Brussels Griffon, Griffon Bruxellois

Brussels Griffon

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.


Other Names

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

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.


Height

Average Height: 9-11 inches


Weight

Average Weight: 8-10 pounds

Breed Standard & 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

Toy Group

Personality

General Temperament

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.


Family Life

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.


Protective

The Brussels Griffon is likely to bark at strangers and would make a good watchdog, but his size excludes him from guard dog duty.


Energy Levels

Griffons have a lot of energy and need plenty of physical and mental exercise to keep them happy and healthy.


Specific Concerns

  • The Brussels Griffon may bark.
  • He has a lot of energy.
  • He is stubborn.
  • He has a 'big dog' personality in a small body.
  • He doesn't tolerate rough treatment and may nip in response to it.
  • He prefers not to be left alone.
  • He may be sensitive to heat and humidity.
  • Housebreaking may be more difficult for the Griff, as it is with most small breeds.

Requirements

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

  • Running Miles: The Brussels Griffon is better suited to walking rather than running due to the potential to overheat with too much activity. A Griff in good condition may be able to accompany you for a short run, under one mile.
  • Hiking Miles: Sensitivity to heat makes hiking with Brussels Griffons slightly more difficult, but they may be able to manage a few miles on the trail with plenty of rest stops They enjoy climbing, so scaling steep sections of trail may be no big deal.


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

Life Expectancy

10-15 years


Grooming

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:


  • Hip dysplasia
  • Syringomyelia
  • Chiari-like malformation
  • Patella luxation
  • Birthing complications
  • Cleft palate
  • Eye injury and diseases
  • Sensitivity to heat

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.

Trainability

Basics

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.


Advanced Training

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.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Brussels Griffons.

Explore Other Breeds

Wiry-coated Brussels Griffons are considered hypoallergenic dogs, but this does not mean they do not shed or release dander. They are a light-shedding dog, but still produce dander and saliva which can trigger an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. The smooth-coated Brussels Griffon, called Petit Brabançon, is not considered hypoallergenic due to the difference in coat and shedding.

Griffons may suffer from skin allergies which can present through scratching and chewing on the feet, and may cause hair loss, lesions, and infection. Diet and environment may contribute to allergies—a veterinarian can help figure out the irritant, and suggest solutions. Scratching and irritation may also point to syringomyelia—a neurological disease the Brussels Griffon may be susceptible to.

Syringomyelia is a condition that may affect brachycephalic breeds like the Brussels Griffon—fluid-filled cavities form within the spinal cord, which may cause severe pain, paralysis, or neurological symptoms.


Symptoms may include:


  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Anxiety
  • Gait abnormalities
  • Weakness
  • Crying out in response to movement


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.