Brian Griffin is an 8-year old talking white Labrador who has lived with the Griffin family since Peter picked him up as a stray. He also possesses various anthropomorphic qualities, such as the ability to speak intelligently, drive a car, and walk bipedally. Earlier in the series, he used the catch phrase "Whose leg do you have to hump to get a dry martini around here?". He also has a particularly sharp wit. Peter is his best friend, despite Brian's vastly superior intelligence - on several occasions, Brian has had to explain Peter's inability to do various things, such as haggling over prices. In "Brian Goes Back to College", it is revealed that Brian went to Brown University in Rhode Island, but did not graduate.
Brian has a cultured background; he loves opera and jazz, and is a fan of John Coltrane. Brian speaks fluent French and Tagalog, and is competent in Spanish. He is also a member of MENSA. He loves to sing and can imitate a barbershop quartet without accompaniment. He is also an avid writer, having once been invited to write for The New Yorker, although he was fired once the magazine learned he did not graduate from college. He has also written a novel, although has made little progress other than the title Faster Than the Speed of Love, and a synopsis similar to the film "Iron Eagle III", for which Stewie and Lois mock him, and this subject has since been brought up several times throughout the series. He is a smoker, an alcoholic and recovered cocaine addict. Brian discovered that his cocaine habit stemmed from his mother abandoning him for which he saw a therapist. He has also made references to either buying, being in possession of, or smoking marijuana in numerous episodes. In "420", he actually does a whole dance to the song A Bag of Weed. In "It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One", it is revealed he has a Ziggy tattoo. It is shown in "Brian & Stewie" that he keeps a gun just in case he wants to commit suicide.
Birthplace and parents
Brian was born on a farm in Austin, Texas, in a litter of five puppies. His mother was named Biscuit, his father was a dog named Coco. He was apparently abandoned by his mother, which lead to most of his personal problems. In "Don't Make Me Over", he is embarrassed for hostility barking at a famous rapper and blamed his upbringing by his father Coco. At the end of the episode he becomes enraged because he is thinks that the camera man is shocked because he turned off a black TV program and explains that he only turns it off because he's tired and not because it's a black show. He is said to be 8 years old in "The Man with Two Brians".
When reunited with his first owner in "Road to Rhode Island".. In the same episode, he discovers that his mother died and was made into a table. Brian and Stewie steal the body and give it a funeral, for which Stewie made a good-intentioned but insensitive requiem of how nice of a table she was.
In "Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story", Stewie traveled to a future where he learned that Brian died. Brian is seen in heaven at a table drinking martinis with Vincent van Gogh, Kurt Cobain, and Ernest Hemingway. They then all say that they killed themselves out of passion for various reasons. He then admits that he ate some chocolate out of the trash can.
One Brian from an alternate future arrived with its throat cut to cross paths with a multitude of other Brian and Stewies in "Back to the Pilot".
An "unlucky" Brian leaped to his death from a balcony at the Vegas Star Hotel as part of a suicide pact with Stewie to avoid an enforcer for a loan shark in "Roads to Vegas". Stewie however, reconsidered and failed to leap as well.
Brian is hit by a car and killed in "Life of Brian". The family decides to move on with their lives and buys a new dog, Vinny. However, Stewie is still depressed and tries to ask the Santa at the Quahog Mall to help bring Brian back without luck in "Christmas Guy". Spotting himself on a trip to the past, present-day Stewie "borrows" the time pad from his former self and warns Brian in time to save him.
Past adult life
In addition to having attended Brown University, Brian had also served in the Peace Corps in "Jungle Love". He has also mentioned that he hung out with Andy Warhol in "A Picture's Worth a Thousand Bucks".
In "Brian in Love", Brian suffers from incontinence due the stress of repressing his romantic feelings toward Lois. He initially tries to hide this condition by blaming it on Stewie, but is discovered when he has a public accident in the grocery store.
Another example of Brian's "humanity" is his attraction to human women; Brian has dated several since the show began, and is deeply in love with Peter's wife.
His age is usually treated differently depending on the joke. In "Brian in Love", he states: "I'm seven years old and if I play my cards right, I got seven more years ahead of me." Brian spent some time as a homeless stray washing car windshields for change before he met Peter, who offered him a home with his family in Quahog, Rhode Island.
Prior to Brian, the Griffins had another talking dog named Todd, who was put down at the age of 15 due to illness.
Despite his anthropomorphic intelligence, Brian shares certain traits and shortcomings with real dogs. For example, he cleans himself with his tongue and scratches at fleas with his hind leg. On the commentary of "Road to Rhode Island" he confirmed that he sees in black and white. He has a fear of the toilet flushing and of the vacuum despite vacuuming in "Fore Father". He also couldn't control his animal urges for the prized Pewterschmidt dog, Seabreeze. Furthermore, although his maturity and broad range of experiences seem to imply that he is as old as a middle aged human, as a dog he is only eight years old. Peter has been known to tease him about his shorter lifespan. In "Brian: Portrait of a Dog", he seems to have a 'midlife crisis'. He is also shown to have a liking for dog food at times. In "Chitty Chitty Death Bang", he chases the chuck wagon from the commercials for Purina Chuck Wagon and in "Barely Legal", he comes running with joy when Peter's daughter Meg shakes a bag of Dog Chow. In "The Thin White Line", Peter points out that Brian will die some 50 years before him. In "Blue Harvest", Brian, in character as Chewbacca, uncontrollably chases a pig's ear in a fit of barking. In "Breaking Out is Hard to Do", Brian is shown to have difficulty keeping his balance while riding in the back of a van; when questioned by Peter, Brian responds by pointing out he can't stand up straight due to his nature.
In "Bill and Peter's Bogus Journey", it is revealed that Brian is not potty trained but rather defecates outside like other dogs. Tired of stepping in his feces, Lois forces him to wear diapers, which he finds extremely humiliating. Amused, Stewie says that he looks "silly" in his diapers but tells him that it won't be so bad once he gets used to them. Brian eventually gets out of diapers by simply defecating in Mayor West's garden instead, leading Lois to think he is potty-trained.
Brian seems somewhat ashamed of his dog instincts and insecure about his canine status in general. In "Brian: Portrait of a Dog", he refused to perform degrading pet tricks for Peter during a dog show, despite it being necessary to win the money needed to buy the family a new air conditioner. He also chastised Lady and the Tramp for acting in typical dog-like behavior, saying that "that's just what they want you to do." He suffers mistreatment as a dog, and is humiliated when the Griffins catch him with canine pornography.
In "Brian & Stewie", he admits to Stewie that he can't find a purpose in his life, and keeps a gun in his safety deposit box in case he ever decides to commit suicide. "Dog Gone" however, cements how important Brian is to the Griffin family, and makes him realize that his existence has meaning to them.
Brian occasionally displays racist tendencies, which he claims he gets from his father. In "Chick Cancer", Stewie asks Brian a rhetorical question along the lines of "What kind of man would I be if I ran off now?" to which Brian replies "You'd be a black man," which shocked Stewie. However, in "Peter's Two Dads", Brian is taken aback after Peter says that he acquired crack cocaine "from Black's," referring to a "white guy selling crack behind Black's Hardware Store." Brian seems normally comfortable around Cleveland and the Brown family. However, when working as a cab driver in "Deep Throats", Brian gets in trouble anyway for not picking up Cleveland, stating his hurry to run an errand for Lois as an obvious excuse. In "Peter's Got Woods", Brian dates a black woman named Shauna Parks, to whom he often nervously rambles about how much he likes African-Americans. He even requests to change "James Woods High School" to "Martin Luther King High School" in order to impress her. Also, in Something, Something, Something, Dark Side, when it was noted that Lando Calrissian, portrayed by Mort Goldman was a black person, Brian, portraying Chewbacca said, "Let's hope the only one, right?"
Brian is notably intelligent, enjoying renowned works of art such as the opera Carmen and the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky. He has also heavily invested in the stock market, and collects first editions of literary classics. In "Meet the Quagmires" he is shown to be able to play the guitar and keytar. Also, he is shown playing drums in "McStroke". His intellectual bent makes it very difficult for him to form romantic relationships with people, leading to his constant failures with women, highlighted in "Valentine's Day in Quahog".
Brian held several jobs while living in Los Angeles including being a waiter, car wash attendant, screenwriter and pornographic film director. He does not hold steady employment in Quahog, although did once become a substitute teacher at Buddy Cianci Junior High School as well as short stints as a taxi driver in "Deep Throats" and police officer for the Quahog Police Department as a drug sniffing dog in "The Thin White Line". He left the police force after becoming addicted to cocaine. Nevertheless, he is able to afford a car, pay bills to which some are payed to supposedly another family, and maintain a credit card.
Brian is one of the few characters on the show who can remember events that transpired in previous episodes. In "The Fat Guy Strangler", Brian remembers Peter encouraging him to jump into the closed window of the General Lee in "To Love and Die in Dixie" and throws a rock at him. In "Airport '07", Brian recalls Stewie beating him up mercilessly in "Patriot Games" and lets him swallow Peter's tobacco spittle in retaliation.
Brian is a rationalist and is often critical of organized religion; when Francis Griffin physically threatens him in "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Fonz", Brian sarcastically replies, "That's very Christian; believe what I say or I'll hurt you." It is revealed in "Love, Blactually" that he is an atheist like one Seth MacFarlane himself, who claims that this character represents him most.
This was revealed where he is seen at the library and he is looking for The God Delusion by avowed humanist Richard Dawkins. His atheism comes under attack in "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven" when he comes out to the Griffins about his belief or lack of, and Meg, in a drastic effort to convert Brian to Christianity, makes his atheism public knowledge, making him a social outcast until near the end of the episode.
In earlier episodes, Brian showed some belief in God: In "If I'm Dyin', I'm Lyin'", when Peter was in denial about God's plagues and insisted that there was a logical explanation for them, Brian slapped him repeatedly and stated, "You want an explanation? God is pissed!"; in "Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington", he is shown reading a Bible; in "The Thin White Line", he thanks God for giving him his sense of smell; in "Boys Do Cry," he attends church with the other Griffins; in "Lethal Weapons", he calls Stewie an antichrist. Additionally, in "April in Quahog", he is seen praying, but is quick to deny it when questioned by Stewie. After the doomsday threat is revealed to be an April Fools joke, he leaves to go to perform charity at a local soup kitchen as he had apparently promised God.
A running joke on the show is Brian's inability to maintain a human girlfriend. Most of time this is usually due to bad advice given to him from Stewie, who constantly insists on nosing around in his relationships, though other times it is due to his own insecurity. The longest girlfriend he has had so far was Jillian, but the relationship ended after an attempt to move in together ended badly partially due to Stewie. When Jillian was announced to be married, Brian took one last shot to try and get her back but in the end she let him down gently and the marriage goes on as planned much to Brian's dismay.
Brian, for the most part, is very well liked by a majority of the characters. It appears the only exception is Quagmire who, it is revealed in "Jerome Is the New Black", dislikes him completely. When Brian asks why, Glenn proceeds to points out every single mistake, hypocritical and selfish action Brian has ever committed, from being a hypocritical hyper-liberal to mocking anyone for believing in religion and neglecting his teenaged son Dylan. When Brian decides to take Quagmire as a sucker to buy a dump of a condo in "Brian the Closer", Quagmire points out that even though he was a douche when he was poor, he was at least honest about it instead of resulting to tricks such as hiding out for length of the escape clause in the contract. Brian expresses that Quagmire being the only one to point out his faults may make him his only true friend, but it turns out to be only a ruse to wait out the last few moments of the clause.
- This is the only character for which Seth MacFarlane uses his natural speaking voice, as opposed to the voice changes for other characters such as Peter Griffin, Glenn Quagmire, and Stewie Griffin.
- In "Brian: Portrait of a Dog", it's revealed that Brian became a Griffin during his adulthood, when Peter offered him a home with his family in Quahog, but in "The Man with Two Brians", Brian shows the family videos of him as a puppy, already living in the Griffin's house.
- He drives a silver 2004 Toyota Prius. The license plate reads "BRI-D0G" and it has a 'Kucinich 04' bumper sticker.
- Brian was the first Family Guy character to appear in an episode American Dad!. He appears in "The People vs. Martin Sugar", where Stan names his top ten fictional dogs, and Brian is named number one. He is seen drinking a martini on the courthouse steps, and claims Stan does not exist. Stan berates him for the claim.
- The DVD commentary for "Brian Griffin's House of Payne" explains that the "H" in "H. Brian Griffin" does not stand for anything and was a way to express Brian as a pretentious douche.
- Brian reveals in "Brian & Stewie" that he voted for John McCain.
- Brian's catchphrase is "Whose leg do I have to hump to get a martini around here?" which originated in "I Never Met the Dead Man". This was varied three times later in the series in regards to different things.
- Following his death in "Life of Brian", Brian is not even mentioned in "In Harmony's Way". He also does not appear in "Candy Quahog Marshmallow!".