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Brussels Griffon

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The Brussels Griffon is a small or toy purebred that comes from Brussels, Belgium. There are three types, the Griffon Belge, the Griffon Bruxellois and the Petit Brabancon. The difference between them being their coats. Originally it was not just a companion dog, it had a purpose – to hunt and catch vermin like rats. It is an affectionate and confident dog much loved by people that own it. Monkey face is a term used for it because of its cute looks and almost human like facial expressions. It does well in performance sports, obedience and agility events.

The Brussels Griffon at A Glance
Name Brussels Griffon
Other names Belgian Griffon, Griffon Belge, Griffon Bruxellois, Petit Brabancon
Nicknames Griffon, Monkey Face
Origin Belgium
Average size Small (toy)
Average weight 6 to 12 pounds
Average height 7 to 9 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Dense, short, rough, wiry or smooth, short and straight
Hypoallergenic Can be – test before purchasing
Color Black, tan, reddish brown, red and blue
Popularity Not very popular – ranked 95th by the AKC
Intelligence Below average – training will not be super quick
Tolerance to heat Moderate – can live in warm climates but nothing overly warm or hot
Tolerance to cold Low – not good in any kind of cold weather
Shedding Low for the wiry coat, average for the smooth coat
Drooling Low – not prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – not prone to weight gain but if overfed or not exercised it can happen
Grooming/brushing Moderate to high depending on coat type
Barking Occasional to frequent – there will be some barking to deal with, keep in mind if you have close neighbors
Exercise needs Very active – needs a daily exercise even though it is a toy breed
Trainability Moderately to hard – experience will help
Friendliness Good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Low to moderate – best in homes with no children or at least just older children, socialization essential
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization – low prey drive
Good with strangers Moderate to good – socialization needed, can be shy
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size but barking must be controlled
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Quite a healthy small dog – some issues that can come up include hip dysplasia, patella luxation, allergies and eye problems
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic care and medical insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for treats and a dry dog food of good quality
Miscellaneous expenses $495 a year for toys, basic training, license, grooming and other miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1005 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,000
Rescue organizations Several including the National Brussels Griffon Rescue, Inc
Biting Statistics None reported

The Brussels Griffon's Beginnings

The Brussels Griffon were bred in Belgium likely sometime in the 1700s where they were used to hunt and kill vermin like rats. They were especially used in stables that held horse darn cabs in cities that were the first type of taxi. There were several breeds used in its development including the English Toy Spaniel, the Affenpinscher and the Pug. There developed three kinds of Brussels Griffon, distinguished by the type of coat they had.

After a long time had passed they became popular not just as working dogs but also as companions for both the common people and the wealthy. In 1883 a standard was written in Belgium for the breed and it appeared in dog shows. A queen of Belgium, Marie Henriette was a fan of the dog and began to breed them and promote them in her country and around Europe. The Club du Griffon Buxellois was started in Brussells in 1889. In the early 1890s they were imported to other countries such as England and in the late 1890s they were recognized by the English Kennel Club.

It made its way to the US around the same time and in 1899 was registered by the AKC and then recognized by them in 1900. But as with many breeds with the arrival of both World War I and then World War II the numbers of Griffins dropped dramatically as breeding dogs became too difficult, and keeping them too much of a luxury most people at that time could not afford. The end of World War II saw the breed very close to extinction in their home country.

New Lease on Life

Thankfully, the numbers in England were better and with breeders putting in a lot of effort the numbers rose somewhat, saving them from disappearing. However it never really regained its large popularity and it remained a rare breed for a decade or so. Then in the late 1950s they were popular for a brief time and then dropped again. Then in the late 1990s one appeared in the very successful movie As Good as it Gets and they became more popular again. This popularity has held because of an interest in toy breeds, but the Brussels Griffon remains a fairly low ranking by the AKC at 95. In the US the three types are allowed to interbreed and are seen as varieties, but there are some places, like Europe, where they are shown separately.

The Dog You See Today

This small dog weighs 6 to 12 pounds and stands 7 to 9 inches tall. While small it is sturdy for its size, it may look tiny and cute but it is heavier than you will be expecting and more athletic than most toys. It has straight, medium length legs and its tail is set high. In places where it is still allowed the tail is docked down to a third of its natural length. Rough coated Brussels have a wiry, rough and dense coat, and smooth coats have a short, close, straight and glossy coat. Common colors are red, brown, black and tan.


Older dogs may have some grey on their muzzle and there is often markings on their face. Some have a fringe around the face and hair around the eyes, cheeks and chin can be longer than the rest of the facial hair. It has a large head that is round and the forehead is domed. Its muzzle is short and it has a back nose. The eyes are set wide and are prominent, black and have long eyelashes. Its ears are set high and held semi erect when left natural. If in a country where cropping is allowed they would then stand up to a point.

The Inner Brussels Griffon


The Brussels Griffon is a great watchdog, it will bark to let you know if there is someone breaking in but that barking can vary from occasional to frequent so training is needed to control it. It is an intelligent and happy dog with lots of spark, very curious, lively and playful. With its family it is also very loving and charming. However this is not a dog best suited to new owners, it does best with experienced ones so that it does not develop small dog syndrome from people who baby it rather than train it and set expectations. A Brussels that develops small dog syndrome will be aggressive, destructive, hard to control, bark more, be more anxious and demanding and will snap at people.

One that is well raised by good owners are confident but never aggressive. They remain sensitive and do not like harsh tones. It does need attention and does not like being left alone so owners need to have a lot of time to offer companionship. It tends to bond more closely to one person in the family and will want to snuggle and cuddle with them more often. With that person it can become a 'velcro dog'. It may be shy with strangers but with socialization that will not turn to snapping. It has a lot of courage and can be very funny with its antics. Its imagination and climbing skills can get it into trouble so make sure it does not go too high or it can hurt itself.

Living with a Brussels Griffon

What will training look like?

This is not a super easy dog to train, it needs an experienced, firm and confident leader. Rules need to be set and then those limits should be adhered to. Keep the training sessions interesting, short and offer praise. As well as being difficult to obedience train they can also be hard to house train. Crate training may be beneficial for this and you will need to be patient, consistent, in control and prepared to deal with it when it tries to challenge you. Be prepared to also include leash training as in some cases they do fight the leash and try to throw themselves around to get it off or get loose.

Make sure you start socialization early with your Brussels Griffon, in some dogs its natural inclination towards shyness or being cautious can turn into nervous aggression if socialization does not happen. With exposure to different people, locations, animals and the like it will grow into being a more confident dog, one you can trust.


How active is the Brussels Griffon?

Often toy breeds are not that active making them suitable for people who are not active themselves. That is not the case for this breed. It is an active dog and should get at least 40 minutes a day of walks and play time. As well as physical exercise it needs mental challenges too. Take care when you do take it out that it has protection from the weather if it is overly hot or cold. It is of a size where it can live in an apartment and does not require a yard, but it does bark so consider that and your neighbors.

Caring for the Brussels Griffon

Grooming needs

How much grooming it will need will depend on the coat type it is. Those with wiry coats may be better for those with allergies, though that should be confirmed with a visit before purchasing if it is a concern. While that coat is low shedding it does still need regular brushing and care, and it will need to either stripped by a professional if you want to maintain the wiriness or clipped otherwise though clipping affects the coat's texture and increases shedding. Smooth coats may need less professional care but will need regular brushing still and it does shed more. Whatever coat type your Brussels Griffon is, only bathe when it is needed so that you do not dry out its skin and only use a dog shampoo. Its facial hair will likely need regular trimming too.

It should have its teeth brushed two to three times a week and its ears need to be checked for infection, and then wiped clean. There are dog ear cleansers you can use with a cotton ball or a clean cloth. Do not insert anything into the ear as that can cause damage. Its nails should be clipped when they get too long, you can do it with proper clippers, or you can a groomer take care of it. If you do not know anything about dog nails you need to know that there are live nerves and vessels in the lower part, this means if you cut too far down it will bleed and hurt the dog a lot. So some homework and have a groomer or vet show you the right way.

Feeding Time

A dog this size will need ½ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into two meals. How much exactly will vary based on its size, metabolism, build, health and age. Take care as some can be greedy and will over eat, while others can be quite picky. Avoid feeding it table scraps regardless of those begging eyes!

How is the Brussels Griffon with children and other animals?

The Brussels Griffon is not the best breed for homes with children, especially if they are younger. It does not like to be chased or teased, it does not like to be pulled and because young children are clumsy accidents like stepping on it can happen and that can cause injury. If it feels stressed or fearful it can snap or bite defensively. With socialization, if raised with slightly older children, they can be better. Make sure to teach them to be careful and what is acceptable, and encourage them to get down to its level, not to pick it up all the time. With family pets they are fine, but with other dogs it can get itself into trouble as most dogs are bigger than it is.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

It has a long life span of 12 to 15 years and is quite a healthy breed generally. There are some issues that can be more likely to come up though. These include eye problems, respiratory problems, overheating, whelping problems, SM, CM, cleft palate, lacerations, skin allergies, patella luxation and hip dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

When examining reports of dogs attacking people over the last three decades in the United States and in Canada there are no incidents that name the Brussels Griffon. It is not a dog likely to attack people but the fact is any breed can have a bad day. Given certain situations or circumstances things can happen. The best way to lessen those incidents is to choose a dog well suited to you and your lifestyle, to exercise it, stimulate it, train and socialize it and to give it the attention it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Brussels Griffon can have whelping problems and often caesarians are needed. This means puppies are rare in the US and it means their price is more than you might expect from a toy breed that is not that popular. You can expect to pay around $1000 for a puppy of pet quality from a decent breeder and then into the several thousands for something from a top breeder of show quality dogs. Rescues will have some medical needs taken care of and will cost $50 to $300. Do your homework and avoid backyard breeders, local or online ads, pet stores and other puppy mill like places.


Initial costs when you have your dog will need to be paid for things like a crate, carrier, bedding, collar and leash and bowls for about $120. Medical needs like shots, micro chipping, spaying or neutering, blood tests, physicals and deworming will come to around $260.

Then there are the ongoing costs of pet ownership, the medical needs, the food, and other miscellaneous needs. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats will cost about $75 a year for this breed. Basic medical care like vaccinations, tick and flea prevention, check ups and pet insurance will come to $435 a year. License, training, toys, miscellaneous items and grooming come to about $495 a year. That gives a starting figure of about $1005 a year.


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The fact is as cute as this dog is, especially to fans of the ewoks in Star Wars, this is not an easy going dog, and it needs a lot of commitment from its owner. If you are at work all day every day, or if you are an especially busy person this is not the right dog for you. If you cannot commit to up to 15 years of care and love, this is not the dog for you either. Remember it is a small dog so care needs to be taken not step on it or sit on it as this could cause serious injury or even kill it. It needs socialization and training and it is not at its best with children especially young ones. It is easy to spoil it and treat it like a baby, but you need to remember it is a dog, and should be treated as such, with rules to follow. You also need to be ready for training and housebreaking to be a very gradual and sometimes frustrating process. In the right home though it will be very loyal, loving entertaining and makes a great companion and best friend.

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