The Breed History
Arising from Afffenpinscher and Belgian street dogs (chiens barbus), the Brussels Griffon is packed with personality plus. Later on in the breed development, first Pug then Ruby Spaniel crosses occurred. It was likely from the Pug crosses that the smooth coated variety arose. Some also place Yorkshire terriers and French Barbet in the breed development tree. Some confusion exists regarding Belgian vs. Brussels Griffons as they are classified differently in Belgium than elsewhere. The AKC first registered the breed in 1910.
Breeding for Function
Bred early on for ratting, the recent focus of breeders was for a companion dog.
Height at Withers: 7-8" (18-20 cm).
Weight: 8-10 lb (3.5-4.5 kg).
Coat: There are two distinct coats-Wirehaired and Smooth-coated (Brabancon) types. The rough coat is about 3-4" (7.5-10 cm) in length, dense, with emphasis on maximum wire texture. The Brabancon coat is smooth, short and glossy. Colors include black and tan, black, belge (a mix of black and ruddy brown) with black whiskers and mask, and red.
Longevity: 13-14 years
Points of Conformation: Though toy in size, these dogs are built with a square, sturdy compact conformation and are quick and agile. High head carriage with a very alert expression. Wide set, large, dark, and rimmed with dark palpebral margins and thick lashes, the eyes are quite prominent in the socket. Ears are small, high-set and semi-erect, though if cropped, pricked. They have a pronounced stop, a domed skull and the nose is set back right at the stop, is large and pigmented black. Lip margins are black, and they possess prognathism, and a prominent beard. The neck is medium in length and muscling, with some arching. The short topline is level, thorax is deep, and the ribs well sprung. The high set tail is usually docked to about one-third of the length and usually is held erect. Limbs are straight boned, metacarpals and metatarsals are short and thick, the feet are small and round in shape and the toes are well arched.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Requires early leash and obedience training. The Brussels Griffon has a plucky but sensitive nature and is somewhat shy with strangers. The wire coats need hand stripping but on a maintenance basis, these dogs have average grooming needs. This breed is considered to be a bit slower to housetrain than some other breeds. Intelligent but easily bored, they respond best to positive reinforcement and a patient approach. Good alarm barkers; high barking tendency. Some do not recommend these dogs for those with children under 5 years of age; they can be quite assertive. Brussels Griffon dogs have low to moderate exercise requirements. These little dogs are fearless if threatened. They require close human contact.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Cesarean Section: According to a British study, 39% of Brussels Griffon litters are delivered via C-section.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported in 7.0% of dogs in the 2004 ABGA Health Survey. Average age of onset 2.3 years. OFA reports a high incidence, but too few Brussels Griffon have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Hip Dysplasia and Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease: Polygenically inherited traits causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports a high incidence, but too few Brussels Griffon have been screened to determine accurate frequencies.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports a high incidence, but too few Brussels Griffon have been screened to determine an accurate frequency.
Cataracts: Anterior and equatorial cortex intermediate cataracts predominate, though posterior and capsular cataracts also occur in the breed. Reported in 5.41% of Brussels Griffon presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Reported in 6.7% of dogs in the 2004 ABGA Health Survey (3.5% at less than seven years of age). Identified in 14.84% of Brussels Griffon CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Brussels Griffon with a cataract.
Chiari-like Malformation (Occipital Bone Hypoplasia): This condition is characterized by a shortening of the basicranium and supra-occipital bone with a compensatory lengthening of the cranial vault, especially the parietal bone. CM can be diagnosed with MRI, or with 87% sensitivity from radiographic measurements. In a study skewed toward affected families, CM was observed in 60.7% of Brussels Griffon. CM can predispose, but is not necessary for the brain disease syringomyelia.
Syringomyelia (SM): Syringomyelia is a condition where fluid filled cavities develop within the spinal cord. The majority of affected dogs do not show clinical signs. Clinical signs of SM can present usually between 5 months and 3 years of age, and include persistent scratching at the shoulder region with apparent neck, thoracic limb, or ear pain and thoracic limb lower motor neuron deficits. Diagnosis is by MRI. In a study skewed toward affected families, SM was diagnosed in 37.5% of Brussels Griffon, with 5.8% showing clinical signs. Chiari-like malformation (CM) is a predisposing factor for SM (61.7% with CM had SM, though 22.7% of dogs without CM had SM in this study).
Vitreous Degeneration: Liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment occurs in the breed. Identified in 14.49% of Brussels Griffon CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 5.65% of Brussels Griffon CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cleft Palate: Congenital disorder of midline closure of palate. Reported in 5% of puppies born in the 2003 ABGA Puppy Mortality Survey.
Allergic Dermatitis: Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported in 3.9% of dogs in the 2004 ABGA Health Survey. Average age of onset 3.6 years.
Epilepsy: Inherited seizures. Can be generalized or partial. Seizures are reported in 2.9% of dogs in the 2004 ABGA Health Survey. The cause of the seizures was not defined.
Cryptorchidism: Unilateral or bilateral undescended testicles. Reported in 2.8% of dogs in the 2004 ABGA Health Survey. This is a sex-limited disorder with an undetermined mode of inheritance.
Persistent Hyaloid Artery (PHA): Congenital defect resulting from abnormalities in the development and regression of the hyaloid artery. Does not cause vision problems by itself, but is often associated with other ocular defects. Identified in 2.47% of Brussels Griffon CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Heart Murmur: Reported in 2.1% of dogs in the 2004 ABGA Health Survey. Average age of onset 5.0 years. The anatomical cause of the heart murmur was not defined, though mitral valvular disease is reported in the breed.
Bladder Stones: Reported in 2.1% of dogs in the 2004 ABGA Health Survey. Average age of onset 5.4 years. The mineral content (type) of the bladder stone was not defined.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 1.77% of Brussels Griffon CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 1.7% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%).
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Inherited degeneration of the retina progressing to blindness. Autosomal recessive inheritance in most breeds. Identified in 1.41% of Brussels Griffon CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Brussels Griffon with PRA.
Corneal Dystrophy: Brussels Griffon can have an epithelial/ stromal form of corneal dystrophy. Identified in 1.41% of Brussels Griffon CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Optic Nerve Coloboma: A congenital cavity in the optic nerve which, if large, may cause blindness or vision impairment. Identified in 0.71% of Brussels Griffon CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Brussels Griffon with a coloboma.
Cleft Lip, Retained Primary Teeth, and Ulcerative Keratitis are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Sry-negative XX Sex Reversal (Hermaphrodism): A Brussels Griffon is documented with this autosomal recessive disorder, where outwardly male dogs are chromosomal females (XX), and there is an absence of "male" causing SRY.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for rough or smooth coat is available from VetGen.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes CERF eye examination and patella evaluation (after age 2). Optional recommended testing includes hip radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, electroretinogram for PRA, and MRI for syringomyelia. American Brussels Griffon Association "Champions For Health" program recommends Patella and Hip radiographs, CERF eye exam and ERG for PRA, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and MRI for SM. Recommend elbow radiographs and cardiac evauation.
- Breed name synonyms: Griffon Bruxellois, Griffon Belge, Belgian Griffon, or Griffons d'Ecurie (historical).
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 67 (1,320 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: American Brussels Griffon Association: www.brussels-griffon.info/
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