Bichon Frises are known as the happy-go-lucky powder puffs of the dog world. Learn more about this very animated yet strong-willed breed.
Origin and History
Bichons developed as a breed in the Mediterranean, and were a favorite of European royalty and nobles for centuries. These dogs made their way across the continent, traveling with sailors who used them for barter. The Bichon Frise breed was first documented in the 14th century, when French sailors brought dogs back from Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands.
Today's Bichon is a descendent of a water spaniel known as the Barbet, although some people believe there is some Poodle in the breed's lineage. In the early days, there were four basic types of Bichon, including the Teneriffe, Bolognais, Maltais, and Havanais. The Teneriffe variety became especially popular in France, and it was this country that officially gave the dogs the name Bichon Frise, in reference to their soft, fuzzy coats. The breed achieved official recognition from the American Kennel Club in 1973.
The Bichon Frise is frequently confused with a white Poodle due to their beautiful, fluffy white fur. Bichons are a particularly attractive breed with a perky, good-natured demeanor that complements their lovely appearance.
The Bichon is a sturdy little dog with a slightly rectangular outline. The puffy white coat is the first feature to capture attention, followed by the dog's deep brown or black eyes. The eyes are very round, and seem more prominent against the white background of the coat. The muzzle is blunt, with just a slight amount of stop as it meets the forehead. The tail is set high and held curved over the back.
The average weight runs between 7 and 12 pounds, and most dogs stand between 9 and 12 inches tall at the shoulder. These dogs have a very sprightly step, and they can move with clock-like precision.
After their distinctive coat, members of this breed are most renowned for their effervescent personality. Bichons are a bundle of merriment in a relatively small package, and they love nothing better than spending time with people. These dogs love to play, run, and explore, but they are also equally affectionate. Overall, they make outstanding companions for children and adults. Additionally, most get along well with other pets in the home.
Although intelligent, Bichons tend to be slow to mature, and this does present some difficulty in training, especially house training. Their merry temperament sometimes overshadows the fact that these dogs have strong wills. Any type of training requires consistency until the dog understands what you want from them. Eventually, your efforts will be rewarded.
Barking can also be a problem for this breed. Bichons don't bark just for the sake of barking, but they do feel a need to alert you to anything they think you should know about. Some owners find this disconcerting, so excessive barking should be discouraged from an early age.
Although the Bichon Frise is a low-energy breed, they still require a daily walk or other form of physical activity lasting 20 to 30 minutes. This might be a leashed walk around the block or time spent playing outside.
The Bichon Frise is known to be a generally healthy dog. They do; however, face some health challenges that owners should be aware of.
- Flea allergies: Fleas cause most dogs to itch when bitten, but Bichons can be especially sensitive to the allergen found in flea saliva. Incessant scratching can leave the skin open, irritated, and subject to secondary infections. It's very important for these dogs to be on a flea management program.
- Cataracts: Cataracts are most likely caused by untrimmed fur rubbing against the eyes over the years. It's important to keep the area trimmed back to prevent irritation.
- Ear infections: A good deal of fur fills the ear canals of these dogs, and this prevents adequate air flow. The hair should be pulled out of the ears each time the dog is clipped to prevent moisture and bacterial from building up.
- Luxating patellas: This condition involves a slight misalignment of the ligaments that hold the kneecap in place, and this can lead to sudden dislocation and pain when a dog is romping around.
- Bladder stones: These generally consist of struvite or calcium oxalate crystals that form in the bladder and cause difficulty with urination.
By and large, Bichon Frises are long-lived dogs. They frequently reach 12 to 15 years of age.
Proper grooming also impacts their health and overall well-being. Although this breed is a low shedder, Bichons need to be thoroughly brushed out at least several times a week, if not daily. Otherwise, the coat will form mats. Keeping the coat white can also be a challenge. The dogs should receive a full bath every two weeks with a shampoo for white dogs. The hair around the eyes must be kept trimmed to prevent tearing, and the area should be cleansed with a mild eye wash to remove any staining.
Aside from routine home maintenance, Bichons need a professional clipping every four to six weeks. You can choose the standard show clip the breed is recognized for, or opt for a shorter puppy trim that is easier to manage on an active pet. Trim their nails as necessary, typically every few weeks, depending on how much activity they get.
Fun Facts About the Breed
Although the Bichon Frise is well-known, there are several fun facts to know about the breed:
- The Maltese, Bolognese, Havanese, and the original Bichon Frise, sometimes known as the Bichon Tenerife, are all descendants of the current Bichon Frise. Each of the four names refers to the place where the breed was developed.
- Bichon means "lap dog" in French.
- The lavish treatment of Bichons inspired the word "bichonner," a French verb that means "to pamper."
Purchasing or Adopting a Bichon Frise
If you're looking for a Bichon Frise puppy, a good place to start is the website for the Bichon Frise Club of America. They have a breeder directory available as well as helpful tips on how to find responsible breeders with quality dogs. The AKC Marketplace page also has a breeder search. Expect to pay between $700 to $2,000, although higher-end show dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $3,500 or more.
- Small Paws Rescue: A non-profit organization located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, dedicated to rescuing non-aggressive Bichon Frise dogs of all ages.
- Tidewater Bichon Frise Rescue: A Bichon Frise-specific rescue organization adopting both healthy and terminal dogs located in Suffolk, Virginia.
- Bichon Furkids: This nonprofit rescue organization will only place Bichons in homes with other dogs in San Diego and Orange Counties in California.
- Bichon Rescue of Orange County: This rescue focuses on placing elderly Bichons and other small breed dogs in homes with senior citizens.
Is this the Breed for You?
If you're considering adopting a Bichon Frise, learn everything so you can determine if they're the right fit for you. If you do choose this breed, take your time looking through shelters and rescue dogs until you find the Bichon that's destined to be a lifelong member of your family.