Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The Bichon Frise is small, cheerful dog with a very happy face. He is full of mischief and has a lot of love to give. His fluffy white coat is a stark contrast to his large, dark eyes, and is often mistaken for a child’s toy. That mistake is easily corrected when you see how much energy this plucky French dog has in him. You won’t find a more enthusiastic companion who is happy to be by your side.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Companion dogs
Height:Nine to eleven inches at the shoulder
Weight:Seven to twelve pounds
Life Span:12 to 15 years

With their compact bodies, small baby-doll faces, and luxuriously fluffy white hair, they’re quite an appealing breed of dog to look at. They’re not only good for their looks, however. They have a wonderfully friendly disposition. Sometimes they are mistake for white poodles, but you’ll quickly learn the difference, as they don’t act the same at all.

The Bichon Frise has many cousins all over the world: he’s related to the Coton de Tulear which originated on the African cost near Madagascar, the Bolognese, an Italian dog breed, the Havanese from Cuba, and the Maltese, which was developed in the Mediterranean on the island of Malta. The Bichon Frise itself was also developed in the Mediterranean and was spread through trade routes to other countries.

They may be small dogs, but they are quite hardy for their size. They’re not classified in the Toy breed, surprisingly; instead, they have been placed in the non-sporting group by the American Kennel Club. The dog is always white, and their arched backs give them quite a confident look. This makes them seem kind of stand-offish, but their friendly personalities will win anyone over.

They don’t shed like other breeds, so they are highly recommended to people who have allergies. It also makes their grooming process quite simple. The most you’ll have to worry about is getting them trimmed in order to maintain their look.

While they do have charming personalities, they are prone to suffering from separation anxiety. Leaving your home alone for long periods of time is not recommended, but if it is unavoidable, then the bichon frise is not the dog for you. They’re extremely personable and desire attention and social interaction. They do well for people who live in apartments, but they do require a moderate amount of exercise for their size. Adding agility exercises to their regiment is a sure way to keep them happy. Mental games should also be added to their daily routine, as they are highly intelligent. Teaching him to know tricks can also add to his charm, as all eyes will be on him.

Due to their gentle nature, harsh treatment during training is not recommended. They do quite well as therapy dogs, especially in nursing homes and hospitals.

Main Highlights
  • Bichon Frises can be quite difficult to house train, so having a crate is recommended.
  • Binch Frise puppies are actually very small, and should not be handled by children without adult supervision.
  • They are intelligent and quite cunning. Obedience training is definitely recommended in order to keep them out of trouble.
  • An owner cannot avoid the grooming process. Paying for a professional groomer can cost a lot, but it does take time to learn the technique on your own. Unless you’re a good student, it might be best to let someone handle the trimming in order to avoid ruining your dog’s style.
  • Overprotection of your Bichon Frise due to his size can lead to bad behaviour: becoming shy, spoiled, and fearful of other people and animals. You should be mindful of dangerous situations, but allow your dog’s confidence to shine through so that he learns how to cope with interactions with other people and animals.
Breed History

The exact origin of the Bichon Frise is unclear, though common belief states that he is descended from the Barbet. This is a medium-sized woolly water dog that is considered to belong to the Barbichon family. This family of dogs also includes the Bolognese, the Coton de Tulear, the Havanses, and the Maltese, due to their similar looks and dispositions.

They date back to the 14th Century, when French sailors brought dogs from Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Other believe that it was developed in Italy by traders who used the Phoenician trade route. Other still believe that the Spanish seamen brought the breed to Tenerife and that they were returned to Europe by the French sailors as war booty after the invasion in the 1500s. Regardless of how the breed arrived in Europe, it quickly became a favourite with the nobility, especially with his striking white fur. They were kept in the royal courts of Francis I and Henry III, and were often favourite of Spanish royal families and painters, such as Goya. This interest remained during the rule of Napoleon III, but then fell out of favour. They were regarded as common dogs, being used as circus performers and leading the blind. It was their intelligence and appeal that prevented from going extinct around this time period.

After World War I, French breeders regained interest in the Bichon Frise and tried to preserve the breed. A standard was adopted in 1933, and were soon brought over to the United States in 1956. They were entered into the Miscellaneous Category by the AKC, and was eventually switched to the Non-Sporting Group in 1973.


The general size of a Bichon Frise, regardless of sex, is about 9 to 11 inches at the shoulder, and weighs about 7 to 12 pounds.

Personality and Character

The most outstanding trait of the Bichon Frise is his cheerful attitude. He loves to be loved, as well as being the centre of attention. He has a playful independent streak, but he hates being alone. When he is, he can be destructive, and chews on anything in sight. For this reason, he is not the best choice for people who are away from the home for long periods of time.

The Bichon Frise is a quick study when it comes to obedience classes. You’ll be impressed at the rate at which he learns the lessons being taught him, and he definitely excels at learning tricks and being admitted to canine sports. He strives to succeed and to make his owner happy, so he’ll give everything he’s got to achieve the task being put before him.

The temperament of the Bichon Frise is determined by a number of factors, such as heredity, training and socialization. Look for a puppy who is curious and playful, and willing to approach new people. Meeting the parents can also provide you with a sample of what to expect when your puppy grows up. Early socialization once you get your puppy home can also help to round out his personality. By meeting new people and other animals, he can start to learn his boundaries and become accustomed to being around other people and animals besides his owners.

Health and Potential Problems

If you are getting your Bichon Frise from a breeder, it’s important to do some research on the parentage of your puppy. Be sure that your breeder has provided health clearances for both dogs to ensure that you have a healthy puppy. There are some conditions that you may not notice until your puppy becomes fully grown, so when these do present themselves, be sure to inform your breeder as soon as possible. Here is a list of diseases and conditions that can affect your Bichon Frise.

  • Bladder Problems: bladder stones and bladder infections: are not uncommon in this breed. Many factors can cause bladder stones, including excessive protein, magnesium, and phosphorus in the diet or long periods of time between urination. Bladder infections can be traced to bacterial or viral infections. If your Bichon needs to urinate frequently, has bloody urine, or seems to have difficulty urinating and loss of appetite, take him to the vet for a checkup.
  • Allergies: allergies can afflict Bichons due to several different causes, including contact allergies and food allergies. Bichons are well known for being sensitive to fleabites as well. If your Bichon is scratching, licking at his paws, or rubbing his face often, suspect that he has an allergy and have him checked by your vet.
  • Patellar Luxation: also known as slipped stifles, this is a common problem in small dogs. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
  • Vaccination Sensitivity: some Bichons are affected by this sensitivity, and many suffer even from routine vaccinations. Symptoms usually include hives, facial swelling, soreness, and lethargy. In rare instances, a vaccine-sensitive dog will develop complications or even die. Watch your Bichon carefully for a few hours after he’s been vaccinated, and call the vet if you notice anything unusual.
  • Hip Dysplasia: this is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don’t display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred.
  • Juvenile Cataracts: cataracts sometimes develop in relatively young (less than six years old) Bichons. This is thought to be hereditary. When buying a Bichon puppy, be sure to ask if the breeder her breeding stock is certified by the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF), and ask to see the certificates yourself.
Care Features

Bichon Frises are quite active dogs, but they are capable of adapting to apartment living as long as they are provided with enough exercise and play. If you do have to leave your Bichon at home by himself, be sure to use a crate or he may become destructive. Leave him with a few toys to keep his mind busy.

Feeding Schedule

The Bichon Frise does not require a lot of food, given his small size. One half to one and a half cups of food are recommended per day in order to maintain his energy levels, but this can be altered at your discretion according to your dog’s age and metabolism.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Bichon Frise is a dog breed that is always white, although the puppies may appear a cream color when they are first born. They have a double coat, with the outer coat being coarse and the inner coat being quite soft and dense. It stands away from the body to create a powder puff effect. The grooming process follows the lines of the dog’s body, and is usually left long in order to give him that trademark poof.

They do have a reputation for not shedding, but this isn’t entirely true. The hair that is shed is caught up in the undercoat instead of falling to the floor, so that means that brushing is required in order to remove it. If it isn’t removed, then it can lead to a lot of mats and tangles, and further skin problems if these are left alone.

If you’re inexperienced with grooming dogs, then getting a Bichon Frise is going to be like a nightmare. Their grooming needs are quite high-maintenance, and they require a lot of time being bathed and groomed. He should be brushed at least twice a week and he will have to be bathed whenever he gets dirty. He should be brushed before bathing to remove any mats or tangles, or else they’ll be much more difficult to remove afterwards.

Most owners choose to take their dogs to a professional groomer’s every four to six weeks in order to take care of their needs. They can take care of all of the maintenance for you, but at a high price. If you’re interested in learning how to groom your Bichon Frise yourself, then there are some books and videos that you can use to help you develop and perfect your technique. Be aware that it’s going to take a few hours out of your day, however.

Another important part of grooming is the eyes. His face should be kept clean at all times in order to promote his health. Discharge from the eyes can often stain the white fur of his face, and accumulation can lead to eye problems in the future. If you do notice that there are excessive tear stains on your dog’s face, then it could be a sign of infection or a food allergy. They are sometimes prone to blocked or small tear ducts, eyelids turning inwards, or eyelashes that grow towards the eyeball. Taking your dog to the vet can eliminate these problems and improve the quality of your dog’s life.

Their ears should be checked and cleaned on a regular basis to make sure they’re clean. It may be necessary to pluck hair out of their ear canals in order to promote further cleanliness. If you do notice redness, waxy buildup, a foul odor, or your dog is shaking and/or scratching his ears a lot, then you should take him to the vet immediately. His nails should be trimmed and his teeth brushed on a regular basis as well. These can prevent tearing of the nails and tartar from building up on the gums, which can lead to tooth loss if they’re not taken care of properly.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Bichon Frise makes an excellent family dog, and are wonderful companions for children. They’re ready to enjoy any of their games, and are also content in sitting in their laps when playtime is over. They’re quite tolerant of loud noises and the high strung activities of children. Children should still be taught how to approach a dog and how to respect the dog’s boundaries when he is eating or sleeping.

In the company of other dogs or cats in the home, he gets along well with them as long as he is provided with his fair share of attention. There are no play mate favorites with a Bichon Frise in the home.

If you’re looking for a companion dog who is eager to be involved in all of the activities of the home, then the Bichon Frise is the breed for you. Their compact size makes it easy for you to take them on trips with you. Their cheerful demeanor is increased tenfold that that adorable face and fluffy hair, though grooming them is quite essential in order to keep their looks. This small dog has a lot to provide in the way of affection, and it’s only fair that you do the same.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.