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There’s something irresistible about toy breeds. They pack so much personality into a small package. And that’s especially true for the Toy Fox Terrier and the Miniature Pinscher. Whether it’s the TFT’s alert intelligence or the Min Pin’s fun-loving fearlessness, these two dogs have a lot to offer. But do you know how to tell them apart? They’re both affectionate, playful family companions who started out as vermin catchers. Yet one came from Germany and the other is a true American breed. Read on to learn the difference between these two mini but mighty dogs.

Toy Fox Terrier (left) and Miniature Pinscher (right)

Small, Playful Dogs

Susan Thibodeaux has been showing dogs since 1978 and is the current vice president and education chair of the American Toy Fox Terrier Club. Addicted to TFTs since 2013, she believes the two breeds have a few clear similarities. “They are both toy breeds that are active and playful. They both have smooth, short coats and are both loyal companions who don’t realize how small they are.”

Shelley Erdman is secretary of the Miniature Pinscher Club of America. She’s been showing Min Pins, affectionately known as the King of Toys, for 13 years and agrees these two breeds share certain characteristics. “Both are intelligent and extremely playful. If there is nothing going on to entertain them, they make their own fun. They are mischievous and need plenty of mental stimulation to keep them from creating their own party. They are great family dogs and good with children, but because of their size and energy often do better with older children.”

Obvious Differences

Although both dogs are small, the Miniature Pinscher is a slightly larger breed overall. The Min Pin measures 10-12.5 inches high at the top of the shoulder whereas the Toy Fox is between eight and a half and 11.5 inches, with nine to 11 preferred. Plus, Min Pins are a solid color while Toy Fox Terriers are at least 50 percent white on their body.

Another obvious difference between the breeds is the Min Pin’s hackney-like gait. When Min Pins trot, they lift their forelegs high with high knee action. This would be considered a big fault in a TFT. The ears are another big giveaway. Thibodeaux explains, “The Toy Fox Terrier’s ears are a distinctive feature of the breed. Their size and position on the head lead to that endearing look that identify them quickly as a TFT.”

These two breeds have distinct personalities as well. For example, because they are terriers, TFTs can be spunky with a bit of attitude. They will also follow their people everywhere. Erdman points out, “Miniature Pinschers also love their people; however, they are easily tempted to take off in search of something rustling in the leaves or a sound or pretty much anything that catches their attention and they’ll come back on their time.”

Both breeds are trainable, but TFTs love to please their people whereas Min Pins need a constant reminder of which one of you is really the king. And when it comes to meeting new people, Min Pins tend to be more particular about who they choose to befriend. They are also excellent watchdogs because of their possessive tendencies towards their humans and their alert, courageous temperament.

Shared History as Vermin Catchers

First imported into the United States around 1919, the Miniature Pinscher is not a small Doberman Pinscher. In fact, Erdman explains the Min Pin is the older breed. “The Miniature Pinscher originated in Germany several centuries ago as an efficient barnyard ratter. Many historians agree that the ancestors of the Min Pin most likely include a combination of the smaller German smooth-haired Pinschers, the Italian Greyhound, and the smooth Dachshund.”

Interestingly, TFTs have some Min Pin in their background. Developed in the United States in the early 1900s, breeders crossed the smallest Smooth Fox Terriers with several other toy breeds including Italian Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and Min Pins. The resulting TFTs were useful to hunters and farmers because they could hunt vermin holed up in small spaces. But they found another use too. According to Thibodeaux, “When circuses were popular, the trainability, size, and cuteness of the Toy Fox made it a natural for clowns to utilize in their shows, and many Toy Foxes entertained people with wonderful tricks. They are still a natural at learning to do tricks and subsequently also do very well in events such as agility.”

Big Personalities

Erdman describes living with a Miniature Pinscher as living with a rubber ball that bounces from place to place. Not only do you need patience, but you also need to be aware of everything these escape artists might get into. “When you live with Min Pins be prepared to find them burrowed into your blankets at night or curled up under the covers at the foot of your bed. Moments of calm lap time provide welcome bonding time and help build a connection that makes you fall in love with this breed over and over.”

The TFT is a comedian according to Thibodeaux. They can be more fun to watch than the television and never tire of entertaining their people. Although they can be barkers if not taught otherwise, they also love to talk, making “woowoo” sounds and other funny noises to get their point across. They are a perfect blend of toy and terrier. “When we say terrier, we do indeed mean terrier – they will sometimes say ‘bring it on!’ to a big dog, so we have to watch for their safety. They also want to hunt mice, rats, lizards, squirrels, birds, and anything that they determine is prey.

Don’t let their small size fool you. Whether it’s the footwarmer or the clown, these toys will keep you on your toes. If you want a large breed personality in a portable package, these are two breeds that are sure to please.

Related article: Polish Lowland Sheepdog History: Rebuilding the Breed After WWII
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