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Bichon Frise

All about the Bichon Frise

Diet
Lifespan 12-15 years
Weight 3-5.5 kg
Height 23-30 cm
Temperament Gentle, outgoing, playful
Common colours

What are Bichon Frise's like?

Bichon Frises are beautiful and loyal little dogs with a whole lot of love and playfulness bundled into those fluffy furballs. Bichons need a lot of grooming to keep that curly white coat in good condition but they don’t need huge amounts of exercise or food thanks to their small size.

Bichon Frise

Breed overview

Bichon Frises are cute as a button, small in size, and adaptable to most living situations so they make pup-ular pets. Although they don’t need a huge house or garden to roam, they do have a moderate amount of energy and will need a good daily walk to keep them fit and active.

Bichon Frises don’t just look beautiful and proud, they have an outgoing paws-onality to match. This can lead to a stubborn streak if they don’t have enough ongoing training. Luckily, these dogs thrive on human attention and are paw-some at learning new tricks.

These little dogs have pretty balanced paws-onalities which makes them suitable for all kinds of homes. Bichons are small but sturdy, playful and energetic without being hyper, sociable and confident but not headstrong, loving but not lazy. The only real downside is that these dogs are so loving that they aren’t very good at being on their own.

How to pronounce Bichon Frise

To pronounce “Bichon Frise” say it like Bee-shon Free-zay.

History of the Bichon Frise breed

Like many dog breeds with long histories, no one seems to know for sure how old this breed is, where they came from, and how they got there. We know that the breed developed somewhere along the Mediterranean and it is believed that they are descended from water spaniels.

Bichons were used as ship dogs by the Spanish and it’s believed that they were bartered overseas like trade goods. Valuable lapdogs have been traded for centuries, and the Bichon would be no exception.

Whatever their reason for seafaring, the Bichon Frise accompanied Spanish sailors to Tenerife, where the little white dog became an instant hit.

Fast-forward to the 14th century and Italian sailors travelled to Tenerife and took a liking to the pretty dogs they found there. These sailors then took the Bichon Frise back to Italy with them. Once there, the adorable dogs soon caught the attention of aristocrats and the Bichon Frise became a pup-ular companion to nobility.

Within another hundred years French aristocrats noticed these paw-sitively gorgeous little dogs the Italian upper-classes were fond of, and the beloved Bichon’s pup-ularity as a companion spread even further. King Henry III of France supposedly carried his Bichon in a basket around his neck so that he and his canine companion need never be apart! Before long the Bichon was fur-iends with the rich and famous throughout Europe.

From royal courts to circus rings

Every dog has its day and the Bichons certainly did. Their luck ran out though and they became unfashionable as the nobility began to favour other breeds like the Pug. Some Bichon’s lost their paw-rents during the French Revolution when many aristocrats were executed. Whatever the reason, a number of Bichon Frises were cast into the streets.

Bichon Frise

Luckily, the dog’s charm, cute looks, and aptitude for learning tricks soon saw them find a place amongst street performers, fairs, and circuses where these plucky little dogs would be made to perform.

Bichons exploded in pup-ularity after the Second World War when owning pet dogs became feasible for the general public. Since then, the beautiful, bonny Bichon has remained one of the most pup-ular dogs in the world, well within the top 50 breeds in the UK and USA.

Where do Bichon Frise originate from?

No one knows for certain where the Bichon Frise originally appeared but it was somewhere in the Mediterranean. The breed was notably developed in Tenerife and they were originally known as the “Bichon Tenerife”, so many consider that the birthplace of the Bichon Frise.

Originally, there were other Bichon type dogs like the “Bichon Maltese” which came from Malta, and their name was later shortened to just “Maltese”. These pups probably had shared ancestry, but where those ancestors were from is unknown.

What were Bichon Frise bred for?

We know they were companions for Spanish Sailors and nobles, so it seems that they were just bred to make su-paw companions and didn’t necessarily have a role or job to fulfil other than being used as trade goods and looking good!

Bichon Frise stats

MaleFemale
Size:SmallSmall
Average height:25-30cm23-28cm
Average weight:3 - 5.5kg3-.5. kg
Lifespan:12 - 15 years12 - 15 years
Coat:Medium, curlyMedium, curly
Hypoallergenic:YesYes
Sheds:NoNo

Facts about the Bichon Frise

What’s in a name?

The origin of the Bichon Frise’s name is up for debate, but it’s packed with meaning. The breed was called “Bichon à Poil Frisé” which means “small, curly-haired dog”. This was then Anglicised and shortened to “Bichon Frise”.

“Bichon” means “small dog” and is related to the word “Biche” which means female dog, (where we get the English term “bitch”).

“Bichon” is also the diminutive form of “Barbichon” which means a poodle dog, and comes from the word “Barbiche” meaning shaggy dog. But, the Bichon Frise has been around longer than the word “Barbichon” has, so it doesn’t look like that’s what they are named after.

Performing pooches

When Bichon Frise became a “common” dog and fell out of favour in the 19th century, many were turfed out onto the streets. But given their cute appearance, happy-go-lucky attitude and aptitude for learning tricks, they soon got picked up by street performers and circus acts who trained these little dogs to perform.

Bichons love being the centre of attention, so they happily took to the spotlight. If they hadn’t endeared themselves to their audiences and new class of owner, the breed would probably have gone extinct!

Originally a quartet

There were originally four types of Bichon, all named after where they originated. One was the “Bichon Tenerife” which became the Bichon Frise. The others were the Bichon Maltese, Bichon Havanese, and Bichon Bolognese, and all of these breeds dropped the “Bichon” in their name to become the Maltese, Havanese, and Bolognese breeds which all exist today.

Pampered pooches

The French verb “bichonner” which means “pampered” is said to come from the Bichon Frise because these little dogs were so doted on by their paw-rents. These pampered pooches lived a life of luxury as upper-class lapdogs and some were even perfumed to smell as good as their puffball appearance looked.

Bichon Frise puppies

What age do Bichon Frise stop growing?

Your Bichon Frise puppy will stop growing by the time they reach 1 year old. In fact, your Bichon will probably reach their adult size by the time they are 6 months old, but will keep putting on weight for a few months as their muscles develop. Although your Bichon puppy will stop growing when they are 1, they will probably still seem puppyish and might not mature mentally for another few months.

Bichon Frise puppy

Are Bichon Frise easy to train?

Bichon Frise are known to be reasonably intelligent and quick learners. Most Bichons love learning new tricks to please their humans and enjoy training since it puts them squarely in the centre of your attention. Bichons are known to be fairly easy to train and generally obedient. Some dogs can be a little stubborn but the promise of praise and treats will usually win them over.

Are Bichons easy to housetrain?

Opinion seems divided here. Some owners say they had no issue housetraining their Bichon, while others claim they are notoriously difficult to housetrain. Given the Bichon’s small size, they might take longer than average to housetrain, but because they are easy to teach and eager to please, it shouldn’t be a very difficult task.

Most small breeds of dog take longer to housetrain just because they have smaller bladders and can’t hold it in for long. Plus, many dogs regardless of breed can “relapse” and seem to go backwards in their training and housetraining when they are about 6 months old. These things are normal and common!

The methods you use when housetraining can impact how long it takes to teach your dog too. For example, crate training can help them to learn quicker, while puppy pads usually make the process slower. To make sure you’re setting your puppy up for potty training success, read these tips about house training puppies.

Bichon Frise names

Because of their breed history and elegant air, some owners opt for beautiful names which match their pup’s regal appearance. Although given their clownish antics and eagerness to perform, your pup might be suited to a more theatrical name. Whether you want a cute standard like “Teddy” or an elaborate moniker, you might want a helping paw while searching for the paw-fect name for your pooch. Why not browse these bumper lists of 1000 girl dog names and 1000 boy dog names?

Appearance

The Bichon Frises appearance is characterised by their smiling expression, white fur, and black button nose. A Bich’s eyes should be round and dark and level with their face, adding to their teddy-like appearance and cute appeal. Their ears are naturally floppy, but you might not always see them amongst their thick hair! Speaking of hair, they have a closely packed coat of medium-length white fur which naturally forms loose curls.

Bichon Frises do have a teddy bear look about them thanks to their rounded skull which is often accentuated by their haircut. Their faces are neither delicate nor wolfish, but something in between. They have a defined stop and short muzzle that shouldn’t be too thin and snipy or too thick and heavy. A Bichon should have flat cheeks and little muscle around their cheeks and jaws, so they look refined but strong.

As for stature, these dogs stand proud and tall! Although they are less than a foot tall but they are sturdy despite their size. They have long, arched necks and should hold their heads high, giving them a proud air. Although they aren’t delicately bodied, they aren’t paw-ticularly muscular either and have flat shoulders and a balanced appearance. Their tail is plumed and held over their back, which adds to their rather regal air.

Size

Bichon Frises are small dogs, rarely reaching a foot tall. However, they are not classed as “toy” dogs like most little companion dogs. They are categorised as a “small” dog within the “non-sporting” category. This means that even though they are small and elegant, they are pretty hardy and historically were used as working animals.

Bichon Frise colours

Unlike breeds like a Poodle with a rainbow of coat colours, the Bichon Frise breed doesn’t have a varied palette. They don’t need a multi-coloured coat to look paws-itively gorgeous though and you’ll only ever find a white Bich.

In fact, the Bichon’s trademark is their fluffy white fur and contrasting black eyes, nose, lips, and paw pads which makes them look more like a cuddly toy than a dog.

Surprisingly, their skin shouldn’t be white and is often quite dark and might have patches of colour with black, blue, or beige markings on their skin.

Are Bichon Frise always white?

Yes, Bichon Frises are always white. When they are puppies they can look an off-white colour, like a pale lemon or a cream. Dog shows do allow young Bichons to have cream or apricot markings if they are under 18 months old, but once your dog reaches maturity they should have a pure white coat.

Bichon Frise temperament

The temperament of a Bichon Frise is generally gentle, happy and outgoing. Given they are confident and sociable by nature, your Bichon will probably want to befriend any human or hound they meet. Plus, they are unlikely to try and chase any other animals because they have a low prey drive. Early socialisation will bring out the best in your Bichon’s paws-onality and ensure that they are confident and friendly little furballs.

If you’re looking for a pooch that loves attention and affection but has enough energy for games and tricks, a Bichon could be the paw-fect pooch.

If you’re expecting a lazy lapdog, you can think again. A Bich is alert, eager to please, and surprisingly full of beans so they’re always eager to play or do some training. Anything that gets your attention and earns praise is your Bich’s favourite thing, as this little people-please wants nothing more than to entertain you and join in with whatever you’re doing. In fact, their trainability and enthusiasm earned them a role performing with street acts and circuses, so these dogs are used to being the centre of attention.

Bichon Frise running

Although active, they aren’t bonkers or high-energy. It’s enough to make them enthusiastic and playful, but not over the top. Besides, these baby-faced furries love a cuddle, so you can still expect plenty of snuggles and snoozes with your new fur-iend. The downside to being so people-focused and loving is that the Bichon Frise doesn’t do well on its own.

Are Bichons affectionate?

Bichon Frises are incredibly affectionate pets. They were bred to be companions so these pooches are very people-orientated and will love nothing more than spending every hour of the day playing with you or having a cuddle.

Are Bichon Frise good family dogs?

Bichon Frise are good family dogs because they are trainable, eager to please, and have a great temperament. These happy-go-lucky little dogs love attention, so they usually enjoy having extra humans around who are happy to play with them and cuddle them.

Generally, Bichon’s are affectionate, gentle, and playful so make great companions for families. Some individual Bichons can have a bit of a stubborn or sassy streak, so you must make sure your dog is socialised and trained and that any children in the home are taught how to interact appropriately with a dog so that all your humans and hounds can get on like a house on fire.

Can Bichon Frise live with cats?

As long as your Bichon Frise is socialised at an early age they should be paw-fectly happy to live with a cat. For example, if your dog and cat are introduced when they are both young, or you have an adult cat and introduce a Bichon puppy. If your dog has grown up around cats, they should be able to understand and respect them like any other family member.

Bichons are gentle dogs and won’t usually try to cause trouble unless they’re looking for some fun and mischief. They don’t have a high prey drive either, so they are less likely to chase other animals and birds compared to other small breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier.

Are Bichon Frise high maintenance?

Some people might consider a Bichon Frise high maintenance because they can’t be left alone for long and need a lot of grooming. Luckily though, these dogs don’t require hours of exercise and don’t have a highly-strung paws-onality. They have their own needs and requirements, just like any breed. Besides, if you want a dog that doesn’t need walking or grooming, you probably need a cat!

Can a Bichon Frise be left alone?

Not really, because Bichon Frise are known to suffer from separation anxiety. These are doting companion dogs that thrive on human company and love to be the centre of attention, so they don’t like being on their own. Pets suffering from boredom or separation anxiety can behave badly when left alone, including excessive barking and destructive chewing.

With proper training and socialisation from a young age, you can teach your Bichon that being alone isn’t anything to be anxious about. It will take patience and persistence, but it will improve your dog’s confidence and allow for a little time apart.

Do Bichon Frise bark a lot?

Bichon Frise are known to be quite alert little watchdogs and some individuals can be eager barkers. However, it does vary between dogs. Many Bichons are very quiet while others are more willing to speak their mind! It’s always a good idea to train your pooch to understand a command like “quiet” so any barking won’t become out of control, especially if you live in a flat.

Where can a Bichon live?

Thanks to their small size, adaptability, and their love of people a Bichon Frise can live just about anywhere. They can live in flats and apartments easily as long as you and your furry friend can spend plenty of time playing together and have a daily walk.

They can be quite vocal though, so if your pooch will be in a flat, you might want to make sure they understand a “quiet” command so you can control any barking and avoid pup-setting your neighbours.

How much exercise does a Bichon Frise need?

You should spend between 30 minutes to an hour walking your pooch every day. Many Bichons are paw-fectly content to have a 30-minute walk, which you can split between two 15 minute walks if that suits your own routine and abilities better. You won’t need to walk miles with your Bich but they thrive in homes where they have plenty of playtime and continued training to satisfy their active minds and entertain their humans.

Despite their small size and companionable nature, Bichons do have a moderate amount of energy. These pups are certainly no sloths. In fact, they’re known to have cases of zoomies known as “Bichon Buzz” or “Bichon Blitz” where they race around at top speed.

Bichon Frise lifespan

These dogs have great longevity and a Bichon Frise will usually live to be 12 to 15 years old. The average Bichon Frise lifespan is 12.7 to 12.11 years. Some individual dogs are known to go for a while longer though and can reach their late teens. Just like with humans, providing your pooch with a healthy diet and regular exercise means they’re more likely to live a longer and healthier life.

What health problems do Bichon Frise have?

Like many breeds, a Bichon Frise is prone to a few health problems. They’re still a long-lived breed and aren’t prone to many life-threatening health issues, but you will need to keep an eye on their diet, joints, eyes, and ears especially. Some problems your Bichon Frise is prone to are common to all dogs, including dental disease and obesity.

According to former AVMA president Dr. René Carlson, 80% of dogs had periodontal disease by the age of 3, and it’s the most common health problem in dogs regardless of breed. Regularly brush your dog’s teeth and feed them the right foods to keep their teeth clean and prevent disease.

Bichon Frise sleeping

Obesity is also a common health concern in all breeds and over 51% of dogs in the UK are overweight or obese. Bichons are prone to piling on the pounds, especially because they’re so easy to pamper. Obesity must be taken seriously as it costs your dogs their health, wellbeing, and even years of their life because it often leads to secondary health problems, puts excess strain on their heart and joints, which could lead to arthritis, and it can also shorten their lifespan by an average of two years. Luckily it’s easy to maintain a healthy weight by simply feeding your pooch a balanced diet and providing them with regular exercise.

Other common health problems for Bichon Frise are:

  • Allergies
  • Ear infections
  • Eye problems
  • Joint issues
  • Urine disorders

Allergies

It’s ironic that a hypoallergenic breed of dog like the Bichon should be so prone to allergies, but, it’s one of the most common health problems amongst the breed. There are all sorts of allergies these pooches are prone to, from skin allergies to dietary allergies, and even airborne particles like pollen.

If your Bichon suddenly develops itchy and inflamed skin, gastrointestinal issues, or respiratory upset then an allergy might be to blame. Your vet can help you to identify the problem and may recommend switching to a different diet. This is where a tailored plan can help, tell us about your pooch, their age, breed, size, ailments and allergies and we'll create a plan paw-fect for your pet that'll be healthy, nutritious, tasty and most im-paw-tently leave them itch-free.

Ear infections

Ear infections can go hand in hand with allergies. But breeds like the Bichon Frise are prone to ear infections just because their ears are floppy and furry. Because of their ear’s anatomy, they have less air flowing into them making them dark, warm, and humid so they are the paw-fect breeding ground for bacteria.

Regularly cleaning your pooch’s ears can help to prevent problems and switching to grain-free food can help some dogs who suffer from chronic infections.

Eye problems

Bichons are prone to cataracts, and the probability of developing them increases with age. Because Bichons can live a long time, it makes the problem more common. It won’t affect their lifespan but it can impact their vision.

Joint issues

Like many little dogs with bent back legs, Bichon Frises are prone to luxating patella, where their kneecap dislocates. They can also develop hip dysplasia or Legg-Perthes disease which affects their hip joints.

Urine disorders

Bichons are prone to several urinary tract disorders, including bladder stones. Increasing your dog’s hydration levels can help to prevent stones from forming and feeding Pure makes topping up their hydration easy as you simply add some extra water to their food.

There are also a few rare conditions Bichon Frises are predisposed to compared to other breeds, including diabetes and portosystemic shunt which affects how the liver filters their blood.

Grooming a Bichon Frise

Although a Bichon Frise is easy to care for in many respects, they do demand a lot of grooming time. You should brush your Bichon twice a week at the very least. They also need very frequent trimming to keep their puffball coat white and fluffy. You will probably need to take a trip to the groomer every 1 or 2 months for a professional groom and clip, otherwise, you can learn how to groom your Bichon yourself.

How to groom a Bichon Frise

Bichons have a double coat, with a curly topcoat and a thick, downy undercoat. The undercoat is prone to matting and you will need to brush your Bichon regularly to keep their undercoat soft and mat-free. You should use a pin brush every other day to undo any tangles or mats forming in your dog’s fur and then use a slicker brush for a final spruce up and give them that characteristic powderpuff appearance.

It’s im-paw-tent to always brush a Bichon before bathing them because any mats will tighten when they become wet, making them even harder to detangle.

You can wash your Bichon once a month at most, but you can leave it as long as every 3 months if your dog isn’t dirty and doesn’t smell. When bathing your Bichon you might want to pay a little extra attention to their eyes and mouth to get rid of any rusty tear stains or saliva stains.

As well as brushing and bathing, your Bichon will need their coat trimmed regularly to keep it looking soft and fluffy. Trimming a Bichon’s fur is an acquired skill and many owners leave it to the professionals, but you can definitely learn to do it yourself.

Most Bichon’s are clipped all over their body and the hair on their head and legs is trimmed with scissors until it’s all blended. After clipping, your dog will need to be combed to fluff their fur out and to make sure any longer fur sticks out so you can scissor it until everything is soft and blended.

As well as clipping and cutting their fur to keep it short and soft, you will need to trim the fur on the bottom of their feet. Just check your pup’s feet every few weeks and trim the fur so it isn’t growing over their paw pads.

Regular hygiene

As well as regular grooming, there are other routine hygiene tasks you should perform to keep your pup happy and healthy. These include cleaning your dog’s teeth at least once a week, if not more, to maintain good oral hygiene. A dog’s claws need regular clipping too, so you should check the length of their claws every few weeks and trim them whenever needed.

Finally, you will also need to check your pup’s ears and clean them at least once a month. You can do this by just visually checking to see if there is any infection, wax buildup, or dirt inside their ear and cleaning it with a damp cotton pad, then drying it with a tissue.

To clean inside their ear canal, you can buy a special solution and put a few drops into their ear and massage it in. This will help to clean away any wax or gunk inside their ears and help to prevent infection.

Bichon Frise haircuts

There are many different haircuts a Bichon Frise can have. The typical round powderpuff look of a Bichon is their “show cut” and this is when the fur on their body is scissored to keep the undercoat thick, and their fur is brushed to fluff it all out. A show cut is very high maintenance and will need brushing every day and scissoring every month to maintain.

Bichon Frise teddy bear cut

Many pet Bichons are left looking au natural, or given the pup-ular “teddy bear” and “puppy cut” because they are easy to maintain. These haircuts both involve their fur on their body being clipped while the hair on their head and tail is left longer. For owners who want to go further and have easier maintenance, they can get a “kennel cut” and have their dogs fur clipped short all over so there’s less need to brush or bathe their Bichon.

Lamb cuts are also pup-ular with Bichon Frise paw-rents and are especially good for the summer months when your pup needs help keeping cool. It’s similar to a puppy cut and the fur on their body is clipped, but the fur on their legs is left long and fluffed out. With their trademark white fur and this adorable haircut, your Bich will definitely look like a little lamb!

Do Bichon Frise shed?

Yes, but no. All dogs shed some hair, however, a Bichon sheds so little they might as well not shed at all. Plus, any hair they do shed becomes tangled up within their curly coat and doesn’t usually fall out onto the floor or the furniture. Because of this, they are considered a breed that doesn’t shed because you won’t find hair around your house.

Are Bichon Frise hypoallergenic?

Yes, a Bichon Frise is hypoallergenic. This is because any fur or dander they shed usually stays inside their coat and doesn’t drop onto the floor, so there are fewer allergens shedding from the dog and wafting around your home.

No dog is entirely hypoallergenic though, and if you do have allergies, it’s im-paw-tent that you spend time with the breed of dog that you like to see if they affect your allergies or not. But because a Bichon Frise doesn’t shed, people with dog fur or dander allergies find they can usually live with a Bich paw-fectly happily.

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