When you think of the Bichon Frise dog breed, chances are you will think of a small dog with a curly, immaculately white coat – and maybe an extremely round haircut. Bichons are highly recognizable for their iconic cloudlike appearance! This is what draws many people to this undeniably cute breed, cementing their position as a favorite dog in countless places all over the world for many generations.
However, there is a lot more that goes into the Bichon’s renown. If their cute looks aren’t enough, Bichons are also incredibly charming. They are bubbly and bouncy dogs who have brought much cheer into the home for centuries. They are intelligent, talented, and easily trained to be excellent performers. All great reasons why they are often mixed with other breeds. Whether they are your faithful family companion or your pride and joy at the dog show, the Bichon Frise is sure to light up your life.
If you are considering adopting one of these little fluffballs, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will go over everything that new owners need to know about the breed. You’ll learn about their interesting history, the details of their delightful appearance, as well as the needs you must fulfill to give them the happy and healthy life that they deserve.
You may recognize the Bichon Frise as a French dog; their name itself is pretty telling! However, You can only really credit France for developing the breed. The origins of the breed are far more steeped in mystery than that, though general consensus says they originated in the Mediterranean at some point in times of antiquity.
Their ancestor was thought to be the Barbet; from here, “Barbichon” was used as a name for them; French for “little Barbet.” This was further shortened into the Bichon name we know now.
These Barbichons were sailors’ companions and traversed the seas with them, though they were often used as items for barter. They found popularity in Spain and were ultimately brought to the Canary Islands.
They were extensively bred there and came to be known as the Bichon Teneriffe, named after the largest island in the archipelago. Other Bichon breeds also existed in the Mediterranean, including the Bichon Maltais from Malta, and the Bichon Bolognese from Italy.
Bichons Teneriffes existed on that island for centuries and weren’t rediscovered until Italian sailors came to the island sometime in the 1200s to 1300s, with the advent of the Renaissance. The sailors brought the dogs back to continental Europe, where they enjoyed massive fame.
These dogs were popular with members of the nobility for many centuries, as well as depicted in countless works of art. The artist Titian painted the Portrait of Federico II Gonzaga in 1529, depicting the ruler of the Italian city Mantua beside a Bichon Teneriffe. Later, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Spanish painter Francisco Goya would depict Bichons in many of his works.
The dogs were imported into France during the Renaissance by French monarch Francis I, where they were quickly endeared to the elite. Most famously, another French king, Henry III, had an unbelievable adoration for the little Bichons, where he lavished them with bread, servants, governesses, and horses! So great was the adoration for the lapdog Bichons in France, that it coined the French verb bichonner, meaning “to pamper.”
It wasn’t until the French Revolution in the 1790s that the dogs fell out of favor since they were so closely tied to nobility. The once eminent Bichon had now become a street dog. They remained this way until a brief resurgence in interest from Napoleon III’s reign but went back into obscurity From here, they were taken in by street entertainers and circus performers, where they were taught feats of canine acrobatics, like somersaults and walking on their front paws.
It was difficult for the Bichon to survive these years, so far removed from the comforts they were used to. The difficulties of World War I had taken a toll on the breed, with many of them back to being abandoned due to the times of scarcity. However, in 1933, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale established a breed standard for the Bichon and renamed them Bichon Frise, alluding to their “curly coat.”
They found their start in America in 1956, after Helene and Francois Picault came to the United States with six Bichons Frise pups. This led to the first litter of Bichons born in the US. The dogs gained popularity over several years and slowly began to establish an American standard for the breed.
The Bichon Frise Club of America was founded in 1964 in San Diego, California, contributing greatly to the popularity of the breed. Finally, the American Kennel Club recognized the Bichons in 1971, placing them in the Miscellaneous category. Full breed recognition came in 1972 when they were placed in the Non-Sporting Group, where they remain today! Bichons Frises are the AKC’s 119th breed.
The breed has had a troubled history, but through their resilience and restoration efforts by Bichon enthusiasts, they are thriving today. The AKC lists them as their 43rd most popular breed; pretty good for one that almost went extinct!
Many of them are back in the arms and laps of the rich and powerful. Singer and actress Barbra Streisand had a beloved Bichon Frise named Sammy, that was her faithful companion from 1994 to 2003. More recently, many Korean actors have expressed adoration for the breed and keep them as family pets. Bichons have also taken over the internet and enjoy a great presence on social media– just ask Ozzie!
Since these fluffy pups were bred to be exceptional lap dogs, there are certain perceptions about them that make people think they are fussy and frivolous. We think this is unfair, as that it is only partially true! Bichons certainly love being the very center of attention, and like any lap dog, will enjoy being preened and pampered.
They can also come across as being a bit spoiled, but it’s always a give-and-take. The truth is that they will do almost anything to make their family smile or laugh. This is only natural given their propensity for showmanship! With this incredible talent to cheer people up, they make a great choice for both lively and lonely homes.
Bichons are wonderfully outgoing. Their family will always be the first place in their hearts, but they are known to be true social butterflies, always excited to get to know new friends. Whether it’s a visitor at home or even strangers at the dog park, expect your Bichon to be thrilled with the new connection.
Their vibrant personality and playfulness make them a wonderful choice for families with children or other pets. However, since Bichons are so sociable, they are also prone to severe separation anxiety. This is very emotionally unhealthy for your Bichon and could result in destructive behavior. As such, they are best suited for families who can dote on them throughout the day.
The AKC breed standard determines the breed’s temperament as “gentle mannered, sensitive, playful and affectionate,” noting a cheerful attitude as the hallmark for the breed. True enough, you will find your Bichon Frise to exhibit these traits effortlessly. While they can be quite demanding with their need for constant attention, they very easily return that love!
Bichons always seem to know how their humans are feeling. This emotional intelligence makes them a great choice for a therapy dog. As for other talents, their natural inclination for the performing arts also gives them a great future in competitive obedience and agility trials.
Size & Appearance
The Bichon Frise is a small dog. The AKC standard dictates a height of 9.5 to 11.5 inches to be preferred regardless of the dog’s sex. These dogs weigh an average of 9 pounds; it’s surprising how much personality they can fit into their pint-sized frame!
Regardless of how small they may appear, Bichons are actually quite sturdy. For this reason, the AKC does not list them as a toy breed; they are instead classified as a non-working dogs.
Regardless if they have their powder puff haircut, Bichons have fairly round heads. Their ears are covered with long fur and gracefully frame the face when they are alert. Beyond this, Bichons are known for their inquisitive, endearing expression.
Their eyes are either black or dark brown. Halos, the black or dark brown skin around the eyes, are necessary to emphasize their doe-eyed appearance. Both the nose and lips of the Bichon are black.
Their body reveals its sturdiness, with a strong neck, straight back, and wide chest. They have straight forelegs with elbows that lay close to their body. The hindquarters have muscular thighs, great for a Bichon’s athleticism! In fact, the AKC standard describes their gait as “free, precise and effortless.”
Their paws are tight and round, almost like a cat’s, with black paw pads. Bichons have tails that they gracefully carry over their backs, allowing them to be the very picture of canine elegance.
Coat & Colors
The Bichon’s coat is arguably the most important part of their appearance. The AKC standard spares no expense in stressing its significance. Bichons have soft, dense undercoats. Their outer coats are coarser, though not wiry, with the imperative curly texture, similar to that of the Poodle.
We all know the Bichon Frise to have a snowy, powder-white coat. The AKC permits having varying shades of off-white on the body or around the ears, including buff, cream, and apricot. However, there must be less than 10% of these colors present on the Bichon’s white coat. Other colors do not exist in a purebred Bichon.
Fans of the breed who also happen to be allergy sufferers will be delighted to know that the breed is hypoallergenic! It may seem unlikely due to the presence of an undercoat, but Bichons hardly shed. This results in much less animal dander, making it easier for those with allergies to enjoy all the great parts of having a dog, like cuddles and kisses!
Exercise Needs & Living Requirements
Anyone who lives with a Bichon Frise must understand that they are very high-energy dogs. Thankfully, since they are quite small, they will never need as much exercise as larger breeds. Expect to give your Bichon at least 30 minutes of exercise every day, though you may find them wanting more some days!
Given their high intelligence, this breed will require that you give them a good amount of variety in their exercise regimen. Your Bichon will do well at both frisbee and ball catching; this is a great bonding activity. You can further indulge their sociability by bringing them out for walks to the dog park. Getting to know and play with other dogs and people will be great physical and mental stimulation for your pup!
On days when going outside may be difficult, your Bichon will have no trouble staying indoors provided they have enough toys to play with. Try to give them a good amount of toys they can play with by themselves, as well as with you and the members of your family- pets included!
Bichons Frises are small dogs, so they will be happy even in a small dwelling. Apartments are great for them, though you will need to train them to be vocal only when appropriate.
As long as your Bichon has a comfortable space to be themselves, plus enough exercise and stimulation, they can live just about anywhere… as long as the weather isn’t too extreme! Bichons are best suited for places with milder climates. They can tolerate warm weather, though they mustn’t be exposed to prolonged heat. Give them lots of water and a cool place to rest during the warmer months.
Cold weather is better-tolerated, thanks to their dense undercoat. However, their small size may make them susceptible to getting chilly. When in doubt, break out the doggie sweaters!
The Bichon Frise’s intelligence is a double-edged sword. Getting them to obey your commands during training does not take much effort at all, provided they respect you. Fulfilling this requirement may prove to be difficult for many pet parents.
Bichons are prone to what is called Small Dog Syndrome, where they believe that they are the leaders of the pack. This can lead to unnecessary aggression, destructive behaviors, and constant vocalization. You can curb this dreaded behavior by teaching your dog respect and obedience the soonest they enter your home.
Firm instruction is important. However, since these dogs are sensitive, you need to be patient and gentle with them. You will quickly find that positive reinforcement in the form of praise, pets, and treats will get you the results that you want.
Once your pup is used to you and you have established good rapport, you’ll see that they will naturally want to do what pleases you. You can move on to things you will both find more fun, like more complex tricks. Following your training routine consistently will help you and your Bichon get ready for any competitions you may want to participate in.
Even for the extroverted Bichon Frise, socialization might prove to be a little difficult in their first few weeks with you. Allowing your dog to get to know new people, animals, and environments at a safe and steady pace will definitely help them warm up.
It’s a great idea to enroll your Bichon in puppy kindergarten classes where they can learn how to healthily interact with other dogs. This socialization is incredibly important in helping this breed build confidence. This leads to less aggression, anxiety, and fearfulness in your dog and helps them grow into their highest, most vibrant potential.
Purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder ensures a better quality of health for your dog. Bichons are sturdy and healthy dogs as it is, but the reassurance is always good. Being a smaller breed, they often live longer than larger dogs. They have a lifespan of around 12 to 15 years. Keeping those years healthy is paramount to the best possible quality of life for your dog and may even lengthen their time with you!
Understanding any potential health risks that the breed may carry is the key to treatment and prevention. The sooner you learn about them, the more prepared your treatment plan can be. While your Bichon may not experience the following health issues, it’s important to learn about them, as these are illnesses the breed is predisposed to.
Patellar luxation, or kneecap dislocation, is a condition commonly seen in smaller dogs, Bichons included. This occurs when the kneecap is dislocated from its regular position in the groove of your dog’s thigh bone. It may be difficult to spot this condition unless it has progressed to the point of discomfort for your dog. You may see your Bichon exhibiting brief hind leg lameness.
It is important to get this addressed quickly because it may progress into degenerative arthritis. This can cause a lot of pain for this breed. Medical treatment for this condition may not be effective; surgery is often the best option for correction and relief.
Your Bichon may be prone to certain eye conditions that can definitely impact their quality of life. Cataracts can occur due to old age, where the eyes develop a cloudy lens. This is not painful, nor does it affect your Bichon’s vision while the cataract is small. However, as time progresses, so does the cataract’s growth. This can lead to vision loss if the cataract is not treated. Treatment is usually surgical, though eye drop solutions do exist.
They can also have trouble with canine conjunctivitis, which is similar to pink eye in humans. Since Bichons are prone to problems with tearing, they are also prone to this condition. Conjunctivitis is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin membrane of your dog’s eyelid responsible for protecting the eyes, making tears, and healing the cornea in case of injury. Symptoms include red, swollen whites of your Bichon’s eyes, excessive tearing, and even pus leaking from the eyes. Treatment is simple, with your vet cleansing the eyes of bacteria and foreign bodies. Eye drops are used to maintain eye health.
Perhaps the most prevalent problem among Bichons Frises is allergies. This is ironic given their hypoallergenic nature. Allergies can occur for any number of reasons, including skin irritation, sensitivity to food, as well as seasonal allergies. You may notice scratching, biting at the skin, or sneezing when your dog is suffering from an allergy.
Bichons Frises have very light and sensitive skin, which may develop irritation from harsh shampoos or infrequent bathing. They may also be allergic to ingredients in their food and exhibit sensitivities to allergens in the air during certain times of the year. Allergies can be controlled by frequently grooming your pup.
Brushing their coat will help remove any allergens that may be present in the old fur. Using a medicated, hypoallergenic shampoo prescribed by your vet will be a great help in alleviating allergies. If your Bichon Frise is allergic to their food, switching to a limited-ingredient diet can help restore their quality of life.
Your Bichon Frise will need a well-balanced diet complete with all the nutrients necessary for their development in puppyhood and health maintenance in later years. This is best achieved with a high-quality, dry kibble specifically made for small breeds.
It’s important to give your Bichon food appropriate for their life stage. This will ensure proper growth and consistent health all the years of their life. When choosing a kibble, stay away from food with artificial additives, as this does nothing for your pet’s health. Artificial dyes, in particular, can stain your Bichon’s pristine coat.
Since the breed is prone to allergies, it is good to invest in a limited-ingredient diet. Despite having fewer ingredients, this kind of kibble will still have all the nutrients necessary for your Bichon’s complete health.
Feeding your dog with appropriate portion sizes is imperative to their nutrition. Puppies will need to be fed more meals than adult and senior dogs, though adults and seniors will have more food per serving. How much your dog eats depends on its age, weight, and activity level. Be sure to ask a veterinarian for help to get the right portion sizes for your dog.
Grooming your Bichon Frise may be one of the most important things that you do together. Given how important their overall appearance is, this may not be surprising. However, you should know that grooming your dog will be a very labor-intensive process for the sake of honesty.
Many Bichon owners opt to hire a professional groomer a few times a month to keep their dogs looking their best, especially when trimming the coat. It’s still possible to do most of this yourself. When the grooming is done correctly, it can be very rewarding.
Routine grooming is essential in maintaining your Bichon Frise’s powder puff appearance. Daily grooming is recommended to prevent tangles and matted fur. Since Bichons do not effectively shed their fur, you must be able to remove any excess fur from their undercoat.
Brushing them out daily can really make a difference in your dog’s long-term coat beauty. Removing mats can be troublesome for you and very painful for your Bichon. Matting can even result in permanent hair loss, so prevention is really the best option.
In the case of mats actually forming, it is best to work smart, not hard. Soak the mats in a detangling solution or conditioner before gently picking apart the tangles with your fingers. Afterward, use a detangling comb to get the last tangles out. This is much more effective than trying to brush out the mats immediately.
Even though this breed has a bright white coat, they don’t need frequent bathing. Your Bichon will only require baths once a month or whenever they get visibly soiled. Use warm water, a gentle shampoo, and a nourishing conditioner to keep your dog looking and feeling great. You may opt to increase the frequency if your dog is suffering from allergies. In this case, use the medicated shampoo provided to you by your veterinarian.
Bichons Frises are also particularly prone to tear staining, where pink or brown discoloration appears around the eye area. You can prevent this with canine facial wipes. If staining has already occurred, ask your vet for the next steps.
Ear & Teeth Cleaning
Bichons are prone to ear infections. You can prevent them by thoroughly cleaning the area surrounding your dog’s ear canal with a cotton pad and ear cleaning solution. This removes dirt, grime, and wax buildup and helps keep your Bichon’s ears healthy.
Good dental hygiene is a big part of keeping your dog away from preventable diseases. Brushing their teeth regularly with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste can help prevent plaque buildup. This means less tartar, the awful brown deposits above and below your dog’s gum line. When tartar has built up, you will need to go to the vet to have it removed.
Grooming your Bichon Frise may be an intimidating endeavor, so it’s important to start grooming them as soon as possible. Getting them used to the grooming process can turn it into a relaxing and fun bonding experience for both of you. It may be useful to employ basic obedience skills during the grooming process, such as telling your Bichon to sit and stay; this can help establish trust. Grooming your dog gently will make it a much smoother and more enjoyable process for both of you.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
It may be a good choice to purchase your Bichon Frise from a reputable breeder. We emphasize “reputable.” Many irresponsible breeders run puppy mills where dogs are treated inhumanely. These businesses operate for the pure purpose of profit, getting the parents to produce as many puppies as they can. There is a severe lack of care for the breeder’s dogs. Living conditions are often inhospitable, and there is very little food and clean water. Giving these places business only encourages this harmful practice, so we encourage you to find a breeder who truly respects their dogs.
Responsible breeders have a deep love and appreciation for the breed. They will be enthusiastic about their dogs and will be able to tell you anything you need to know about them, as well as answer all your questions. They will show you the living conditions of all their dogs. You will find them to be comfortable and clean.
Good breeders will also tell you about the veterinary services they have purchased for your new puppy. They will inform you of vaccines and deworming, as well as tests for hereditary conditions. These are usually included in the adoption fee.
Looking for a quality breeder may be difficult. A good place to start would be your trusted veterinary clinic. They often have contact information for reputable breeders in your area. You can also look online for dog communities that may have leads on the perfect breeder.
Offline, you can visit dog shows and ask local dog enthusiasts. The American Kennel Club also has a fantastic resource for a breeder referral. Expect to pay around $1,000 to $2,500 for a pet-quality Bichon, with show dogs costing considerably more.
Rescues & Shelters
While reputable breeders are always a good option for people looking to adopt their very own Bichon Frise, we always admonish our readers to check local adoption centers first. Rescues and shelters are a great place to find a wonderful family companion. It is definitely possible to find a purebred Bichon among the different animals up for adoption.
A good rescue or shelter will be able to tell you the complete background of the dog you are adopting. Learning about the dog’s history can tell you much about their health and temperament. Understanding your new dog is essential to their happy new life.
While Bichons from shelters will definitely be more reserved, it doesn’t take much to help them come out of their shell. With enough patient care, your Bichon will show you the sparkling personality they were always meant to have.
As Family Pets
- The Bichon was bred to live in the lap of luxury… on the laps of the nobility!
- They enjoy the spotlight and enjoy attention from their families.
- This breed makes an excellent family pet due to its social nature.
- They have vibrant and hammy personalities.
- Bichons Frises are intelligent and will do well in training if done early enough.
- They are loving dogs who are gentle and affectionate.
- This makes them excellent candidates for therapy work.
- They are prone to allergies and will need special care.
- They can be needy, and develop separation anxiety.
- The Bichon requires plenty of indoor or outdoor exercise each day.
- Their minds need to be stimulated or they can become destructive.
- They can flourish in most living arrangements, including apartments.
With their feisty personalities, babydoll faces, and adorable fluffiness, it’s hard not to fall in love with a Bichon Frise. If you are planning on welcoming one into your life, be sure to equip yourself with all the research necessary to give them the happiness they deserve.
We hope this article has helped teach you more about this fabulous breed, beloved for generations. They might be needy, and it may take a lot to satisfy those needs, but the love you share is well worth it. We are confident that your Bichon Frise will be a small dog who will make a huge impact on your life.