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The Bichon Frise is a small dog with a similar appearance to that of the Maltese Dog. In French the name literally translates as 'curly white lap dog', which sums up this breed well being a merry and happy little dog who relishes human attention and love.
It is thought that the Bichon Frise is descended from the Poodle and Spaniels. Along with its cousin, the Maltese Dog, the Bichon Frise has its roots in the sunny Mediterranean. Literature tells us they were often used as payment for items by sailors. This was due to their sunny temperament and love for people and by the 14th and 15th centauries they had found their way to being a popular dog in noble courts and households at the time. Their appearance also did much to help their cause in this respect being pure white with a soft coat; their owners were often respectable ladies in the Spanish and Italian courts. True to their 'sea dog' roots, however, they had, and still do have a love of the water.
The interest in these little dogs continued until the 19th century when they suddenly became the dog of the common man, well known for doing circus tricks and dancing for organ grinders on the streets, often wearing a ruff around its neck. In the 1930's the bred standards was accepted in France and its popularity soared again after the famous series of 'TinTin' books featured a similar small white dog. Later on in the mid 1900's it found its way to the UK and the US, where it remains a well liked lap dog.
Average height to withers: Males and females are between 8-12 inches.
Average weight: Both sexes between 5-10 kg.
The most striking feature of the Bichon Frise is, of course, its stunning and usually pure white and curly coat. On occasion, cream or apricot coats are seen and sometimes just a little amount is seen around its ear area. The top coat is silky and soft with a thick undercoat. The dark eyes and nose are in contrast to the pale coat colour and stand out very well in this respect. It has a well proportioned body with a tail that is curled and carried over the back.
In addition, the coat is often described as hypoallergenic, being suitable for people with allergies to some fur, hair and saliva. While this breed does shed it coat, it does not do so as much as some breeds and the hypoallergenic properties of this dogs coat are enhanced by a regular grooming routine.
The Bichon Frise has a naturally high attitude to life and is a merry dog with a sunny disposition. Aficionados of this breed like it because it combines this joy for life with a gentle nature and a natural playfulness. It is hard not to like the little Bichon Frise in this respect! They are relatively intelligent animals and like to please their owners and readily learn new commands and tricks. They have an affinity with people generally and do well with children due to their playful nature. This ease of being around people is further enhanced by early socialisation to humans as well as other animals.
When healthy, this little dog has a life span of between 12-14 years of age. They are quite healthy dogs, however, owners should be alert to certain autoimmune conditions such as Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA) and Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP). These conditions are shown to be responsible for a large proportion of Bichin Frise deaths.
With AIHA, the dogs own immune system attacks the red blood cells, leading to severe and sometimes life-threatening anemia. Symptoms include weakness, loss of energy, lack of appetite, rapid heart rate and breathing and pale gums. Thrombocytopenia often accompanies AIHA. With ITP, the platelets which aid blood clotting are damaged or destroyed. Symptoms of this include hemorrhages of the skin, nose and mouth. These conditions can happen very rapidly so it is essential the owners of this breed are aware of these conditions and take the dog to the vet if any suspicious symptoms are seen.
The Bichon Frise does not require excessive walks and exercise but it does love to play and positively thrives on human attention. The owner of this little dog will need to devote a large amount of time to the care of its coat, with regular brushing and possible trips to a professional groomers each 6-10 weeks to clip if required.