Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Bichon Frise
Average Cost to keep/care for a Bichon Frise
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Bichon is one of the most popular breeds in the world and for good reason. They are adorable little dogs that boast wonderful, affectionate and loveable personalities. Bichons are known to be good around children which is another bonus as many smaller dogs find it hard to cope when there are kids around. The Bichon is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean region of Europe and is often referred to as the "Tenerife Dog" thanks to sailors in the 14th century having found them on the island of Tenerife and over the following centuries, Bichons found their way into the hearts and homes of people the world over.
The Bichon Frise loves being the centre of attention and although they are small in stature these little dogs are extremely confident and outgoing as well as being highly intelligent making them so entertaining to have around. The downside to sharing a home with a Bichon Frise is that they thrive on being with people and hate being left on their own which often sees them suffering from separation anxiety. It is also worth noting that Bichons are high maintenance in the grooming department because their coats benefit from being professionally groomed every 4 to 6 weeks or so which can add to the cost of their upkeep considerably.
As previously mentioned it is thought the Bichon Frise originates for the Mediterranean region of Europe and that they are descendants of the Barbet or Water Spaniel. They were given the name Barbichon after the Barbet which was then shortened to simply "Bichon". Back in the day, the breed was divided into four separate types, namely the Bichon Maltais, the Bichon Bolognais, the Bichon Havanai and finally the Bichon Teneriffe, but all four varieties were found in various regions in the Med.
Sailors visiting the island of Tenerife found these little dogs and named them "Tenerife Dogs" back in the 14th century. The seamen took them back home with them and often used to trade them for other items. The Bichon soon found favour with the upper classes in many European countries thanks to their adorably cute looks and bright, sunny dispositions. They were particularly popular with ladies of the Spanish and Italian courts during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Bichons found their way to France when Francis I was on the throne, but it was under the reign of Henry III that the breed really came into its own. In Spain, too, Bichons were a firm favourite with the Infantas as well as the Spanish school of painters who often depicted these little white dogs in their paintings. By the late 1800's, Bichons were owned by commoners too and many dogs used to accompany organ grinders and circuses as performing dogs because they were so quick to learn new tricks.
It was not until the end of the WWI that a renewed interest in the breed saw enthusiasts establish breeding programmes and through careful, selective breeding, they managed to re-establish good breeding lines for the Bichon. In 1933, a breed standard was set up by the President of the Toy Club of France which was established with the Friends of the Belgian Breeds. At the time, these lovely little white dogs went under two names which were the "Teneriffe" and the "Bichon" so it was decided to amalgamate the two by calling the breed, the "Bichon Frise".
At the time and under their French Kennel Club registration France, Belgium and Italy were the countries of origin for the breed. A little later in 1956, French breed enthusiasts called M and Mde Picault moved to the States where they bred their first litter of Bichons which caught the eye of American breeders who set about developing the breed further in the States.
By the mid-1960's, the Bichon found favour in Australia too thanks to a TV series in which a Bichon named Molly starred alongside an actor called Bruce Gyngell. Thanks to the series the number of Bichons grew in many of the country’s Eastern states and the breed has remained popular ever since.
Today, the Bichon Frise is one of the most popular breeds in the UK not only as companions and family pets, but in the show ring too thanks to their adorable looks and their kind, even-tempered and loyal natures which when added together makes these little white dogs the perfect crowd pleaser.
Height at the withers: Males 23 – 28 cm, Females 23 – 28 cm
Average weight: Males 3 - 5 kg, Females 3 - 5 kg
The Bichon Frise has a pure white, soft coat that boasts having corkscrew curls in it. They are compact and nicely proportioned little dogs. Their heads are slightly rounded with a defined stop and hair that accentuates the shape of their heads quite noticeably. They have large, black, soft and shiny noses that adds to their overall cute appeal. A Bichon's eyes are dark and round boasting striking black rims surrounded by haloes. These little dogs always have a keen and alert expression in their eyes which people find so endearing.
Their ears are well covered with long, flowing hair and they hang close to a dog's head. They are set high on the head and dogs carry them forward when excited. The Bichon has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their lips are totally black in colour and quite tight.
Dogs hold their longish necks slightly arched which gives these little dogs their proud look. Their shoulders are oblique with nice straight strong legs. They have very well-developed fore-chests with a deep brisket and well sprung ribs. They have well-muscled bodies with broad loins that are very slightly arched and nicely tucked up. Their back-ends are broad with slightly rounded croups and well-rounded thighs and strong back legs. Feet are tight and well-rounded with black nails and pads. Bichons carry their tails raised up and they curve them over their backs although never curled.
When it comes to their coat, the Bichon Frise boasts a fine, soft and silky white coat that's made up of corkscrew curls that measures anything from 7 – 10 cm in length. Dogs can be left untrimmed or trimmed which is perfectly acceptable as a breed standard.
Their coats are completely white, but dogs can have apricot or cream markings right up to when they are around eighteen months old. Their skin is dark which is highly desirable under their KC breed standard even though these dogs are white although they can have various coloured markings on their skin too which includes blue, beige and black all of which are acceptable.
When Bichons move, they do so with a nice balanced and easy-going gait with dogs always having a level and steady topline. Their legs move in a straight motion along the line a dog is travelling with their back pads clearly visible.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and the seriousness of a fault would be judged on how much it affects a dog's overall health and well-being as well as their ability to perform.
Male Bichons should have both normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
It is also worth noting that a Bichon Frise can be slightly bigger or smaller as well as a little lighter or heavier than stated in their breed standard which is given as a guide only.
The Bichon Frise is renowned for being a happy, lively and fun-loving little dog. They are very confident and outgoing characters, always friendly and rarely do they show any sort of aggressive behaviour. They are real clowns and love nothing more than to "perform" and play which is why they are such fun to have around. They are intelligent and therefore quick to learn new things and they are always ready and willing to please their owners which means it’s extremely easy to train them to do all sorts of tricks.
Although they are lively and energetic characters, they are quite calm too unlike many other breeds of a similar size. They are particularly good around children which means they make great family pets. They are also a great choice of dog for first-time owners although it is worth noting that these little dogs are quite high maintenance in the grooming department. In short, owners need to have the time and the know-how to keep a Bichon's coat looking great and in good condition.
Although highly trainable, the Bichon can be a little difficult to housetrain, but with perseverance, understanding and patience, they can be taught to be clean around the home and to do their "business" outside. It can just take a little longer than with many other breeds. With this said, they are best suited to households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so that a Bichon never spends too much time on their own, which is something they hate and which often sees these little dogs getting stressed out because they suffer separation anxiety.
Bichons are a great choice for first time dog owners because they are so affectionate and eager to please with an added bonus being that they are incredibly social by nature. Bichons get on with everyone and everything, more especially if they are well-bred and socialised from a young enough age.
Bichons do not have a high prey drive, but this is not to say they won’t chase a neighbour's cat when they get the chance just for the fun of it. As a rule if a Bichon has been well socialised, they won’t take off after anything that moves or that takes their interest.
Bichons are renowned for their playfulness, enjoying nothing more than to be the centre of attention entertaining their owners and guests alike. In days long past, Bichons accompanied organ grinders and performed in circuses because they learned new tricks so easily and because they thrive on human contact.
The Bichon is a highly adaptable little dog and one that fits in easily to most people's lifestyles. They are just as happy living in an apartment in town as they would be living in a house in the country providing they are given lots of attention because if there is one thing the Bichon does not like, it's finding themselves on their own for any length of time.
Some Bichons like the sound of their own voices a little too much and can be quite "yappy" at times. The key to preventing a Bichon from turning into a dog that barks for the sake of it, is to educate them when they are still very young and to do so gently but firmly before it becomes a real headache.
Bichons might not be a "water dog" breed, but they do have an affinity with water and most dogs enjoy retrieving and getting their feet wet whenever they can. With this said, it's important not to let dogs swim in a pool because of all the chemicals found in them which could prove harmful to a dog and care should always be taken when walking a Bichon off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case they leap or fall in.
Bichons may be small in stature, but they are good watchdogs and are always quick to let an owner know when there are strangers about and when they don’t like something that is going on in their environment.
The Bichon Frise is known to be a quick witted little dog that’s always eager to please. As such they are easy to train, providing they know who is the boss in the household. Their training must be consistent and although it is easy to let a Bichon get away with a few things because they are so cute, it's better not to because it could lead to a dog developing some unwanted behavioural issues. Providing a Bichon knows the boundaries and limits, they can be taught to be a well-behaved. If allowed to get away with too much, a Bichon being so clever would soon take on the role of alpha dog which often sees them being harder to manage because they develop a condition known as “small dog syndrome”.
It's worth noting, however, that Bichons can be harder to housetrain than some other small breeds. As previously mentioned, housetraining one of these little dogs can take time, patience and perseverance, but in the end most Bichons get the message and don't mess in the house unless they are left on their own for too long.
The first command a Bichon puppy should be taught as soon as possible so they understand ground rules and boundaries as well as who is the alpha dog in a household are as follows:
The Bichon has a natural affinity with people and therefore they generally get on well with children thanks to their playful and fun-loving personalities. However, it's important that any interaction between dogs and the kids is well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not get too boisterous which could end up with a child being frightened or in a worst-case scenario, injured albeit by accident.
Bichons generally get on with other dogs and if they have been well socialised from a young enough age. They also get on with the family cat and will live happily alongside each other. However, when it comes to smaller pets, it's best to keep an eye on a Bichon because they might see them as prey with disastrous consequences although they do not have a very high prey drive, it's just best to err on the side of caution whenever a Bichon meets a smaller animal or pet for the first time.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Bichon Frise is between 12 to 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
However, like so many other pure breeds, they are known to suffer from certain hereditary health issues which includes the following:
Currently there is no DNA test available for Bichons, but any dog known to suffer from HC should not be used for breeding purposes. A Bichon can be tested for the condition privately, but dogs must be examined by a BVA panel examiner for which there is a fee.
Dogs can also be tested for slightly less at certain dog shows, but all Bichons must be microchipped and Kennel Club registered to do so. It is also important for owners to provide copies of all previous tests carried out on their dog when they request a further test. All results are then recorded with the Kennel Club with an end goal being for the information to be provided on the registration documents of all puppies sired or whelped by Bichons that were tested.
For the moment, it is not a requirement under the KC rules to have a Bichon tested for patellar luxation. However, it is always recommended that breeders do not use a Bichon with the condition for breeding purposes which is the only way of reducing the risks of any offspring developing the condition too.
Bichon puppies would have had their first vaccinations, but it's essential for them to have their follow-up jabs at the right time with the vaccination schedule being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A male Bichon can safely be neutered when they are 6 months old and females can be spayed when they are 6 months old too.
Bichons tend to be energetic, active little dogs by nature and providing they are given enough daily exercise to burn off any excess calorie intake, a dog should not put on any unnecessary weight. With this said, it's important not to feed a Bichon too many "food" rewards and treats which could see a dog plough on the pounds more especially if they are being fed the same amount of food every day. Obesity can seriously impact a Bichon's health because carrying so much weight puts extra pressure not only on a dog's joints, but their internal organs too. In short, being obese can shorten a Bichon's life by several years.
Allergies are a health concerns commonly seen in the breed and all too often finding the trigger proves challenging. The most common triggers for allergies in Bichons include the following:
It is very important for a Bichon with allergies to be examined by a vet sooner rather than later. Not only would a dog be made to feel more comfortable, but the vet would be able to start carrying out specific tests to find out what is causing the problem. With this said, it could still take time because as previously mentioned, finding the triggers can prove challenging and involves a lot of trial and error.
Under Kennel Club rules, it is mandatory for all Assured Breeders to have stud dogs tested under the following scheme and it is recommended that other breeders do the same to ensure Bichon puppies are as healthy as possible:
Currently there are no breed specific breeding restrictions for the Bichon Frise.
All Kennel Club Assured Breeders must have their stud dogs tested for the following and it is highly recommended that other breeders do the same:
As with any other breed, a Bichon Frise needs to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Getting a Bichon puppy is an exciting time, but there are many things to consider before making a final choice. Bichons may be gorgeous little dogs to look at, but they are also extremely demanding in many ways. They are high maintenance when it comes to keeping their skin and coats in good condition. They hate being left on their own for any length of time either which often sees dogs suffering from separation anxiety. In short, getting a Bichon puppy is a huge commitment that involves teaching them that being groomed is fun and their education must start at a very young age.
The timing of when a puppy arrives in a new home is of the utmost importance and should be organised for when people are going to be around for at least a week to settle the new addition to the family into what for them would be a strange and odd smelling environment. Bichons as previously mentioned are better suited to households where at least one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they never find themselves on their own for too long which is doubly important where puppies are concerned.
It is also essential to set up a quiet area for puppy and it should be somewhere that's not too out of the way because a puppy would be feeling quite insecure when they first arrive so having somewhere they can retreat to can help them through the ordeal of having left their mothers and litter mates. Puppies need a tremendous amount of sleep which can be anything up to 21 hours a day and they need to nap to preserve their energy so they can grow and develop as they should. If there are children in the home, it's important to teach them not to disturb a puppy when they are sleeping and not to interrupt them when they are eating either.
It is also important to puppy-proof a home and a garden well in advance of a puppy's arrival which means making sure there are not electric wires or cables for them to chew on and to remove anything else that might injure them. Garden tools should be put away and it's also a good idea to check to see if there are toxic plants growing in flower beds and to remove them before allowing a puppy outside unsupervised.
A Bichon puppy would have been wormed before being sold and the documentation a breeder provides must have all the worming date details and the product used. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again once they are in their new homes keeping to a schedule as follows:
There are items needed to care for a puppy which should be purchased well in advance of their arrival which includes the following:
All puppies are sensitive to loud noises so it is important to keep the volume down on televisions and other devices. Music should not be played too loudly either because it could frighten a Bichon puppy and prevent them from napping during the day.
Puppies are always vaccinated before they are sold, but as previously mentioned, it is up to their new owners to make sure they are given their follow-up shots at the right time which should be as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
When Bichons reach their golden years, they slow down in many ways and start showing their age. Apart from a change in appearance, a Bichon's personality might alter a little too and this includes on how quickly they respond to a command or when their names are called out. The reason for this is that many older dogs cannot hear as well as they once could and not necessarily because they are ignoring an owner. Other changes to watch out for in a Bichon when they reach their senior years include the following:
Bichons are high maintenance on the grooming front because to keep their coats looking good, they need to be brushed every day using a soft slicker brush. The reason being that their corkscrew curls can quickly get matted and tangled. It's also a good idea to have their coats trimmed by a professional dog groomer every 4 to 6 weeks to keep the "Bichon" shape they are so famous for and which adds so much to their cute appeal.
A professional groomer would also be able to check a dog's ears because hair often builds up in them which needs to be carefully and gently plucked out so that air can circulate properly reducing the risk of a yeast infection taking hold which can be notoriously hard to clear up. It’s a task that’s best left up to a professional.
Having the right grooming tools helps keep a Bichon's coat and skin in top condition. Bichons enjoy being brushed and appreciate the one to one contact they are given when they are. The tools needed to keep a dog's coat looking good are as follows:
When it comes to exercise, these little guys need to be given at least 30 minutes a day so they can let off steam. They are the perfect choice for people who lead more sedentary indoor lives and who have the time to devote to their canine companions because Bichon's although not high energy dogs, love to play games whether indoors or outdoors. They also thrive on being around people and do not like being left on their own, often suffering from separation anxiety when they are.
If you get a Bichon puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule for your new pet and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same type of puppy food at the same times of the day to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upset and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change their diet again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature Bichon twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories which is important or they might start to gain too much weight which could negatively impact their health and wellbeing.
Once a puppy is settled into their new homes, it is safe to change their diets, but as previously touched upon, it needs to be done gradually and carefully to avoid any tummy upsets. As a rough guide, Bichon puppies can be fed the following amounts every day to ensure they are getting all the nutrients they need to grow and develop properly:
Once a puppy is 11 months old they can be fed adult dog food as shown below.
As a rough guide, an adult fully grown Bichon can be fed the following amounts every day to ensure they stay fit and healthy:
If you are looking to buy a Bichon Frise, you would need to pay anything from £500 to over £600 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Bichon Frise in northern England would be £19.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether a dog has been spayed or neutered.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Bichon Frise and this includes initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which could quickly add up to over a £900 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Bichon Frise would be between £70 to £100 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred pedigree Bichon Frise puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Bichons are an extremely popular breed both in the UK and elsewhere in the world which means that well-bred puppies command a lot of money. As such, with Bichon Frise there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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