Originally bred to hunt and kill rats, this former Belgian street dog is a distinctive and unusual dog breed. Although he’s small, he’s hardly a pampered pooch. Affectionate and lively, his intelligence, sense of humor, and air of self-importance keep him one step ahead of his people. They adore him anyway.
There are three varieties of Griffon, the Brussels Griffon, Belgian Griffon and Petit Griffon. The Belgian Griffon has a long, wiry coat with fringe around the face. The Brussels Griffon has a wiry coat that is longer than the Belgian Griffon’s. The Petit Brabancon has a short, smooth coat. The Brussels Griffon was first shown at the Brussels Exhibition of 1880. An early example of the breed is depicted in a Van Eyck, the Flemish painter. Once kept by cab drivers of 17th century Brussels to rid their stables of vermin, the Brussels Griffon became a companion breed by virtue of its appealing character. The smooth coated Petit Brabancon was most likely crossed with Pug blood. Other breeds including theAffenpinscher, English Toy Spaniel, Belgian street dog, Yorkshire Terrier and Irish Terrier may have contributed to the modern Griffons.
The AKC recognizes only the variety known as the Brussels Griffon. Its American standard allows all of the color varieties, black through red, as well as the smooth variety (Brabancon). FCI, conversely, divided them into three breeds: smooth (Petit Brabancon), rough reds (Brussels Griffon) and roughs of other colors (Belgian Griffon). Therefore, in Europe they are shown separately with no interbreeding between the varieties. In America, although the same parameters exist, they are combined into one breed with different colors and coat varieties. It was a Brussels Griffon that appeared in the movie “As Good as it Gets.” Somewhat rare, Griffons may be very difficult to find.
The Griffon Bruxellois is known to have a huge heart, and a strong desire to snuggle and be with his or her master. They display a visible air of self-importance. A Griffon should not be shy or aggressive; however, they are very emotionally sensitive, and because of this, should be socialized carefully at a young age. Griffons should also be alert, inquisitive and interested in their surroundings.
Griffons tend to bond with one human more than others. In fact, Griffons are very good with children provided they are not teased. They are not very patient but do love to play. Griffons tend to get along well with other animals in the house, including cats, ferrets, and other dogs. However, they can get into trouble because they have no concept of their own relative size and may attempt to dominate dogs much larger than themselves.
This unique breed isn’t for everyone. The Griffon needs an owner who appreciates a dog that’s up-close and personal rather than independent. Empty nesters are often ideal, because Griffons are like children who never grow up and leave for college. Of course, this trait doesn’t appeal to everyone. Griffons require a time commitment, not only because they want a lot of time and attention from their people, but also because they can live to be 14 or 15 years old.