Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Intelligent and Happy Brussels Griffon

By Linda Cole

A member of the toy group, the Brussels Griffon has a terrier-like attitude packed into a compact, square and sturdy body. He has a pushed-in nose and expressive eyes that sparkle with the confidence of a larger breed, and the Griffon definitely has the attitude of a big dog in a little body.

Their coat comes in two different types, smooth or rough, and both coats require weekly grooming. The rough coated Brussels Griffon has an impressive wiry mustache and beard, giving him a look that resembles an Ewok, one of the lovable characters from Star Wars. This Griffon has appeared alongside some of the biggest stars in show business, such as Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt in As Good as it Gets. The breed was also featured in The First Wives' Club and Gosford Park.

The Griffon has been described as a little dog with a monkey or elf-like face. However, they have such an expressive face, they are often said to have an almost human-like face. The breed originated in Brussels, Belgium in the 1800s where their main duty was to catch rats in and around horse stables. This spunky and intelligent breed was developed primarily by crossing the Affenpinscher with the Griffon d´ecurie, a Belgian street dog that was similar to, but heavier than, the Fox Terrier. The black Pug, King Charles Spaniel, Ruby Toy Spaniel, Irish and Yorkshire Terrier also contributed to the development of the Brussels Griffon.

Because of their small size and charming attitude, the Griffon became a favorite of working class people and nobility. Cab drivers of the time used the little dogs to attract riders and discourage thieves; however, the dogs were much better at drawing customers in than keeping thieves at bay. By 1880 the breed had enough interest to be shown at a dog show in Belgium and its popularity began to grow. Unfortunately, the breed declined in numbers during WW I and II and was on the verge of becoming extinct. They had been completely eliminated in their homeland of Belgium, and the only reason the breed survived was because of breeders spread out across Europe.

The Brussels Griffon is still considered a rare breed today, although their numbers increase off and on when the public becomes aware of this confident and energetic dog. Like any dog breed featured in a popular movie or TV show, irresponsible breeders try to capitalize on public interest in a specific breed. Because the breed is rare, the breeding stock is small and hard to come by. If you are interested in owning a Brussels Griffon, you need to be careful who you purchase a pup from and make sure you are dealing with a legitimate breeder. A responsible breeder will likely require you to sign a contract to insure you spay or neuter your pup by a specific date. This is to make sure the bloodline stays pure.

This isn't a breed that can survive living outside in a kennel because they can't take extreme temperatures, but they love playing outside as long as the weather isn't too cold or hot. The cocky Brussels Griffon has a stubborn streak, but is very friendly, confident, outgoing, happy and almost clown-like in his antics. He does require exercise to help keep his mind and body in a healthy state.

In general, this is a breed with few health concerns. However, the female can have problems getting pregnant and delivering pups and is more likely to need a C-section to deliver her puppies, which is a good reason for spaying or neutering them. They can have hip or eye problems, but it's more of a rarity than the norm.

The Griffon is a great watchdog and family pet that's good with older children. Young kids may have a hard time trying to hold on to the small frame of this 6 - 12 pound dog, and he's sensitive to loud noises and sudden movements, which means supervision is needed. This breed gets along well with other family dogs or cats, but is shy around strangers.

Training a Griffon requires a lot of patience because this is such a sensitive breed. Positive training techniques and plenty of CANIDAE dog treats are a must in dealing with this stubborn and cautious dog.

The Brussels Griffon has waxed and waned in popularity over the years. At one time, he was considered a street urchin, until he caught the attention of nobility. Because he is a small dog, it's important to treat him just like you would a larger canine and make sure you are his leader so he doesn't develop small dog syndrome. Like any dog breed, it's important to research the breed to make sure he fits into your lifestyle before bringing one home.

Photos by Ger Dekker

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. I've seen Brussels Griffon before, but never knew the background of the breed. Thank you for sharing -- really interesting! :)

  2. They sure are cute dogs. It was good learning all about them. I have seen them in the Westminster dog show briefly. Great pictures.


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