The Brussels Griffon
Small, compact build
Eyes and nose are set on the same level
Comes in two coat types: rough and smooth hair; coat color comes in red, belge, black/tan and black
Height: 9-11 inches
Weight: 6-12 pounds
Average lifespan: 12-15 years
Smart, happy, friendly, curious, affectionate, sensitive, willful
Interaction with people: Not recommended for small children; wary of strangers
Interaction with animals: Good with other dogs and cats
Level of attention needed: Needs significant human companionship; loves to be pampered and spoiled
Protection: Good watchdog
OK for apartments
Needs a daily walk
May need professional grooming
Coat can be clipped and stripped
Originated in the 1800s in Belgium
Most likely developed from the Yorkshire terrier, French barbet, Dutch smoushond and German affenpinscher
Bred into three varieties: Brussels Griffon, Belgian Griffon, Petit Griffon
Depicted in a painting by Flemish artist Van Eyck
Nicknamed “monkey face” for its humorous expression
Played the character “Verdel” in the 1997 movie “As Good as it Gets”
Also known as the griffon Bruxellois
The word “griffon” means wire haired
The Brussels Griffon is a breed most memorable for its unique and distinguishing look. The trio of wide set eyes, flat face and prominent chin coupled with their cheerful terrier disposition has won the dog a small but dedicated following. Its expression is commonly said to characterize that of an elf or monkey. Although grouped in the toy category, the Griffon is quite a sturdy, stocky breed with thick square proportions, their stance commonly compared to that of a Boxer. The body is somewhat short yet holds the large head well. Both the ears and tail can be cropped although this is not a requirement. In fact, cropping is a practice that is largely falling by the wayside.
When it comes to the Brussels Griffon, there are two different types of coats to consider. The most common is referred to as the rough coat, aptly earning its name from the coarse wiry hair that requires brushing at least twice a week to keep matting at bay. The smooth coat is rather glossy with hair that is flat and close to the body from head to tail.
Reaching back into their 17th century beginnings in Belgium, the small Brussels Griffon was bred to rid stables of vermin, just as many small breeds were back in the day. However, their diminutive stature and endearing character made them suitable for accompanying coach drivers on their routes from time to time. Soon, their reputation as a companion animal grew between the working class and nobility until they were presented in a dog show sometime in the late 1800’s. Their popularity grew further from there as a number of breeders also took interest in the dog, boosting its numbers. However, during World War I and II, the breed dwindled to near extinction. With virtually no Griffons left in Belgium, breeders in other parts of Europe helped to bring numbers back up, although barely.
Interest in the Brussels Griffon peaks form time to time with occasional appearances on movies (Jack Nicholson’s “As good as it gets”) or TV (“Rags” on Spin City).
The temperament of the Griffon rests largely on the foundation of being part of the terrier breed. This means they are all heart, endearing themselves to their owners. Where ever their owner goes, the Griffon will automatically follow. In fact, the tiny blessing is not so much meant to be a family pet as it is a constant companion. It would not be out of the question to see this breed of dog accompanying its owner almost as an escort. As many have come to find, the elfin animal is one that greatly relies on regular contact with its owner. It has not been known to do well when left alone for long periods of time.
While they love to be the center of attention, the Griffon is perfectly happy to have a companion or two, whether another dog or other small household pet. There have been occasions when a Griffon, having a rather slim concept of its own size, has been known to try and assert his or her dominance with a dog much larger than itself. Socialization from an early age can help to keep this to a minimum. Socialization is also necessary for this breed because of its rare look. It is not uncommon for passersby to comment on the Griffon and want to take a closer look or offer a pat on the head. However, the Griffon is one that can be wary of strangers and may feel threatened. In general, a Griffon will keep to his or her master, warming up to others on its own terms. Not outwardly aggressive, they can be shy with new people and situations. Although they will bark should the doorbell ring, unless they are excessively lonely, they are not a breed prone to the habit of barking at all times of the day and night.