Griffon Bruxellois


BREED: Griffon Bruxellois (pronounced bruce-ell-waa)
TEMPERAMENT: Friendly & outgoing
LIFESPAN: 13 years
RECOMMENDED FOR: Families, older people

Following this year’s Academy Awards, the US movie industry has swept a relatively unknown dog breed into the spotlight. The success of “As Good As It Gets”, starring Jack Nicholson and a small whiskery dog named Verdell, has ensured a higher profile for the Griffon Bruxellois.


The Griffon is a small, sturdy dog standing 25-30cm (10-12″) tall and weighing 2-5kg (5-11lb). There are two types of Griffon; a smooth and a rough. The smooth has a coat like that of a Boxer, while the rough has a coat like that of an Australian Silky Terrier. They come in red, black, and black and tan. While Europeans judge their Griffons separately, Australia puts them together under the Griffon Bruxellois heading.


Longtime owners say the Griffon is an adaptable dog, willing to play rough and tumble with children or be a couch potato with a less mobile or older person. However, they can be stubborn and may resist lead training, for example. A dog used to a quiet, retired person’s lifestyle may be intimidated by loud children.

Health & lifespan

Health problems and areas to watch include: luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps) which are known but not common; and
narrow jaws which need to be kept strong and exercised by chewing bones.

They can snuffle and snort if excited or agitated. A lifespan of 13-16 years is normal.


Jack Nicholson’s character kept Verdell the Griffon happy by keeping a store of bacon in his pocket, and a breeder we interviewed said Griffons would sell their soul for a piece of bacon! They should not be fussy eaters unless indulged.

Breeding & cost

Breeding Griffons is a challenge as single-pup litters are not uncommon and about 40% of births are by caesarean section. Expect to pay $400 for pets, more for show dogs.

Housepet potential

The Griffon is said to be an ideal house dog and most will happily spend their lives more or less indoors. They will shed their coat twice a year.

They are not an excitable breed such as a Terrier, but individuals can be disturbed by loud children if unused to them. Most are good with other family pets but unfamiliar cats could be teased.


Smooth-coated Griffons need only a rub with a hound glove occasionally but the rough-coated dogs need to be clipped or stripped twice a year. Pet owners can do this themselves but should ask the breeder to demonstrate the correct technique. Rough-coated dogs should be brushed twice weekly at least and facial whiskers need to be kept clean.


Owners say Griffons can resist accepting the leash but persistence and rewards should pay off.


Nowadays Griffons are primarily a companion dog. Griffons can make good watchdogs as they bark and will alert you.


According to breeders, the name Griffon Bruxellois simply means the rough-coated dog from Brussels. It is said to have been developed from the Yorkshire Terrier, King Charles Spaniel, Affenpinscher and Pug.

Last century it was a typical Belgium street dog, proving useful in stables when its rat catching abilities were recognised. They were popular with European royalty and with what passes as American royalty – Jack Nicholson – who also owns a Griffon.

While never a numerous breed in Australia (less than 100 pups are registered annually) breeders say there is always a waiting list of buyers.


National contacts

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)

Dogs NSW
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 – Fax: (02) 6241 1129.

Dogs West
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409
The Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC)