Are Brussels Griffons Good Apartment Dogs?
As a big science fiction geek I have to start this post about Brussels Griffons with these two fun facts.
Movie director George Lucas created Star Wars and the character Chewbacca the Wookiee.
George Lucas owned a Griff.
Coincidence? You decide.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s deal with the question at hand: are Brussels Griffons good apartment dogs?
The answer from experts and owners appears to be an overwhelming “yes.”
Laura Burkart is a breed enthusiast and runs the NYC Griffs social organization. She says: “They are good in small spaces; they don’t need lots of heavy exercise; they’re really cuddly to hang out with on the couch; and they’re known for being sweet affectionate dogs.”
According to the American Kennel Club Brussels Griffons are the 97th most popular breed in the United States. They’re not a very common dog nationwide, but New York City has a decent sized population. The NYC Department of Licensing says there are currently 1,045 Griffs registered with the city, which puts them ahead of Jack Russell Terriers. (Which I find very difficult to believe. Jack Russells used to be everywhere!)
According to the American Brussels Griffon Association: “There are several theories of breed development proposed by students of the breed, but most agree that the wire coated Belgian stable dog, known as Griffon d’Ecurie, was crossed and re-crossed with the black Pug, Affenpinscher, and Ruby Toy Spaniel sometime in the mid-1800s. The Belgian stablemen that initiated these breedings apparently kept no records, but the present day Brussels Griffon was known in its present form sometime between 1870 and 1880.”
However in 2013, a former president of the ABGA discovered a trove of documents that actually sheds a lot of light on the origin of the Brussels Griffon, down to the specific, individual dogs that were used in creating the breed. You can read about that here.
Griffs were originally used as ratters, but by the late 1800s they’d come to occupy their role as a favored household pet. By 1899 the first Brussels Griffons were listed in the American Kennel Club Stud Book and were being shown at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
The AKC officially recognized the breed in 1910.
Jack Nicholson’s 1997 film, As Good As It Gets, put Griffs in the spotlight.
And a Brussels Griffon won Best in Show at the National Dog Show in 2017.
Taking Care of Your Griff
Brussels Griffons are small dogs, weighing from seven to 12 pounds and standing seven to eight inches at the shoulder. Generally, they live to be 12-to-15 years old.
They do not have any health issues that are specific to the breed or occur more frequently than they would in other dogs. But of course, make sure your pup gets all its proper shots and has regular check-ups with the vet.
The breed comes in four different colors: red, black and a reddish-brown color called “belge,” black and tan, and black. Brussels Griffon have two different coat types: rough or smooth. They should be brushed regularly to keep them looking neat and to prevent their fur from becoming coarse. Dog Time rates them average for shedding.
As with other dogs, brush their teeth and clean their ears regularly.
Griffs are intelligent, energetic dogs. Since they’re small, you probably don’t need to take them on your morning jog, but they do require a fair amount of exercise, so play with them often and take them on plenty of walks.
And as with all dogs, it is super important you socialize your Brussels Griffon starting at an early age. They can be shy around strangers, so, as an apartment dog, Griffs really need to be comfortable around people and other dogs.
I have lived in apartments my entire adult life, one thing I’ve noticed is that many owners of small dogs don’t think they need to socialize their dogs simply because they are small and are not as imposing or “scary” as large dogs. All that does is lead to little “Napoleon” dogs who misbehave and yap a lot. Can’t say it enough, socialize your dog early!
Do Brussels Griffons Bark a Lot?
This brings us to the important question: “Do Brussels Griffons bark a lot?”
Vet Street gives three out of five stars for barking; Dog Time awards four out of five stars. Other research I’ve done indicates that they are prone to yapping. That makes them decent watch dogs, but it could prove annoying to your neighbors.
The first step to controlling a dog’s barking is to socialize it. If they are used to people, other animals, and noises, they will tend to bark less. If nuisance barking persists, then seek out the help of a vet or trainer. (Click here for more on Urban Dog’s take on barking.)
Are Brussels Griffons Easily Trained?
It is important to train your city dog. You don’t want your pooch to misbehave in your building’s common areas. Brussels Griffons have a reputation for being a bit stubborn to train, so be patient.
They are considered “fair” when it comes to understanding new commands. They obey first commands about 30% of the time according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes 40 to 80 repetitions for them to learn new commands.
The American Brussels Griffon Association agrees when it comes to training, saying that “force does not work well with them in training; when forced they will decide they want no part of the training session. They will, however, respond well to guidance given with kindness, consistency and love.”
Vet Street rates Griffs a two out of five stars, and Dog Time has a rating of three out of five stars when it comes to ease of training for these dogs. According to some owners I talked to, their Griffs were good at learning tricks.
Their aptitude for potty training? Like other small dogs, not so great. Just be patient and use a crate. Click here to learn more about crate training.
How are Brussels Griffons with Strangers, Children, and other Animals?
Brussels Griffons are generally pretty good with strangers, kids, and other animals. One way to make sure they behave with others? SOCIALIZE! (Noticing a trend?)
Seriously, socializing your dog is one of the most important things you can do.
Do Brussels Griffons Make Good City Dogs?
EVERY owner I consulted with said they thought Brussels Griffons make great city dogs. (Click here to learn where I met a ton of Griff owners.)
They cited all the obvious reasons: good temperament; great companionship; they don’t take up much room; don’t require a ton of heavy exercise… the list could go on!
The Bottom Line
Don’t think there’s much more I can add. If you’re looking for a good apartment dog, then you might want to consider a Brussels Griffon. Check out the American Brussels Griffon Association for resources and click here to see what the association has to say about finding breeders or rescue operations.