Affectionate, lively and curious (sometime high-strung)
Red, red-brown and black, black and tan, and solid black
Rough-coated (harsh wiry and dense) or Smooth-coated (short, straight, glossy)
Little or not at all
The Brussels Griffon is an intelligent and very affectionate terrier-type dog. They love to snuggle with their owners. They can be a bit high-strung, self-important or willful, but are quite charming at the same time. This breed is energetic and loves to learn. They have a good sense of humor and will even perform tricks.
A Brussels Griffon will bark to announce the arrival of visitors, making them good watchdogs, but they usually greet all people with curiosity and a welcoming spirit. They are good with other household pets, including dogs and cats.
Although a wonderful companion pet for single people, couples or seniors, the Brussels Griffon is not necessarily the right dog for a family. They are prone to fear-biting when handled roughly, and as such are not always good with children. They can also be easily overwhelmed and tend to be shy, and are often difficult to housetrain. But, on the upside, they shed little to no hair and are good pets for allergy sufferers.
The Brussels Griffon is active indoors and will do well in an apartment, although like all dogs, they need a daily walk to maintain good health.
The Brussels Griffon was originally developed in Belgium in the 1800’s. They began their lineage as ratters used by coachmen in the horse stables of the upper-class and royalty, a common practice across Europe and the United Kingdom at the time. Although the coachmen were not detailed record-keepers, it is widely accepted that their ratting dogs were descended from the Affenpinscher and other various Belgian dogs. Later on, the Pug, King Charles Spaniel and Ruby Spaniel were added to the lineage. The introduction of these other breeds led to the development of two distinctive coats that are currently recognized by the American Kennel Club: the smooth coat and rough coat. These days, the Brussels Griffon exists almost exclusively as a companion pet.
The Brussels Griffon was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1910, and has enjoyed a minor surge in popularity in recent years due to it’s appears in several Hollywood films and on American television.
Body Structure and Composition
The Brussels Griffon is a muscular and sturdy dog. They have a large head with a flat face and a very prominent chin with an undershot jaw, which is covered in a beard. The nose and eyes are set at the same level. The ears are set high on the head and are held erect, and are often cropped.
Often, particularly in Europe and the UK, the Brussels Griffon is referred to by different names based on it’s coloring:
Griffon Bruxellois: Red or reddish-brown, possibly with black on the muzzle
Griffon Belge: Black, black and tan, or black and red
Petit Brabançon: All other colors.
The Brussels Griffon is brachycephalic, meaning they have unusually large, rounded heads with flat faces, which can lead to a host of problems for the breed. Primarily, they are prone to respiratory problems and are sensitive to high temperatures, and many suffer from heat stroke when exposed to high temperatures for long periods. Their wide-set, bulging eyes are prone to various problems, including cataracts, glaucoma, lacerations and lens luxation (movement of one or more lenses out of position, resulting in secondary glaucoma).
Breeding is famously difficult in this breed. Litters are generally quite small - 2 or 3 puppies on average - and delivery via caesarian section is common due to the breed’s disproportionately large head. Additionally, cleft pallet is common in pups, and results in the puppy not receiving enough nourishment from the mother and ultimately starving to death.
Brussels Griffons, like many toy breeds, is prone to Patellar Luxation (also know as “slipped stifle”). This condition occurs when the kneecap slips out of place and requires surgery. According to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), the Brussels Griffon also has a high incidence of hip and elbow problems.
The rough-coated Brussels Griffon requires a good deal of grooming, but can be kept trimmed if not being shown in the ring.
A rough-coated Brussels Griffon named Verdel was featured in the film As Good As It Gets, and was played by six different Brussels Griffons. The breed was also included in other recent films such as Gosford Park and Sweet November.
There are very few breeders of the Brussels Griffon in the United States, all of whom are very dedicated to improving the breed as a whole. Typically, a responsible breeder will only produce one litter per year, and each litter is likely to be only 2 or 3 puppies that will likely need to be delivered via Caesarian section. So, although there has been a surge in popularity in recent years, a Brussels Griffon puppy is hard to come by and will likely be very expensive.
It is rumored that George Lucas may have used the Brussels Griffon as a partial inspiration for the Ewok characters in The Return of the Jedi.
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