The cheerful Bichon Frise is a charming companion for virtually all ages. Enjoying attention and lots of affection, they like nothing better than to curl up on their owner’s lap and be part of the family.
Their toy size makes them suitable for even small homes, and thanks to their hypoallergenic coat they are known for being a minimal-shedding dog, making them a more appropriate pet for allergy sufferers than many other breeds. Their name means literally ‘small dog with curly coat’, and it suits them perfectly, with their distinctive white fur making this dog one of the cutest breeds around.
Height: 9 to 11 inches (22 to 28 cm)
Weight: 7 to 12 pounds (3 to 6 kg)
Average Litter Size: Four puppies on average, although anywhere from one to six is considered a normal litter size.
Life Expectancy: 12 to 13 years
Good with Children: Yes
Kennel Club Classification: Toy
The Bichon Frise is a predominantly white breed, although some dogs may be slightly apricot, pale yellow, cream or grey. Any colours other than white are usually limited to very small areas of the body. Show dogs should be pure white as standard, while eyes and noses are solid black in colour.
The Bichon Frise’s fluffy coat requires frequent brushing to keep it from tangling and to ensure it looks its best. Many owners prefer to book their dog into a professional groomer approximately once a month, however daily combing at home is important. The double coat has a tendency to mat, and the dead fur must be removed to prevent this from occurring. If necessary, the coat can be treated with detangling spray. Some owners prefer to have their Bichon Frise shaven for practicality. Monthly bathing will help to keep the dog clean and smelling pleasant.
The Bichon Frise is known for being a long lived breed, but there are still a few health issues to look out for before acquiring a new dog.
Bichon Frises are sometimes affected by cataracts or other eye diseases, and allergies that can cause skin itching. Keep an eye out for your dog developing diabetes, pancreatitis, bladder stones, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, heart disease, blood conditions and leg problems such as hip dysplasia or luxating patellas. Ear infections can be prevented by keeping ears clean and the surrounding fur well-trimmed, and do be sure to check the parents’ health history to reduce the chance of puppies inheriting any genetic conditions.
The Bichon Frise is generally a happy breed that gets along well with people and other animals. They make ideal pets as their friendly disposition lends them perfectly to the role of a companion. Much preferring to be indoors with their family, the Bichon Frise is loyal and cheerful, enjoying both cuddles and play time.
It’s important to take the time to train a Bichon Frise properly as they can be prone to excessive barking. That being said, the Bichon Frise is moderately intelligent and is eager to please, so training isn’t too difficult as long as you are kind and consistent.
Negative reinforcement is not a good approach for the cheerful little Bichon Frise, as they respond much more effectively to praise and rewards for well performed actions. Crate training a puppy can be an effective house training method for this breed. With patience, the Bichon Frise can be taught to perform a few tricks as well as obedience commands.
A Bichon Frise is not a particularly energetic dog, and therefore only requires a minimal amount of exercise. If they are given a daily walk lasting approximately half an hour, the Bichon Frise will feel sufficiently exercised and should remain healthy. Compared with many other breeds, the Bichon Frise is content with a more sedentary lifestyle, making them excellent companions for the elderly, for people with mobility difficulties, or for families with busier lifestyles. Like any dog though, they do still require exercise, but they can often work off excess energy by lively sessions of indoor play.
Due to the name Bichon Frise having its origins in Middle French, it’s often thought that this breed hailed from France. In fact, it is believed that the Bichon Frise derived from water dogs such as Poodles and Barbets, and originated in Spain and its islands. They were eventually picked up by French and Italian sailors in the 13th and 14th Centuries and brought to France and Italy respectively upon the sailors’ return home. The breed itself was often found on ships as companion dogs to Italian seamen during their long voyages. At the time, the Bichon and the Tenerife had not yet separated into distinct breeds, and were known interchangeably by both names.
On land, the Bichon was popular in the 16th Century in the courts of Mediterranean Europe including Italy and France, finding favour with nobles, royalty, and gentry. Eventually, the breed made its way to England, and was well thought of among the nobles of the court of Henry III. The king himself was enamoured with his own Bichons, and kept them with him at all times.
The popularity of the Bichon in France continued until the reign of the last king of France, Napoleon III, but the much loved breed fell from favour during the French Revolution with the overthrowing of the French monarchy. Pets of aristocrats were released onto the streets, and the once pampered Bichon lost its reputation as an elite breed. The general public of France began to use stray Bichons for their own purposes, including as guide dogs, organ grinders’ pets, and circus entertainers.
Thankfully, the 20th Century saw a revival of the Bichon’s desirability, and the breed standard was set in 1933 and given the updated name of Bichon Frise, to draw attention to their curly coat. The breed is now distinct from the Tenerife and other similar types of dog, and is firmly established as a popular breed in many countries.
Late 18th- and early 19th-Century Spanish artist Francisco de Goya depicted many images of Bichon Frise dogs in his paintings.