Bichon Frise vs. Brussels Griffon: Which Breed to Get?

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Bichon Frise vs. Brussels GriffonThe Brussels griffon and the bichon frise are both fairly exotic and unusual companion breeds. One is famous for its signature powder puff appearance and outgoing nature. At the same time, the other is known for its human-like expressions and its air of self-importance.

But when it comes to the two breeds, which one is the better dog for you and your home?

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Bichon Frise vs. Brussels Griffon: A Detailed Comparison

Let’s start by comparing the two breeds based on a number of different criteria.


The bichon frise is one of several bichon-type breeds. Descended from an ancient water dog, the Barbet, the bichon frise developed in Tenerife in the Canary Islands. It became a favorite on ships as a sailing dog. Eventually, it made its way back to France, where it became the perfect companion for royalty.

Almost lost after World War II, bichon frise loyalists managed to save the breed and establish it as the elite companion breed that we know and love today.

By comparison, the Brussels griffon traces back to a wiry-coated terrier used to hunt vermin in horse stables, called the Smousje. These terriers were crossed with toy breeds like the pug and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, giving them short noses and new colors such as red as well as black and tan.

Eventually, the Brussels griffon split into three distinct types: Brussels griffon (Griffon Bruxellois), the petit brabançon, and the Belgian griffon (Griffon Belge). They became popular among all dog enthusiasts, but like the bichon frise, it took an effort to salvage the breed after the world wars.


The bichon frise comes in white, cream, buff, or apricot and has a thick double coat. Properly groomed, the coat puffs out like a cloud. They have round dark eyes and small dark button noses. A bichon frise should stand between 9 ½ inches tall and 11 ½ at the shoulder. The breed standard does not specify weight, but a healthy dog usually weighs between 10 and 15 pounds.

The Brussels griffon is slightly smaller than the bichon frise. They should weigh 8 to 10 pounds, but never more than 12, and they stand about 10 inches tall. Their face is their most defining feature, with prominent eyes and almost human expression. They have a short (brachycephalic) black nose and a noticeable underbite.

If their ears are not cropped, they are high-set and semi-erect. Many breeders in the US still crop ears and dock the tails for Griffon puppies.

Wire-haired Brussels Griffons should have as dense and rough coats as possible, with their signature beard. But there is also a smooth-coated variety that should be short and glossy. They come in three colors: black and tan, red, and Belge (a mix of reddish and black coloring, usually with a black mask).

Aging Profile

The Brussels griffon typically lives between 10 and 15 years. The bichon frise has more longevity, living between 12 and 16 years. As small breeds, they reach physical maturity around 10 to 12 months and become seniors around 10 years.

Both breeds are generally healthy but can suffer from issues such as:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Obesity
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Cataracts
  • Dental issues
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)

The griffon can have additional problems like a cleft palate, syringomyelia (fluid-filled cavities in the spinal cord), or breathing problems making them prone to heatstroke. If you are buying a puppy, be sure to seek a reputable breeder who health screens their parent dogs before breeding.


The bichon frise is confident and merry. They are deeply bound to their families and are sometimes a little territorial. This companion breed is prone to separation anxiety. It does better in homes where somebody is usually around, taking them on outings.

Bichons frises are also gentle and sensitive. They do not do well with harsh treatment. They can get on well with other animals when raised with them and properly socialized. However, they are not the best choice for a household with larger, more boisterous dogs or small children because of their size.

By contrast, the Brussels griffon is a very self-important little fellow. They tend to have a favorite person in the home and can become territorial and even snappy over “their human.” Careful socialization and training from a young age are necessary to curb this behavior and channel their independent streak.

Like the bichon, these are extremely sensitive and emotional dogs that love to cuddle. When socialized, they get along well with other animals, but they have a feisty and domineering aspect to their personality. This can lead them to challenge much bigger dogs and potentially get into trouble.

They love to play with children, but they are not patient dogs and can get snappy if the play gets rough.


Both the bichon frise and the Brussels griffon are sensitive and fairly intelligent, especially emotionally and when it comes to an understanding of their humans. However, they can be difficult to potty train, as they have small bladders and need much patience and persistence.

The Brussels griffon can be a particular challenge when it comes to house training, as they are prone to weak bladders. They are also a more stubborn breed, given to throwing tantrums if they don’t want to do something, like walking on the leash. This means the griffon needs a ton of patience and quiet positive reinforcement to persuade them to be cooperative.

The bichon frise also has an independent streak but is generally more eager to please. This makes them easier to train, provided sessions are short and positive. Never set your dog up to fail by asking for too much at once.

Neither breed does well with punishments or harsh treatment. Instead, the owner should reinforce good behavior with plenty of praise and treats and gently but firmly redirect them from unwanted behavior.

Other Factors

Some other things to consider when choosing between these two breeds include:

  • The smooth-coated Brussels Griffon has minimal grooming requirements. The wiry coat needs extra care on their beard and regular combing. In contrast, the bichon frise requires plenty of daily grooming.
  • Both breeds are hypoallergenic and low shedders.
  • Both breeds can adapt well to apartments and small spaces.
  • The Brussels griffon can have less patience with children and be more suspicious of strangers.
  • The bichon frise is usually a quieter dog.
  • Both breeds are prone to separation anxiety and should not be left alone for long periods.
  • Neither dog has excessive exercise requirements and can do well with a 30 min daily walk. However, they will benefit from plenty of playtime and other activities.

Bichon Frise vs. Brussels Griffon: Which Should You Get as a Pet?

So, now that you know all there is to know about the two breeds, which one should you get?

Get a Bichon Frise If:

  • You want an easier to manage temperament.
  • You want a dog that is easier to potty train.
  • You don’t have small children or much larger dogs that can injure it.
  • You need a hypoallergenic dog.
  • You are prepared for plenty of grooming and maintenance.
  • You live in a smaller space and can’t spend time on excessive exercise.
  • You love the iconic powder puff coat.

Get a Brussels Griffon If:

  • You want a much easier dog to groom but that is also hypoallergenic.
  • You are prepared for a stronger nature that can be more challenging.
  • You don’t have small children, large dogs, or kids who might tease your dog.
  • You want a dog with more personality than trainability.
  • You adore their signature little monkey faces.
  • You want a more alert little watchdog.

Still can’t decide? Maybe take a look at the Griffichon too – after all, its a hybrid that combines the best of both worlds.


The Brussels griffon and the bichon frise are both exotic companion breeds with unique looks. While one has an esteemed royal heritage, the other comes from more humble beginnings. Both dogs are exceptionally sensitive and devoted to their owners, making them a good choice for adults who work from home or are retired.

However, the Brussels griffon is a grandiose little fellow with a feisty and willful streak that can land them in trouble. Although their giant human-like eyes make up for any unwanted behavior. On the other hand, the bichon frise is more laid back and cheerful, although they require much more maintenance on their coats.

Considering Other Breeds Too?

See how bichon frise compares with: Beagle | Bolognese | Boston Terrier | Cavachon | Cavalier King Charles Spaniel | Cavapoo | Chihuahua | Cockapoo | Coton de Tulear | French Bulldog | German Shepherd | Golden Retriever | Goldendoodle | Havanese | Labrador Retriever | Lhasa Apso | Maltese | Maltipoo | Papillon | Pomeranian | Poochon | Poodle | Pug | Samoyed | Schnauzer | Scottish Terrier | Shetland Sheepdog | Shichon | Shih Tzu | West Highland Terrier | Yorkshire Terrier

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