- AKC recognized in 1910
- Lifespan: 12-15 years
- Size: Small
- Energy level: Medium
- Recommended Crate Size: 22" dog crate*
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Table of Contents
This dog is one smooth ride! In fact, that’s how he got his start. The Brussels Griffon emerged in Belgium in the 1800s in an effort by taxi companies to attract new passengers to the service and to help prevent taxi driver robberies that were becoming all too common. When sales were boosted immediately, the breeders knew they were onto something great.
The Brussels is a smug little fellow. Even though he pint size in stature, even the arrogant look he has about him portrays his self-confidence. And, why shouldn’t he be sure of himself? He’s smart, witty, and well-behaved. All those attributes add up to this dog being a prized house pet.
The Brussels Griffon, or Griffon Bruxellios, is a delightful toy breed of dog with a very interesting history.
There are three types: the Griffon Belge, the Petit Brabancon, and the Griffon Bruxellois. The Griffon (all of them) hail from Brussels, Belgium where it is believed they originated from the Affenpinscher and a Belgian street dog named the Griffon d’Ecurie (also known as Stable Griffon).
The Griff is a descendant of an old rough coated type of dog called a Smousie.
Originally, these Griffons, being a terrier-like dog, hunted rats and other rodents in stables, much like the Dutch Smoushond. But time would greatly change his fate.
Cocky and comical, the Griffon was eventually given two jobs to do - protect taxi cab drivers from attacks and attract taxi customers. Given the friendly, fun nature of the dog breed, they probably were much better at the later.
By the late 1800s, the Griffon was bred with the Pug and King Charles Spaniel which resulted in the brachycephalic head and the smooth coat some Griffons sport. The smooth coated Griffons are often referred to as the Petit Brabancon and were not accepted at first, partly due to the fact that the very word “griffon” means “wiry”.
It was in 1880 that the dog breed was officially recognized in dog shows in Belgium. But the fine tuning wasn’t over yet. The Griffon was further mixed with the English Toy Spaniel and the Yorkshire Terrier, adding even more character and attributes such as the head configuration he acquired from the Spaniel contribution.
From tramp to nobility, this breed was literally a star overnight. Queen Marie Henriette took to the breed and faithfully attended dog shows where Griffons were competing.
She furthered her interest by breeding and promoting them which led to their introduction around the globe. Soon the Griff was being exported all over the world where clubs like the Brussels Griffon Club in the United States and Griffon Bruxellois Clubs in England were formed.
World War l took its toll on the breed but he is not only full of himself, he’s also full of tenacity. He recovered with flying colors and is now greatly admired again in Brussels and all around the world as well.
World War ll was hard on the breed too. Wartime is difficult for dogs in general but was especially hard on the Bruss because great effort was being placed on stomping out such breeding faults as webbed toes and other deformities. But, once again, he bounded back, much in part to breeders committed to the cause, many from the United Kingdom.
This confident little fellow is full of controversy, however. In some countries, true Brussels Griffons are only those that are red rough coats with the black rough coated version being considered Belgian Griffons, and all smooth-coated varieties being deemed Petit Brabancons.
Nevertheless, Brussels Griffons were formally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1910. They were never very numerous until the movie “As Good As it Gets” with Jack Nicholson came out in 1997. Their popularity also got a boost in America when toy dogs became a craze around the same time.
Griffs are known as “purse dogs” because they can easily be carried around in a purse or small carrier but they are also mighty, climbing like a cat or refusing to back down from an aggressive, much larger dog.
These little dogs are cheerful and optimistic, intelligent, and quite curious and alert. Their expressions are so intense, they often seem like those of human’s.
The most notorious look they radiate is the look of conceit which is a bit misleading because although they are self-assured, they are anything but self-centered even though they have earned their claim to fame as a very well-loved, extremely popular house pet now.
Sometimes described as having an uncanny resemblance to an Ewok, this dog actually was the inspiration for the Return of the Jedi characters. Stuart Freeborn, a make-up artist, built the Ewoks from images provided to him of a Brussels Griffon owned by George Lucas.
These Griffons stand about 9 to 12 inches tall and weigh in between 7 and 11 pounds. Dogs that are over 12 pounds are actually disqualified from the ring.
Even though he has a small size, he is very sturdy, thick, and compact. He is somewhat square in shape and has a good bit of bone density too which is apparent in his movement, a self-assured trot.
When showing, the proportions of this breed are more important than height and weight as long as they are not over 12 pounds.
Griffons have big, black, shiny eyes that tend to look intensely at a subject, giving an arrogant impression at times. They have an under-bite and a short nose.
The coat of Griff can be smooth or rough, hard, and wiry or smooth, short, and glossy. The wiry types have coats that are longer around the chin, cheeks, and eyes. Smooth varieties should never have any wiry hair and wiry coated Griffons should never have any smooth hair on them.
They are seen in black, black and tan, beige, brown and black, red-brown with black, and red. Their ears are generally cropped but it optional. Their tails are docked almost all of the time.
As they age, dogs of this breed may turn a bit gray around the muzzle but never anywhere else on their body.
Especially because this breed is small, great care should be taken to provide dog food that is formulated to small-sized breeds. It is recommended that you speak to his veterinarian or breeder to determine the amount and frequency he should be fed.
They may also make a recommendation on what brand is advised. For sure you should go with a top-quality, highly nutritional one that is as natural as possible.
At first, you may be asked to feed him small meals throughout the day. Three or more meals per day until the age of 12 weeks is the norm that Griff pet parents usually feed their pups.
Toy dog breeds cannot hold much food at one time and it is important that he gets all his nutrients. As he matures, you may be advised to feed him less often.
As with all pets, be sure to keep plenty of fresh, clean water available to him at all times.
Brussels Griffons are extremely light shedders if they are unclipped.
The grooming needs of your Brussels will depend entirely upon which type you have - one with a wiry coat or a smooth coated one.
Smooth coated varieties don’t require much in the way of grooming. Simply brush his coat at least once per week and give him a bath when he needs it such as if he begins to smell a little gamey or he gets dirty.
Rough coated Brussels should be brushed a few times a week and bathed once a week as well. After their bath, they need to be combed out with a metal comb.
They also require hand stripping twice a year so their dead and loose hairs can be removed which is done by hand. This enables new hair to grow.
There are some who prefer to have their Griffons clipped instead of stripped but such practice is not acceptable for those who are in showing since it actually alters the coat’s texture plus, it promotes more shedding.
Shaping should take place at least every three months.
You will need to clip your Brussels’ nails regularly as needed. He is an inside dog and most likely won’t wear them down on his own. If they aren’t clipped, they are apt to crack.
Check for wax build-up in and around his ears. Keep them clean and dry to prevent infection and bacteria growth. If he begins to paw at them a lot, take him in to be checked to make sure he doesn’t have an infection.
Ear infections left untreated can easily lead to big problems and may require surgery or could even result in deafness. Brussels can be prone to ear conditions so careful monitoring is imperative.
Don’t forget to brush your Griffon’s teeth. Because they usually have an under-bite, their teeth require extra care. Good dental hygiene will help prevent tooth decay and gum disease. Using a doggie toothbrush and toothpaste is recommended.
To be so small, this character is pretty active. He loves his exercise time and needs it too in order to be healthy and happy. He will require at least 20 minutes of walking each day but two 20 sessions are even better.
Because he is little, breaking up his walks is an excellent idea. He is sturdy though so he can handle a good bit at once though and even enjoys a short run which is great to keep his stout muscles toned.
This little guy can definitely get into trouble on his walk if he encounters another dog that aggressively comes at him although he’s certainly not an instigator. He doesn’t realize his pint size and, when confronted, neither does he care.
He’ll stand his ground in no uncertain terms. He’s ten foot tall in his own mind which can promote dangerous situations so keep a watchful eye on him during the time you have him out and if you take him to the dog park too.
Griffs who have a fenced yard at their disposal will usually create their own exercise in between their walks though it’s never to take the place of a formal, brisk-paced dedicated walk.
This breed is apt to overheat or have a negative reaction to humidity. Especially young pups and seniors can have a lot of trouble due to complications that tend to plague dogs with short faces.
Taking him out in the cooler part of the day during the summer is advisable and making sure he’s in good physical condition, to begin with, is best as well. If your area is extremely hot, even in the early morning and late afternoon, you can exercise him in the air conditioned indoors for the season.
Be sure not to neglect a Bruss’ mental exercise. He’s very intelligent and needs mental stimulation so he’ll stay sharp. Brain games are good for him and are fun for all too. He’ll most likely shock you when he shows off his brainy smarts.
Pet Crates Direct recommends 22" dog crates* for most adult Brussels Griffon.
* Links for crate sizes will bring you to the most appropriate Amazon page.
This sweet dog has personality plus. They have made their way in the world through their loving and cute personalities and by a sheer determination as well.
They are quite proud of where they have been and how far they’ve come which is apparent in everything from their walk to the expression on their little faces.
The Brussels loves attention and will get it however they can. They love to clown around and are known to be hams, making them a ton of fun to be around.
If they don’t get their way, a Griffon usually pouts which can actually be quite adorable in its own way.
They are excellent with humans, including young children. Brussels generally get along with other pets in the family, especially if they were raised with them.
It is not uncommon for a Griff to pick a favorite family member and bond closely to that individual.
Brussels have huge hearts. They love to snuggle and spend time with their families. They are never aggressive though they have been known to lose patience with children who taunt or tease them and pets that pick on them.
One thing Griffons don’t like is being left alone and are apt to suffer from separation anxiety. They can be very demanding but most pet parents don’t mind giving into them.
They adore the elderly and those who have little to do but love on them. Since they are very portable, Griffons are also good for those on the go that don’t mind toting them around with them.
Griffons do tend to bark a lot. They bark at everything from people to cars and noises from the television.
Aside from their tendency to bark, they are perfect for any place, small or large, but unless they are trained at an early age not to compulsively and constantly bark, they are not generally great for places with close neighbors like apartments, hotels, and condos.
Griffons are indoor dogs. They should never be let out without supervision because they are tiny but they chose to ignore that fact. They are much bolder than they safely should be.
The Bruss is quite sensitive. He wears his heart on his shoulder and if he gets his feelings hurt, he is likely to become stubborn to get back at whoever crumbled his world.
If you walk out the door on him, be it because you had to go to work or even to the grocery store, he will treat you as if you abandoned him for weeks, or perhaps years. Any action short of giving him your complete undivided attention is considered to be betrayal in his mind.
Although he is self-confident and seems to know just how cute, fun, and smart he is, he can be insecure at the same time. He’s a needy guy with a big head, you might say - an egomaniac with an inferiority complex. Despite it all, he is generally active and happy as long as things go his way.
Though it may seem that this little fellow comes with a slew of issues, the truth is, he has such a presence and such a perky personality, his faults are soon forgotten.
Training a Brussels Griffon can be a bit of a challenge. Oh, they are smart enough, but getting them to actually participate can be tricky. They just don’t seem to see what all the fuss is necessary.
But, if you get their attitude straightened out, especially if you can get them to be a team player in their training classes, the sky is indeed the limit. He’ll be the star of his own show.
Perhaps the most difficult training task may be housebreaking your Griff. Being a small dog, he has a tiny bladder so he’s not physically able to “hold it” for long.
That means you’ll need to set him in or lead him to his designated potty spot quite often. Griffons are also prone to bladder issues so do have him examined before you even attempt to train him.
Even aside from the small bladder issues, this dog often balks at the thought of authority. You’ll need to establish your alpha leadership role in a kind and assertive manner right from the get-go. Patience and persistence are musts.
Treat training, in all areas of training, is a method that just might work with the Bruss. The problem is that ultimately, it puts him in charge.
When he follows through with what is being asked of him without a reward is when you know you are truly the leader in his eyes. But, first things first.
Treat and praise training are certainly worth incorporating although he’s not overly worried about pleasing people. He adores his people, that’s for sure. Sometimes, however, he thinks that his people were put on the earth solely to please him.
Socialization training must come early. He will need to get used to a large array of animals, humans, and settings.
Expose him to loud noises, busy places, and also to quiet spots where he’ll need to use a little self-control with his energy and his barking.
Teaching him early about the world and all the things he’ll encounter within it will make him a wonderful, well-behaved, well-adjusted pup.
As far as obedience training the Griff, it is vital but not always easy. He needs to “mind” for his safety so it simply must be done.
Persistence will eventually make perfect. Give him no choice in the matter. If you find the task is too daunting, seek the help of a professional trainer.
Getting the Brussels Griffon to do tricks is possible. He’s a show dog and craves attention. You’ll have to gain his interest and cooperation though. Making it fun will help.
Also, lean on the fact that being with his family is everything to him. If you can get him to focus on the fact the two of you are spending quality, fun time together, you will have a show stopper on your hands.
Don’t forget training that involves brain games. This little guy needs to be mentally challenged as well as physically.
Agility is another avenue you might incorporate into his training.
A trained Griffon is a good Griffon and a happy and healthy one too. Don’t get discouraged.
This guy can be stubborn and willful but he also has the capacity to be your star student as well.
Brussels Griffons live an average of 12 to 15 years and are generally fairly healthy during their lifetime. They are prone to get certain health problems, however, both major and minor.
Be sure to keep a good eye on your Griff so if he has any signs of having any of the medical problems below, or any other ones, you can have him checked immediately.
The earlier you catch something, the sooner he can be treated and the better his chances are of having a complete and successful recovery.
The fact that this breed sports a pushed in face leaves him susceptible to some issues that could result from it. Brachycephalic, or flat-faced dogs, are prone to overheat and to have respiratory trouble.
Be sure not to over-exercise your Griff and not to get him out when it’s extremely hot or humid.
Because this breed’s teeth can be overlapping, the chance of his teeth decaying and the contracting of gum disease are greater.
Be sure to brush his teeth regularly, at least once per week, and have routine dental check-ups scheduled for him as well.
Cleft Palate is a condition that, unfortunately, is not uncommon to the breed. It is typically a fatal issue which entails the deformity of a puppy’s palate or plate.
Sometimes the pup starves due to issues in nursing but, human intervention can, at times, save him. Surgery is usually the only treatment.
Canine Hip Dysplasia is a medical woe that can be present at birth or can develop over time. It is when the hip doesn’t fit correctly into a socket where it moves about it when a dog (or human) walks. Slipping, sliding, and popping out of socket are the symptoms.
The condition can be painful and debilitating. If your Griffon has trouble getting around or cannot walk at all, you’ll want to have him seen by his vet immediately. For severe cases, there is a surgical treatment that may be recommended.
A weak bladder is seen in a good number or Brussels. Adding to the complications that can arise by toy dogs that already have tiny bladders, a weak bladder means your dog may have frequent urine accidents because getting him outside as often as he’ll need to “go” is next to impossible and sometimes he cannot hold it long enough to even get out.
This problem can leave him susceptible to urinary tract infections too. Having an indoor alternative spot to urinate, like a cat litter box or an inside doggie potty pad, is helpful.
The Griff’s eyes are usually large and may protrude. This leaves them vulnerable to certain problems like lacerations. Since their eyes do “pop”, they can get foreign objects in them more easily. If not treated immediately, lacerations can lead to blindness.
Cataracts are a common issue in Brussels Griffons. The condition can manifest in just a speck or over the entire eye lens. If you note that your dog doesn’t seem to be seeing well, he should be checked. Cataracts can be treated but if they aren’t, can lead to blindness.
Glaucoma is another eye condition that Griffons may contracts. The problem involves undue pressure in the eye and lack of tearing. Be sure to have him checked as he ages because the condition can be serious and is also very painful.
Distichiasis is a condition common in this breed where there are extra eyelashes and they grow in unusual places. This can cause complications with his site and can be very uncomfortable. If you see any signs of this problem, be sure to let his vet know.
Syringomyelia is a medical condition that can occur with the Griffon in which there is an obstruction in the cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid fills cavities in the spinal cord. Mild to severe pain may result and partial paralysis can arise as well. If your dog is having trouble getting around or is in pain, be sure to notify his vet so she can test him.
This pup fetches a hefty price tag of $800 and up, per puppy so it is tempting for breeders of little to no integrity to get greedy. Going through a responsible, reputable breeder will increase the likelihood that you’ll end up with a healthy Brussels Griffon.
Is A Brussels Griffon Right for Me?
If you, like many before you, have been smitten by the charm of the Brussels Griffon and have decided that you simply must have one, there are a few things you should consider first.
This breed is indeed worthy of his calling. He has graced the laps of many royals and has made many a peasant’s life worth living as well.
If you doubt his importance, just ask him. The look in his eyes and his overall demeanor will assure you that he is “all that”...and then some.
But, this dog can be a handful as well. He can be set in his ways and maybe a magnet to trouble because he is not aware of his pint-size and neither would he pay it any mind if he was.
He is not aggressive in the least but neither will he tuck his tail and walk away if taunted, by children or by other pets.
So if you have pets or children who might instigate problems, it’s best to pass this little package of dynamite up, for his sake and for the sake of others as well.
If you live in a small space dwelling, like a compact apartment or condo, this little fellow will fit right in. But be aware that he is prone to bark which might be an issue with neighbors.
He can be trained to taper it down but barking is instinctive for him so he will bark at least some of the time.
Are you going to have ample time to spend with your Griff? This dog does best with those who are home all or most of the day (and night), like elderly individuals or homebodies.
He also thrives when he is able to go along with you. He’s so portable you can take him on vacations and even to work, shopping, and for visits with friends and family.
But if he is going to be left at home alone, forget it. He won’t have it. He will become very depressed and that’s just not fair.
If you live in a really hot climate, like parts of Arizona, Texas, or New Mexico, you’ll need to be prepared to either walk him in the cool of the evening or the early morning or make sure he gets enough indoor exercise during the hot summer months. This breed simply can’t tolerate the blazing heat.
In the event that even after learning all about the Brussels Griffon, you feel he might be a great match for you, and you for him, congratulations.
This rags to riches character first kept his families rodent-free and then moved on to help promote taxicab companies. From there, he ended up in palaces and castles and eventually, in households just like yours.
He’s made his way in the world because of his self-assurance, charm, and lovability. He’ll no doubt make his way right into your heart as well.