This small dog, otherwise known as the Brussels Griffon, originated from Belgium and is identical to the Belgian Griffon and the Petit Brabancon except for coat and colour variations. In the United Kingdom, the three dogs are considered varieties of the same breed. The Griffon Bruxellois is similar in physical attributes to the early dogs featured in the portraits of the Old Masters from the 15th Century whose roles, besides being a watchdog, was to go after rodents. It is a smart little lass with the temperament of a terrier. This toy breed has a general appearance that portrays a stocky, well-balanced dog which is equal in height and in length (square profile). It is characterised by a fairly large head in proportion to the body, dark round eyes with a relatively short, wide muzzle. The coat comes in two varieties: rough and smooth. The rough coated is made of harsh and wiry rough hair with an undercoat while the smooth coated has short and tight smooth hair. Coat colours are red, black, and black and tan. The average size is between 3.6kg to 4.5kg.
All three variations of this breed (including the Griffon Belge and the Petit Brabançon) descended from an old type of a small terrier-like dog called Smousje which was originally used in stables to hunt and kill rodents. During the 19th Century, this wiry-coated stable dog was crossed bred with the Pug and the King Charles Spaniel which resulted in today’s Griffon Bruxellois, but also brought the Petit Brabançon – the short black coat variety, which was originally considered as a fault in the breed. Cross-breeding with the spaniel also produced the rich red and the black and tan colour. The first Griffon Bruxellois was registered in Belgian studbook in 1883 and became popular not only locally but also abroad because of the interest of Queen Marie Henriette. The two World Wars proved disastrous to the breed but thanks to the dedicated effort of UK breeders, the Griffon Bruxellois survived. The breed is still considered rather uncommon, but slow rise in interest particularly in the United States is gaining ground because of the general attention to toy dogs.
The Griffon Bruxellois is described as alert, cheerful, friendly, and sweet. It is a small dog with a giant heart that loves to snuggle and be with its owner all the time. It is not shy nor aggressive but this feisty little lass is emotionally sensitive and should be socialised at a young age, particularly during the first few months as a puppy. It is very inquisitive and interested in its environment so it must require a home with a well-secured yard if left off-leash when it is at home. Its sensitive nature makes it an ideal pet for a home with a caring, mature human and it is not highly recommended to a household with small children. This little breed can adjust quite easily in any home environment, be it in a home in the rural countryside or an apartment/condominium in a busy urban setting. It is equally happy to walk for kilometres on end as it is snuggling with its owner on the couch or bed.
Training is on the easy side. The Griffon Bruxellois’ natural attitude to please its master (besides being a born follower) makes it generally easy to train. Lead training however, requires more patience but can be achieved in a very short time. Because of its natural attachment to its owner, it will always come back when off the lead, making the breed a joy to exercise off the lead.
Grooming the smooth variety requires daily brushings to remove dead hair and keep the coat shiny. The rough variety, besides daily brushing, needs to be stripped twice a year when the old coat is shed (except for the beard). A perfect new coat appears after a few weeks, making the Griffon Bruxellois looking good as new. Aside from the regular grooming routine of cutting nails and ear cleaning, the rough variety also needs its eyes free of hair so as not to obstruct its vision.
Griffons are generally healthy dogs and have relatively few inherited health issues. Among the more serious innate illnesses that are known to affect the breed are:
Puppy Griffons are prone to leg and heart problems as well as cleft palate and are more often born through a Caesarian section. Eye problems such as lacerations, cataracts, lens luxation, and glaucoma are also common issues with Griffons. Although the breed has a short muzzle, it is not typically prone to heat stroke, unlike other flat-faced dogs.
Exercise requirements are modest. The Griffon Bruxellois is very flexible and will be content with walking for a few kilometres as it is playing around within its territory. However, it will thrive best when given a good daily walk, particularly when it is cool outside. Walking also enables the dog to socialise with other dogs and other people as well.
The Griffon Bruxellois typically bond with one human (usually the one that feeds him) more than other members of the family. It is generally good with children provided that it is not teased. It lacks the patience of other toy dogs but nevertheless, loves to play. It generally goes well with other animal pets including felines and other dogs but it may sometimes display dominance against other dogs regardless of size.