Bichon Frise

November 7, 2022 - 9 min read
Bichon frise

Vital stats

  • Breed type: Companion
  • Size: 8 - 12 inches
  • Weight: 4 - 13 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12 - 15 years

Personality

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  • Intelligence

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  • Trainability

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  • Exercise needs

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  • Good with kids

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  • Levels of shedding

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  • Good for new owners

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  • Overall health of breed

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Eager to please and extremely cheerful, the Bichon Frise is a dog that loves being the center of attention.

Often thought to be of French origin, the Bichon actually derives from the island of Tenerife as far back as the 14th century and was originally a sailing dog.

However, it was the French who developed them into the gentle lap dog that we know and love today. The word ‘Bichon’ means white dog, and the word ‘Frise’ describes the soft corkscrew curls of their coat.

In Europe, the breed was a favorite among members of royalty for many centuries before later becoming popular for performing in the circus and as show dogs. In America, the Bichon Frise was recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1972.

Find out everything there is to know about this toy breed with our in-depth guide.

Bichon Frise Popularity

In the American Kennel Club’s annual list of the most popular dog breeds, Bichons were the 47th most popular breed in the US in 2021.

From royal companions to circus performers, the Bichon Frise breed has a rich history across the globe thanks to their majestic coat and intelligent temperament.

This combination of characteristics has made them an ideal contender for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. The Bichon came out as the top dog among thousands of canine competitors to win the prestigious Best in Show category twice, once in 2001 and again in 2018.

Bichon Frise Training

Energetic and intelligent, Bichon Frises are keen learners who tend to pick up training quickly. They respond best to positive reinforcement methods and have a desire to please their owners.

Still, they can become overbearing if they aren’t trained from an early age. Because of this, it’s best to start puppy training at around three months old. A combination of consistency and dedication is necessary when properly training your Bichon.

Bichons make excellent companions and love being around their owners. However, they can suffer from separation anxiety and don’t do well when left alone for long periods.

Breed Bad Habits

Given free rein, a Bichon will happily take over the house and rule the roost; however, this is a situation you don’t want to happen.

Bichons have a reputation for being difficult to housetrain, and while puppy training is a challenge no matter the breed, the Bichon is on another level. It’s important to know that the Bichon isn’t tricky out of spite; instead, it’s simply because they have smaller bladders. Since they aren’t physically capable of holding their urine for as long as a larger breed, Bichon puppies will need to urinate every 20-30 minutes — which is a reason that can sometimes be overlooked when an owner is frustrated.

While they have an independent streak, Bichons are prone to separation anxiety. This unwanted behavior can lead to barking, whining, chewing and scratching if they’re left alone for long periods.

Bichon Frise Gender Differences

Female

Female Bichon Frises tend to have a more dominant personality compared to males, in which they’ll make their likes and dislikes known. Although they enjoy spending time with their owners, they're often more independent and reserved; they'll move away once they've received enough attention and want some alone time.

Females can also tend to be a little more stubborn when it comes to training. While it’s in the breed's nature to please, females sometimes have to be in the mood for a successful and productive training session.

Female Size Information

  • Height: 9-11 inches

  • Weight: 13-15 pounds

  • Size: Small

Male

Male Bichon Frises have a reputation for being more playful and fun-loving than their female counterparts. They’re known to be clingy, meaning they’ll always follow their owner around the house as soon as they stand up — you’ll never be alone if you have a male! While they also love to entertain and receive praise, they’ll gladly settle down for some attention from their family.

Since they’re such people pleasers, males tend to be a little easier to train as they want to show their love for their owners. They respond well to positive reinforcement training using treats, toys or food.

Male Size Information

  • Height: 9-11 inches

  • Weight: 13-15 pounds

  • Size: Small

Bichon Frise Breed Health

Even though Bichons are known for their long life span, they can have a few common health conditions. Owners should take their dogs to the vet regularly to ensure that they’re as healthy as can be.

Life Expectancy

The typical life expectancy for male and female Bichon Frises is 12-15 years old. The Bichon can thank its small size for its long life span.

Common Health Problems

Bichon Frises have some health conditions that can be a concern if they aren’t bought from a reputable breeder. Any well-respected breeder will be honest and open about any health problems in the breed. Some of the most common issues that Bichons face include:

  • Portosystemic Shunt (PSS) — The Bichon is more likely than other breeds to have a liver disorder known as Portosystemic Shunt (PSS). This is when blood from the intestines that needs to pass through the liver to be filtered actually bypasses the liver. This means that toxins aren't removed before entering the central blood circulation. Signs of your Bichon having PSS include a slow-growing and less active puppy, vomiting, loss of appetite and even seizures. Luckily, this condition can be treated both medically and surgically.

  • Legg-Calve-Perthes — This condition will usually appear early on in a puppy's life. With this, the blood doesn’t flow as it should to the head of the thigh bone, leading to degeneration and shrinking of the femur bone. Over time, this degeneration will cause a collapse of the hip and can lead to arthritis. Signs of the disease usually cause a dog to limp on the affected leg. Once diagnosed by an X-ray, mild cases of Legg-Calve-Perthes can be managed with medical therapy and pain medication. It’s important to make sure that your dog isn’t or doesn’t become overweight, as this will increase strain on the joint.

  • Luxating Patella — A Luxating Patella occurs when the kneecap moves out of its normal position in the groove it's designed to stay in. This slipping of the knee can lead to inflammation, pain, cartilage damage and ligament tears. Signs of the condition will vary from your Bichon holding up the affected leg for a few strides to them not being able to bear any weight on it at all. This inherited condition isn’t usually preventable. This may also go hand in hand with hip dysplasia, so be on the lookout for changes in your Bichon’s gait.

  • Cataracts — Bichons can be prone to hereditary cataracts, which means their eyes might become cloudy or milky and interfere with the light that needs to reach the back of the eye. This typically results in them having trouble seeing and can even lead to a complete loss of vision.

  • Diabetes — Bichon Frises are generally more prone to developing diabetes than other dogs. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, which is required to regulate the levels of sugar in the body and fat metabolism. Signs of diabetes in dogs are also similar to humans, including; excessive thirst, increased urination and weight loss. Diabetes can often be successfully managed with injections of insulin and a regulated feeding routine.

  • Periodontal disease/dental disease — Dental disease is one of the most common medical conditions seen by veterinarians. Periodontal disease is a more accurate term that’s used to describe changes such as infection inflammation of the periodontium; the tissue that surrounds the tooth. The disease often begins with tartar (calculus) and gingivitis. If left untreated, it can spread deeper into the socket and destroy the bone that holds the tooth in place. Eventually, your furry friend could lose their teeth as a result. It’s best to have your vet check your pet's teeth at each visit and schedule cleanings with them when recommended.

Vet Tips

“Bichons are susceptible to a range of health conditions, but something I see quite often in small breeds like the Bichon is significant periodontal disease (dental disease),” says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.

“Smaller dogs tend to build up calculus (tartar) quickly, so developing good dental hygiene habits early when you have a Bichon is a great way for owners to have a dog with a healthy mouth. Regular teeth brushing with doggy-safe toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush is my favorite home care tip. Also, having their teeth fully cleaned under anesthesia is the safest way for your vet to treat any disease and fully evaluate oral health!”

Bichon Frise Colors and Variants

Colors and Breed Variants

While there is only one variation of the Bichon Frise, the breed itself comes from a long line of Bichons that share the same characteristics, such as their small size, short snout, large eyes and floppy ears. The different types of Bichon include:

  • Bichon Frise

  • Havanese

  • Maltese

  • Bolognese

  • Coton de Tulear

  • Löwchen

The American Kennel Club currently recognizes four distinct colors of the Bichon. The breed standard colors are:

  • White

  • White & Apricot

  • White & Buff

  • White & Cream

Caring For A Bichon Frise

Bichons are playful, cheery dogs that make great companions. They love being a part of anything their owner does, and they’ve got a lot of energy they need to use!

Exercise

While they can have a lot of energy, the Bichon requires a moderate amount of exercise — usually, a good 30-minute walk per day at a comfortable pace should suffice. Due to their playful nature, Bichons will also benefit from one-on-one time with their owner, playing games that include mental and physical stimulation.

Bichons are also surprisingly fast, and if they dash for freedom when they’re off the leash, they may be difficult to catch! This can also explain why they can get the ‘zoomies’ around the house, so keep an eye out for a ball of white dashing past.

Bichon Frises are generally more tolerant of warmer climates but fare slightly better than other small-to-medium breeds in cooler weather thanks to their double-layer coat. While they can tolerate being outside at 45 degrees Fahrenheit, their small frames aren’t built to withstand any lower temperatures in states like Alaska and Minnesota.

In areas like California and North Carolina that have moderately-warm summers, but aren’t as sweltering as Florida and Hawaii, Bichons can play and exercise outdoors comfortably if they have access to plenty of water. If temperatures reach over 90 degrees Fahrenheit though, it’s best to take your pup out for a walk in the morning or evening when it’s cooler.

Feeding

The right amount of food your Bichon should eat daily will depend on various factors such as any dietary requirements, health issues and how active the breed is.

To keep your Bichon healthy, consult with your vet to make sure that they’re getting all of the nutrients they need.

Sleep

Sleep is important for all dogs; on average, an adult Bichon Frise will sleep for around 12-14 hours per day. As puppies, they’ll need about 18-20 hours of sleep.

Healthcare tips

“Bichons can have a lot of energy — compared to some of their similar-sized counterparts — so they need regular exercise and games to keep their energy levels in check,” says Dr. Kirsten.

“These furry friends love to be by their owner's side, so getting in lots of mental stimulation and physical activity can be beneficial to both dog and human!”

Bichon Frise temperament

With a big personality and intelligence to match, the Bichon makes for a great family dog. Bichones love the people around them and are natural performers — due to their history in the circus — so it’s no doubt that they love getting attention!

How good are Bichon Frises with kids?

Due to their friendly and sociable temperament, Bichons often get along well with children of all ages.

Since they’re always after affection and love spending time with others, the attention they can receive from kids can be invaluable.

How affectionate are Bichon Frises?

The Bichon is an extremely affectionate breed that loves being around people. Since they were bred to be companion dogs, they’re very people-oriented and will love nothing more than snuggling up close to you or spending every hour of the day playing.

How territorial are Bichon Frises?

Bichons aren’t a naturally aggressive dog breed; however, their overly attached nature and possessive attitude toward their owners can sometimes be an issue.

While they aren’t overly territorial of their property and by no means are guard dogs, a Bichon can bark to alert their owner if someone approaches the home.

How friendly are Bichon Frises with other dogs?

With their notoriously cheerful and show-off temperament, Bichons get on well with just about any other dog breed and will love inviting them to play.

As with all dogs, it’s important that a Bichon is socialized as early as possible so they’re exposed to as many different sights, sounds, smells and other dogs as possible.

How much will a Bichon Frise tolerate other pets?

Bichons are generally considered very good when getting along with other pets in the household — particularly if the other pet was there before they were.

If introduced together from a young age, Bichons get on very well with cats and other smaller dog breeds and can often be seen playing together.

How Much Attention Do Bichon Frises Need?

Bichons crave attention and love to be by the side of their owner. Since Bichons can suffer from separation anxiety, they’ll constantly want their owner's attention at all times. The breed has been known to cry if its owner is gone most of the day.

If you give this breed lots of love and attention, you’ll get it back tenfold!

Bichon Frise coat and grooming

The Bichon Frise can be a pretty high-maintenance breed, but once you’ve nailed down a grooming routine, they are easy to care for.

Coat type

Bichons have a double-layered coat made up of a smooth, dense inner layer and a curly, thick outer layer that helps to regulate their body temperature.

Shedding levels

Due to their curly coat helping catch the shorter undercoat as it molts, the Bichon is less likely to shed as frequently as other breeds.

How often do Bichon Frises need grooming?

Bichons must be regularly groomed to prevent the build-up of knots and tangles in their fur. A daily brush is a great way to ensure that their skin and coat stay in tip-top condition and get some quality bonding time!

Since their coats are pretty high-maintenance, a Bichon will typically need to visit a professional groomer every month to properly remove fur around their eyes and ears. This helps improve airflow and reduce the risk of an ear infection.

Are Bichon Frises hypoallergenic?

No breed is actually hypoallergenic. However, a Bichon Frise sheds very little, which can make them an easier dog for people who suffer from allergies to live with.

Bichon Frise bark sound

The Bichon is typically a quiet breed, so if they are barking, it usually means there's an underlying problem that needs to be dealt with.

Barking habits

Since they aren’t typical barkers by nature, Bichons will only usually bark when they want attention from their owner, when it isn’t given to them.

If a Bichon seems to be barking obsessively, the worst thing you can do is overwhelm them with excessive cuddling or harsh punishments. Instead, try and get to the root of the problem.

Bichon Frise popularity

Frequently asked questions about Bichon Frises

Do Bichon Frises Have A ‘Doggy Odor’?

Since they produce very little dander, Bichons don’t tend to have a ‘doggy odor’ that larger breeds often do.

Are Bichons Suitable For First-Time Owners?

Bichons are a great choice for first-time dog owners due to their gentle and friendly nature. They’re also an excellent option for people who live in flats due to their small size.

Are Bichon Frises Lazy Dogs?

While they don’t have the energy levels of a Border Collie, the Bichon is certainly not lazy. They’re playful and energetic without being hyper and only need about 30 minutes of outdoor exercise daily.