Brussels Griffon: Affectionate Belgian Street Dog

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Brussels Griffon was bred to hunt rats, but with time they moved to be royal companions. Here is everything that you should know about this unique breed. Read on.
Dog Breed Group:
Companion Dogs
7 to 8 inches tall at the shoulder
7 to 12 pounds
Life Span:
12 to 15 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

Brussels Griffon is a small size dog initially bred to hunt and kill rats.

Nowadays, this adorable breed is mostly a family pet. This breed is unusual but a lively and affectionate dog with a high intelligence level.

Here is what you should know about this breed and if they still hunt rats.

Quick Facts

Real name: Brussels Griffon
Other names: Brussels Griffon, Belgium Griffon, Petit Brabançon, Griffon Belge, Brabançon Griffon
Common Nicknames: Griffon, Griff, Bruss
Origin: Belgium
Breed type: Toy Group
Weight: 8-10 pounds
Height: 7-10 inches
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Litter size: avg. 1 to 3 puppies
Color: Red, black and tan, or black and reddish
Coat: Wiry/rough and smooth coat

Brussels Griffon History

Overall, the popular Griffon-type dogs were well known across the Old Continent for centuries. Families had this small dog as pets for decades, before it reaches the States. This is one of the most ancient dog breeds alive and one of the most popular ones.

In Van Eyck’s 1434 portrait from 1434, a glimpse of a distant ancestor of the Griff is spotted. Just this dog had longer muzzles than today’s version.

This small dog has an interesting history that starts in Brussels, Belgium’s capital city, in the far 1800s. At this period, this small dog started switching grom rat dog to sophisticated laptop companion.

As mentioned above, this small dog was bred to hunt rats in stables. These were typically Affenpinscher-like dogs known as “griffons d’ecurie,” or “wire-coated stable dogs.”

The hack drivers experimented with various crosses to improve their dogs. So far there is no evidence, written records if this breed survived, but experts believe that the Pug, English Toy Spaniels, an old Belgian breed called the Brabancon, and perhaps even Yorkshire Terrier, were all part of the genetic mix that produced the Brussels Griffon.

In far 1870s, the turning point happened for this breed, when the dog-loving Queen of the Belgians, Henrietta Maria, took a specific interest in this breed.

In no time, this small breed was commonly seen among the queen’s courtiers, and kennel keepers of the upper class refined the breed, making the body smaller and the face more humanlike.

With time the interest in the breed started growing and the world wanted this breed, so Griffs were exported to America and to England. In 1910, AKC registered its first Griff.

As it happened with numerous dog breeds in Europe, the two world wars, significantly declined the Griff population. Luckily, dog lovers and animal enthusiasts from Great Britain and the States, joined their forces an kept the breed alive.

In 1997 new generations showed enormous interest in the breed. The reason for this sudden popularity? A movie “As Good As It Gets,” starring Jack Nickolson, had an extra character – a spicy Griff named Jill who stole the audience’s heart.

Brussels Griffon Physical Appearance

Adorable Brussels Griffon is a small dog, with a short and thick body. Because they are too tiny, they can’t go unnoticed, especially taking into consideration their almost human expression.

Their coat can be smooth or rough, while except for coat, there is no difference between two physically.

Dog lovers claim that dog has the most human expression. Eyes are set well apart, black always, and very large. Also, the eyelashes are black and long, while eyelids are edged with black.

Ears are, as expected, small, and set high on the head. They may be natural or cropped.

Skull is round, while the nose is extremely short and black. The lower jaw is prominent, while the neck is medium length. The body is overall short, while the ribs are well sprung. The tail is held high and docked to about one-third.

Forelegs are medium length and straight in bone, well muscled. Toes are well arched while black pads and toenails are preferred. This small dog is known as a dog that doesn’t shed a lot, although his coat is dense and wiry. The coat should be no silky or too long.

The head should be covered with wiry hair, slightly longer around the eyes, cheeks, nose, and chin. The smooth coat is short, straight, and tight and glossy. Hind legs are strong, well-muscled, and set right.

Brussels Griffon Nutrition

Just like any other bred, your Brussels Griffon will do fantastic on high-quality food. If you choose to feed your Griffon with raw food or Barf diet always talk with your veterinarian first.

Raw food comes with pros and cons, and talking with your veterinarian might help with any additional questions. Of course, it should be adjusted to the dog’s age.

You should never feed your puppy with senior’s dog food.

Since some dogs are prone to obesity, you should avoid excessive treats and keep it at a normal level, or only serve treats to your dog when he desires it.

Treats can help with training, but giving to much can lead to obesity eventually, and weight loss is a difficult path. Learn which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not.

Your dog should have a clean dog bowl for freshwater all the time. This is crucial during the summer because you want to avoid any possibilities of a heatstroke.

Brussels Griffon Grooming

Small dog, less grooming? Grooming is grooming, no matter the dog’s size, and it will demand your time. Luckily, this is a small size dog, so the time required will be less.

As mentioned earlier, there are two types of Brussels Griffon, with two types of coats: smooth and rough. If you have a smooth-coated Griffon, you may expect weekly brushing and heavy shedding during the shedding season.

Good to know: Both Brussels Griffon varieties should have no smell

The famous shedding season usually happens a week or two in the spring, and then again in the fall. During this period, single bath and frequent grooming will help to remove loose hair and dirt and help your dog look its best.

On the other hand, if you have a rough-coated Griffons, you won’t have shedding season, because they do not shed. They have original beards, that should be clipped short. If you think that this is too much work for you, think about hiring a professional groomer.

In this case, you should take your Griffon to the groomer once every 4 to 6 weeks. As with all breeds, you should check the eyes, ears, and gums regularly.

Nails should be trimmed regularly because long nails are painful to dogs and can cause various problems running and walking.

Brussels Griffon Training

Early puppy training and early socialization are the primary factors that can help you have a well-behaved and socialized dog.

Griffs are highly intelligent, and they will enjoy training sessions that are fun and based on positive reinforcement.

Overall, they are easy to train if you know how to approach your Griffon as a leader and a trustworthy person. With toy breeds small dog syndrome is a common occurrence so, housebreaking may take some extra effort and time.

These are sensitive and gentle dogs, and they don’t respond well to hard training methods or hard collections.

They love spending time with their family members, and they won’t hold themselves of barking to unfamiliar faces around the house. You may see this dog often following family members from room to toom.

If you leave your Griffon alone for a too long period, you can expect destructive behavior or anxiety.

Brussels Griffon Exercise

Griffons love spending time with their humans. They will really enjoy indoor and outdoor time as long as they are together with family members.

This breed needs at least a half-hour of moderate exercise per day to stay healthy and happy. After all, a healthy dog is a happy dog.

They love to play, jump, and romp, and they are the happiest when doing activities together with their people. They are intelligent and trainable, which makes them suitable for dog sports, such as agility, obedience, and tracking.

Brussels Griffon Health

Griffs are healthy dogs, as long as they are in the hands of responsible breeders. Every responsible breeder will screen stock for health conditions and present you with the medical documentation.

This breed will commonly be tested for problems such as:

Recommended health tests are:

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Hips Evaluation

Since this breed has a flat-face, they can experience heavy breathing problems. This means that Grioffs don’t do well ion hot days and humid weather.

They can also snore excessively they may have additional problems if they are exposed to excessive physical workout.

Their ears should be checked regularly for any sign of infection, while the teeth should be brushed with specially designed teets paste.

The Bottom Line

Brussels Griffon is an ancient breed, that was originally bred to hunt rats. With time they moved to be pets and members of royal families.

They are intelligent, lively, and affectionate dogs. They have a great sense of humor, and they love spending every moment with their humans.

If you have enough time to train this pampered pooch and invest energy in regular grooming sessions, this breed just might be for you.

Popular Brussels Griffon Comparisons

Compare Dog Breeds: