The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen is the smallest member of the Vendéen family. Of all the griffons, the PBGV is also the most popular breed to keep as a family pet, because of its smaller size and great character. Standing 34–38 cm tall but with a long trunk, the ‘petite’ is a small, yet a great hound. They are lively, love to cuddle and adapt easily to living in a house with children and other animals.
Once upon a time, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen and the Grand Basset Griffon Vendéen were the same breed. There were taller and shorter bassets, often born in the same litter. Only in 1947, Mr. Abel Desamy started to select the smaller, ‘petit bassets’ and started breeding them to achieve a dog with more harmonious measurements. Up till then, the two types only differed in leg length. He also created the first breed standard.
Now, some 70 years later, the ‘Petit’ is the most popular breed from the Vendée griffon family. They do amazingly well as family pets. They are very well adapted to living inside a house, and even when adopted after a life spend in kennels, they will nearly always behave like they have never known other different than a warm home. Their fun-loving and affectionate character makes them a great addition to the family. They are people pleasers and often will seem to read your mind. They do great with children, love to play games like fetch and searching things, and of course, they like to snuggle.
Petit Basset Griffon Vendéens love company and they love to be with people. Generally they do not like to be alone for too much time. A few hours they can handle every once in a while, but this breed does not take it well if it needs to spend the days alone because his people go to work every day. If a ‘Peeb’ barks while home alone, this can be a real nuisance for the neigbours, because they have quite a strong voice for a small dog. Best is to have someone ready who can petsit your PBGV when you need to go out for longer hours. A doggie friend, or sometimes even a cat will give them comfort if they have to spend time alone. Yes, they want to be included in your family as an equal member. They like to share your bed and sofa, they like to share everything with you! Oh, and they love food, they love any food, and especially the food you have on your plate and they really think they should have the same as you!
The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen is smart and independent and loves to explore new things on his own. They are good in solving puzzles and are generally calm and docile. Sometimes they are talkative barkers and they can be quite stubborn too. This makes it a bit more difficult to train them, which often takes longer than with other breeds. Yet there are Petits that won prizes in agility and obedience trials. They needs long walks, preferably of some 2 hours per day (apart from shorter walks to relieve themselves). They need to be able to sniff out their surroundings, so a long leash works best for them. They love to dig out rabbit holes and dig up mice, explore their environment and they climb amazingly well in spite of their short legs. If you have a garden your Peeb will love to run around in it, but make sure it is fenced well, with no possibility to dig an escape route from underneath.
Because they were originally bred for hunting, and still are used for that, they have quite strong hunting instincts. Once they smell the trail of a rabbit, or remember where they smelled one on a walk many months ago, they go off and you will only see them back once they have had enough. That may take hours, even days before they come back. Although they are trainable, even on recall, they usually forget all about that once they smell a rabbit. So it is best to never let them off leash in the open field, moorland, dunes and forest!
In hunting, the PBGV is used to hunt hares and rabbits, mainly. Their short legs and shaggy strip-coats are perfect for chasing rabbits in thick bramble bushes. They don’t hunt rabbits to actually kill them, but they flush them out into the open field so their hunter can see them. Because of their size and build, they easily slip through under bushes and shrubbery, yet they are agile enough to do a ‘parcours’ over rocks, branches or difficult terrain or run through an open field. Because of their strip coat, they are protected from bramble thorns and hairs that get stuck, are easily pulled out.
According to the breed standard, the coat can be black with white spotting; black and tan; black with light tan markings; fawn (orange) and white; tricolour; fawn with black overlay; pale fawn with black overlay and white spotting; pale fawn with black overlay. Hunters, however, don’t really care about breed standards: they need a dog that hunts well, and good looks are only of secondary importance. So, in Spain, but also in France, you will find many ‘Petits’ in shelters that have different color markings or with less long ears – and off course you will find many Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen Crossbreeds.
The coat of a Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen needs a good brushing once or twice a week. Special need should be given to armpits and the hairs behind the ears, because these easily mat. Their coats must be stripped twice a year. This can be done at a knowledgeable groomer, but with the right tools, you can do it yourself too, even by just using your thumb and fingers to pull out dead hair. Be careful with strip knives and furminators, because these tools may actually cut the hairs instead of pulling them out.
Because the PBGV’s coat is a strip coat, cutting or shaving the
coat should not be done. It will damage the stiffer hairs from the outer coat, and the hair will become softer or even curly and will mat more easily. Your PBGV may also lose its natural protection to the weather and the elements if you do: they will get wetter and longer stay wet from rain; Because their natural coat works as a natural insulation against heat and cold, shaving them will let them suffer from the heat in summer and from cold in winter.
If you adopt a PBGV (or any other griffon type) they may have been shaven because their coats were fully matted when they arrived. Take your pooch to a groomer that is familiar with griffon coats and set up a plan to restore their coat. It will take around two years and some money to get a damaged coat back into its natural condition, but your petit will be grateful to you for feeling much better in any weather.
They love getting dirty, though… When your Petit could not resist that muddy puddle, just washing it off with cold or luke warm water should be enough. They also love digging in the dirt and rolling in it. As they will often come home dirty, be careful not to use shampoo too often, because they may develop an irritated skin. Skin problems and skin allergies are among the few weaknesses of the PBGV (which is otherwise considered a generally healthy breed). Dust, pollen, mites, environmental irritants like cleaning agents, perfumes and low quality food are among the main causes of skin rashes. A balanced diet and to let the skin take care of itself as much as possible are the best strategies to avoid problems and itching. So use shampoo only when really needed.
For training your Peeb, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen Club of America has a great page with a series of articles you can download for tips and inspiration.