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The Brussels Griffon as it is more commonly known is a breed of toy dog named for its country of origin. The umbrella name refers to 3 strains within the breed - the Griffon Bruxellois, the Griffon Belge and the Petit BrabanÃ§on.
The breed's origins are somewhat of a mystery and open to debate amongst experts of the breed. There are two main theories that have been put forward by various people over the years.
It is believed that the dog appearing on the Jan Van Eyck painting titled 'the wedding of Arnolfini' dated to the 1400's depicts a dog resembling this breed. The other argument reports that the breed did not exist until the late 1800's, in which year a Griffon type dog won a third prize in a variety class at a popular dog show in Brussels.
Whatever the truth, the ancestors of the breed was almost certainly a small rough coated terrier type dog that would have been used by servants in stables and large noble houses to control rats and other vermin. Due to their cheeky and quizzical look, they caught the eye of a number of well heeled ladies of the time and subsequent cross breeding with the in favour Pug gave the breed the large head, black colouration and smooth coats. It is also a possibility that cross breeding with the King Charles Spaniel had a paw in the flat face and variety of colour. Even the Yorkshire Terrier is said to be able to stake a claim in the development of this breed, donating its 'topknot' to the Brussels Griffon!
In 1880 the `Club du Griffon Bruxellois' was formed and a standard drawn up and the popularity of this little dog took off, with it being exported to other European countries and the US. The advent of World War I hit the population of this breed, as it did with many other dog breeds, and by 1945 the Griffon had almost disappeared in its native country. Breeding by fans of this little dog ensured its survival and by the 1950's numbers had risen again, although it still remains quite a rare dog to this day.
Average height to withers:
Average weight: Both males and females can be up to 45-5 kg in weight.
Often described as 'cobby' and 'square', this sturdy toy breed of dog can either be rough or smooth coated but all have the same 'monkey like' expressive face. The head is large in relation to the body which can cause issues when the dam gives birth to a litter of pups. The ears are generally said to be the smaller the better, and are set high on the head. The black rimmed, clear and dark round eyes are large and expressive. The face full of character is further enhanced by the traditional 'beard' which features on this breed. In colour, this dog may be a rich red, brown, black or tan with or without white markings.
The neck arches well into laid back shoulders, and the overall appearance of the body is square with a straight back with a moderate tail set at an angle to the back. For the size, the chest is wide and deep and full of heart and lungs which enables this little dog to have a surprising amount of energy and drive!
The lucky owner of this toy dog will never be short of love or affection. Well renowned for their love of people, they can often fixate on and bond closely with one member of the family. Due to their small size, they are often not suitable for families with very young children who cannot appreciate the importance of the care needed not to injure the Griffon when playing.
That said, they are tougher than they look and very active. Surprisingly, they often excel at canine sports such as agility and like to be busy. Once at home though, they are true home birds who like nothing more than a quiet, comfy bed and lots of hugs. They are affable little dogs and get on very well with all other dogs and pets that it may encounter, but being quite brave, it can try to dominate other dogs, even when they are much bigger than it! Early socialisation is essential to bring out the best in the Griffon, as it can otherwise become nervy and emotional. It also needs someone it can look up to and rely on for solid guidance and leadership. Under no circumstances should the owner 'baby' this dog. It needs to be taught independence and while its cute looks may want to make people protect it, it is more than capable of standing on its own two feet.
As mentioned, due to the large size of the head, dams can often experience trouble when giving birth to a litter of pups and often require assistance and/or a caesarean section. For a small dog, the bitch may give birth to over 6 pups, although 2-4 is more common, again, the higher the number of pups, the more complicated the birth can be. Cleft Palates also appears to be a relatively common issue with this breed, and if there are numerous pups, this can result in the disadvantaged pups not being able to receive enough milk and nutrition from their mother. The Cleft Palate is an issue which can be corrected with surgery as the pup gets older and is fully grown if it indeed survives puppyhood.
The large and quite prominent eyes of this dog are also quite prone to receiving injury and this something the owner needs to be aware of. Conditions such as Glaucoma and Cataracts are also common, and veterinary advice should be sought under those circumstances.
The typical life span of a Griffon is around 12-15 years in good health.
This little dog does require more exercise than you may initially think as it is a very active and busy dog. A good daily walk and play should see it right though, and once back at home it will appreciate the chance for a grooming and being close to its owner. The coat needs some attention and optimally a brushing at least twice a week should suffice.