The Brussels Griffon: People of the Canine World

Pet Type


April 25, 2020

It can generally go without saying that there are many, many different kinds of dog breeds out there, with some dog breeds being focused on a specific purpose.

For instance, some dog breeds are bred specifically for racing, such as the common greyhound. Other dog breeds simply have their roots in a particular area, such as hunting, and they remain purebred dogs simply to preserve genes and traits that people find adorable. Other dog breeds are designed mostly for personality and appearances. Just about all dogs that fall under the AKC’s “toy group” classification are dogs in this category.

Toy dogs are commonly defined as dogs that are under 20 pounds, and most of them fall smaller than this limit. If you are looking for a pint-sized dog with a personality that can fill a room of its own, then you might want to consider looking at the brussels griffon. This toy dog breed might be tiny, but its loyal and curious personality will make up for this size difference. These dogs make wonderful companion dogs and can adapt to most living situations ranging from a multi-pet household, to a household with young children, and even apartment living.

Where Did the Brussels Griffon Come From?            

This dog didn’t used to be as small as it is. Originally, this dog was bred in Belgium to hunt rats and other vermin in stables and on the streets. It is believed that this dog was bred to be much like the terrier, which was a common vermin-hunting dog back in the days of horse-drawn carriages.

However, as people began breeding their dogs more for appearances rather than abilities, the brussels griffon began to change. With heritage from the affenpinscher to the pug, this dog quickly became smaller with large, inquisitive eyes. In some brussels griffons that have smoother coats, you can even see how the pug influenced the shape of this dog’s jaw.

This toy version of the rat hunting dog still retained a fair bit of its ability to hunt, making it both an adorable and a capable pet to have. Because of this, the brussels griffon became a popular house pet for the noblemen of Belgium, as well as the workers. When 1883 came around, there was a standard for this particular breed of dog and it began to enter into dog shows. Only six years later, a club was formed for this breed, showing just how much popularity it was gaining at the time. Ten years after that, the brussels griffon found its way to the United States, becoming an officially recognized breed a year later, in 1900.

While the numbers dwindled heavily during the decades of war that followed, and the breed nearly became extinct in its own country of origin, enthusiastic breeders did what they could to keep the brussels griffon breed alive. Thanks to these breeders, the breed is still around today, although in dramatically fewer numbers. It is slowly beginning to gain popularity again, as more people remember all of the good qualities this breed could offer.

What Does the Brussels Griffon Look Like?

The first thing that you will notice about the brussels griffon is its size. These dogs tend to be incredibly small, weighing no more than 12 pounds. As a toy dog breed, this is pretty standard. These dogs will often end up around 7 to 10 inches in height, while the average weight tends to be around 8 to 10 pounds. There are some dogs, often specifically bred for their size, that can healthily weigh just five pounds.

Past the size, these dogs have a terrier-like appearance with a few changes. They have large, curious eyes that are often described as human-like. The fur around their muzzle and whiskers tend to give the dog a bearded appearance, as is the case with most dogs that resemble terriers. While the dog is small, it has a stocky, thickset build that will remain sturdy for its entire life, and the dog will trot behind you when you walk around the house.

Their coat has a number of different variations in the color and type of fur. Some dogs have smooth coats that resemble a pug’s, while others will have rough and wiry coats that resemble the affenpinscher. The coat itself can be red, a deeper red known as “belge,” black, and tan. Some coats will have markings on them, while others can be a solid color. There is often dark coloring around the muzzle of the dog, emphasizing the beard-like appearance of the fur in this area.

How Does the Brussels Griffon Behave?

For what these dogs lack in size, they make up for several times over in their personality. They carry themselves with pride and confidence, and they act like it too. These dogs are bold and stubborn, doing what they want when they want. This might be problematic for some novice dog trainers, but with enough effort, you can show your brussels griffon that obedience is the best way to get rewarded.

Speaking of rewards, these dogs are playful and mischievous. This means that they will be more than happy to play games with you and just about anyone else in your family. Because of their size, they do not pose as much of a threat to young kids as large dogs inadvertently do. You will still want to supervise your young child’s and dog’s playtime together simply to make sure that everyone is behaving as they should, but these dogs are known for getting along with just about anyone.

Do keep in mind that because these dogs tend to be troublemakers, you will have to deal with some less-enticing aspects of the brussels griffon’s behavior. This includes regular barking and overall stubbornness around training, especially around housetraining.

They can, and will, climb on things around your house and if you are not careful, they will try to escape your home as well. This usually isn’t because of the environment so much as the dog seeing it as a challenge to go where it isn’t supposed to go. Because these dogs tend to be incredibly loyal to their owners, they have a higher tendency to have separation anxiety.

What Kind of Care Does the Brussels Griffon Need?

While these dogs might not need nearly as much exercise or grooming as other dogs do, they need a considerable amount of general interaction. Much like young toddlers, these dogs crave attention, and if you withhold attention for too long, your dog will try to get your attention by any means necessary. To make sure that your dog doesn’t become destructive or aggressive, you will need to make sure that you give your dog plenty of attention through pets, play, and walks.

These dogs are not outdoor dogs. Of course, going on walks is something that they will enjoy greatly, but you should not plan to keep this dog outside or in a doghouse. The flat faces of these dogs makes them very sensitive to high temperatures, and if they are not kept in air-conditioned surroundings, they can succumb to heatstroke quickly. If it is a particularly hot summer day, you might want to forgo the walk and give your dog extra playtime inside. If you insist on walking your dog, monitor it for signs of heatstroke.

When you are searching for a purebred brussels griffon, you will be able to decide if you want a dog with smooth fur or rough, wiry fur. Different fur types have different grooming requirements. Smooth coats are much, much easier to groom. You will only have to brush them once a week, with occasionally more frequent grooming during shedding seasons. The rough, wiry fur will need to be hand-stripped every three to four months. While this happens less often, it can be very time-consuming if you want the dog to maintain the right texture, and if you leave it to a professional groomer, it will add up over time. You will have to weigh which coat will be more preferable to deal with.

How Is the Brussels Griffon’s Health?

The brussels griffon has a fair few health conditions that it can, and probably will, inherit over its lifetime. This is something you need to be prepared for, as this can quickly become expensive if you do not have pet insurance. They tend to be more prone to heart problems, eye problems, and bone problems. They also have an increased chance of breathing problems because of their faces. The average life expectancy of this breed is 12 to 15 years.