14 Griffon Nivernais Temperament Traits: Challenging but Worth It

If you like dogs who have minds of their own but are also friendly and loyal, get to know the Griffon Nivernais temperament.



This breed is not for the first-time dog owner. But if you’re not daunted by the training challenge, he could be just the breed for your family.

Griffon Nivernais Temperament

1. Intelligent

The Griffon Nivernais is a very smart breed. He is easy to train, quick to learn, but he can be stubborn at times.

2. Independent

The Griffon Nivernais temperament can be willful. This independent streak can make obedience training challenging.

It’s very important that this breed gets early and firm obedience training because of its independent nature.

If they’re trained properly, these dogs make obedient and devoted family pets.

3. Dominant

The Griffon Nivernais temperament tends to be dominant. He needs a strong leader and early socialization.

If he doesn’t get this, he is likely to develop unwanted behaviors. He will always believe that he should be in charge, and he will be hard to manage.

For this reason, he is not a good choice for an inexperienced dog owner.

4. Devoted

The Griffon Nivernais temperament is very loyal to its owner and its family. With the right training, he’s a great family dog.

5. Mischievous

This mischievousness can be playful and charming, or it can be destructive. The key is to see that he gets enough exercise and mental stimulation.

6. Affectionate

The Griffon Nivernais loves to give and receive affection. Most love to cuddle.

7. Adaptable

The Griffon Nivernais temperament is well suited to life as a hunter and a family dog. He is content to go from a day of hunting to relaxing at home.

However, he is not as adaptable when it comes to weather. He doesn’t do well in the heat, so he needs to live in a cooler climate.

8. Lively

The Griffon Nivernais is spirited and energetic but not hyperactive.

9. Friendly

He appears a little reserved, even aloof. However, the Griffon Nivernais temperament is actually very friendly, even to strangers.

10. Noisy

This guy is a barker, especially if left alone and bored for too long. He has a “melodious” bay, but not everyone will appreciate it.

11. Pack Hunter

Because of his pack-hunting history, the Griffon Nivernais temperament is usually friendly toward other dogs. He would be very happy in a home with other dogs, but it’s not necessary.

12. Brave

The Griffon Nivernais is traditionally a wolf and boar hunter and guardian of livestock. He is fearless and confident when facing a threat.

13. High Prey Drive

As a hunting dog, he has a high prey drive. He will generally do okay with cats if he grew up with them. However, he is not trustworthy around other small animals.

14. Hardy

The Griffon Nivernais is a robust breed. He has great endurance and good speed over rough terrain. His rough coat protects him from the dense brush.

Griffon Nivernais History

The Griffon Nivernais is a scenthound from France. His origin can be traced back to the 13th century in central France.

His lineage isn’t well known, though. Theories are that he could have descended from Balkan dogs, from the Bulgarian Barak, or from the Gallic Hound, an ancient dog that the Romans brought to France.

The Griffon Nivernais was a popular breed with both French nobility and farmers. He was once called the Chien Gris de St. Louis (in English, the Grey Dog of St. Louis) because King Louis IX is believed to have owned them.

Originally, farmers and shepherds used the Griffon Nivernais to guard livestock and property against wolves and boars. Later he was also used as a hunting dog for large and small game.

The breed came close to extinction following the French Revolution.

By 1925, there were very few remaining. At that time, selective breeding efforts began to restore the Griffon Nivernais. The few remaining dogs were crossbred with the Griffon Vendéen, the English Foxhound, and the Otterhound.

These crosses created the modern Griffon Nivernais. This newer version was originally called “Griffon Vendéen Nivernais.”

The Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) recognized the Griffon Nivernais in 1959.

The United Kennel Club (UKC) recognized it in 1995. As of this writing, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has not yet done so.

Griffon Nivernais Training

The Griffon Nivernais is an excellent and versatile hunter and a loving and loyal family dog. However, he can be challenging to train. He is easily bored and needs short, fun training sessions.

Positive reinforcement is the best way to train this dog. The trainer needs to be firm and consistent. However, harsh training methods will only make the Griffon Nivernais obstinate.

Helpful Dog Training Resource:

For help with training your Griffon Nivernais dog, you should take a look at The Online Dog Trainer by Doggy Dan. Doggy Dan is an expert Dog Trainer based in New Zealand. His online resource contains Hundreds of Excellent Dog Training Videos that will take you step-by-step through the process of developing a healthy, happy well-behaved dog.

Griffon Nivernais Appearance

General Appearance

The Griffon Nivernais is a medium-sized dog with a rectangular shape (length greater than height). He has a rough, shaggy, long-haired coat. This dog looks unkempt and even dirty because of his coloring.

He has a moderately long head and a fairly flat skull. The ears are pendulous and covered with hair. He has bushy eyebrows and a mustache. His eyes are brown with a somewhat sad expression.

He has a black nose and a small beard and bushy mustache. His muzzle is the same length as his skull.

Griffon Nivernais Colors

His coat is called agouti, which means each hair is dark at the root and lighter on the tips. He is usually grey in color—blue-grey, wolf grey, or boar grey. He will sometimes have light brown on his head or legs.

A Griffon Nivernais could also be fawn with black and white hairs mixed in. From a distance, this color looks darker than it really is.

Griffon Nivernais Size

The average Griffon Nivernais height is 22 to 24 inches for males, 23 to 24 inches for females. Griffon Nivernais weight averages 46 to 52 pounds for both genders.

Griffon Nivernais Must-Knows

Other Names

  • Chien Gris de St. Louis.
  • Griffon Vendéen Nivenais.
  • Chien de Pays.
  • Grey Dogs of St. Louis.

Griffon Nivernais Lifespan

The breed’s life expectancy is 10 to 14 years.

Griffon Nivernais Hunting

The Griffon Nivernais is an excellent scenthound and a most enthusiastic hunter. He has great energy and endurance. For these reasons, he has been a favorite of French noblemen for centuries.

Today, he is again one of the most popular hunting dogs in France.

In France and in Spain, he is still used as a hunter of rabbit and wild boar. He is prized by hunters for his bravery, initiative, and independence on the hunt.

These Griffon Nivernais traits are highly valued by hunters, but they make obedience training a Griffon Nivernais difficult.

Griffon Nivernais Health Issues

The Griffon Nivernais is a very robust and healthy breed. The only major concern is his ears. Like any dog with pendulous ears, they can be prone to ear infections.

Otherwise, this breed is very rarely affected by:

Note: if you agree that your health and your dog's health should be a top priority then get a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Dog Health. Your Griffon Nivernais friend will love you for it. This guide will help save you money, time and most of all help you keep your dog healthy.

Caring for the Griffon Nivernais

Griffon Nivernais Grooming

The Griffon Nivernais will always look shaggy and unkempt. But his rough coat functions to keep him clean when he’s hunting in the brush.

He does need brushing every week, though. His mustache and beard need routine combing.

He should not be bathed any more than absolutely necessary. This is to preserve the natural oils in his coat and to protect his skin.

His coat does need special care, however. A few times a year, it needs to be hand stripped, which is actively removing the dead hair from his coat. He needs this in order for new hair to grow in properly.

Some people prefer to take their dogs to a groomer for this. If you would prefer to do it yourself, it’s not a hard technique to learn. There are videos on YouTube that demonstrate how it’s done.

His ears need to be checked and cleaned every week, as above, more if he is hunting.

Griffon Nivernais Diet

The Griffon Nivernais has no specific dietary needs. He should be fed high-quality food, or an active-breed formula if he is hunting or getting regular vigorous exercise.

Griffon Nivernais Exercise

As a hunting breed, this dog has a lot of energy and needs plenty of exercise. This is critical to having a successful relationship with the Griffon Nivernais.

He is not an apartment dog and needs to live in a rural area with plenty of room to play. He’s also fast and agile and likes to run. With his high prey drive, though, you’ll need to be watchful if you exercise him off leash.

He also loves enjoys jogging, running alongside a bicycle, and chasing balls.

As with all intelligent dogs, the Griffon Nivernais needs mental stimulation as well as physical exercise. He would especially love any kind of nose or scent work.

When he is bored, expect to see some negative Griffon Nivernais behaviors. They are known to bark excessively, to dig, and to chew.

Finding a Griffon Nivernais

Buying a Griffon Nivernais from a Breeder

If you would like to find a Griffon Nivernais for sale, you will probably need to be patient. Some Griffons Nivernais have been exported to Canada and the United States, but at the time of this writing, we were unable to find any North American breeders online.

The breed is becoming more popular in North America, though, so that may change. But in the meantime, you may need to consider importing one.

You could try an online search for Griffon Nivernais breeders in France. The web site Chiens de France would be a good place to start. They maintain a breeder directory for French breeds.

You would need to search with the breed’s French name, Nièvre Griffon. If you don’t speak French, Google Translate does a pretty good job with this site.

Griffon Nivernais price is estimated at $450 to $800, but we are not sure how reliable those figures are. Of course, the total cost if you import one would be considerably higher.

Griffon Nivernais Rescue/Adoption

If you would prefer to adopt a Griffon Nivernais, you may have an easier time finding one. Adopt a Griffon is an organization that specializes in rescuing all Griffons. Their web site is the best place to start your search for a Griffon Nivernais for adoption.

The site has detailed information on how to adopt a Griffon from France or Spain. It also explains the procedures for shipping the dog to its new home.

Another site to try is Griffon Adoption UK. Both organizations also have Facebook groups, though they are in the French language.

Adopting an adult dog can be a great experience. Many of them will already have obedience training and socialization. If you get one through a shelter or rescue, it will already be spayed or neutered.

The cost of shipping one from Europe can be high. But it will likely be less expensive than buying a Griffon Nivernais puppy from a good breeder.

You would also have the joy of giving a loving home to a dog that needs one.

Sadly, many Griffons in Europe end up in shelters, both kill and non-kill. Many Europeans seem to have the misconception that the breed is good only for hunting.

When the dogs get older and less able to hunt, owners often bring them to shelters. They don’t seem to know that these dogs also make loyal and devoted family dogs.

Is the Griffon Nivernais the Right Breed for You?

The Griffon Nivernais is an interesting breed, with its family friendliness but headstrong nature. If you hunt, this dog may be the perfect partner for you. He could be an ideal companion both at home and in the field.

If you don’t intend to hunt with your dog, you’ll want to consider carefully whether he is the right family dog for you. The traits that hunters value so highly make him a bit more challenging at home.

This breed is not a good choice for anyone who can’t commit to firm and consistent leadership. He also needs to live with an active family to ensure his exercise needs are met.

If you feel you can handle the challenges of the Griffon Nivernais temperament, this might well be the perfect breed for you.