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The Bolognese is a toy sized companion purebred with a life span of 12 to 15 years and is also called the Bichon Bolognese, Bolognese Toy Dog, Bologneser, Botoli, Bottolo and is nicknamed the Bolo. For a small dog it is especially clever and craft, good at getting its way! It loves to snuggle and be close to you and comes from the same family of dogs as the Maltese, Bichon Frise, Coton de Tulear and Havanese though it is more uncommon than all of them. As well as being a great companion and lap dog it also does well in agility events and competitive obedience.

The Bolognese at A Glance
Name Bolognese
Other names Bichon Bolognese, Bolognese Toy Dog, Bologneser, Botoli, Bottolo
Nicknames Bolo
Origin Italy
Average size Small (toy)
Average weight 5 to 12 pounds
Average height 9 to 12 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Soft, long, fluffy
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color White
Popularity Not yet a fully registered member of the AKC
Intelligence Above average
Tolerance to heat Good – nothing too hot though
Tolerance to cold Moderate – would need extra care when it gets cold
Shedding Low – does not shed much at all, good for people who do not want hair around the home
Drooling Low – not especially prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – not especially prone but if you overfeed and under exercise it will of course gain weight
Grooming/brushing Fairly high maintenance – brush every other day
Barking Occasional to frequent – train it to stop on command
Exercise needs Fairly active – needs regular exercise
Trainability Easy to moderately easy
Friendliness Excellent – social breed
Good first dog Good to very good
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good to excellent with socialization but best with children aged 9 and up
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Good to very good with socialization but can have a high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size but barking may be an issue if not controlled
Handles alone time well Low – does not like being alone and can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Quite healthy – a few issues include Legg-Calve-Perthes, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation and periodontal disease
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for a high quality dry dog food and dog treats
Miscellaneous expenses $460 a year for grooming, basic training, toys, license and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $970 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,250
Rescue organizations SaveARescue, American Bolognese Club, Small Paws Rescue, also check local shelters
Biting Statistics None reported

The Bolognese's Beginnings

The Bolognese is named after the Italian city of Bologna where it is believed to have been bred. It is part of the family of Bichon dogs, hence one of its names is Bichon Bolognese. While there are plenty of similarities between it and its cousins there is also enough difference to allow them to be separate breeds. It is an ancient dog, references can be found going back to the 1200s and images date to the 1600s, but not much is known about its origins and which came first the Maltese or the Bolo.

Through the 18th century painters depicted them with their royal or noble owners, from Duke Frederico Gonzaga to Catherine the Great, Madame De Pompadour to Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. For hundreds of years they were popular pampered companions and were used to trade and given as gifts because they were amiable and cute and small. However as the days of courts and ruling nobles fell so did the popularity of the Bolognese and its numbers dropped.

New Lease on Life

Thankfully the breed was saved by its fans including Gianfranco Giannelli. Then in the 1990s Liz Stannard brought the breed to England and it began to appear in dog shows there. In 1995 it was recognized by the United Kennel Club. Its first appearance at Crufts in England was in 2002 which is around when it was recognized by the Kennel Club there. It is not yet recognized by the AKC though it is part of the Foundation Stock Service.

The Dog You See Today

The Bolo is a small toy sized dog weighing 5 to 12 pounds and standing 9 to 12 inches tall. It is a sturdy but compact dog, muscled, square in shape and stocky. It has a curved tail that it holds over its back and its coat is single, white and hangs in flocks or loose ringlets down its body. The texture is wooly and the length is long. The hair on the face is shorter. It has a medium length head, a large squared muzzle, black lips and a large nose that is black. Its eyes are round and dark ochre in color and the rims are black. It has long hanging down ears that are set high.

The Inner Bolognese


The Bolognese is fine for new owners though you need to be strong willed and not let it get its own way and become spoiled as it is quite tenacious. It is an affectionate, intelligent and loyal companion that is very devoted to its owners and wants to spend all its time with you. It is a very sensitive dog so needs to be in calm homes with owners who are not too harsh and not too much raised voices. It is very curious and will want to explore and investigate getting itself into things most owners are not always happy about! However it is quite good at making you forgive it and it is quite entertaining.


The Bolo is an occasional to frequent barker so some training to stop that on command is a good idea. Owners find it is an attentive dog that is good at reading your body language and recognizing your mood changes. It needs lots companionship and does not like to be left alone for long periods. It needs owners who are often home and are looking to have a dog on your lap whenever you are sitting down! It forms a very strong bond especially with one owner though it is still affectionate to other family members. It can be playful, it should not be a hyperactive dog, and it tends to be a bit more reserved than a Bichon. Some are friendly with strangers and some are more shy and it takes a bit of time before it gets used to them. It is alert and will bark to let you know of an intruder.

Living with a Bolognese

What will training look like?

Training a Bolognese should be moderately easy, results will be gradual but they will happen. Key to this dogs training is to remember as cute and small as it is, it is still a dog not a baby or toy. Set rules and stick to them, be firm and consistent. If you spoil it, you are going to have a difficult dog on your hands. Bolos that are not told no and have boundaries set for them become snappy, bark more and are hard to live with. Be positive and patient. Use treats to motivate it, offer rewards and praise for its success. Being a sensitive breed means it is especially not going to respond to scolding or physical correction.

As important as early obedience training is to also start early socialization. Introduce it to different places, sounds, people, animals and situations so it learns to adjust to them, what reactions are appropriate and becomes a trustworthy and happier dog as a result. Being small means house training can be especially hard, it is easy for it to hide and go where it wants to. Accept this process will take longer and you need to stick to a very regular schedule.

How active is the Bolognese?

The Bolognese is a fairly active dog but being small that is easy for most types of owners to keep up with. As well as it having play time in the home it will still need to get outside, you can opt for a 20 minute walk each day or two 10 to 15 minute walks, then some play time outside too with you. It does not need access to a yard but if there is one it is a great place for it to explore. Bolos tend to adapt to the kind of owners they are with, they are happy to relax and nap with you when you are relaxing, and then play and go out when you are ready. Make sure it gets enough mental stimulation too.

Caring for the Bolognese

Grooming needs

While the Bolo is small and low shedding it actually is above average to high maintenance in terms of grooming needs. It will not leave much if any hair around the home but it needs every other day or even daily brushing and combing to keep the tangles at bay and remove debris, and it needs regular professional grooming. If you are keeping it as a show dog it should not be clipped or trimmed as that changes the coat. If you do not take care of its coat regularly the coats become matted and infection of the skin can be a problem. There is also a balance to stick to when it comes to keeping that coat white. Bathing is needed of course, but too often and that can also lead to skin problems as the natural oils are damaged by it. Many owners choose to use a shampoo especially designed for keeping white dogs white.


Other grooming needs include tear stains so you will need to wipe under its eyes daily. Its nails should be trimmed when they get too long taking care not to cut too low down. Its ears should be wiped clean weekly, without inserting anything into them and checking them for signs of infection. Its teeth need to be looked after too, brush them two to three times a week at least using a dog toothpaste and toothbrush.

Feeding Time

A Bolognese will eat ¼ to ¾ cups of a good to excellent quality dry dog food, split into at least two meals a day. It can vary depending on its metabolism, level of activity, size, age and health. Also make sure it has access to water.

How is the Bolognese with children and other animals?

With children the Bolo is affectionate, playful and lively and gets along very well with them, but due to its size it should really only be with children aged 9 or older as otherwise it can get hurt very easily. If it feels scared or it is hurt it will snap even when it might be a case of younger children not knowing better. Teach children how to touch and play nicely with dogs. It can get along fine with other dogs or it is happy to be the only dog and get all the attention! It may try to chase some other pets but being raised with them and socialization helps.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

Bolos have a life span of 12 to 15 years and have very few genetic health problems. There are some issues that can arise though such as hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease and teeth problems.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of attacks doing bodily harm against people by dogs over the last 35 years in North America, the Bolognese is not mentioned. Just because it is small does not mean it would not become aggressive or that it can not do harm. Any breed of any size can have off days. Key to lessening the chances of that is to make sure your dog is well socialized and trained, supervised when needed, raised well and given the attention, exercise and stimulation that it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Bolognese puppy will cost about $1250 for a pet quality dog from a decent breeder but a lot more for a show dog or something from a top breeder. These are not as common as other Bichon type dogs so there is likely going to be a waiting list. Do not skip this process, it is much better to use a decent breeder rather than go to a quicker but less savory option such as puppy mill sourced options or backyard breeders. If you are willing to take in a mixed breed there is the option of checking out local rescues and shelters. Adoption fees can be as low as $50 or up to $400 and often some immediate medical needs are taken care of for you too.


Initial needs include items like a crate, carrier, bowls, leash and collar for about $120. Then medical initial needs when you bring the dog home come to about $260. That will pay for shots, deworming, micro chipping, neutering or spaying, blood tests and a physical.

Ongoing costs need to be factored in too. Basic medical care like shots, flea prevention, check ups and pet insurance comes to about $435 a year. Grooming, miscellaneous items, toys, basic training, licensing will cost about $460 a year. Then another $75 a year for feeding your dog some treats and a good quality dry dog food. This is a total cost of about $970 a year.


Looking for a Bolognese Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Bolognese is an inquisitive fun loving little lap dog who can get a lot of people wrapped around its little paw within 10 minutes of being with it! It is affectionate and devoted to its owners and will expect to be with you a lot of the time. If you do not want a velcro dog this is not the breed for you. Make sure it is properly trained and socialized and remember it is best not with children that are too young.

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