When a breeder has puppies to place, the calls from potential buyers are more frequent, and the conversations become more detailed. They are more frequent because your fellow breeders refer callers when they can’t provide the right animal, and more detailed because now you must evaluate the home situation.
The most welcome call is from someone who says, “We lost our beloved pet after 12+ years and are now ready to welcome another puppy into our childless home.” The scariest call is from someone who says, “We have two pit bulls and a two-year-old child. We’d like a Brussels for our 8-year-old son, who thinks he’d like to try Junior Showmanship.”
First of all, callers should never refer to the breed as a “Brussels” if they want to convince the breeder that they’ve done their due diligence. They are Griffons, or Griffs, to us. Second, while pit bulls are notoriously wonderful family pets when raised and trained correctly, the potential that they may harm a smaller dog, whether intentionally or in play, is great.
Many people successfully house Griffons with other, often larger, dogs. There are Griff owners who also have Chow Chows, Miniature Schnauzers, Boston Terriers, Mastiffs, German Shepherd Dogs, Bulldogs, Poodles, Pugs, Australian Shepherds, and to my mind the most unlikely combination, Borzoi and Griffons. All of these owners are breeders or exhibitors, experienced dog people, and all are aware of the potential pitfalls.
Small Dog vs. Big Dog
Griffs are bossy, attempting and often succeeding in being the alpha despite their size. This may work when the other dogs are laid back and submissive, but has the potential for havoc.
We once adopted an older Great Pyrenees from relatives who could no longer keep him. He was so happy to have his Griff flock to guard that he even ignored the occasional attempt by the younger males to assert themselves, but he had an exceptional temperament. Even with that, he and the Griffs were never together unsupervised.
A friend kept a German Shepherd Dog with Griffons – again never unsupervised. It was disconcerting, to say the least, to see the shepherd put her Griff friend’s entire head in her mouth. It was play – but frightening to watch.
Many breeder/owner/handlers of large dogs seek out a smaller breed when they get older, and it becomes more difficult for them to raise and train a large breed dog or run around the ring with them. This is good because they get to stay in the game, and they have years of experience to offer.
Redirect the Caller
But what about the worrisome caller mentioned above? We don’t want to discourage her from dealing with reputable breeders, nor discourage her son from pursuing Junior Handling. The best response is, first of all, to discuss why a Brussels Griffon might not be the dog for this family.
Tell the caller that Griffs are not always comfortable around toddlers; the puppy will want to play with the older dogs who might not take kindly to that; the rough-coated Griffon needs hand-stripping and expert grooming to be presented properly in the Junior ring; and, sad but true, it’s hard to compete in Juniors with a small dog when there are so many flashy big dogs speeding around the ring.
Next, offer some encouragement. Point out some other, more suitable breeds the family might consider. Refer them to handling classes, and urge them to go to upcoming dog shows in their area to watch these breeds and observe their handling and grooming, and to seek out breeders to talk to after they show their dogs.