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Brussels Griffon


The Brussels Griffon, named for the Belgian city of its origin, is a sturdy and lively little fellow originally bred to be a ratter in stables where horse-drawn carriages were kept. Also known as the Bruss, the Griff, the Griffon Belge, the Stable Griffon, the Griffon d'Ecurie, the Griffon Bruxellois and the Petit Brabancon, this breed is highly intelligent and delightful to be around. They are unusually sensitive and demanding of attention and are strictly house dogs that will pine away without sufficient love and affection from their people. Given their small stature and tendency to be a one-person dog, they are not the best choice as a child's pet. The modern Brussels Griffon is a small and delightful house companion, with a very short, uptilted nose, prominent lustrous eyes and a domed top skull. He appears to pout, looking almost human in expression. His ears may be cropped or natural, and if natural should be semi-erect. The standard calls for an undershot jaw, with the lower jaw (mandible) being more pronounced. Their tail normally is docked to about one-third of its natural length.
Brussels Griffons have been described as looking like the Ewok of Star Wars fame. They were accepted as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1960, as a member of its Toy Group. Like many small dogs, the Brussels Griffon seems to have no concept of its diminutive size and as a result can get into trouble if it tries to dominate larger dogs (i.e. "small dog syndrome"). It can also be moody.
The average Brussels Griffon is between 7 and 8 inches at the withers and typically weighs between 7 and 11 pounds. They should not exceed 12 pounds, although type and quality are more important than weight and a smaller dog of exceptional sturdiness and proportion should not be penalized under the American Kennel Club breed standard. They are not especially high-energy dogs but do require regular exercise and mental stimulation. Their coat, which can be rough or smooth, is easy to care for with regular brushing and occasional bathing, although the rough coat requires hand-stripping. Their coat color may be red, belge (black and reddish brown mixed), black and tan, or solid black. Any white hairs are a serious fault in this breed.

History & Health


During the early 1800s, coachmen in Belgium kept small, wire-haired terrier-type dogs to manage the rodent population in their carriage stables. They were then known as "griffons d'ecurie", which translates to "wire-coated stable dogs." It is thought that the Pug (a Victorian favorite in Britain) was crossed with these humble native Belgian terriers in the mid-1800s, producing a smooth-coated dog called the "Brabancon, after the Belgian national anthem. Around the same time, the King Charles and Ruby varieties of the English Toy Spaniel were also added to the mix, creating two distinct coat types: a harsh, heavily-whiskered rough coat and a smooth coat, both in a rich red color. Together, the native Belgian griffons and the English Toy Terriers, with their big heads, prominent dark eyes and short faces, forever changed the previously rough-and-tumble barn ratter into a beloved companion dog.
In the 1870s, this breed became a favorite of the Belgian queen, Henrietta Maria, which gave them royal patronage and elevated their social status. Brussels Griffons were the darlings of the Belgian elite, and efforts were undertaken to breed them to become even more exaggerated in appearance, with flatter faces and smaller stature. It is unclear which breeds were crossed to accomplish these breed changes, but it is thought that the Affenpinscher, Pug, Yorkshire Terrier, King Charles Spaniel and Dutch Smoushond may have contributed. Regardless of the crosses, the result was the modern Brussels Griffon, which has a shorter and flatter face than its ancestors and is an immensely appealing little dog that retains is favored status as a companion despite the fact that it is no longer needed to hunt vermin or entertain royalty.
The American Brussels Griffon Association was founded in 1945. The breed standard was approved by the AKC in 1960, after it went through several revisions. The parent club was accepted for AKC membership in 1982. The American Kennel Club is the only large all breed registry that recognizes only the Brussels Griffon; in Europe, there are three small Belgian terriers which are virtually identical in history but differ in coat type and color: the Brussels Griffon (rough red), the Petit Brabancon (smooth of any color), and the Griffon Belge (rough of any color but red).


The Brussels Griffon has a relatively long life expectancy, with ten to fifteen years being usual. However, it has developed significant reproductive problems. Bitches in this breed often do not conceive, and when they do they tend to have difficulty giving birth. Caesarean deliveries are common, litters are unusually small and newborn puppies are often delicate. Often there is only one puppy, with an average mortality rate of 60 percent in the first few weeks. They also may have a breed predisposition to refractory corneal ulceration, cataracts, hip dysplasia and patellar luxation.

Temperament & Personality


The Brussels Griffon is a toy breed that developed in the streets of Brussels where they hunted rats. Small, with highly expressive faces, the Brussels Griffon looks like a fragile little "purse dog," but even though they fit nicely in a hand bag, they are sturdy and fearless, boasting the ability to climb like a cat. They enjoy being the center of attention and are often described by owners as hams and clowns. They get along fine with kids and other household pets, as long as they are raised together.
Griffons love attention and affection and dislike being left alone. They tend to thrive in the homes of empty-nesters or the elderly because these families have the time to devote solely to these attention-hungry dogs.

Activity Requirements

As with other toy breeds, the Griffon can live just about anywhere. Apartments, condominiums, houses, even farms are suitable for this breed. Though they are small, they do need to be walked daily, and if possible, be allowed to stretch their legs and run when possible.


Training a Griffon can be challenging. They are stubborn and like to do thing on their own time. Putting a leash on a Griffon can be exasperating, they have been known to leap and flip around, trying to remove themselves from the tether. Patience and an even, confident tone are needed when training this breed.
Though the initial training stages can be challenging, once leadership is established and a reward system put in place, Griffons excel in advanced obedience and agility training. Competitive activists are great for this breed because they love the attention and the opportunity to perform for a crowd.

Behavioral Traits

As with most small dogs, Griffons are prone to barking. They will bark at people, other animals, cars, bikes, and even the weather. Early, consistent socialization and training to obey commands to stop barking are important for the sanity of everyone in the home, as well as those who live nearby. They will also posture toward other dogs, but their barking and tantrum-throwing rarely results in anything other than a lot of noise.
House training is a long process with Griffons, and many owners believe their dogs simply refuse to follow a training program out of spite. It might be wise to have a breeder house train a Griffon before bringing him home.
Brussels Griffons are prone to separation anxiety, which usually results in excessive barking when left alone. People who work long hours are not the best fits for Griffons, as they crave constant attention and affection.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
A toy dog, intelligent, alert, sturdy, with a thickset, short body, a smart carriage and set-up, attracting attention by an almost human expression. There are two distinct types of coat: rough or smooth. Except for coat, there is no difference between the two.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size - Weight usually 8 to 10 pounds, and should not exceed 12 pounds. Type and quality are of greater importance than weight, and a smaller dog that is sturdy and well proportioned should not be penalized. Proportion - Square, as measured from point of shoulder to rearmost projection of upper thigh and from withers to ground. Substance - Thickset, compact with good balance. Well boned.

A very important feature. An almost human expression. Eyes set well apart, very large, black, prominent, and well open. The eyelashes long and black. Eyelids edged with black. Ears small and set rather high on the head. May be shown cropped or natural. If natural they are carried semi-erect. Skull large and round, with a domed forehead. The stop deep. Nose very black, extremely short, its tip being set back deeply between the eyes so as to form a lay-back. The nostrils large. Disqualifications - Dudley or butterfly nose. Lips edged with black, not pendulous but well brought together, giving a clean finish to the mouth. Jaws must be undershot. The incisors of the lower jaw should protrude over the upper incisors. The lower jaw is prominent, rather broad with an upward sweep. Neither teeth nor tongue should show when the mouth is closed. A wry mouth is a serious fault. Disqualifications - Bite overshot. Hanging tongue.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck medium length, gracefully arched. Topline - Back level and short. Body - A thickset, short body. Brisket should be broad and deep, ribs well sprung. Short-coupled. Tail - set and held high, docked to about one-third.

Forelegs medium length, straight in bone, well muscled, set moderately wide apart and straight from the point of the shoulders as viewed from the front. Pasterns short and strong. Feet round, small, and compact, turned neither in nor out. Toes well arched. Black pads and toenails preferred.

Hind legs set true, thighs strong and well muscled, stifles bent, hocks well let down, turning neither in nor out.

The rough coat is wiry and dense, the harder and more wiry the better. On no account should the dog look or feel woolly, and there should be no silky hair anywhere. The coat should not be so long as to give a shaggy appearance, but should be distinctly different all over from the smooth coat. The head should be covered with wiry hair, slightly longer around the eyes, nose, cheeks, and chin, thus forming a fringe. The rough coat is hand-stripped and should never appear unkempt. Body coat of sufficient length to determine texture. The coat may be tidied for neatness of appearance, but coats prepared with scissors and/or clippers should be severely penalized. The smooth coat is straight, short, tight and glossy, with no trace of wiry hair.

Either 1) Red: reddish brown with a little black at the whiskers and chin allowable; 2) Belge: black and reddish brown mixed, usually with black mask and whiskers; 3) Black and Tan: black with uniform reddish brown markings, appearing under the chin, on the legs, above each eye, around the edges of the ears and around the vent; or 4) Black: solid black.
Any white hairs are a serious fault, except for "frost" on the muzzle of a mature dog, which is natural. Disqualification – White spot or blaze any where on coat.

Movement is a straightforward, purposeful trot, showing moderate reach and drive, and maintaining a steady topline.

Intelligent, alert and sensitive. Full of self-importance.

Dudley or butterfly nose.
Bite overshot.
Hanging tongue.
White spot or blaze anywhere on coat.

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Sources: American Kennel Club

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