Brussels Griffon

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brussels griffon portrait
Step into the enchanting world of the Brussels Griffon – the big-hearted, big-personality breed that's tiny in size but gigantic in charm! With their expressive faces, affectionate nature, and a hint of sass, these pint-sized dynamos are here to prove that good things truly come in small, fluffy packages.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

Looking for a loyal, lively companion with a dash of drama queen? The Brussels Griffon is your match! Best suited for individuals or families who can shower them with attention, these affectionate furballs thrive in environments where their larger-than-life personalities can truly shine.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEBrussels Griffon
OTHER NAMESGriffon Bruxellois, Petit Brabançon, Griffon Belge
ORIGINBelgium
BREED GROUPToy Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT7-10 inches
WEIGHT8-12 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELLow
POPULARITY RANK97th
brussels griffon's face up close
Photo: Laures/Getty Images

Appearance

The Brussels Griffon is a delightful mix of adorable and aristocratic. Compact and squarely proportioned, these tiny canine companions stand only about 7 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder and tip the scale between 8 to 12 pounds. But don’t let their small stature fool you – they’re packed with personality!

One of the most striking features of the Brussels Griffon is their distinctive head, which is large in comparison to their body. Their round, wide-set eyes are dark, sparkling, and full of expression, often described as almost human-like. These expressive eyes, combined with their high-set ears (which can be either cropped or left natural), give the Brussels Griffon an alert and curious look.

The Brussels Griffon’s face boasts a short, pushed-in snout and an undershot jaw, lending it a unique, somewhat comical appearance. This breed is known for its prominent chin and almost non-existent nose, and their faces often carry an endearing grumpy expression. However, don’t be mistaken, these little dogs are anything but grumpy!

The body of the Brussels Griffon is sturdy with medium length muscular front legs. They move with a purposeful trot, showcasing their charisma and confidence. Their tails are usually docked and carried high, adding to their overall proud demeanor.

When it comes to their coats, there’s some variety. The Brussels Griffon comes in two coat types: rough and smooth. The rough coat is wiry and harsh, while the smooth coat is straight, short, tight, and glossy. Regardless of the type, their fur can come in four different colors: red, belge (a blend of black and reddish-brown), black and tan, or pure black.

In essence, the Brussels Griffon is a perfect blend of charm and self-importance, wrapped up in a small, furry package. Their unique physical characteristics coupled with their dynamic personalities make them a truly one-of-a-kind breed.

brussels griffon standing outdoors
Photo: Zuzule/Getty Images

Temperament

The Brussels Griffon is an intelligent and alert breed. They’re always eager to investigate their surroundings, sniff out new scents, and discover what’s happening around them. Their curious nature makes every day an adventure. They love to explore, and their keen senses mean they’re quick to pick up on anything unusual, making them excellent watch dogs.

These dogs are also known for their loyalty. They form strong bonds with their humans and are happiest when they’re spending time with their family. Whether it’s cuddling on the couch or playing a game of fetch, they’re all about companionship.

They’re also known to be quite sensitive, picking up on and reflecting their owner’s emotions. If you’re feeling blue, don’t be surprised to find your Brussels Griffon by your side, offering quiet comfort.

Despite their small size, the Brussels Griffon has a big dog attitude. They’re often described as being full of self-importance, but this only adds to their charm. They’re spunky, spirited and comical, always ready to entertain with their playful antics. Their clownish behavior is sure to bring laughter and joy into any home.

Brussels Griffons are also known to be quite sociable. They generally get along well with other dogs and pets, especially when they’ve been properly socialized. However, their social nature doesn’t end with animals; they’re also known to be friendly towards people. They’re always ready to make new friends and will quickly warm up to guests in your home.

However, it’s important to note that while they can be outgoing and active, some Brussels Griffons can also lean towards the reserved side, verging on shy. Their temperament can vary from one dog to another, so it’s essential to remember that every Brussels Griffon is an individual with their own unique personality quirks.

One thing that’s consistent across the breed is their need for almost constant companionship. They crave attention and do not like to be left alone for long periods. They are happiest when they’re in the company of their loved ones, enjoying the hustle and bustle of family life.

two brussels griffons at the park
Photo: DevidDO/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The Brussels Griffon thrives in environments filled with love, companionship, and plenty of interactive playtime. Small in size but big on personality, these dogs are well-suited to both apartment living and larger homes, provided they’re given enough attention and mental stimulation.

Ideal Owner

Brussels Griffons adore their human families and crave constant companionship. Therefore, they’re happiest in homes where at least one person is around most of the time. They’re a great fit for retirees, work-from-home professionals, or families with older children who can understand their need for gentle handling.

Other Pets

While they’re sociable with other pets, particularly if they’ve been raised together, they may not be the best fit for households with very large dogs due to their small size. That being said, every dog is an individual, and many Brussels Griffons coexist happily with larger canine siblings.

Physical Environment

When it comes to physical environment, Brussels Griffons are quite adaptable. They’re equally comfortable in urban apartments as they are in suburban homes, as long as they have their beloved humans by their side. However, they’re not outdoor dogs. They’re meant to live indoors, enjoying the comfort of your sofa and the warmth of your bed.

Climate Adaptability

Climate-wise, Brussels Griffons are sensitive to extreme temperatures. In hot weather, it’s important to keep them cool as their short snouts can make breathing difficult in the heat. Always provide plenty of shade and fresh water during the warmer months.

On the flip side, their small bodies and thin coats don’t fare well in the cold either. During winter, consider doggy sweaters or jackets to help them stay warm.

brussels griffon lying in bed with a stuffed toy
Photo: Mikolaj Niemczewski

Grooming

In the world of dog grooming, the Brussels Griffon is a breed that falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. They’re not as high-maintenance as some breeds, but they do require a bit more attention than your average short-haired dog.

Coat Care

Let’s start with their coats. As mentioned earlier, Brussels Griffons come in two varieties: rough and smooth-coated. The grooming needs for each type are a little different.

If you have a rough-coated Brussels Griffon, you’ll need to brush their wiry fur several times a week to prevent matting and tangling. This type of coat doesn’t shed much, but it does require hand-stripping about twice a year to remove dead hair.

Hand-stripping involves plucking out the old, loose hairs by hand (or with a stripping tool) to allow new hair to grow in. It might sound a bit harsh, but it’s actually painless for the dog and helps keep their coat healthy and looking its best.

Smooth-coated Brussels Griffons, on the other hand, have short, glossy coats that shed more frequently. These dogs will benefit from a good brushing once or twice a week to remove loose hair and keep their coat shiny. They don’t need hand-stripping, which makes them slightly easier to groom.

Regular bathing is also a must for Brussels Griffons. Aim to give them a bath every month or so, or whenever they start to get a bit stinky. Use a gentle dog shampoo to keep their skin and coat clean and healthy.

Dental Care

Moving on to dental care, regular tooth brushing is crucial for these small dogs. Brussels Griffons are prone to dental problems, so aim to brush their teeth at least two or three times a week. Regular dental check-ups with your vet are also a good idea.

Nail Trimming

As for their nails, they’ll need a trim every few weeks. If you can hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a nail-clipping session. Be careful not to cut into the quick, the blood vessel inside the nail. If you’re unsure, a vet or professional groomer can help.

Ear Care

Lastly, don’t forget their ears. Check them weekly for any signs of infection like redness, bad smell, or unusual discharge. Clean them with a vet-recommended cleaner to keep them healthy.

brussels griffon walking on the snow
Photo: ucho103/Getty Images

Exercise

Welcome to the active life of a Brussels Griffon! While they may be small, these lively little dogs have energy to spare and require regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy.

Exercise Amount & Types

Generally, a Brussels Griffon needs about 30 to 45 minutes of exercise each day. This can be split into two or more walks, coupled with playtime. These dogs love a good romp around the yard or a brisk walk around the neighborhood. However, due to their size, they’re not built for extreme endurance exercises like long-distance running.

In addition to physical exercise, Brussels Griffons also need mental stimulation. They’re intelligent dogs who enjoy interactive games and puzzle toys that challenge their minds. Hide-and-seek, fetch, or trick training sessions are all great ways to engage their brains and burn off some energy.

Dog Sports

When it comes to dog sports, Brussels Griffons can certainly hold their own. They excel in agility and obedience competitions, and their keen senses make them naturals at scent work. Participating in such activities is an excellent way to provide both physical and mental exercise for your Brussels Griffon.

Exercise Precautions

Despite their energetic nature, it’s important to remember that Brussels Griffons are brachycephalic, meaning they have short snouts and flat faces. This can make them prone to overheating and breathing difficulties in hot weather, so make sure to provide plenty of water and shade during outdoor activities.

Also, remember that every dog is unique. Some Brussels Griffons may require more or less exercise than others. Pay attention to your dog’s behavior – if they seem restless or start engaging in destructive behavior, they may need more exercise.

two brussels griffon outside
Photo: JZHunt/Getty Images

Training

When it comes to training, the Brussels Griffon is a breed that’s both a joy and a challenge. They’re intelligent dogs with a strong desire to please their owners, which makes them fairly trainable. However, their independent streak and sometimes stubborn nature can sometimes make the process a bit tricky.

One key aspect of training a Brussels Griffon is starting early. Puppyhood is a prime time for teaching basic commands and good manners. Socialization is also crucial during this stage. Exposing your puppy to different people, pets, places, and experiences will help them grow into a well-rounded adult dog.

Positive reinforcement is the best approach when training a Brussels Griffon. They respond well to praise, treats, and play. Harsh correction or punishment can easily discourage them and may even make them distrustful. Remember, training should be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your dog!

Patience is another essential ingredient in training. Brussels Griffons can be a bit headstrong at times, but don’t let that discourage you. Consistency and patience will go a long way. Keep the training sessions short and sweet to maintain their interest.

Brussels Griffons excel in obedience training and they can also do well in agility. Their quick minds and agile bodies make them naturals at navigating obstacle courses. This can be a great way to provide both physical exercise and mental stimulation.

House training can sometimes be a challenge with this breed, so be prepared for some potential hiccups along the way. Crate training can be an effective tool in this regard.

brussels griffon's face up close
Photo: Dorin Tama’s Images

Diet & Nutrition 

When it comes to feeding your Brussels Griffon, the right diet and nutrition are crucial for keeping them healthy and happy. These small dogs have big appetites, but it’s important to ensure they’re eating the right things in the right amounts.

What to Feed & How Much

Whether you choose dry food, canned food, or a raw diet, make sure it meets the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Always check the label to ensure you’re giving your dog the best.

The amount to feed your Brussels Griffon will depend on their age, weight, and activity level. Puppies usually require more calories since they’re growing and are more active. As they grow older and their metabolism slows down, their caloric needs decrease.

A general guideline is 1/2 to 1 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals. However, every dog is unique, so it’s always a good idea to consult with your vet for personalized feeding advice.

Treats

Treats are another aspect of your Brussels Griffon’s diet. While they can be a useful tool for training, remember that treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily calorie intake. Overindulgence can lead to obesity, which can cause a host of health problems.

Water

Water is another vital part of your Brussels Griffon’s diet. Make sure they always have access to fresh, clean water, especially during hot weather or after exercise.

brussels griffon standing on grass
Photo: Елена Рубан/Getty Images

Health

Brussels Griffons are delightful little companions, and with the right care, they can share your life for around 12 to 15 years. But like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions.

While not every Brussels Griffon will get any or all of these diseases, it’s essential to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed:

Brachycephalic Syndrome: Because of their short noses and flat faces, Brussels Griffons can have trouble breathing, especially in hot or humid weather. Always provide plenty of shade and water and avoid strenuous exercise during peak heat hours.

Patellar Luxation: This is a common condition in small dogs, where the patella (kneecap) slips out of place. In severe cases, it may require surgical correction.

Eye Problems: Brussels Griffons can be susceptible to various eye issues, including cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), a disease that can lead to blindness.

Dental Problems: Because of their small mouths, Brussels Griffons are prone to dental disease. Regular tooth brushing and professional dental cleanings can help prevent this issue.

Heart Conditions: Brussels Griffons can also be prone to certain heart conditions, such as Mitral Valve Disease.

To keep your Brussels Griffon as healthy as possible, a balanced diet is crucial. Feed them high-quality dog food that’s appropriate for their age, size, and activity level. Regular exercise will help keep them fit and prevent obesity, which can exacerbate health problems.

Regular veterinary check-ups are also essential. These allow for early detection and treatment of potential health issues. Make sure your Brussels Griffon is up-to-date on vaccinations and parasite control as well.

Remember, owning a pet is a big responsibility, but with regular care and lots of love, your Brussels Griffon will be a happy, healthy companion for many years to come.

brussels griffon lying down on the grass
Photo: Industrial Photograph

History

Step back in time and you’ll find the roots of the Brussels Griffon breed in 17th-century Belgium. These charming little dogs were initially bred for a rather unglamorous job – to catch rats in stables. They were developed from the German Affenpinscher and the Belgian street dog, creating a small, sturdy dog with a keen nose.

As the breed evolved, they caught the eye of the noble class. In the mid-1800s, Queen Marie Henriette of Belgium took a particular interest in them, leading to their exportation to England and an increase in their popularity. The breed was further refined with crosses to the English Toy Spaniel and the Pug, resulting in the distinctive face we associate with the Brussels Griffon today.

The breed made its way to America in the late 19th century. The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Brussels Griffon in 1910. However, their popularity waned during the World Wars, as breeding dogs wasn’t a priority. It took several decades for the breed to regain its footing in America.

Today, the Brussels Griffon holds the 97th spot on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds. While they’re not the most common breed, they’ve certainly left their mark on popular culture.

Perhaps the most famous Brussels Griffon is “Verdell” from the movie “As Good As It Gets”. Verdell stole the show alongside Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, proving that Brussels Griffons can be just as captivating on screen as they are in person.

Brussels Griffons also found fame in the world of art. An early example of the breed is depicted in a painting by the Flemish painter Van Eyck, showing that their unique charm has been appreciated for centuries.

In the modern era, Brussels Griffons have found their niche as beloved companions. Their expressive faces, coupled with their lively personalities, make them unforgettable pets. From their humble beginnings as ratters in Belgian stables to their status as cherished family members, the Brussels Griffon has navigated the annals of history with grace, charm, and undeniable character.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Brussels Griffon breed in the United States is the American Brussels Griffon Association (ABGA). The ABGA is responsible for setting the standards for the breed and connecting enthusiasts, breeders, and owners. While the exact founding date is not specified, the organization has a rich history in preserving and promoting the breed.

For more information about the ABGA, you can visit their official website here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed.

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Brussels Griffon’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

brussels griffon puppy sitting in a dog carrier
Photo: Natalia Duryagina/Getty Images

Acquiring

Adding a Brussels Griffon to your family is an exciting journey! Before you bring one home, make sure your environment is safe and ready for a small, active dog. If you choose to buy, always opt for reputable breeders. They prioritize the health and temperament of their dogs, ensuring you get a happy, well-adjusted pup.

However, consider giving a second chance to a rescue dog. Rescuing not only saves a life but also gives an older dog a loving home. The American Kennel Club and the American Brussels Griffon Association can help connect you with rescue organizations.

Remember, whether you buy or rescue, owning a Brussels Griffon is a long-term commitment. Be prepared to provide love, care, and companionship to your new furry friend for many years to come. Good luck on your adventure into Brussels Griffon ownership!

FAQs

Are Brussels Griffons good pets?

Absolutely! Brussels Griffons are known for their affectionate nature and lively personalities. They make great companions and tend to form strong bonds with their owners. However, they do require regular social interaction and mental stimulation.

Why are Brussels Griffons so rare?

Brussels Griffons are not as common as other breeds due to their unique breeding history and specific care needs. They also have smaller litters compared to other breeds, which contributes to their rarity.

Is a Brussels Griffon a type of Pug?

No, a Brussels Griffon is not a type of Pug. Although they share some similar physical traits due to historic crossbreeding, they are distinct breeds with different characteristics and histories.

What two dogs make a Brussels Griffon?

The Brussels Griffon was originally developed by crossing the German Affenpinscher with the Belgian street dog. Later, the breed was refined with crosses to the English Toy Spaniel and the Pug.

How much exercise does a Brussels Griffon need?

Brussels Griffons are active little dogs that need 30-45 minutes of daily exercise. A few short walks a day, along with some playtime, should keep them happy and healthy.

Are Brussels Griffons easy to train?

Brussels Griffons are intelligent and eager to please, which can make training easier. However, they can also be stubborn at times. Consistent, positive reinforcement methods work best with this breed.

Are Brussels Griffons good with children and other pets?

Yes, Brussels Griffons can get along well with children and other pets, especially if they’re raised together. However, because of their small size, interactions with younger children should always be supervised to prevent accidental injury.

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