Small Dog, Big Personality
Although a relatively unknown breed, the Brussels griffon has made its stake in pop culture. The breed has had memorable roles in Hollywood hits such as “As Good as it Gets,” “First Wives Club,” “Gosford Park,” “Sweet November,” “Teaching Mrs. Tingle” and “Spin City.”
Smart, comical and mischievous, the Brussels griffon is best known for its big heart and persistent affection.
The Brussels griffon was bred more than 200 years ago in Brussels, Belgium, a descendant of a rough-coated terrier-like dog.
Over time, the breed was cross-bred with two other breeds, the pug and the King Charles spaniel, to create the modern day Brussels griffon.
Originally kept in stables to chase down rodents, the Brussels griffon grew in popularity amongst the working class and the royals. It was Belgium’s Queen Marie Henriette, a queen consort from 1953 to 1902 upon her death, who brought the breed publicity and international fame. The Queen, considered an ultimate dog enthusiast, and her daughter attended annual dog shows in Belgium. She took a lifelong interest in the Brussels griffon, becoming a breeder herself and exporting her dogs to other countries.
The Brussels griffon breed became nearly extinct following World War I and World War II. Breeders in other countries, particularly the United Kingdom, were largely responsible for its survival.
Brussels griffons are smart dogs with a quirky attitude that never cease to amuse those who love them. This breed is also known to display a healthy dose of self-imposed importance mixed with a neediness that demands attention from loved ones. Also called the “Velcro” dog, a Brussels griffon’s favorite pastime is to snuggle with those it loves.
The breed can be emotionally sensitive; when approached by strangers, a Brussels griffon may retreat shyly or step forward with an outgoing demeanor—the scale of friendliness can vary broadly.
The breed can display a wicked sense of poor behavior when things aren’t going to its satisfaction. Anything within reach can be fair game for a Brussels griffon looking to wreck havoc. Overturned garbage cans, shredded plants and torn up books or magazines are just a few examples given by Brussels griffon owners who’ve come home to an unhappy or bored pup. It is recommended to crate train young Brussels griffons so they can rest comfortably in a safe zone when home alone.
Despite its small size, this is an athletic breed—which can sometimes get them in trouble. Known to be an escape artist, a Brussels griffon can find multiple ways to flee a backyard, sometimes digging under a fence to get out or resorting to climbing over.
While Brussels griffons aren’t recognized as the best choice for families with small children, as they can be impatient when provoked, the breed does get along well with other dogs and cats, although it may attempt to establish an alpha standing over other pets, even those bigger than itself.
Daily exercise and regular training with positive reinforcement will go a long way to tame a Brussels griffon’s mischievous behavior. The breed excels at sports including agility, rally and tracking—activities that are fun for both the dog and family members.
With the exception of differences in its color and coat, the Brussels griffon is identical in appearance to two other breeds known as the Griffon belge and the petit brabançon. The Brussels griffon may have a smooth, shiny short coat or a coarse, wiry dense coat. The coat may be red, black and tan, or black or “belge,” a reddish brown and black mix.
Whether it has a smooth coated or a rough coat, the Brussels griffon is known for its limited amount of shedding, making it an ideal companion for those with allergies.
The breed, which is small but sturdy, may weigh anywhere from six to 20 pounds.
The Brussels griffon has a flat face, large wide set eyes and a prominent chin — distinctive anatomical features that have earned the breed the moniker “monkey face” dog. Breathing problems and susceptibility to heatstroke are common in flat face breeds. Exercise and vigorous activity should be avoided on very hot days. The breed does much better in a cool environment.
Depending on which type of coat your Brussels griffon has, grooming will vary. Smooth-coated Brussels griffons require less grooming, on average a weekly brushing and the occasional bath. Rough-coated Brussels griffons need weekly brushing to maintain the dog’s hair, as well as twice-a-year “hand stripping” when dead and loose hair are removed by hand in order to stimulate new growth. Dogs not appearing in a show ring can be clipped (or shorn) instead of hand stripped. While easier, it can alter the coat texture and cause additional shedding.
While these medical conditions are known to occur in the breed your Brussels griffon will not necessarily develop any of the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.
- canine glaucoma is an increase in the pressure of the fluid in the eye which, if left untreated, can cause visual impairment and eventual loss of sight. the condition can be inherited (primary glaucoma) or a secondary condition to a variety of other eye issues including tumors or lens luxation.
- canine hip dysplasia is a hereditary malformation of the hip joint that is more commonly associated with large breed dogs. it can cause discomfort and lameness and result in arthritis. x-rays of the hips when dogs are young (under 2 years) can help identify if this problem is present will allow owners to identify a proper exercise, diet and treatment regimen if their dog is affected.
- cataracts are an opacity of the lens of the eye and may cause blindness if not treated surgically. symptoms can include discoloring of the pupil, and treatment may include surgery to remove the cataract.
- patellar luxation is caused by anatomical defects of the bones that make up the knee joint. it is manifested by the kneecap (patella) slipping in and out of its normal location in the knee. mildly affected dogs may carry the leg for 2 or 3 steps while walking. severely affected dogs may become severely lame and refuse to use their rear legs. surgical correction of this condition is very rewarding.
- progressive retinal atrophy is an adult-onset condition which typically occurs between ages 4 and 10. symptoms include night blindness that often progresses to total blindness in adult dogs.
- syringomyelia (sm) is a congenital disease that affects a dog’s spinal cord. the condition produces cystic abnormalities on the spinal cord, where fluid-filled cavities develop. diagnosis of the disease can be difficult, as these abnormalities are often not apparent with routine myelography; however, mr imaging has shown to aid in diagnosis. symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and partial paralysis, including: hypersensitivity in the dog’s neck area; persistent scratching around the neck and shoulders followed by yelping; a contorted neck; sleeping or eating while trying to hold its head high; weak legs and difficulty walking. treatment is limited, depending on the progression of the disease.