Brussels Griffon

Brussels Griffon
Written by The Best of Breeds

The spunk and personality of a Brussels Griffon is larger than life, or at least certainly larger than their small stature might warrant.  They are on the sturdier side of the toy breeds and have an expressive personality and intelligence to rival many working dogs.  They do stubbornly believe in their own grandeur and are not fussed to take on a dog much larger than them self, if they feel the need.

Brussels Griffons are thickset, with a stocky body and comical, almost human-like expressions on their flat faces.  Their cuddly appearance has often been compared to an ‘Ewok’ from Star Wars and would make an excellent Halloween costume sidekick.  They are known for their big, black and wide-set eyes, black muzzle, and fringed beard and moustache.

This loyal and intelligent breed is certainly best for a home without children, and with adults that are able to give the full attention that they demand.  This is a great breed for single people and senior citizens as they tend to bond with one special person in the home and require a low amount of daily exercise and grooming.  They are a very alert watch dog, but can be known to excessively bark if not well trained.  These self-important little canines will give you years of loyalty, cuddles and comedic presence.

Brussels Griffon

Brussels Griffon Key Information

Height: 7-10 inches 
Weight: 8-10 pounds
Life span: 12-15 years
Breed family: Toy

Exercise requirements: Low
Good with children: No
Area of origin: Belgium
Also Known As:Griffon Bruxellois, Griffons, Griff, Hansom Cab Stable Dog, Monkey Face


The history of the Brussels Griffon is a classic ‘rags to riches’ fable.  Originally found on the streets of Brussels, the ‘Griffons d’Ecurie’ or ‘Wire-Coated Stable Dog’ was bred to eradicate rats and vermin.  The Affenpinscher was then mixed in to improve the pedigree and ratting capabilities of this canine.  Though the true lineage of the modern-day Brussels Griffon is not known for certain, it is believed that Pugs, English Toy Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers and others were then interbred for their cosmetic characteristics to produce the modern-day Brussels Griffon.

In 1870, the Brussels Griffon had a change of fate when Henrietta Maria, Queen of the Belgians, took a fancy to the breed and they become status pets for the upper classes.  No longer were these cute and expressive little dogs expected to catch rats for their keep but rather sat in the laps of aristocracy.

Modern history equates the likeness of a Brussels Griffon to a Star Wars Ewok and a side by side comparison can easily see why.  The Brussels Griffon was further cemented into the hearts of the masses and Hollywood stardom when Jack Nickolson was undoubtedly upstaged by his expressive dog in “As Good As It Gets”. 


Interaction with Children

Brussels Griffons are not recommended for homes with children, regardless of the age.  They may be energetic and affectionate; however, this is most certainly on their own terms.  As with most toy breeds, rough play can be dangerous for a little dog and they can easily be hurt by jumping out of someone’s arms or even if tripped over.  Brussels Griffons are inherently shy and cautious and their sensitive nature can become defensive and lash out if not handled properly.

Interaction with other pets

Brussels Griffons are not recommended for homes with children, regardless of the age.  They may be energetic and affectionate; however, this is most certainly on their own terms.  As with most toy breeds, rough play can be dangerous for a little dog and they can easily be hurt by jumping out of someone’s arms or even if tripped over.  Brussels Griffons are inherently shy and cautious and their sensitive nature can become defensive and lash out if not handled properly.


It is recommended to feed your Brussels Griffon about ¼ to ½ cup of high-quality dog food per day, split into a morning and evening meal.  You should always buy a dog food specially formulated for a small or toy breed.  Never free-feed this breed, in which you leave food out for them to eat at their leisure; they are known for being gluttons and will quickly gain weight and could become ill.  Ironically though, they are also known for being picky eaters; however, avoid having your heart melt by their adorning big brown eyes and feeding them many table scraps.  Their bellies are small and cannot often cope with too many treats, particularly fatty ones, and you will likely then have a nasty bout of diarrhoea to contend with.

As with all breeds, monitor their food intake, along with their weight gain or loss, throughout the lifespan of your dog.  Changes in activity level and metabolism can affect the amount of food that they will need.

Clean, fresh water should be available at all times for your pet.

Food Allergies

Food allergies are relatively uncommon and often misdiagnosed when they should be attributed to environmental factors.  A good quality dog food, designed for a toy or small breed, should be sufficient to alleviate most food intolerances.  However, diagnosing and treating an allergy in your pet can be difficult and time consuming and is a conversation best had with your veterinarian.

Symptoms of food allergies or intolerances in your Brussels Griffon can be itching, foot and/or ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea.


Brussels Griffons are relatively easy to care for.  Grooming needs are included below and are dependent on the type of coat that your dog has.  One surprising trait of this breed to note is that they are amazing climbers.  Not unlike a billy goat or a kitten, you will need to monitor your dog as they can easily reach unexpected heights.  Their small stature does not bode well for jumping from high places as they can be seriously injured.  This breed is easy to carry around, and very happy to be snuggled up to their owner; however, again, make sure that you have a firm grip so that they don’t unexpectedly jump from your arms if startled.


Brussels Griffons come in two types of coat.  The rough coat should be brushed weekly with a bristle brush or grooming glove to remove any debris and dead hair. A wire tooth comb can then get out any stubborn knots.  Ideally, they are then clipped or trimmed every few months.  Professional breeders will likely insist on hard stripping which is when dead hair is pulled out by hand.  This generally requires an expert groomer and should be done on average twice a year.  Granted not all pet owners feel the need for this, but it does help significantly in keeping the wiry texture that this breed is known for and reduces shedding.  If you would prefer fewer grooming needs, but have all of the personality and eccentricity of a Brussels Griffon, then go for the smooth coat.  This requires very little grooming beyond a quick weekly brush.

Both types of Brussels Griffons should have monthly baths using a quality shampoo formulated specifically for dogs.  Any more often and this can strip their hair and skin of essential oils needed to maintain health.


The general rule of thumb is that you should not be able to hear your dog’s nails on your tile floor, and if you do, then this is an easy test of the need for a quick trim.   The nails of a Brussels Griffon should be trimmed regularly at least once per month.  Keep in mind that most dogs are sensitive of their feet and reluctant to the process; therefore, consistent trimming will habituate them to this procedure.


Brussels Griffons are an energetic and boisterous toy breed but do not require a great deal of exercise.  A daily walk should be sufficient to get in their exercise requirements, perhaps more if you live in a small apartment.  Saying that, they will happily run laps around your house or apartment and chase after their toys which you can continue to throw from your perch on the couch. 


Stubborn, cocky, intelligent and comedic are all adjectives often used when describing a Brussels Griffon.  They believe in their own sense of independence and are not always needing of their owner’s approval and as such, they can be a more difficult canine to train.  Like any child, they like to test the boundaries.  Be firm, fair, consistent, and patient, and you will receive much love in return.  This breed really does not take to being treated roughly and can nip and bite when fearful.

Brussels Griffons are well known for being difficult to housetrain.  Being a small dog, it is all too easy for them to sneak away and piddle behind a potted plant or your couch without being noticed.  It is hard to consistently train behaviours that go undetected but crate training can alleviate this.  They are also prone to excessive barking at the smallest threat.  This behaviour should be nipped in the bud early on unless you want barking every time the toilet flushes, or your email inbox pings.  Teaching them the ‘quiet’ command from an early age will be worthwhile.

Brussels Griffons are intelligent and bode well for dog sports such as agility, obedience and tracking.  This breed has a tendency to be aggressive towards dogs they don’t know well so consistent socialization from an early age should be encouraged.


Just as an owner should have the right type of dog, a dog should have the right type of owner.  Brussels Griffons need a lot of love and attention; they want to be where you are, all the time, and just like a toddler, have no sense of your need for privacy.  Expect to wake up with this dog staring at you with their big brown eyes, and wanting to be cradled in your arms while you watch TV.  They come by their nickname of ‘Velcro Dog’ justly and do tend to bond with a specific person in the household, almost forsaking all others, which can cause some jealousy from your spouse.

There is no need to have a home with a large yard, but it is good to purchase a natural bristle brush, metal dog grooming comb, pet shampoo and a high-quality dog food before bringing your pet home.  If you intend to crate train your pet, which would be recommended for this breed, then the purchase of a sturdy, appropriately sized crate should be on your shopping list.


Being a small breed, a Brussels Griffon can make a good apartment dog and do not require a yard.  Saying that, they are more energetic than many toy breeds and will happily run laps around your apartment.  They do have a tendency to bark at the slightest alarm, or when left alone. To ensure your neighbours stay in your good books, it is best to crate train your dog early and teach them about the ‘quiet’ command.

Dog Houses / Kennels

A Brussels Griffon, like most toy breeds, is not suited for life exclusively outdoors or in a dog house.  Their short muzzle makes them susceptible to extremes in temperature.  They are meant to be companion dogs, sharing your lap, your couch and even your bed.

Leaving them alone

Brussels Griffons, by nature, want to be with their owners as much as possible.  They do not like being alone and can become withdrawn and morose fairly easily.  Too much time alone can lead to destructive behaviour, or constant barking.  Crate training your pup from a young age should help with short times of separation.


Generally considered to be a healthy breed; nevertheless, there are some inherent health conditions that should be looked out for when purchasing a Brussels Griffon.  Dogs with a short muzzle, like a Brussels Griffon, are more prone to heat exhaustion than dogs with a longer muzzle.  Saying that this breed is not as susceptible as other brachiocephalic dogs but care still should be taken on extreme weather days, be this hot or cold.  The distinctively large eyes of this breed can be easily scratched or irritated, so it is best to watch for any redness or rubbing of the eyes.

Hip Dysplasia, an inherited condition where the thigh bone does not fit into the hip joint properly, can cause pain and lameness in the rear legs, and then arthritis in later years.  You can alleviate the risks of getting hip dysplasia but ensuring that the dog never jumps from elevated places such as a bed or couch.  Ensure that any high places that the dog would frequent has a step for them to safely go up and down.

Patellar Luxation is common in many toy breeds and is when the thigh, knee cap and calf bones do not suitably line up.  This condition can cause lameness, abnormal gait, and later arthritis but can be alleviated with surgery.

Syringomyelia is caused by fluid-filled cavities within the spinal column and affects the brain and spine.  This can cause an array of symptoms from mild discomfort to severe pain or partial paralysis.

Brussels Griffons are often in high demand, and there can be a long wait for obtaining a puppy.  Though you might be tempted to ‘jump the queue’ with a less-reputable breeder, this is not advised.  A reputable breeder will offer a genetic guarantee and breed for both health and temperament.

Older age

Like many dog breeds, Brussels Griffons can be prone to getting overweight in old age.  It is best to tightly manage food intake throughout their lifetime and adjust accordingly.


Brussels Griffons can be prone to skin allergies.   It is best to look out for any itching or licking and contact your veterinarian should you find these behaviors are excessive.

Wrapping up

This much sought-after companion dog will likely turn heads wherever you go as they confidently trot along beside you on a walk through the park.  Expect comments about their adorably comedic ‘monkey face’ appearance.  If you are looking for an easily transportable pet, that is both small and robust, but loyal and attentive, then a Brussels Griffon should be on your list.

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