The Brussels griffon's ancestry traces back to small dogs kept to hunt rats in stables. The toy-size dogs weigh eight to 10 pounds. They have thick bodies, flattened faces with prominent dark eyes and cropped or naturally short ears and tails. Griffons are long-lived, reaching 12 to 15 years of age. They are affectionate, sensitive dogs that bond strongly with their masters. They make good companions, family dogs and watchdogs. Griffons are dependent dogs, needing a great deal of company and attention. They prefer to be physically close to their owners and don’t do well left alone. Because of their temperament and physical characteristics, Brussels griffons are best suited to indoor living.
Socialize your Brussels griffon early, taking him with you when you go places and exposing him to a variety of environments, strangers, and other dogs, as well as family members and other family pets. Socialization helps to overcome the soft personality of the breed and prevent shyness and fear. If your griffon shows shyness around strangers, his curiosity should help him improve with your help. Griffons do well with other pets, but they may try to dominate even far larger dogs. Avoid negative experiences whenever possible, as griffons tend to show lingering effects from trauma. A fearful Brussels griffon can become defensive.
Use positive reinforcement to train your Brussels griffon. To prevent development of negative behaviors, show your him you are in charge from the beginning of your interactions, but don’t use force to do it. Griffons are people-pleasers, and will try to please if they understand what you want. This will work in your favor.
Use the tether method or crate-train your Brussels Griffon during his first few weeks with you to facilitate effective house-training. The National Brussels Griffon Rescue website warns against leaving your griffon alone if you wish to avoid development of house-training problems and other behavioral issues. Even a house-trained Brussels griffon may have trouble being consistent. To reduce the chance of accidents and help your pet succeed, know his habits and stick to a strict routine.
Brush your griffon twice weekly, and bathe him only as needed, which should be infrequently. Griffons have one of two types of coats: rough or smooth. The rough coat is dense and wiry. Rough-coated griffons have the best color and furnishings -- fringed hair around the facial features. They require grooming, but may be kept shaggy. The smooth coat is straight, short and glossy. Dogs with this coat are called Brabancons, after the Belgian national anthem. Smooth-coated dogs don’t need much grooming, but they do shed seasonally. Use a hound glove, a glove with a grooming pad on one side, to add gloss to a smooth coat.
Strip a Brussels griffon show dog's rough coat by hand. Stripping is optional for pet dogs. For pets, the National Brussels Griffon Club recommends clipping every three months to shape your pet’s coat. Trim the fringe around the face to keep it short and to retain the expression and appearance sought in the dogs.
Pull the hair from your dog’s ear canals using your fingers, or have a veterinarian or groomer do the job for you. Clean your dog’s ears with a veterinarian-approved solution and cotton balls.
Keep an eye out for health issues that affect the breed. Griffons experience problems common to dogs with short muzzles and flattened faces. Such brachycephalic dogs can easily suffer airway obstruction syndrome, respiratory issues and heat stroke. Griffons are prone to eye damage due to their protruding eyes and short muzzles. Other health issues to be aware of in Brussels griffons include inherited eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy; syringomyelia, or fluid-filled cavities within the spinal cord; slipped stifle; hip dysplasia; patellar luxation; and thyroid problems.
Walk your Brussels griffon daily. Exercise helps control the dog's weight, promotes general health and reduces stress. Activities such as obedience training and agility are well-suited to the breed. Avoid walks or extended play in hot weather. Provide your pet a safe play area, such as within a fenced yard. Ensure that his environment has no sharp objects at eye level, as his prominent eyes need protection against injury.
Know the risks of breeding your Brussels griffon. Not only can breeding prove difficult and expensive, the size and head formation of Brussels griffons make whelping difficult and risky. The breed experiences a high rate of birth defects and puppy deaths, according to the National Brussels Griffon Club. Pups need much care, and usually stay with a breeder until 3 or 4 months of age.