Guide to the Lively & Intelligent Brussels Griffon Dog Breed

Updated January 11, 2022
Brussels Griffon dog breed

The Brussels Griffon, fondly referred to as the "griff," is an energetic and smart toy breed. These dogs have an unusual appearance and have been said to resemble to not one, but two Star Wars species. If you're considering the Brussels Griffon as a pet, you should review their traits and needs.

Origin and History

The Brussels Griffon was originally bred in the early 1800s in Belgium to hunt rats. The popular companion animal is a descendant of a rough-coated terrier type of dog and exhibits many admirable terrier qualities. For decades, this little dog was popular as a guard dog on horse-drawn cabs and as a ratter. In the 19th century, there were some Pug and Affenpinscher bred into the Brussels Griffon.

The breed was first documented in Jan Van Eyck's 15th-century painting, The Marriage of Giovanni Arnolfini. In the late 1800s, they first appeared in the United States, although the breed wasn't recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1910. The Brussels Griffon is considered a toy breed despite their terrier traits.

Characteristics of the Breed

Griffs may be small dogs, but they have large personalities. Some say they even exude an air of self-importance. Along with their unusual looks comes a variety of unique traits.

Griffon Bruxellois breed characteristics

Appearance

Brussels are petite dogs with a relatively sturdy frame. They have a domed head with a short, brachycephalic nose. Their ears stand up then fold over close to the head, and they have a naturally erect and slightly curled tail.

Both ears and tails are commonly cropped in this breed. Historically, cropping was done to prevent rodents from biting these appendages while the griff hunted them. Today, these dogs can be found with cropped or natural ears and tails.

  • Size: Between 7 and 11 inches tall at the shoulder
  • Weight: Between 8 and 12 pounds
  • Coat colors: The breed is available in red, beige, black and tan, and black
  • Coat types: rough and smooth

Temperament

This breed exhibits many terrier qualities. The Brussels Griffon is intelligent, alert, and sensitive. They are typically a no-nonsense type of dog. This well-balanced breed may enjoy the country life but also adapts well to life in the city.

Many people refer to the Brussels Griffon as the "Velcro dog," because they often become attached to their owners. On the other hand, they may take a while to warm up to unknown humans or other dogs. These dogs are prone to barking, which can make them good watchdogs.

Brussels Griffon puppy for a walk

Exercise Requirements

Brussels Griffons enjoy physical activity, but their overall exercise requirements are minimal. You should take this dog out for daily walks, but they don't need to be run for extensive periods. In fact, due to their short nose, overexerting can be harmful for this breed.

The Brussels Griffon would make a wonderful companion for a pet parent living in an apartment. However, this little dog can become obese if overfed and not exercised daily. They also need a high-quality diet designed for small dogs.

Training

Brussels Griffon can have a stubborn streak, which may make training a challenge. However, they are also very smart and learn commands and tricks quickly. Begin training this breed early to prevent behavior issues like persistent barking. Due to their athleticism and hunting nature, these dogs can excel in agility courses.

Health Concerns

This breed is known for a few health conditions.

  • Luxating patellas: Many small breeds are at risk for this joint problem where the knee cap pops out of place.
  • Eye diseases: The breed is at risk for genetic eye conditions, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and distichiasis (abnormal eyelash growth).
  • Hip dysplasia: This hip development problem is most common in large breed dogs, but it also affects Brussels Griffons.
  • Syringomyelia: Brussels and other breeds like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are prone to this painful spinal condition.
  • Respiratory issues: These dogs can develop airways problems due to their short, squished nose.

Lifespan

The life expectancy for this small breed is 10 to 15 years.

Brussels Griffon dog in the park

Grooming

Grooming for this breed depends on the coat type. Smooth-haired dogs typically experience two shedding seasons each year -- in the spring and again in the fall. Daily brushing is recommended during these periods, and weekly brushing all other times of the year. Rough-coated Brussels only shed mildly, although weekly brushings can help remove loose fur and dirt.

All Brussel Griffons can benefit from having the hair around their eyes and mouth brushed and trimmed, as these locks can pick up bits of food or saliva. This is where the coat also tends to be longest.

Fun Facts About the Brussels Griffon

  • This wonderful small breed is popular in Hollywood and has appeared in the films As Good As It Gets and Gosford Park.
  • The first Brussels Griffon dogs are known as "little street urchins" and seen wandering Brussels' streets. Workers kept the breed inside stables to catch rats.
  • One of the breed's most prominent supporters is Queen Marie Henriette of Belgium. Her enthusiasm for the breed made them popular among the wealthy in Europe.
  • The breed is known for resembling Chewbacca the Wookiee and the Ewok species from Star Wars.

Reputable Brussels Griffon Breeders

This breed is still relatively uncommon, so puppies can be hard to find and may be expensive. You can expect to spend anywhere from $1,200 to $4,000 for a Brussels Griffon pup depending on their availability. The American Kennel Club is an excellent resource for pet parents looking for reputable breeders. There are many questions dog lovers need to ask a breeder when researching terriers type dogs or canines in the Toy Group.

Adopting a Brussels

If you'd prefer to give a homeless Brussels a second chance, you can look to rescue organizations, such as the National Brussels Griffon Rescue, Inc. or the American Brussels Griffon Rescue Alliance.

The Brussels Griffon Started as a Stable Dog

This lively and intelligent breed is popular with terrier lovers. The breed was common around farms and stables to control rodent populations. Eventually, these dogs became a wonderful companion animal and family pet. The Brussels Griffon is available in a rough-coated and smooth-haired variety. Pet parents need to work with a reputable breeder to identify a puppy or adult dog best suited for their family.

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Guide to the Lively & Intelligent Brussels Griffon Dog Breed