Brussels Griffon Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Brussels Griffon Dog

The Brussels Griffon, named for the Belgian city of its origin, is a sturdy and lively little fellow originally bred to be a ratter in stables where horse-drawn carriages were kept. Also known as the Bruss, the Griff, the Griffon Belge, the Stable Griffon, the Griffon d’Ecurie, the Griffon Bruxellois and the Petit Brabancon, this breed is highly intelligent and delightful to be around. They are unusually sensitive and demanding of attention and are strictly house dogs that will pine away without sufficient love and affection from their people. Given their small stature and tendency to be a one-person dog, they are not the best choice as a child’s pet. The modern Brussels Griffon is a small and delightful house companion, with a very short, uptilted nose, prominent lustrous eyes and a domed top skull. He appears to pout, looking almost human in expression. His ears may be cropped or natural, and if natural should be semi-erect. The standard calls for an undershot jaw, with the lower jaw (mandible) being more pronounced. Their tail normally is docked to about one-third of its natural length.

Brussels Griffons have been described as looking like the Ewok of Star Wars fame. They were accepted as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1960, as a member of its Toy Group. Like many small dogs, the Brussels Griffon seems to have no concept of its diminutive size and as a result can get into trouble if it tries to dominate larger dogs (i.e. “small dog syndrome”). It can also be moody.

The average Brussels Griffon is between 7 and 8 inches at the withers and typically weighs between 7 and 11 pounds. They should not exceed 12 pounds, although type and quality are more important than weight and a smaller dog of exceptional sturdiness and proportion should not be penalized under the American Kennel Club breed standard. They are not especially high-energy dogs but do require regular exercise and mental stimulation. Their coat, which can be rough or smooth, is easy to care for with regular brushing and occasional bathing, although the rough coat requires hand-stripping. Their coat color may be red, belge (black and reddish brown mixed), black and tan, or solid black. Any white hairs are a serious fault in this breed.

Brussels Griffon Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level4/5
Apartment Friendly5/5
Barking Tendencies4/5
Cat Friendly3/5
Child Friendly3/5
Dog Friendly3/5
Exercise Need2/5
Grooming Needs4/5
Health Issues2/5

Brussels Griffon – Appearance & Grooming


Brussels Griffons are tiny dogs but are very sturdy in build. They should be squarely proportioned, have a domed head, an underbite, a short nose and shiny eyes. Their faces have an almost human-like expression, and some owners describe their dogs as looking like an Ewok from the famous Star Wars trilogy. Others say Brussels look like miniature Boxers. There are rough coated Brussels Griffons and Smooth coated Brussels Griffons. They come in red, red-brown and black, black and tan or solid black. Cropping of the ears is optional in this breed, but is the norm. Tails are almost always docked.

Size and Weight

Brussels Griffons typically stand about eight inches high and weigh between 8 and 10 pounds. Dogs who weigh over 12 pounds are disqualified in the show ring. Dogs who are smaller than 8 pounds, but who are well proportioned are not disqualified, as proportion is more important than actual height and weight. The proper proportion for the Brussels Griffon is square – measured from the shoulder point to the rearmost projection of the upper thigh and from ground to withers.

Coat and Color

Brussels Griffons come in rough and smooth coated varieties. The rough coated dogs have a dense, wiry coat that is longer around the eyes, cheeks and chin. The smooth coated variety have short, straight, glossy coats that lie close to the body. Rough coated Griffons should never have silky hair on their bodies and smooth coated Griffons should never have traces of wiry hair. Both versions come in red, black and tan, black or belge, which is a reddish brown/black mix. They may have black whiskers, black masks or black around they eyes. Older Griffons will become gray in the muzzle, but hair color will change nowhere else on the body.

Grooming Needs

Rough and smooth coated Brussels Griffons have different grooming needs. Smooth coated Griffons require very little grooming besides weekly brushing and occasional bathing when the dog begins to emit an odor. Rough coated Griffons, on the other hand, need weekly brushing to remove dead hair and need to be combed afterward with a metal comb. They must be hand stripped twice per year, which involves removing dead and loose hairs by hand to promote new coat growth. Some owners elect to clip their rough coated Griffon in order to avoid stripping the coat, but this is not acceptable for the show ring and alters the texture of the dog’s coat and also causes more shedding. Unclipped Griffons, whether smooth or rough coated, shed very little.

Brussels Griffon – History and Health


During the early 1800s, coachmen in Belgium kept small, wire-haired terrier-type dogs to manage the rodent population in their carriage stables. They were then known as “griffons d’ecurie”, which translates to “wire-coated stable dogs.” It is thought that the Pug (a Victorian favorite in Britain) was crossed with these humble native Belgian terriers in the mid-1800s, producing a smooth-coated dog called the “Brabancon, after the Belgian national anthem. Around the same time, the King Charles and Ruby varieties of the English Toy Spaniel were also added to the mix, creating two distinct coat types: a harsh, heavily-whiskered rough coat and a smooth coat, both in a rich red color. Together, the native Belgian griffons and the English Toy Terriers, with their big heads, prominent dark eyes and short faces, forever changed the previously rough-and-tumble barn ratter into a beloved companion dog.

In the 1870s, this breed became a favorite of the Belgian queen, Henrietta Maria, which gave them royal patronage and elevated their social status. Brussels Griffons were the darlings of the Belgian elite, and efforts were undertaken to breed them to become even more exaggerated in appearance, with flatter faces and smaller stature. It is unclear which breeds were crossed to accomplish these breed changes, but it is thought that the Affenpinscher, Pug, Yorkshire Terrier, King Charles Spaniel and Dutch Smoushond may have contributed. Regardless of the crosses, the result was the modern Brussels Griffon, which has a shorter and flatter face than its ancestors and is an immensely appealing little dog that retains is favored status as a companion despite the fact that it is no longer needed to hunt vermin or entertain royalty.

The American Brussels Griffon Association was founded in 1945. The breed standard was approved by the AKC in 1960, after it went through several revisions. The parent club was accepted for AKC membership in 1982. The American Kennel Club is the only large all breed registry that recognizes only the Brussels Griffon; in Europe, there are three small Belgian terriers which are virtually identical in history but differ in coat type and color: the Brussels Griffon (rough red), the Petit Brabancon (smooth of any color), and the Griffon Belge (rough of any color but red).


The Brussels Griffon has a relatively long life expectancy, with ten to fifteen years being usual. However, it has developed significant reproductive problems. Bitches in this breed often do not conceive, and when they do they tend to have difficulty giving birth. Caesarean deliveries are common, litters are unusually small and newborn puppies are often delicate. Often there is only one puppy, with an average mortality rate of 60 percent in the first few weeks. They also may have a breed predisposition to refractory corneal ulceration, cataracts, hip dysplasia and patellar luxation.

Brussels Griffon – Temperament & Personality


The Brussels Griffon is a toy breed that developed in the streets of Brussels where they hunted rats. Small, with highly expressive faces, the Brussels Griffon looks like a fragile little “purse dog,” but even though they fit nicely in a hand bag, they are sturdy and fearless, boasting the ability to climb like a cat. They enjoy being the center of attention and are often described by owners as hams and clowns. They get along fine with kids and other household pets, as long as they are raised together.

Griffons love attention and affection and dislike being left alone. They tend to thrive in the homes of empty-nesters or the elderly because these families have the time to devote solely to these attention-hungry dogs.

Activity Requirements

As with other toy breeds, the Griffon can live just about anywhere. Apartments, condominiums, houses, even farms are suitable for this breed. Though they are small, they do need to be walked daily, and if possible, be allowed to stretch their legs and run when possible.


Training a Griffon can be challenging. They are stubborn and like to do thing on their own time. Putting a leash on a Griffon can be exasperating, they have been known to leap and flip around, trying to remove themselves from the tether. Patience and an even, confident tone are needed when training this breed.

Though the initial training stages can be challenging, once leadership is established and a reward system put in place, Griffons excel in advanced obedience and agility training. Competitive activists are great for this breed because they love the attention and the opportunity to perform for a crowd.

Behavioral Traits

As with most small dogs, Griffons are prone to barking. They will bark at people, other animals, cars, bikes, and even the weather. Early, consistent socialization and training to obey commands to stop barking are important for the sanity of everyone in the home, as well as those who live nearby. They will also posture toward other dogs, but their barking and tantrum-throwing rarely results in anything other than a lot of noise.

House training is a long process with Griffons, and many owners believe their dogs simply refuse to follow a training program out of spite. It might be wise to have a breeder house train a Griffon before bringing him home.

Brussels Griffons are prone to separation anxiety, which usually results in excessive barking when left alone. People who work long hours are not the best fits for Griffons, as they crave constant attention and affection.

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