Brussels Griffon

Charming Little Dog is So Smart; Read Your Mind!

Brussels Griffon

This Charming Little Dog is So Smart It Seems to Read Your Mind!

It's often said that dogs are very attached to their human "parents," but the Brussels Griffon (also affectionately known as a "Griff," among other nicknames) truly exhibits endearing facial expressions that can look unerringly human. Combine this characteristic with the Brussels Griffon's unfailingly cheerful and intelligent personality, and you've got a little dog that's destined to become more than just a pet – he or she will truly be a member of the family.


Named for its city of origin, Brussels, Belgium, the Brussels Griffon is a toy dog breed that descends from an old dog breed, the Smousje. This dog was small, like a terrier, and was kept in stables to control rodents and other vermin. The Brussels Griffon, also known as the Griffon Bruxellois, actually has three different types – the Griffon Bruxellois or the Brussels Griffon, the Petit Brabançon or the Petit Griffon, and the Griffon Belge, or the Belgian Griffon. These are identical dogs except for color and coat differences, and are usually considered to be variations of the same breed by most official standards. Specifically, the AKC recognizes the rough-coated Brussels Griffon and smooth-coated Brabancon, named after Belgium's national anthem, La Brabonconne.

The original wirehaired stable dogs that were used to control vermin, the Griffons d'Ecurie, were ultimately crossed with imported toy dogs in the 19th century. Two of the crosses were with the King Charles Spaniel and the Pug, which introduced not only different colors, such as the short black coat for the Petit Griffon (originally thought to be a fault in the breed), but the rich black, tan and red color of both the Brussels Griffon and the Belgian Griffon.

The Belgian Griffon became a very popular dog in the late 19th century both with noblemen and common people alike. The Brussels Griffon was first registered in 1883 in the studbook for Belgium's kennel club, the Livre des Origines Saint-Hubert. Queen Marie Henriette, the Queen consort of King Leopold II of Belgium, was an enthusiast of the breed, and contributed to its popularity internationally. Dogs were ultimately exported to other countries, giving rise to Brussels Griffon clubs which were established in England in 1897, and in the US in 1945.

After the First and Second World Wars, the breed struggled to survive in part because war is difficult for any breed's survival, but especially because breeding was controlled to remove anomalies like webbed toes. By the end of World War II, Belgium's native population of the Brussels Griffon breed was almost extinct. However, breeders that were largely from the United Kingdom worked diligently to resurrect the breed.

Although it had a brief surge in popularity in the 1950s, the Brussels Griffon remains a relatively rare breed. It has gotten some interest in the United States somewhat recently due to the appearance of a Brussels Griffon in the movie “As Good As It Gets” in the late 1990s, starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, and because toy dogs in general are experiencing a significant surge in popularity.


Sturdy but tiny, the Griffon has a very unique face, with a large, round, domed head that many say resembles that of the Star Wars character Ewok. Wide, black, prominent eyes and high-set ears give your little pet an air of unremitting energy and alertness, a trait that is matched by his or her cheerful and exquisitely pleasing personality, as well as high intelligence.

Griffs generally have an overbite and while the Brussels Griffon specifically is said to have a "wiry" or rough coat, the other related (some say identical) breeds that are included in this umbrella term are the smooth coated Petit Griffon and the Belgian Griffon. The rough-coated (technically Brussels Griffon) "Griff" has wiry hair that is very dense, while the smooth-coated (usually Petit Griffon) variety has straight, glossy, tight fur that is very easy to groom. Colors are reddish-brown and some black, with chin whiskers; belge (reddish-brown and black, often with black whiskers and a black mask); tan and black, with red-brown markings under the chin, above each eye, on the legs, and on the edges of the ears); and all black. In adulthood, Brussels Griffons weigh between 6 to 12 pounds and stand 7 to 8 inches at the shoulder.


Sturdy and vivacious, the "Griff" has an amusing, very charming appearance with a large head and a very short muzzle. Wide set and prominent black eyes with long black eyelashes complete an almost humanlike appearance – and indeed, the personality of your little pet matches this endearing countenance. Incredibly intelligent, it may seem that your little dog is truly listening to you talk to him or her, and that is indeed the case. Facial expressions can so closely mimic your own that you will feel you've got another small child in the family simply to confide in and take with you wherever you go.

Care should be taken, however, not to let your little dog become a monster with the unfortunate acquisition of something called "small dog syndrome." Unfortunately, the Brussels Griffon is particularly prone to this personality disorder because your pet is so intelligent, and because owners tend to forget that the Brussels Griffon is a dog, not a human child – especially difficult with those humanistic expressions. Nonetheless, if you keep in mind that your little Griff is indeed a dog, and you maintain your position as pack leader or “alpha dog,” this is an exceedingly endearing and lovely family member, one who bonds with you so closely that you truly will feel like you've got another child. Despite their tiny size, Brussels Griffon dogs are excellent watchdogs and companions. With enough attention, gentle discipline and exercise, Brussels grow into dogs that are well-behaved and truly affectionate.


Fortunately, the Brussels Griffon is a very hardy little dog that has an average life expectancy of about 15 years. Your pet can be prone to problems with his or her eyes simply because they do protrude somewhat and because the nose is so short. Lacerations are common, as is something called lens luxation, as well as glaucoma and cataracts. Occasionally, something called syringomyelia can develop, which is a condition that affects the spine and brain. This happens when cavities fill with fluid within the spinal cord, a condition that results because of servo spinal fluid obstruction. Often asymptomatic in early life, this can eventually become a painful and debilitating disorder, although many dogs remain asymptomatic for their entire lives.


In general, smooth-coated varieties of this breed shed, while rough-coated varieties do not. Stripping and/or trimming of the rough coated varieties especially may be necessary.


AKC Meet the Breeds®: Get to know the Brussels Griffon.

Retrieved April 6, 2013.

Brussels Griffon:

Retrieved April 6, 2013.

Belgian Griffon (Griffon Belge) (Griffon Bruxellois) (Brussels Griffon) (Petit Brabancon) (Belgian Griffon)

Retrieved April 6, 2013.

Griffon Bruxellois.

Retrieved April 6, 2013.

Marie Henriette of Austria.,_Archduchess_of_Austria

Retrieved April 6, 2013.

National Brussels Griffon Rescue, Inc.:

Retrieved April 6, 2013.


Retrieved April 6, 2013.

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