Recognized for his puffed white coat, dark eyes and confident prance, the bichon frise is a happy little dog with a long history. Once an admired subject among Spanish painters and a favored choice for performing circus tricks, the bichon frise loves to be the center of attention. Today, his delightful personality has rendered him a beloved family member in numerous households that prefer a smaller canine companion.
Physical CharacteristicsThe bichon frise stands 9.5 to 11.5 inches tall at the shoulder. His compact and sturdy form enables him to be agile, and his carefree gait is effortless. His plumed tail is carried proudly over the top of his back, and his earflaps drop down to frame the sides of his face.
His physique is covered with a double coat, consisting of a soft, dense undercoat and a coarser overcoat of hairs that curl away from the body, giving the dog a cotton powder puff appearance. The coat is white, but pale shadings of apricot, buff or cream may be present. The nose and lips of a bichon frise are black.
The bichon frise’s eyes are dark brown or black and convey a look of softness and inquisitiveness. The contrasting dark colors of his eyes and lips against the backdrop of white facial hair give the Bichon frise his most striking and captivating feature, which is a face that is filled with expression.
TemperamentThe overall demeanor of a bichon frise is one of a happy-go-lucky nature. He is playful and full of bounce, eager to play with his owners whenever the opportunity arises. He gets along with children and other pets, and he is outgoing with strangers. His playful nature makes him receptive to learning tricks, and his mischievous, playful antics keep his human family members amused.
Bichon frises are cheerful, sensitive and affectionate, making them excellent cuddling companions. They thrive in the company of people, and some dogs suffer from separation anxiety when left alone. This scenario prompts some bichon frises to bark excessively for attention.
Bichon frises are one of the most challenging dogs to housebreak. They must also be trained to learn their place in the family hierarchy. Their confident and exuberant nature can give way to nipping, excessive barking and stubborn behavior if consistent and diligent training is not initiated from their first days in their new homes.
Care & GroomingThe bichon frise is full of energy that he must expend. Daily exercise and interactive play sessions are required for this breed. This need may be fulfilled with a romp around a large yard or in the park, a daily walk around the block on a leash or an indoor game activity that allows him to zoom around the room.
The coat of a bichon frise requires regular grooming. The hair grows continuously, but it does not shed. These curling locks will knot and become matted with the coat. Regular combing and brushing at home, combined with monthly bathing and trimming from a groomer, will keep the knotting under control and help to maintain the whiteness of the coat.
Most small dogs, including bichon frises, are at risk for dental disease, and brushing their teeth on a regular basis will help to preserve their oral health. Some other health problems to which bichon frises are prone include ear and skin allergies, patellar luxation, cataracts, bladder stones and a condition called Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Regular examinations by a veterinarian will help to maximize the dog’s longevity, achieving his average lifespan of 12 to 15 years.
HistoryA descendant of the barbet, or water spaniel, the bichon frise originated during the thirteenth century on Tenerife, one of the Spanish Canary Islands. Spanish sailors used the little white dogs, known as bichon Tenerifes at the time, as barter on their trade expeditions. Italians seamen fell in love with the bichon Tenerifes and brought them back to Europe, where the dogs were welcomed in Italian and French royal courts until the late 1800s. Their days of nobility waned shortly thereafter, and the dogs spent their lives on the streets, performing tricks with organ grinders and circuses.
In 1933, French breeders took in the bichon Tenerife, established breed standards and renamed the dog bichon frise, which appropriately translates to curly coat. The bichon frise made his way across the ocean in 1956 with a French family that moved to the state of Michigan. The American Kennel Club first recognized the bichon frise as a member of the non-sporting dog group in 1972. The bichon frise is a distant cousin of the Maltese, the Havanese, the Bolognese and the coton de Tulear.