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Brussels Griffon | The ‘Almost Human Expression’

Brussels Griffon head photo showcasing the dog's ‘Almost Human Expression’


I will endeavor to write about the Brussels Griffon’s “almost human expression.” I have searched out mention of this in our American Brussels Griffon Association’s AKC STANDARD and our ABGA ILLUSTRATED STANDARD. As I look over photos for this article, I must admit I am having trouble finding any that physically LOOK like a human person. Yet, I completely understand what the writers of our STANDARD meant. Our Griffons DO look like little people. Don’t they??

Brussels Griffon Human Expression
Brussels Griffon’s “almost human expression.”


ABGA ILLUSTRATED STANDARD: The proper placement of eyes, nose, and upswept jaw characterizes what some call the Griffon ‘pout.’ When you look deep into the large soft eyes, you will see looking back an enchanted little being with startling intelligence. All of these features give him that ‘almost human’ expression. This is a little dog with a lot of personality.”

Brussels Griffon Human Expression

Also, from our ILLUSTRATED STANDARD: “The very essence of breed type is found in the unique head of the Brussels Griffon. The almost human expression evolves from the proper placement and relationship of eyes, skull, nose, lips and jaw. Our standard is very clear in the paragraphs on the Griffon head and leaves no room for the exercise of personal preference by breeders or judges. The head is to be evaluated as a whole. It is the responsibility of all who breed and judge to see that theBrussels Griffon does not lose that which makes him unique.”

The eyes must be set well apart to allow room for the extremely short, well-laid-back nose to fit deep in line between them. The very large prominent eyes are a part of what gives the Griffon that “almost human” expression, so important to breed type. The eyes are not really black but very dark brown, appearing almost black. Eye rims should be edged with black, adding to the intensity of the dark eye. Well opened eyes are essential for correct expression.

Brussels Griffon Human Expression

From studying other breed standards, I know that some also mention the resemblance to humans. Most always these are brachycephalic breed standards. I think, for starters, that the lack of foreface sticking out puts them in more of a human category. It probably would be more difficult to see the “human expression” in a dolichocephalic or mesaticephalic canine. The level of intelligence of some of the breeds with “noses” may arguably be higher, but Griffons are EXTREMELY intelligent in their own right. While looking into a brachycephalic face, it is probably easier to see a little person looking back at you.

Brussels Griffon Human Expression

When judging our breed, it is important to recognize that because of this high intelligence and ability to show their feelings, you must approach and handle table exams carefully. Any wrong move that you make that could be interpreted by the Griff as threatening, could forever ruin a future show dog.

I’ll conclude by leaving the conformation ring and talk about living with our breed. I believe that every canine, whether used for breeding, performance, conformation, field or whatever, deserves to be a family member under their human’s care. This unique bond with humans is what sets domesticated dogs apart from their wild ancestors. When people form an intimate connection with their pets, they are more closely “in tune” with their pet’s feelings and desires. It has been written about for ages that many domesticated dogs have become pseudo children for their humans; fur kids, fur babies, etc. Many people easily transfer their own feelings and needs to their dogs. Perhaps this is the case with our breed in particular because of its large, expressive eyes. The Griffon’s eyes definitely are the “windows” to their soul! The Brussels Griffon’s eyes can convey hurt, loss, anger, disgust, need, comfort, and practically the whole spectrum of human emotion.Brussels Griffon Human Expression

I think that because of the Brussels Griffon’s extreme intelligence, it is possible that this “human likeness” is in the owner’s mind more than in the actual physical features of the dog.

The Brussels Griffon’s eyes can convey hurt, loss, anger, disgust, need, comfort, and practically the whole spectrum of human emotion.

Brussels Griffon The ‘Almost Human Expression’
By Lorene Vickers-Smith