Breed Profile: Brussels Griffon

Brussels Griffon dogs are small, spunky and intelligent dogs with great personalities and enjoy the company of other dogs and cats.

Brussels are small but friendly dogs. By: Ger Dekker
Brussels are small but friendly dogs. By: Ger Dekker

Breed

Brussels Griffon, a.k.a. Brussels

Group

Toy

Physical Description

The Brussels is a small toy breed developed in Belgium with an appearance resembling Chewbacca from the “Star Wars” movie. The facial features are often said to resemble those of a monkey much like the Affenpinscher. The head is large and round with a black nose and overbite. The eyes are black and wide, and the ears and tail are high-set unless they are cropped (illegal in some countries for non-working dogs).

The two coat types for this breed include rough (wiry and dense) or smooth (short and glossy). Colors include red, belge (red-brown and black), black and tan and solid black. Weight ranges include 6 to 12 pounds and heights in averages between 7 to 8 inches. The average life span of a Brussels is around 15 years.

Origin

Small terriers were often kept as ratters in previous centuries. In Belgium these dogs had similar characteristicsas the Affenpinscher. The dogs were likely a result of crossing German Affenpinschers with Belgian street dogs.

In addition to the above crossings, other breeds reportedly involved in the development of Brussels included pugs, King Charles spaniels and Ruby spaniels. The facial characteristics of the spaniels are believed to be directly correlated to the facial appearance of the Brussels we see today.

The European breed club (FCI) lists three separate breeds for the Brussels each with their own breed standard:

  1. Griffon Bruxellois
  2. Griffon Belge
  3. Petit Brabancon

The breed was represented in the movie, “As Good as It Gets” in 1997. The role of “Verdell” was played by a Brussels named Jill (Jill the Dog). The first Brussels was exhibited in 1880 at the Brussels Exhibition. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1910.

This video shows Jill the Dog as “Verdell” in the movie, “As Good as It Gets” with some close shots of the dog’s appearance and personality:

Purpose

Although this breed was originally used as a ratter and vermin chaser, they are now companion pets and also participate in conformation or act as a watchdog.

Temperament

Brussels are friendly, cheerful, curious, charming and affectionate. They are intelligent dogs capable of learning and performing a variety of tricks. Housebreaking can be a problem with this breed. Brussels typically live with other dogs and cats without issue, but be sure to properly socialize and introduce your pets to avoid issues. They can be prone to separation anxiety. Additional behavioral problems can also arise due to a lack of consistent training or exercise.

Exercise Needs

This small toy breed is active indoors and does not have a high need for exercise, but a daily outdoor walk is recommended. They are active indoors and do well in apartments. Regular exercise, consistent training and mental stimulation is strongly recommended to keep the breed from becoming destructive, defiant and even aggressive.

Grooming Requirements

Brussels shed little to no hair. Brushing the coat should be done a few times per week to maintain the coat and check for any discharge or debris from the ears and eyes. Consistent maintenance should be planned for cleaning the teeth and keeping the nails to an acceptable level. Brussels participating in conformation competitions will require additional grooming.

This video shows Oakley, a 3-month-old Brussels Griffon, practicing her tricks and being adorable:

Common Health Problems

Brussels are a healthy breed of dog, but there are some health problems common in the breed that may be encountered:

  • Slipped stifle
  • Eye problems
  • Respiratory problems
  • Sensitivity to extreme temperatures, particularly heat

Is the Brussels Griffon the Right Dog for You?

Brussels Griffon dogs are small, smart and spunky. They get along well with other dogs and cats and require minimal grooming. They can be difficult to house-train and require firm and consistent training to avoid behavioral issues. They are very intelligent and can learn a host of tricks.

The health concerns common in the breed are minimal, but care should be taken in areas of temperature extremes. Apartment life is acceptable for this breed since Brussels are active indoors, but a daily walk should be included. If these recommendations are ones you can easily fulfill, the Brussels Griffon might be the perfect dog for you.

Adopt, Don’t Buy

Brussels Griffon dogs are rare and can be hard to find, but please check adoption resources and shelters first. You can also start with Petful’s adoptable dog search. If you do decide to go through a breeder to obtain your dog, ask for health clearances from the parents, ask to see your new puppy interacting with its mother, inspect the premises and stay alert for warning signs that your breeder is operating a puppy mill.

Additional Resources

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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