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Brussels Griffons - Small Dogs With Big Personalities

Updated on February 13, 2021

A lifelong love

I met my first Brussels Griffon when I was a kid - about nine or 10 years old.

It was a beloved ritual in our family to attend the International Kennel Club Dog Show in Chicago in February. I'm not sure if my mother was all that enamored of dogs, or just looking for a warm, indoor, "something to do" in the depths of winter.

It was (and still is) a "benched" dog show - which means that all the dogs have to stick around all day, even after they're done being shown. It was a wonderful opportunity for us, and the rest of the public, to get "up close and personal" with the dogs, their owners and breeders, and really get to know if a particular breed would fit into the family.

I remember loving the look of the Griffs. And I remember meeting a woman who took the time to talk to me, introduce me to her dogs, and teach me about them. Years later, at the National Brussels Griffon Specialty show, I met her again and became friends. My first Griff didn't come from Margie, but she's at least partially responsible for my love of the breed.

Brussels Griffon coats and colors

Brussels Griffons can be rough- or smooth- coated, and come in colors: Red, Belge, Black-masked, Black, even Black and Tan
Brussels Griffons can be rough- or smooth- coated, and come in colors: Red, Belge, Black-masked, Black, even Black and Tan | Source

Griffie facts:

  • Originating in Belgium, Brussels Griffons were stable dogs - used to catch vermin
  • In the United States, both rough- and smooth-coated dogs are known as "Brussels Griffons." In Europe, rough-coated dogs are called "Griffon Bruxellois" and smooth-coated dogs are "Petit Brabançon."
  • Brussels Griffons generally weigh between 8 and 12 lbs.
  • Griffs can be a challenge to train - like most dogs developed as "ratters" - Griffs worked independently
  • Brussels Griffons are "velcro dogs" - they bond closely with their caregivers and, given a choice, rarely let their person out of sight.

Roc plays fetch

Size really does matter

Tennis balls are in almost all dogs' Top 10 toy list. The drawback for dogs like my Roc, all 11 lbs. of him, was that all he could do was bat it around - there was no way for him to carry a full-sized tennis ball.

Dog toy manufacturers have now leveled the playing field - Squeaker Tennis Balls come in a variety of sizes, from huge to tiny, so all dogs get to play fetch.

Roc, my 12-year-old black, smooth Griff, shows off his fielding and tossing skills on a regular basis.

Sound like an expert!

Fanciers of Brussels Griffons call them "Griffs" or "Griffies" - never, ever "Brussels."

Truman in his PerfectFit Harness
Truman in his PerfectFit Harness | Source

It had to be "PerfectFit" for Truman

The picture at the right is of Truman, a red, rough Brussels Griffon.

Truman was adopted from Brussels Griffon Rescue by a Griffie friend ours named Beth. Beth called us because she needed a harness for Truman and didn't know where to start. She'd always used collars for her dogs and Truman couldn't wear a collar - his previous owner had him "debarked" and he has scar tissue and damage to his throat.

The PerfectFit Harness truly is perfect for Truman because it's so easy to use, it's soft, and its v-neck design won't hurt Truman's throat. We're happy to report that Truman and Beth love it so much they've recommended it to all their Griffie friends. Most Griffs, it turns out, wear a size Medium.

Roc "found" his fish and pulled it out of his Aquarium toy.
Roc "found" his fish and pulled it out of his Aquarium toy. | Source

Clever little dogs

Brussels Griffons are sturdy and smart little dogs. Like all dogs - the smarter they are, the faster they'll find a way to get into trouble.

My boy, Roc, loves "solving problems" and one of the ways I keep his agile little mind busy is with interactive toys like the Zippy Burrows. "Find it!" is one of his favorite games and he loves playing with his Aquarium toy.

Expect a challenge

Much as I love Brussels Griffons - I know it's not the breed of dog for everybody.

Don't let their size fool you. These tiny little guys are massively headstrong and stubborn - all while giving you a look that makes your heart melt.

Griffs can be challenge to train - whether we're talking about housebreaking or competition obedience. I know a top trainer who has Border Collies and Brussels Griffons. She started with Griffs, but got Border Collies because she wanted dogs that are more "willing" and easier to train.

Brussels Griffons bond strongly to their caregivers. If you want your Griff to be a "family dog" then the entire family will have to participate in care and training.

They're also quirky little dogs and not particularly cuddly. Roc is a good example. He rarely lets me out of his sight (forget about sneaking a midnight snack by yourself), but doesn't like sitting on my lap, or even touching. He's perfectly content to have a couch cushion all to himself.

He's also afraid of feet. I imagine that when you're only 10 inches tall, it makes sense to be wary. It also results in some fancy footwork when he insists on shadowing me from room to room.

And while Griffs aren't really nervous, yappy little dogs - they can be good watchdogs and let you know if anything's approaching the house; like leaves blowing in the wind, cars coming down the street, the dog barking on the next block, or the cat in the commercial he just watched on television.

© 2014 HopeS


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