Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

The diminutive Bichon Frise gets its name from the French phrase for 'curly lap dog.' They're playful, intelligent, and love to show off. Bichons will take any opportunity to perform for those who will watch. Through history they have entertained royalty, accompanied sailors at sea, posed for paintings, and delighted crowds at the circus. While the name is French, they were originally a Spanish breed. The compact, yet sturdy Bichon is cheerful and friendly, and often does well with children.


Other Names

The Bichon Frise (BEE-shon free-ZAY) is also known as Bichon. The plural is Bichons Frises.

Physical Description

Coat

The Bichon Frise's white double coat is coarse, curly, and non-shedding. Frequent grooming is necessary to remove buildup of fur and dander.


Height

Average Height: 9.5-11.5 inches


Weight

Average Weight: 12-18 pounds

Breed Standard & History

The Bichon Frise is a 'white powder puff of a dog.' Its slightly rounded head holds dark, alert eyes. Its ears frame the face and are covered with long hair. A plumed tail curls over the back. The soft, dense undercoat is covered with a curly, coarse overcoat that should be trimmed to appear rounded with hair left longer upon the head, beard, mustache, ears, and tail. Coloring should be white with 10 percent or less buff, cream, or apricot shading. Bichons possess a cheerful, playful, and affectionate temperament. – AKC Breed Standards


The Bichon Frise descends from a type of water spaniel from the Mediterranean area. In the 14th century, the small dog accompanied sailors and the breed was often used in barter, as their friendly nature made them desirable. They were referred to as both "Tenerife" and "Bichon." They became popular with nobility and were included in many works of art throughout centuries.


The Bichon Frise was the favorite breed of Henry III of England, who carried his own dogs in a basket hung around his neck. The breed was also a favorite of French royalty including Francis I and Napoleon III. These small dogs were often decorated with ribbons and bows, and were treated with the greatest of care. When the whim of the court turned toward other small companion breeds, the Bichon found a place for itself entertaining on the street and as a circus dog. Later, the amiable Bichon became popular in dog shows and as a pet.


Breeders in France wrote the original breed standard in 1933, and also appointed the name 'Bichon Frise' at the same time. Bichons accompanied a family who moved from France to America in 1956 and the Bichon Frise Club of America was formed in 1964. The AKC recognized the Bichon Frise in 1973.


AKC Breed Category

Non-Sporting Group

Personality

General Temperament

Bichon Frise have been well-loved for centuries for their playful, friendly nature. The jaunty breed is well-mannered and often loves to show off to anyone who will watch. The curious, cheerful Bichon is easily won over with treats and praise. While uncommon, some Bichon bloodlines exhibit shyness. Early socialization will help raise an outgoing Bichon Frise.


Family Life

Are Bichons Frises Good with Kids? The Bichon Frise often does well with children—as long as the children treat the dog with care and the dog is properly socialized. The breed is sturdier than many small breed dogs and their personality makes them a good choice for families, but rough play should not be allowed to prevent injury to both the dog and child.


Are Bichons Frises Good with Other Pets? Bichons Frises are often a good match for households with dogs, cats, and other pets.


Protective

While the Bichon Frise isn't a guard dog, they will offer an alert bark if someone approaches the home.


Energy Levels

Bichons Frises have a moderate energy level, but because they are small they tire easily. The 'Bichon Blitz' is a burst of high-energy antics that many Bichons Frises display, sometimes more than once per day—often running around rooms and leaping over furniture with impressive speed and agility.


Specific Concerns:

  • Can suffer from separation anxiety
  • Difficult to housebreak
  • Excessive grooming needs
  • Can become territorial

Requirements

Indoor 

The merry little Bichon Frise is a wonderful indoor companion. They adapt well to apartment living. They are well-behaved when trained, but may be difficult to housebreak.


Outdoor 

Walks and outdoor play are both favorite activities of the Bichon Frise. Bichons are not meant to live outdoors. Not only do they dislike being left alone, their long, high-maintenance coat may get tangled or matted.


Exercise 

While the Bichon Frise has a moderate energy level, they don't require hours of activity to tire. Two walks outdoors—about 30 minutes per day—and indoor play may be all the Bichon needs to be happy.


Endurance 

While energetic, Bichons do not tend to have the stamina for strenuous activity.


Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: While the Bichon Frise is a small breed, if well-conditioned they may have the energy for an easy jog. A healthy adult Bichon Frise may be able to jog a couple of miles.
  • Hiking Miles: Adult Bichons Frises may be able to work up to five-mile hike, if in good health and given plenty of breaks along the way. They are hearty, but they are small—climbing may be difficult for their small legs.


Food 

Bichons Frises are food motivated and respond well to treats during training. The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food (based on average weight and activity level) to feed is ¾ to 1 cup per day. This amount should be split between two meals


The Bichon Frise is not more likely to guard food more than other breeds, but children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.


Alone Time 

Bichons are—and always have been—companion dogs. They desire time with their family, and may suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. They can stay home alone for three to four hours at a time, but they may need to be crate trained to prevent destructive behaviors.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

14-15 years


Grooming

While Bichons Frises do not shed, their double coat grows continually and needs frequent brushing, trimming, grooming, and bathing to remove old hair and prevent matting. Bichons need to visit the groomer every four to eight weeks, and should be brushed weekly at the minimum, daily is better. Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or a broken nail. Bichons may be prone to ear infections; regular ear cleaning can help prevent them.


Common Health Issues

Bichon Frise can be prone to breed-specific health concerns, including:


  • Dental concerns
  • Patellar luxation
  • Heart disease
  • Cataracts and eye disease
  • Skin allergies

You can minimize serious health concerns in a Bichon Frise by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.

Trainability

Basics

The smart Bichon Frise learns basic obedience with ease. Positive reinforcement, treats, and praise will earn plenty of clever tricks. Teaching a recall early is beneficial as the small, fast Bichon is difficult to catch if it gets loose. Early socialization is important to prevent fearful behaviors as some bloodlines are more timid. As with most small breed dogs, the Bichon may be difficult to housetrain.


Advanced Training

These former circus dogs still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves. Bichons love to show off at every opportunity, and they learn advanced tricks with ease. Keep training sessions fun and interesting, with plenty of praise—and no harsh punishments. The small, yet athletic breed loves agility because it's an activity that involves spending time with people.


Bichons have been trained as service dogs and can provide valuable support in this capacity, though it isn't a common choice for the job.


Sporting Dog Training

While the type of water spaniel from which the Bichon Frise developed was a hunting and retrieving dog, the Bichon Frise isn't a sporting dog. The friendly Bichon's purpose was a companion to nobility and royalty. Many Bichons Frises still possess a strong prey drive that may be harnessed for use as a flushing dog, but it is an unconventional breed for hunting. If used afield, the Bichon's long coat would need excessive care to prevent mats and to remove twigs, burrs, and debris after a hunting excursion.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Bichons Frises.

Explore Other Breeds

As a Bichon gets older, cow-like spots and splotches may appear on its belly. The spots are more prominent with a summer haircut or after a bath. This is an accumulation of melanin that is genetic, and is a normal response to sun exposure in white or light-colored dogs. Likewise, the pigment of a Bichon's nose may darken after a summer's worth of outdoor play, and may lighten with less time spent outside.

Foot chewing may be a sign of allergies or irritation. Bichons are prone to allergies, so a dog who often chews on its feet should be seen by a veterinarian to rule out an allergy, injury, or other irritation.

While the pinkish- to brown-colored staining on a Bichon's face and body may be caused by eating, saliva from grooming, or walking through dirt and mud, some staining may be related to eye conditions or other health problems. The first step to preventing staining on a Bichon would be to speak with the veterinarian to rule out a medical concern. If there is no medical cause for the staining, regular cleaning of the stained areas and wiping tears from the eyes may help. Iron in water can cause fur discoloration, as can dog food that includes dyes. Keeping the facial hair trimmed and wiping the dog's face daily can minimize staining due to food and water, but it may never fully prevent staining.