseases than others. Thus, knowing the breed can prepare owners to watch for certain symptoms.


Land, Bobbye. The Miniature Pinscher. Consulting Veterinary Ed. Wayne Hunthausen, D.V.M. Terra Nova Series. New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications, 2006

Email this to someoneShare on Google+Pin on PinterestTweet about this on TwitterShare on Facebook


Skip to comment form

  1. Tina

    I adopted Sir Winston from a shelter three weeks ago. My curiosity as to what breed he might be brought me to your web site. I’m leaning towards a Chipin after reading your article. Either way, they are a fun breed to own.
    His legs are too long for a Chiweenie and a Chipin describes him much better. Wish I could post a picture to show you.

  2. Jamie Michelle Schlenz

    I have a 6 month puppy. I was told is a chiwawa. But am having thoughts that he might be different. After doing some Internet research I have found that it’s a possibility my dog could be a Minpin. Is there anyone out there that could help me if I were to send them pictures of my dog? 941-759-3448 feel free to text me

    1. Jana

      Jamie, I would be happy to post a pic of your puppy if you would like to send me one. I will send you an email, and you can just reply with your pic attached.

    2. Devin W.

      You can do a DNA test thru Amazon… we did on one of are doggies… not what we where told she was… great info…

  3. Destiny Grandson

    My experience with my min pins are different they are moody vicious at times don’t want to be loved in unless they are in the mood but are very smart and protective I can’t move in my own bed without being growled at And God forbid they get out they terrorize the entire neighborhood but wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world

  4. Ron Smyth

    My little boy Tico is an amazing little rescue boy from a dog hoarder who had about 25 dogs in horrible conditions in her house. When he was rescued they figured that he was three years old — three years living in disgusting conditions with dogs who were even worse off than him, because he was the hoarder’s favourite. Some of his fellows died of malnutrition, locked up in cages in their own dirt. Tico survived all of this and in the last four months has learned how to walk nicely on the leash, do his business outside, and follow commands in English, French, and Spanish. In fact right now we are in Buenos Aires for six months and he is getting along with the doggies here.

    At first he was classified as a chihuahua, but when we were doing his travel documents the vet said he thought he was actually a mix with Pinsher. Not that it matters, but now I’m curious about the breed characteristics that are combined in him.

    He weighs 6 lbs. and is quite leery of big buses and trucks, but not of bigger dogs! So I carry him on narrow streets with lots of pedestrians and traffic and across the biggest avenida, but make him walk like a good boy in safe areas, and he is very proud of the way he steps smartly along. When we go through doorways he seems to hang back until I have opened the door and am between it and him. Very smart, because if I’m there the door can’t close on him.

    Tico came to me after many years with my two previous dogs, who died in 2014 and 2015. I’m 65 and wondered if I should take on another pet at this age, but now I think that was a ridiculous concern. I have a life partner but only for six months a year; without Tico I would be lonely, but with him I have someone to talk to every morning in English, French and Spanish, and despite his horrible origins he is incredibly well adapted. As they say here, “son mejores que los seres humanos”: they are better than human beings.

  5. Greg

    My chipin, Sophie was a stray. My Mom found her walking down the street. Being worried she would ne run over or hurt she brought her into the house. Then a few days later it was discovered she had parvo. She was estimated to be 11 months by the vet.
    I came home for a visit. I live in Asia. I fell in love with the little sweetheart. She was getting well. She didnt bark or beg. She would not go into a bedroom or the kitchen. Her batteries died at eight thirty sharp daily.
    I went on a trip and when I returned she was much heavier. I put it off to my dear Mom overfeeding her. I decided to take her to the vet to make sure she was ok. Well, she was ok allright. Pregnant.
    She had five puppies. I was back in Asia but Mom found loving homes for each one. They were ea h huge and little Sophie was left a bit bowlegged.
    My Mom had a few small strokes and ended up coming to live with me and my now ex wife.Sophie off course came….She is 14 now. My Mom has passed and my ex wife stole just about everything from me. EXCEPT, My 10lb best friend. Loyal. Loving, hypersmart and well behaved. She is pretty much the only joy in my life. To know her is to love her.She is pretty darn healthy. Her teeth are great and her vision is quite good as well.

  6. Helen Murdock

    We adopted a 7 month old pup in Nov.and were told he was a Chiweenie. He is fawn colored with a ridge of darker hair down his back. One ear stands up and one folds down. After being told he was definately a Chi Pin, I have been been checking it out.He has almost identical characteristics as both breeds. He is a very loving, protective, wound up little boy and he has taken our hearts.Is there any way to know whether he is more likely to be one breed over the other?

    1. Laurie

      Have his DNA tested. I had my Chihuahua mix tested and came back Chihuahua and Min Pin. I used the Wisdom Panel 3.0.

  7. Stacey E.

    We never had a small dog in the family. My mother once said she wanted her next dog to be a lap dog. After our last dogs died, I went to the vet and asked if they had any dogs and she said she had a “min pin”. I had no idea what she was talking about. He came out to the lobby and was the cutest little dog. He spent the first several hours running around the couch in the living room at top speed. He plays with toys by himself. He also “ran away” pretty consistently for the first year. About a week after I got him, he took off for about 4 hours. We live basically in the woods, and I assumed he either was gone or was going to get killed by a wild animal. I went out looking for him with a flashlight, walking around the entire neighborhood. When he was finished whatever he was up to, he ran up to the front porch. I routinely would go out looking for him, because the fence we have is good enough for standard sized dogs, and was “full of holes” for a dog his size. A breed known for escaping when possible. So I have several sections of the fence blocked with big rocks, gates, or logs. He seems to be okay with not escaping anymore (4 years later), but if you leave a gate open, he takes advantage of it. I also can’t take him off leash anywhere remote if there’s a chance that there’s antelope or grazing cows around. He’ll act like he’s going to behave himself for about a half hour, and then I have to go looking for him. He’s never really “run away”, but he does like to do whatever occurs to him. If that means taking off for a while, while I look for him, that’s okay with him. So all the writing about how these dogs are independent are true. They really can’t be trusted. It’s only because of dangerous situations that he isn’t really allowed to do whatever he wants. Nobody out driving is going to be on the lookout for a 15 lb dog. There are also coyotes within a few miles that I’d be concerned about. He gets walked for hours several times a week, which probably explains why he no longer escapes. He is the most lovable creature on the planet. I never liked little dogs until he came around. Luckily his high energy means that he’s also a good sleeper. He doesn’t wander around at night. We also got him for free, because a local realtor subsidizes local adoptions, and the people at the vets know our dogs live long lives. Most of our dogs have all lived to be at least 16.

  8. Lala

    My Chinpin Phiona (Phi-phi) is my baby. I got her from the rescue while my husband was in basic and have been in love ever since….kinda. She wasn’t my first little love. I’ve been a “fur mama” to a chihuahua mix called Max who was also older and had very similar coloring as Phi. I wasn’t treating her like an individual.
    She isn’t high energy or vocal (barked once). Very much a little lady and lap dog with a super flirty side.
    Even though she’s fixed she chases the boys with great….. vigour !
    After much patient I learned their differences and learn to love Phi for Phi. Phi for one has a huge appetite for cannabis, loves to cuddle and hates music.
    Max may have been a Chinpin but was more chin than pin. Sassy yet protective.
    I over all love the breed. I only adopt the elderly (puppies suck) so perhaps I’ll have another.

  9. Lou Lupo

    I have never actually owned a dog and really never wanted one. My birthday and my wife brings home a puppy ? We have near zero room for him at the moment and not even a yard with grass and I feel guilty having him here at all. I have a park very nearby. I am almost 70 so this dog may outlive me. My wife took it from a house in deploreable conditions. He takes to paper so a few accidents but doing good with positive reinforcement. I really do not want to clean up after a dog but he is so small ( right now) it’s like caring for a rabbit. Born on Christmas Day and mother stopped nursing him. It is Feb. 11th now so he is 6-7 weeks old.He looks like a mini fawn and the size of a rat. His parents were a mean Chiuahua female and I don’t know of the other dog . I’m hoping he stays small maybe 2x’s the size he is now.

    1. Lou Lupo

      I had doubts about keeping him but no longer, he is one great pup. He still continues to use his litter box with puppy pads indoors if I don’t get to take him out or I am not at home. I no longer lock him in his cage but rather have a towel over the entrance and he comes and goes as he pleases. He sleeps in bed with me (something I never thought that I would do) and he only growls occasionally when he hears birds nesting outside.
      My “Buddy” is a local celebrity as everyone in the neighborhood loves him and calls out his name. I let him run free off the leash when we go to the local park and although there is auto traffic nearby he never leaves the grassy areas other than to chase a squirrel or butterfly over the walkways. He always returns to me when I call him no matter how far away he ventures. He sits for greeting whenever he sees someone approaching and raises he paw. He loves to play all day and plays well with most other dogs both small and large. He sometimes get restless and requires a good run for at least a half hour daily. If I don’t get to take him outside a few games inside is sufficient. He is now 16 months old and 15lbs so he may be full grown. For my 1st dog I’m quite sure we are doing OK as he obeys commands and he is very loving and cuddly. The reason I never wanted a dog was because of my friends dogs who are nowhere as well behaved as my Buddy, he is one great Prince of a Puppy.

  10. Christel and Rose

    Found the love of my life. She is black with tan. A long nose and apple (Eddie Munster) head. Long body and limbs, and six pounds. Dainty, fierce, and loyal. She squared off with a much bigger chihuahua at the dog park. The chihuahua’s owner said she was protecting me. Never more proud as a fur mama. She came to me from a nefarious character. I tell people I rescued her from her rescuer. He forgot the biggest part of rescuing is taking care of the lovely creature when they become yours. We bonded so quickly. I cried and cried when he snatched her up to spite me when I put him out. So less than two days later texting me with he was going to have to put her down. She had the runs, shivering, nervous. Did not go well with me. Take this money and leave our lives forever. She rescued me. I suffer from anxiety, depression, and possibly bipolar. She is better than any pill for my darkness. She is my guardian. She is my heart. I wuv you widdle guhl. She is laying on my chest as I write this at six in the morning.💕

    1. Lala

      It’s great how your girl lifted your spirits mine did it for me too. I was in a new city with no friends or family when my husband left for basic.
      What is she like? Until now I only adopted males Phi is my first girl. Despite being neutered she’s a flirt, likes short walks and loves to cuddle.

      1. Christel and Rose

        Rose isn’t very flirty. She loves to be chased and runs like the wind at the dog park. I am so proud now she is standing up for herself. She is usually one of the smaller dogs on the small dog side of the park. She was timid at first, but now will hold her own if another dog tries to bully her. I don’t know if she was abused, but she has definitely experienced neglect from the two previous idiots. She loves her walks if I let her she would keep me outside freezing or sweating for hours. She is nosy like most dogs. I have to remind her that not everyone is a dog lover. Most people find her to be cute and funny.

  11. Molly

    I’m still confused of what dog I have. My dog Tiny, has floppy ears but his tail is cut. He’s black and brown, with big round eyes. He’s smaller than your average mini pin weighing at about 10 pounds. My vet says he is a mini pin but I’ve had my doubts.

  12. Margaret Aguilar

    My husband was on his morning walk when this little guy started following him. We weren’t sure what breed he was but thought he was a chihuahua at first. In reading all the information I’m convinced he is a mini pin but could be mixed. It doesn’t really matter because my husband and three girls love him.. We have two Pomeranians and they are all best friends now. This story has a great ending! We’ve named him Dexter and has a forever home!!

  13. Patty

    I adopted a stray puppy listed as a chihuahua mix. I am convinced he is a min pin or MinPin mix. If am reading correctly, the personalities seem to be similar. I am asking because he is a handful and ver stubborn in training. Harley is extremely smart but also extremely stubborn. House breaking was relatively easy, but social skills with other dogs and people aren’t going so well. Leash etiquette is also difficult. He’s also very snappy (mouthy).
    Harley weighs about 12 pounds and is brown and tan. I would appreciate any feedback/advice. He’s not quite 2 years old. Thanks!!

    1. kerry

      yes they can be very snappy with other dogs and are really a one person dog but Very loyal dog!!! i have a akc show min pin and she just had pups with my chihuahua pixy the pups are extremely cute and already yappy, they do like to snap at other dogs however they can be social it just takes some doing! my dog tink is so cute but when people first come in she barks like a 50 lb dog! good luck these dogs are a very beautiful breed!!!! kerry

      1. Patti

        Please kindly spay your female doggie. Oh my gosh, the shelters are full to over capacity with precious chihuahua dogs waiting desperately for their forever homes. Less puppies being born mean more shelter pets already born will have better chances of being adopted to a loving home.

        1. Mona

          Well said. As cute as puppies are, they don’t stay puppies long. Don’t breed or buy while shelter dogs die.

  14. Denita Love

    I found and rescued this Chipin riverside California . Injured very malnutrition . Looked like a skeleton. Decided to keep him pay for a expensive surgery . Back leg injured he walks with a limp.

  15. Abe

    I have a chihuahua/mini pin named Martha. She has a brown coat with a bot of white 🙂

  16. Ted


    My wife and grandchildren found a lost puppy that we think might be a chi pin and your description makes us more confident in that assessment. We guess that she is under a year old, She has no collar and we have tried to find her home without success. We live in an RV and already have a pet. If our son doesn’t want to keep it, we may have to sell her or find a rescue center. Do you have any advice to offer?

  17. Michael Kolb

    im looking for a dog that is a chiwawa and minpin mix and its skin color is a light tan and his eyes match his skin coat and very smart

    1. Clare Teague

      We have a male Chi-Min Pin according to our groomer. We named him Joey since he looks like a baby kangaroo. He also looks like a baby fawn. He was a rescue we have fostered. We have had him nurtured and vetted. He is up to date on all shots and heart worm prevention through June of 2016.

      He is very loving, playful, gives lots of kisses and makes a great snug-buddy. He loves to play and is also a great watch dog. He is very low maintenance and just needs to be occasionally wiped down with a damp wash cloth; he rarely needs brushing. We already have three dogs (with whom Joey plays and gets along great!). Joey deserves a home and special buddy ( master) and family of his own! We love Joey and want to help him find his Forever loving home.

      1. Clare Teague

        Joey has been nurtured, vetted and neutered.

        1. Culver

          How old is Joey? We just visited a Chin-Pin at the Humane society who was quite shy but we could tell would be quiet and loving. We are looking for more of a younger dog for our family.

  18. Kimberly Haecker

    No idea what my little one is. People either think Chihuahua or Min Pin…I was thinking Chipin…then I remembered maybe a Deer head Chihuahua? She’s only about 5 pounds at 4 months old.

  19. Liz

    I have a min pin Spike and a chihuahua Paco. I love the both of these little guys personalites. They are both black and tan so it looks like their related.

    1. Jana

      I love the names you picked. Spike and Paco–they must be quite a pair, or partners in crime, maybe?

    2. Kris

      I have a best friend that is a chinpin, and his name is Paco Pee wee Rodriguez Weissanheimer. Weissanheimer for the German in him. It means “wise ass” in german. He chose me, for sure, and I never thought I would have such a tiny dog…I grew up with big dogs, and have owned great Danes and rotties, but when I saw this little guy, it was a done deal! His coloring is brindle and he fathered two children, Pablo and Mimi, but, his daddy days are over and he’s registered as an ESA. I can’t imagine my life without him now. He just turned two on June 3rd☺

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>