Brussels Griffon, Griffon Bruxellois
The human-like appearance of the Brussels Griffon has won hearts around the world. They're included in the Toy Group, but don't tell them that. Aside from physical size, everything about this breed is giant. They've got a big heart, a load of energy, and a personality that's larger than life. Training a Griff may prove to be a challenge, but persistence and plenty of positive reinforcement will pay off. Though it's a fairly hard-to-find breed, the Brussels Griffon has been featured in a variety of TV shows and movies. The Brussels Griffon owned by George Lucas even influenced the appearance of the Ewoks in Star Wars.
The Brussels Griffon is also known as Griffon Bruxellois, Griffon Belge, and Petit Brabançon—three different types of the same breed. Common nicknames for the breed are Griffon or Griff.
Physical Description/Breed Standard
Coat - In the US, there are two types of Brussels Griffon, which are determined by coat. Rough-coated Griffons possess a wiry, hard coat with longer hair on the face. Smooth-coated Griffons, called Petit Brabançon, have a short, glossy coat. Both varieties come in black, black and tan, black and reddish-brown (belge), or red. In Belgium, a red, rough-coated Griffon is considered the Brussels Griffon, while a rough-coated dog in any other color is called a Belgian Griffon. The smooth-coated type is also recognized as the Petit Brabançon in Belgium.
Breed Standard and History
The almost-human expression is an important feature for the Brussels Griffon. Large, prominent eyes with long eyelashes exude an alert, intelligent expression. The round skull features a domed forehead with a deep stop and black nose. The body is square and compact in proportion. The docked tail is high-set. Two coat types—rough and smooth—distinguish which Griffon type, with no other differences between the two. A rough-coated variety features a wiry, dense coat—the more wiry, the better. Wiry hair covers the head, and is longer around the eyes, nose, and chin. Smooth-coated varieties have a short, glossy coat with no wiry hair. The Griffon's trot is purposeful, with an air of self-importance. He is an intelligent, alert, and sensitive dog. – AKC Breed Standards
The Brussels Griffon was developed in Belgium from a terrier-type dog called the Smousje. Their main purpose was to hunt rodents in stables, where they earned the affections of coachmen who called them Griffons d'Ecurie, or wiry coated stable dogs. In the 19th century, the stable dogs were bred with the Pug and King Charles Spaniel to create the Brussels Griffon. The queen of Belgium took a liking to the Griffon and she began to breed them as well.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized the Brussels Griffon in 1900. World Wars I and II saw a decline in populations, but fanciers worked to keep the breed from extinction. Their population is on the rise, but the breed remains fairly uncommon.
AKC Breed Category
Don't let the self-important attitude fool you—the Brussels Griffon is a cuddly, family-oriented breed. The Griff usually picks a favorite person, but will play with anyone. They often forget their size, and though they may weigh ten pounds, possess a mastiff-sized personality. They're not an aggressive breed, but the Griffon may be impatient and snappy with rough treatment. Early socialization is important to prevent shyness or suspiciousness. Griffs tend to be bossy and independent, but continued training can help direct their behaviors in an acceptable way.
Are Brussels Griffons Good with Kids? If properly socialized, Brussels Griffons may do well with older children. They do not tolerate poking or prodding, and will not hesitate to nip in response to unwanted handling. Though they love to cuddle, it must be on their terms. As a toy breed, they may be seriously injured or killed during rough play or harsh treatment, so rambunctious play should be discouraged.
Are Brussels Griffons Good with Other Pets? Most Brussels Griffons get along well with other dogs and cats. Supervision with larger dogs is important to prevent serious injury or death to a small Griffon. Rodents, rabbits, and small animals aren't an ideal match, as the Griffon was originally used to hunt, but with an appropriate introduction they may learn to view small pets as family.
The Brussels Griffon is likely to bark at strangers and would make a good watchdog, but his size excludes him from guard dog duty.
Griffons have a lot of energy and need plenty of physical and mental exercise to keep them happy and healthy.
Indoor Brussels Griffons can thrive in most living situations, including city apartments, with plenty of exercise and attention. In order to have a well-adjusted Griff, expect to provide plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
Outdoor Playing outside keeps a Brussels Griffon physically fit, but they are not built to live outdoors full-time. They may be sensitive to heat and humidity, and prefer to spend time with people. Time outside should be supervised, and a fenced area will keep this small dog from wandering.
Exercise The high-energy Griffon benefits from a couple of walks outside per day, as well as playtime inside or in the yard. Without enough exercise, Brussels Griffons may become yappy or destructive.
Endurance Brussels Griffons have plenty of endurance for playing and running in the yard as well as going for walks—but they are a short-nosed breed that may overheat with too much exertion.
Activity distance rating
Food The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food to feed a Brussels Griffon is ¼ to ½ cup per day, based on average weight and activity level. Diligently measure your Griff's food, because he is likely to overeat.
Alone Time Brussels Griffons prefer spending time with people, and they may be destructive or bark noisily if left alone. Your Griff may learn to stay home alone for a few hours per day if you give him plenty of exercise and attention when you're home. Crate training can help prevent destructive behaviors, keeping both your pet and belongings safe.
Health and Grooming
10 - 15 years
The wiry-haired Griffon requires more grooming than the smooth-coated variety, but neither is high-maintenance. Weekly brushing and occasional baths keep the Griff's coat in good condition, and wiry-coated types should be hand-stripped a few times per year—trimming is fine for pet dogs. Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or breaking a nail.
Common Health Issues
While this is generally a healthy breed, Brussels Griffons can be prone to health issues, including:
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Brussels Griffon by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
While intelligent, the Griffon is manipulative and stubborn—he has a mind of his own, and isn't afraid to use it. Positive reinforcement methods are ideal for this sensitive breed. Though they pick up on basic training easily, they aren't often willing to perform for you unless it was their idea. They can be dramatic when it comes to leash training, so start early. Griffs, like most small breeds, may be slow to housebreak—they can't hold it as long as larger breeds can. Crate training may help with housetraining. Socialization should be a top priority to help curb extreme shyness.
Energetic and bright Brussels Griffons may take to advanced training such as tricks, agility, or obedience—if you make it worth their time. They're food and praise motivated, and they enjoy spending time with their people. Harness whatever they love most and turn it into a reward—you may be able to convince the Griffon to do your bidding, but only if he wants to. They're athletic and enjoy climbing and jumping—agility may be a good fit, but high-impact exercise may be difficult due to their tendency to overheat with too much exertion.
Sporting Dog Training
Though not a typical sporting dog, the Brussels Griffon's development included rat-catching dogs: a Griff may be able to put his hunting skills to use in Barn Hunt competitions.
Are Brussels Griffons Hypoallergenic?
Why Do Brussels Griffons Itch so Much?
What Are Syringomyelia and Canine Chiari-Like Malformation?
Symptoms may include:
Many dogs with syringomyelia display a behavior referred to as 'phantom scratching,' the act of scratching the shoulder and neck area with their rear leg, without actually making contact with the skin. This may be due to the itch-like sensation they feel as a symptom of syringomyelia.
Dogs who present Chiari-like malformation—a condition related to overcrowding in the small skull—may be more at risk for syringomyelia. The shortened skull and rounded forehead may contribute to the risk of both Chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia. Though symptoms can be severe, medical management or surgery may be an option. Some dogs with these conditions are asymptomatic and require no intervention, but symptoms may present later in life. Syringomyelia and Chiari-like malformation are inherited disorders. Dogs with clinical signs of Chiari-like malformation or syringomyelia should not be bred.
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