Grand Griffon Vendéen

Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Grand Griffon Vendéen
Canarian /

The Grand Griffon Vendéen is a venerable old breed originating from France. However, the ‘Grand’ part of the moniker refers to the dog’s size…. as in ‘large’… rather than anything more august. Indeed, there are several Vendéen breeds, of which the Grand Griffon is the largest.

A scent hound by nature, the Grand Griffon Vendéen is a friendly, outgoing character with a penchant for following smells. He’s a sociable chap but this doesn’t disguise the fact that he’s also quite energetic (not necessarily a bad thing) and with an independent nature.

Add this together and you have the potential for disobedience. For example, you have a dog that is easily distracted by his nose, who decides following the scent is his priority, and can keep on that trail for hours if necessary. With this in mind, the ideal owner is experienced with dogs and prepared to put the necessary commitment into training their dog to recall.

About & History

The English have their collie breeds, whilst the French have their griffons. Think of how there are Border Collies, rough Collies, bearded Collies, and Shetland Sheepdogs, and there is a similar diversity on a theme within the French griffon breeds.

The most noticeable characteristics of the griffon breeds are their long shaggy coats and an awesome sense of smell. Indeed, the Grand Griffon came into existence as a working dog to track and hunt game. But their quarry was not rabbits, hares, and squirrels, but altogether larger and more fearsome in the likes of wild boar, deer, and foxes.

The breed’s origins go back to 16th century France. Their earlies ancestors were a griffon-type dog used by the Gauls, calls the Canis Segusius. These were cross-bred with a whole hotchpotch of other French canids including the Griffon Nivernais, Petite Basset Griffon Vendéen, Griffon Bleu de Gascogne, and Griffon Fauve de Bretagne.

An interesting quirk in the development of the Grand Griffon Vendéen is that in the centuries were they were developed, their owners were from the lower classes. This meant they were unlikely to be mounted on horses, and would follow dogs on foot. A long-legged hound would be too quick for the hunter to keep up with, so they selectively bred for shorter legs, to allow the human hunter could keep pace with them. Hence the Grand Griffon Vendéen is longer than he is tall.

The wide variety of griffon type dogs in part reflected the different prey and needs of the hunter. It wasn’t until 1907 that a technical distinction was made between the Grand ‘large’ Griffon Vendéen and the Petite 'small' Basset Griffon Vendéen. Then, in the 1950s, the two breeds were each recognised as separate and given their own breed standards. This was to discourage inter-breeding between the Grand and Petite, and so that both breeds retained their distinctiveness.


Grand Griffon Vendéen Large Photo
Canarian /

The Grand Griffon Vendéen is a medium-sized dog that is longer than he is tall. He is a sturdy fellow; some might even describe him as being a bit of a bruiser. The breed is sensibly made with a deep-chest (lots of room for those all-important lungs) and short but straight legs. His tail is long and straight, in part to allow the hunter to spot his dog as they track through long grass.

This breed has a hound-like longish muzzle, for optimal sniffing and scent detection. And, that face has a certain charm, almost sweetness to it, with honest eyes that reflect his noble character. One of the distinctive things about the Grand Griffon Vendéen is their coat. This is long and wiry, with characterful touches, such as long eyebrows, a moustache, and beard. In truth, this long coarse coat is all about providing protection from the thorns and brambles through with the dog forges when following a scent.

That long wiry coat comes in a variety of colours, and may be one solid colour or a combination of two or even three. These widely accepted colours are black, fawn, tan, or white or a combination thereof.

Character & Temperament

The character of the Grand Griffon Vendéen has so many positives to it, but even so, he isn’t an ideal dog for a first time owner. This is because of two things: his need for lots of exercise and an independent streak the size of France.

In common with many dogs that were bred to work, the Grand Griffon Vendéen has a mind of his own and isn’t afraid to use it. In the working environment, this is of great benefit, as it allows the dog to make decisions on the go, without constantly having to refer back to the handler. However, for a pet, this isn’t such a great quality. A common scenario would be the dog that catches a scent he feels worthy of following up and turns a deaf ear to the owner telling him to desist. Long story short, the dog runs off leaving the owner frustrated and anxious.

The huge plusses in favour of the Grand Griffon Vendéen include his willingness to make friends and his good nature. This means they are considered reliable around children (although dogs should always be supervised around kids, for the former’s protection) and, in theory, should make for a good family dog.


As mentioned above, the Grand Griffon Vendéen was bred to be an independent thinker. With regards to training the implication is that the dog may decide to do his own thing rather than follow the owner’s direction. In part, this can be ameliorated by early socialisation and reward-based training. By introducing the young pup to a wide variety of people, places, and animals, this builds the dog’s self-confidence.

Reward-based training methods help to bond owner and dog. The beauty of this training method is that it uses positive motivation, so the dog learns to co-operate in a relationship built on trust. In contrast, old-fashioned training methods based on dominating the dog will break the dog’s spirit and not necessarily improve obedience. If the dog runs off and refuses to come back, punishing the dog, once he does put in an appearance, is only serves to make him think twice about recall the next time he picks up an interesting scent trail.

Another top tip for having a happy relationship with a Grand Griffon Vendéen is to provide plenty of mental stimulation. This is because a bored Grand Griffon is going to make his own entertainment, and the odds are it won’t be something of which you will approve. Typically, an under-stimulated Grand Griffon may become destructive; chewing and digging being two of the activities he’ll use to fill the void.


The Grand Griffon Vendéen’s heritage means he is mainly a hardy character. However, like any breed, there can certain health problems known within the breed. Responsible breeders are aware of these traits and pre-screen their breeding stock.

As a prospective owner of a Grand Griffon Vendéen, discuss with the breeder which conditions the parent dogs are screened for and what their scores where. Only move forward with the purchase if the parents have low scores or indeed tested negative.

Hip & Elbow Dysplasia

This condition is the result of poorly fitting hip and / or elbow joints. Instead of moving smoothly, the malformed joints can subluxate (partially dislocate) or knock against the sockets setting up inflammation.

One sign of hip or elbow dysplasia is lameness. In the short term, this can be managed with pain relief. However, in the long term that chronic inflammation leads to early onset arthritis, which can be extremely disabling.

Luxating Patellas

This condition is most often associated with small dog breeds, but unfortunately, it is also a trait shown by the Grand Griffon Vendéen.

Luxating patellas (also known as ‘wobbly kneecaps’) cause the dog to move with a skipping gait, where they hop on the affected backleg. This is down to the kneecap sliding out of place and causing the leg to lock in the wrong position.

Mild cases may need nothing more than occasional pain relief. However, severe cases require reconstructive surgery to change the alignment of the bones so the kneecap sits in the right place.


Epilepsy is a condition where the dog has fits or seizures, for which there is no identifiable medical or physical cause. Dogs may be affected from a young age and medication is often needed to control the seizures.

Underactive Thyroid Glands

Hypothyroidism refers to when the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone. This leads to signs, such as lack of energy, weight gain, and a poor coat.

There is an effective treatment, which involves taking a daily pill. However, the cost of monitoring the levels of thyroid hormone, in addition to the medication itself, mean that costs can quickly add up.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Grand Griffon Vendéen requires a whole heap of exercise in order to stay happy and healthy. Prepare to devote at least one hour of vigorous exercise per day, to meeting his basic need for activity. A wise owner considers combining activity with mental stimulation by engaging in activities, such as Canicross or agility, which play to all of the dog’s strengths.


The Grand Griffon Vendéen has a long, coarse coat. Trimming isn’t required; however, the amount of fur between the toes can sometimes become a hindrance – in which case a quick clip is a good idea.

This breed doesn’t shed heavily. As with any dog, even those that don’t require parlour visits, a modicum of coat maintenance is still advisable. For the Grand Griffon Vendéen, this includes brushing and combing to keep knots and tangles in check. These are likely in view of the dog’s propensity for running in woodland and picking up burrs.

Famous Grand Griffons Vendéen

For a healthy dose of Grand (and Petite) Griffon Vendéen, this Croatian breeder has captured that perfect cuteness.


Up until the second half of the 20th century, there was mixed breeding between the Grand and Petit Griffon Vendéen. However, this blurred the distinctive nature of each dog and is now discouraged. In the modern day, there is little deliberate cross-breeding of the Grand Griffon Vendéen with other breeds, with all efforts focused on keeping the breed pure.

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