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Bichon Frise

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The Bichon Frise is a small purebred well known for its love for getting up to mischief and being a very cheerful and loving dog. It makes a great companion and today can be found often participating in competitive obedience and agility events.

The Bichon is a joy to have around the home, it will bring lots of affection, comfort and happiness to any home. It is fairly easy to train but not to house train so be prepared for a long haul. Make sure that it gets early socialization too, even good natured dogs need it.

Here is the Bichon Frise at a Glance
Name Bichon Frise
Other Names Bichon Tenerife, Bichon A Poil Frise,
Nicknames Tenerife Dog, Purebred Bichon
Origin Belgium, Spain, France
Average size Small
Average weight 7 to 16 pounds
Average height 9 to 12 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Dense,
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color White
Popularity Quite popular – ranked 44th by the AKC
Intelligence Very good - Quite intelligent
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle most warm and hot climates
Tolerance to cold Good – can handle some cold weather but not extremes
Shedding Low – not much if any loose hair
Drooling Low – not likely to drool
Obesity Above average – food and exercise should be monitored
Grooming/brushing High maintenance dog though brushing is not the main part of it
Barking Frequent – training will be needed to control it
Exercise needs Fairly active – needs daily walks, energetic dog
Trainability Easy to train
Friendliness Excellent – very social dog
Good first dog Excellent – great for new owners
Good family pet Excellent – great companion and family dog
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization but does have a somewhat high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent – very approachable
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size as long as it gets daily outings
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Fairly good health but some issues such as bladder problems, allergies and hip dysplasia
Medical expenses $435 a year as a starting figure for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year as a starting figure for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $500 a year as a starting figure for grooming, license, toys, basic training and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $1010 plus
Cost to purchase $525
Biting Statistics None reported

The Bichon Frise's Beginnings

The Bichon Frise can be found as far back as the twelve hundreds and was bred from the Poodle and the Barbet Water Spaniel. Its name derives from the French name Bichon à poil frisé meaning curly lap dog. There are four categories of Bichon dogs and they all have similar looks. The Bichon Maltese, Bichon Havanese, Bichon Bolognaise and Bichon Tenerife (this being the Bichon Frise).

Its origins are in the Mediterranean and it was bred to be a perfect companion. You can find more references to it in the 13th to 14th century. Sailors were responsible for the dog arriving in Europe, and it became very popular there especially with the nobility. From Spain to France, England to Italy there were Bichon Frise in the homes of royalty and the wealthy.

They remained a favored companion for many years but eventually by the late 1800s attention moved on to other breeds and the Bichon Frise fell out of favor. It became a dog for the common people but thankfully because it was attractive and smart it was used in circuses and by organ grinders as a performing dog. This probably saved it from becoming extinct.

New Lease on Life

After World War I French breeders worked to preserve the breed. The national kennel club for France, the Societe Centrale Canine recognized the breed in 1933, thanks in part to the Hergel's The Adventures of Tintin! The dog was known as the Tenerife or Bichon then and the name Bichon Frise was decided upon because of its looks.

It came to the US in 1955 and in 1956 the first American litter of Bichon Frise were born. In 1972 it was recognized by the AKC. Meanwhile in the mid 1960s it also became very popular in Australia thanks to a mini series called Meweth. Today it is a companion dog and successful show dog. It is ranked 44th most popular dog by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a small dog weighing 7 to 16 pounds and standing 9 to 12 inches tall. It is sturdy for a small dog and when clipped is rounded. It has a short muzzle with a black nose, eyes that are round and dark and ears that droop and are covered in long hair. It holds its tail over its back and in countries where it is still done the dew claws are removed.

The legs of the Bichon are straight and it is a double coat. The outer coat is long, curly and coarser than the under coat which is soft and thick. Most owners choose to keep the coat clipped as otherwise it stands out from the body all puffy. Its coat can be sculpted like a Poodle's. Common colors are cream, apricot, grey and white. Show color has to be white though.

The Inner Bichon Frise


The Bichon Frise is known for being a very cheerful, happy and affectionate dog, making it a great companion or family dog. It is responsive, gentle but also can be playful and is easy to live with. It is alert and will bark to alert you to an intruder but is not that protective. It is a great dog for new owners. It is smart and loves to snuggle with you. It can be quite demanding in its need for attention and will want to be included in everything.


While it can have an independent nature it is going to be a dog constantly testing your leadership. It can however be hard to house train and being so social it does not like being left alone. If left for long periods it can suffer from separation anxiety. It can be vocal so training to curb frequent barking may be needed. If a Bichon seems shy this is a problem with the line or from not being well socialized.

Living with a Bichon Frise

What will training look like?

It is quite intelligent and eager to please so training is moderately easy and will not need extra effort or time. Results will be gradual but with positive techniques such as treats, rewards, encouragement and praise you will see them. Be patient and consistent but also be firm and clear about being the boss. While obedience training may be fairly easy, house training this dog is anything but. Some owners let things slide since the puddles are small so easy to clean up but really you need to stick with it.

Along with training there should be early socialization. It gives it more confidence and makes it more trustworthy. Early socialization makes things better for both the dog and its owner. You can also think about teaching it some tricks, the Bichon has a history of being a great performer.

How active is the Bichon Frise?

This is a slightly active dog so can happily live in an apartment thanks to its size as long as it gets out for a couple of short walks. They do not need a yard though of course one is a bonus. It will play indoors with its toys and that along with its daily walks will keep it happy and healthy. A dog that is not being given enough activity and mental stimulation can start to act out with behavioral problems.

Caring for the Bichon Frise

Grooming needs

As cute as this dog is there is no doubt this is a high maintenance dog especially trying to keep that white coat looking clean all the time. It will need regular trips to a groomers for clipping or trimming (every 4 to 6 weeks) but does not shed too much and is considered a hypo-allergenic dog. Trimming will be needed around the eyes and ears, under the eyes and the eyes themselves will need to be cleaned to keep tear stains at bay.

When it comes to bath time it should be done just as it is really needed. Dogs have a natural oil in their skin which acts to protect them and keep the coat healthy. Bathing too often, or using soaps that are not suitable can damage those oils. This can lead to not just unhealthy coats but also skin problems. Of course being white or a light color this means dirt does show up a lot more quickly so it is something you will have to learn to judge. Brush the coat daily to get rid of the mats and debris.

As well as trimming the ears you should check them for infection once a week and clean them just with a wiping. It may be necessary to pluck the hairs out of the ears if trimming is not enough. This can also be taken care of by the groomer. If the nails are getting too long they will need to be clipped and its teeth need to be brushed at least two to three times a week.

Feeding Time

It will need to be fed ½ to 1½ cups of a good quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals. How much your dog will need may vary depending on its size, age, health, activity level and metabolism.

A Bichon Frise with children and other animals

This is a very good dog to have as it will be a very cheerful playmate for the children, is affectionate with them and is happy to be energetic with them or to snuggle with them. Noise is not something that bothers them either. Teach children how to safely play and stroke it especially if they are younger.

It also gets on very well with other dogs as long as those dogs are not getting all the attention! Early socialization is important still though as some lines can be more timid. It can even be quite peaceful with other pets like cats.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The Bichon Frise lives for 12 to 15 years in some cases a bit longer than that. It is the average for the size it is and it is a fairly healthy dog. There are issues it can be prone to such as skin problems, ear problems, eye problems, knee problems, allergies, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, hematologic, liver problems, bladder problems and hip dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people in Canada and the US over the last 34 years the Bichon is not mentioned. This makes a safe dog to get but it does not mean it has not been involved in incidents just that perhaps they were more minor. The fact is any dog can bite or snap if under certain stress or triggers. Also a dog is more likely to have behavioral problems if it is not getting the care it needs. When buying a dog it is important to ask yourself can you handle making sure it is sufficiently exercised, fed, loved, socialized and trained.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Costs of purchasing a Bichon Frise are going to vary depending on what you want, where you are and where you buy from. For example if you are interested there rescues and shelters everywhere with dogs that need rehoming and the cost is low in these cases from $50 to $200. Included in that will be a complete vet exam, up to date shots and so on. But it is likely to be an adult rather than a puppy and you do not know where it has come from or what line it is from.

A puppy from a breeder of pet quality Bichons is going to cost more around $525. In some cases that may include some medical needs already taken care of, in some it might not. For something from a breeder of show dogs though expect the price to go up a lot into the high one thousands, possibly even more.


Once you have your puppy you are going to have some initial medical concerns to take care of as well as some items you will need at home. It will need deworming, vaccinated, micro chipped, blood tests, a physical check up and spaying or neutering. It will also need a crate and carrier, bowls and leash and collar. These initial costs come to a starting figure of $360.

Medical care will be needed and how much this costs really depends on how healthy your dog is. Get some pet insurance each year or have emergency savings put aside and then you will have at least the cost of vet check ups, flea and tick prevention and vaccinations. This will start at $435 a year.

Food is another annual cost. It is a small dog so does not cost as much as some dogs but as well as a good quality dry dog food you will also need dog treats. Expect these costs to start at $75 a year. Other costs will include license, training, grooming, toys and miscellaneous costs for another $500 a year. This gives a total yearly estimate cost of $1010 for a Bichon Frise.


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Probably the biggest thing to be prepared for is how much grooming and maintenance it will need. The Bichon needs an owner who can dedicate time daily to grooming and give it the attention it needs. Avoid spoiling it just because it is gorgeous and small. Over spoiling and protecting small dogs especially can lead to behavioral issues and can in fact make it fearful and shy.

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