Bichon Frise

At a glance
bichonThe Bichon Frise was developed in the Mediterranean area, and was preceded by the poodle. They became popular all over Europe at the height of the Renaissance due to their elegant white coat, small size and cheerful disposition. The breed is relatively new in the United States, having arrived only in 1955 and having its first litter there in 1956.


  • Names – Bichon à poil frisé, Bichon Tenerife,
  • Group – AKC: Non-Sporting Group; KC: Toy Group
  • Size – small
  • Life expectancy – 15-18 years; the average life span is 16 years.
  • Cost of ownership – medium
  • Ease of ownership – medium
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Amount of Exercise – low
  • Amount of Grooming – high
  • Ease of Training – high
  • Obedience level – high
  • Suitable for Children – high
  • Amount of Care Required – high
  • Susceptibility to Health Problems – low

The Bichon Frisé is a small but strong dog that weighs 10 to 18 lbs and stands 23 to 30 cm at the withers. The whiteness of his coat is only interrupted by his black nose and dark eyes. In some dogs, a cream color can be observed near the ears or on the body. The head and legs are proportionate in size to the body, and ears and tail are natural.  It is common for Bichon owners to trim the coat to make the fur seem even in length.


  • Bitch: 3kg (7lbs) to 6kg (13lbs)
  • Dog: 3kg (7lbs) to 6kg (13lbs)


  • Bitch: 23cm (9″) to 30cm (12″)
  • Dog: 23cm (9″) to 30cm (12″)


  • Color – white, may have cream shadings
  • Coat – The Bichon’s white fur is a blend of curly topcoat and a silky undercoat. The double coat is normally all white in an adult, but it is shaded with cream, apricot, or gray hairs when the dogs are puppies. These dogs are known as non-shedding and are considered hypoallergenic.
  • Shedding – low
  • Allergies – medium
  • Causes Allergies – low

The Bichon Frise is lively and animated with a cheerful, yet calm disposition. They are very much a family dog and are highly lovable. They enjoy interacting with both family members and visitors. The Bichon Frise is also a highly trainable companion.

  • Separation Anxiety – medium
  • Barking tendency – low
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Compatibility with other animals – high
  • Suitable for children – high
  • Watchdog suitability – medium

The Bichon Frise’s temperament is known to be largely cheerful and affectionate. One of the most ideal lapdogs, this wonderful companion is happy to spend his day with his family.  He is a poor watch dog and guard dog, as he is very generous and friendly to everyone, including most pets and he is not overly yappy.  Their intelligence once made them the top dog performers in European carnivals and circuses and to this day he loves to be the center of attention.

The Bichon has the traits of an ideal dog to train: smart, cooperative and eager to please. The keys to winning him over are positive training methods, verbal praise and treats.  The one training challenge with this breed is housebreaking.

Maturity is slow going for these dogs but males seem to be easier to train than females. Crate training is one effective technique for teaching Bichons. It is also important to start obedience and agility training at an early age.  In addition, this canine loves to learn dog tricks.

  • Obedience – high

Exercise required
The Bichon is not hyperactive, which is one of the reasons that make him an attractive house pet.  He will actually adjust his activity level to meet that of his family.  He likes being walked but often requires the encouragement of his owner.

  • Energy – low
  • Amount required – 10-30 minutes a day

To accustom the Bichon to grooming, he should be introduced to the experience as a puppy.
Excess hair can grow inside the ears and between foot pads and will need to be removed regularly. Trim the nails monthly, since these can lengthen in a fast to moderate rate.
The hair on the Bichon’s face will also need some cleaning and trimming, as eye discharge and mucus tend to clump in the hair around and under their eyes. Something that he shares with most white dogs is tear-staining around the eyes. Tear staining may be caused by allergies, infections, blocked tear ducts, stray eyelashes or foreign material in the eyes. More often than not, the unsightly red stain can be removed by keeping the dog away from foods treated with food coloring.

There are many quality dog food selections available that are suitable for the Bichon. However, whether its dry kibble or otherwise, probably the most inferior dog food that you should stay away from are those that contain beef by-products – or worse still – those combined with soy and yellow corn meal.

What a sensible food buyer will need to look for among the top basic ingredients is meat or meat meal. Aside from this, higher quality grains, e.g. barley, brown rice, and oatmeal should be there in place of wheat and corn. An alternative starch/carbohydrate-based ingredient would be potatoes or sweet potatoes. The following are definite ingredients to avoid: byproducts, carcinogenic preservatives like BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, artificial colorings such as the Red, Blue, and Yellow dyes, and added sugars e.g. sugar, corn syrup.

To maintain the look of their famous beautiful coat, Bichon Frisés require professional grooming every 4 to 6 weeks.
Bichons that take part in conformation are styled to have a full-volume coat cut, as per most show requirements. Alternatively, Bichon Frisés can also be kept in the shorter and less fussy “puppy cut.” The benefits of regularly grooming this dog are the lessening of tangles and achieving a puffier look. Matting can be reduced by keeping the coat clean, brushed thoroughly before bathing, and brushed and completely dried after bathing.

  • Ease of grooming – low
  • Amount of grooming – high

As in the case of practically all dog breeds, making money or loving your current dog’s personality are poor reasons for breeding the even-tempered breed of Bichons. Slight mistakes in ascertaining the dam’s and the sire’s traits and defects may prove disastrous if the outcome is a sickly and unpredictable litter.   In addition, there are other factors that can make breeding difficult to control, such as the risk of the necessary C-section, which often occurs with these small breeds, as well as the medical costs of nurturing the newborn. Other considerations are the $300 stud fees typical of a registered dog. The owners of the dam are also responsible for the health of the puppies.

The following are a few tips to remember. A typical female Bichon Frise will go into heat every six months or so, yet most breeders will delay breeding during the first heat. The optimum time to initiate breeding is 10 to 14 days after the female starts “bleeding”. As for the actual breeding process, the dam will indicate that she is ready when she raises her tail when you scratch above it. At this point, you can bring in the stud.   However, even during the breeding process itself, the dogs’ handlers should intervene by holding on to the animals to prevent the likelihood of injuries and to ensure the success of the process, which can last up to 30 minutes! Nevertheless, when all is said and done, the dogs themselves will separate and walk away.

  • Litter size – average of 5; with size varying from 1 to 6 puppies.
  • Puppy cost – average and range in $USD £500-800
  • Other expenses – Bichons are very inexpensive dogs to feed and normally eat very little. The main cost is linked to their grooming requirements.

Bichons are a long lived breed.   They are not overly prone to hereditary and congenital problems.  That said, they are at risk for certain health issues including dislocation of the kneecap, epilepsy and bladder stones, which is common among bitches.

A Bichon owner will generally want to check the dog’s teeth, eyes and coat on a regular basis. Routine inspection can also help prevent the risk of pyorrhea and pemphigus.

  • Susceptibility to illness – low
  • Common health problems – skin problems and allergies, including atopy (inhalant allergies), Cushing’s Syndrome, dental disease, patellar luxation, cruciate ligament tears, bladder and kidney stones, prone to ear mites.

Living conditions – A Bichon is happiest with a large living space and yard but is also perfectly content in an apartment or large home.   Just about any living condition that allows socialization is good enough for a Bichon.   One thing that does need to be taken into consideration, however, is that the Bichon is sensitive to warm temperatures.

  • Good with Children – very suitable companion for older children

The Bichon Frise originated in the Mediterranean area during the 14th century.   It is suspected that the first Bichon was a mix of the Barbet Water Spaniel and its close cousin, the Poodle.   His glamorous good looks and attractive disposition helped the Bichon Frise make his way to a variety of Europe’s notable social settings, from opulent French royal courts in the 16th century to street performances and accompanying the wandering organ grinder.  Nowadays, the Bichon Frise is a prized show dog or a family companion.

  • County of origin – Spain / Belgium (eventually taken to France)
  • AKA KC name and group: Gun Dog, AKC Non-Sporting

Did you know…

  • Famous Bichon owners include Barbara Streisand and Kathy Lee Gifford.
  • A Bichon made an appearance in the animation movie “Shrek 2.”
  • Bichon Frise means “curly lap dog” in French.
  • This breed has curious, temporary orange stains on their ears during puppyhood.
  • Winsor Pilates

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