Brussels Griffons

The Brussels Griffon was created in Belgium some 200 years ago from a blend of English Toy Spaniel, Pug and a type of small German terrier. He mixes intelligence with a comical nature and has a wonderful air of self-importance that never fails to amuse his people. He likes to think he runs the household—and often he does—but deep down he’s a softie and loves to have the constant attention of his family. Unless you have a strong sense of humor and the patience of Job, however, he can be a challenge to live with.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The real question is whether you are right for a Brussels Griffon. If you are a caregiver at heart, enjoy a dog that likes to get up close and personal, and can appreciate one with a wicked sense of humor, then this intelligent, curious and sensitive breed may deign to make you his own.

The Brussels Griffon comes in a range of temperaments, from outgoing and active to reserved verging on shy, with the rest somewhere in the middle. When he's happy with life, he's affectionate and adaptable, loves to play and is often found tearing around the house or running circles in the yard. He's often referred to as a "Velcro dog" because of his strong desire to be with his favorite person at all times.

The Brussels Griffon has a reputation for naughtiness, probably a gift from his terrier ancestors. If he doesn't think he's getting the attention he deserves or has been left behind unnecessarily, he won't hesitate to overturn trash cans, unroll toilet paper or break housetraining. And "finders, keepers" is the BG's motto. If it's on the floor, he claims it. It's essential to crate a young Brussels Griffon when you can't supervise him.

The Brussels Griffon can also be an escape artist. He needs to be contained within a fence that can't be dug beneath or climbed over. Griffons are amazingly athletic for their size (8 to 12 pounds) and are perfectly capable of climbing up and over things or achieving leaps worthy of Superman.

On the plus side, his athletic ability and intelligence make him a contender in dog sports such as agility, obedience, rally and tracking. You just have to persuade him that those activities are worth his time and effort. Keep training fun and use positive reinforcement techniques, never force.

Griffons usually get along well with other pets, but like most toy breeds, they will try to take on dogs many times their size. They're completely unaware of their small size and must be protected from themselves.

Brussels Griffons come in a smooth or rough coat, neither of which sheds heavily. Smooths need only a twice weekly brushing. The coat of a rough Griffon must be brushed twice a week, as well as hand stripped every three to four months to retain the correct hard, wiry texture. Pet dogs with a rough coat can be kept in a Schnauzer clip, minus the eyebrows.

Exercise is good for every dog, so make sure the Griffon gets a walk or other activity daily. While it's tempting to carry this little dog everywhere you go, resist the impulse and let him be a dog. He'll be happier and better-behaved for it.

It goes without saying that Griffons need to live in the house and never outdoors. With their flat faces, they are sensitive to high temperatures and can quickly succumb to heatstroke if not kept in air-conditioned surroundings.

Brussels Griffon puppies are adorable, and it's one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Griffon a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these little dogs, and you'll be well rewarded with a wonderfully funny dog.

Health Issues Common to Brussels Griffons

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Brussels Griffons have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include luxating patellas, eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy, syringomyelia, hip dysplasia and hypothyroidism.

At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have patella certifications from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy. The American Brussels Griffon Association has a Champions for Health program and awards stars to breeders based on the number of health certifications they have done for their dogs, although it does not require breeders to publish test results. The suggested tests are OFA patellas, hips and thyroid; CERF; an ERG test for progressive retinal atrophy; and an MRI for syringomyelia.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Elbow Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000

5 Tips to Bringing Home a Healthy Brussels Griffon Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a good breeder with the American Brussels Griffon Association, and choose one who is committed to following the ABGA's Guidelines for Responsible Practices.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Brussels Griffon aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Griffons can live 12 to 15 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Griffon to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Brussels Griffons

Pet insurance for Brussels Griffons costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Brussels Griffons are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are preexisting) to which Brussels Griffons are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Brussels Griffon is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.