Breed Group: Non Sporting, Life Span: 15 or more years
Height: 24 to 30 cm at the shoulder, Weight: 4.5 to 8 kg
Bichon Frise is a puffy white lovable dog which is very easy to live with. Because of its white, cotton like fur and capability of learning tricks quite fast, it was widely used as a circus dog. Thankfully, with a decrease of animal use in circus, hard working days for our fluffy puppy ended and now the only audience it has to perform for – are its owners. It is a great dog for first time dog owners as its behaviour is rarelly dominant and it is very reluctant to please their caretakers.
We can confidently say that this dog was around for 2000 years, although before, it was not known as a Bichon Frise. Fluffy white dogs were widely spread all over Mediterranean. It is believed that this breed was originated from a Water Spaniel. First ones to fall in love with this companion dog were Spanish. From there it rapidly spread across all Europe. Around 1300’s it was very popular amongst Italian nobility. During the Renaissans, they were one of the most common breeds in a royal court. It is possible to see Bichon in old portraits as a proof that this dog was as a must have pet for a fine lady. Apperently the role was perfect for a friendly, intelligent and charming puppy. Later on, 1500’s it became one of the most prefered breeds in France. Because of its unusual, toy like fur and small size this breed was a great trade item amongst merchants. Soon, together with travelling salesmen, breed spread throught out the known world.
In late 1800’s this breed lost its popularity in aristocracy and for lower class its maintanence was too big of a challenge, as dog’s fur needed to be groomed daily. Bichon became more of a common street dog, usually used by people to perform for passersby or in circuses and fairs for audience. As this breed thrived in the center of attention with its charming personality and toyish looks, the life of a street performer was as good as sitting on the expensive cussion in the royal palace. Unfortunatelly, because of the loss of popularity and street life, the breed got mixed with others and was facing an extinction. After World War I Bichon was revived by France and Belgium fanciers of this dog, using careful and controlled breeding. After the breed was recreated, official standarts were written and released in France in 1933 under the name of Bichon Frise (curly coat). In 1934 the breed standart was recognised by French Kennel Club. In 1973 it was recognised by American Kennel Club as well. Now it is curenty ranked to be 45th among the breeds regsistered by AKC, and is one of the most popular choice as a pet.
Bichon is from the small family of dog breeds which includes Maltese, Havanese, Bolognese and Coton de Tulear. The difference which sets Bichon Frise appart from the rest of the group is that it is the only one which has a double coat.
Bichon Frise has a perfectly balanced body with no gross or incapacitating exaggeration which sets it to be one of the dog breeds – less predisposed to certain disfunctions, such as lack of balance or unsound movement. Any deviation from the ideal standart of Bichon frise is as undesirable as in any other dog breed, even though they might not be directly mentioned in the specification of the breed.
Expression – Soft, dark-eyed, inquisitive, alert. Eyes are round, black or dark brown and are set in the skull to look directly forward. An overly large or bulging eye is a fault as is an almond shaped, obliquely set eye. Halos, the black or very dark brown skin surrounding the eyes, are necessary as they accentuate the eye and enhance expression. The eye rims themselves must be black. Broken pigment, or total absence of pigment on the eye rims produce a blank and staring expression, which is a definite fault. Eyes of any color other than black or dark brown are a very serious fault and must be severely penalized.
Neck, Topline, Body
The arched neck is long and carried proudly behind an erect head. It blends smoothly into the shoulders. The length of neck from occiput to withers is approximately one-third the distance from forechest to buttocks. The topline is the same level except for a slight, muscular arch over the loin. Body – The chest is well developed and wide enough to allow free and unrestricted movement of the front legs. The lowest point of the chest extends at least to the elbow. The rib cage is moderately sprung and extends back to a short and muscular loin. The forechest is well pronounced and protrudes slightly forward of the point of shoulder. The underline has a moderate tuck-up.
Shoulders – The shoulder blade, upper arm and forearm are approximately equal in length. The shoulders are laid back to somewhat near a forty-five degree angle. The upper arm extends well back so the elbow is placed directly below the withers when viewed from the side. Legs are of medium bone; straight, with no bow or curve in the forearm or wrist. The elbows are held close to the body. The pasterns slope slightly from the vertical. The dewclaws may be removed. The feet are tight and round, resembling those of a cat and point directly forward, turning neither in nor out. Pads are black. Nails are kept short.
The hindquarters are of medium bone, well angulated with muscular thighs and spaced moderately wide. The upper and lower thigh are nearly equal in length meeting at a well bent stifle joint. The leg from hock joint to foot pad is perpendicular to the ground. Dewclaws may be removed. Paws are tight and round with black pads.
The texture of the coat is of utmost importance. The undercoat is soft and dense, the outercoat of a coarser and curlier texture. The combination of the two gives a soft but substantial feel to the touch which is similar to plush or velvet and when patted springs back. When bathed and brushed, it stands off the body, creating an overall powder puff appearance. A wiry coat is not desirable. A limp, silky coat, a coat that lies down, or a lack of undercoat are very serious faults.
Source of breed standard: AKC
If the puppy does not fit to standard of the breed it doesn’t mean that it didn’t deserve a family. Puppies which are off the standard will not be suitable for competitions or further breeding, but on the other hand, usually, they are cheapper than the rest of the littermates which are “perfect”, but still posses most of the qualities you are looking in a dog if you chose this breed. Needless to say that sterilisation of the “faulty” puppy is a must, in order to prevent further multiplication of off standard dogs, but appart from that, you can get a dog of your dreams (or close to it) with more money left in your wallet.
Official AKC standards describe the Bichon Frise perfectly. They call this breed, “a white powder puff of a dog whose merry temperament is evidenced by his plumed tail carried jauntily over the back and his dark-eyed inquisitive expression.”
Adaptability. Bichon Frise is famous for its wish to serve the owner. Maybe because of its rich stamp collection in the passport or maybe because of its street life days, Bichon does not mind travelling at all. In fact, most of individuals representing the breed will gladly accompany you and your family to the sunday market, walk in the nature or to a vacation abroad. This dog lives its life with cheerful, curious and a bit clounish attitude, winning the hearts of most as it goes. Even though it has a timid side, that doesn’t stop this pup to seek attention: from his master, other pets or strangers. That makes this breed perfect for people who likes company and organises get togethers with their friends. Even though the breed is popular due to its lovely, firendly and easy going characteristics, you need not to forget that it is a living being and without proper socialisation it migh not manage to show its best side to the world. Fortunatelly, all you need to do is to, bit by bit, expand, as much as possible, its range of experience in young days. Good socialization with people and other dogs goes a long way.
Bichon Frise can be quite charming and confident in itself around others, but when left alone has a potential to experience separation anxiety. This breed is quite attached to their master and seek company. When left alone in the house for several hours it might become destructive, chewing and tearing everything appart. As cunning and loving as it can be, this breed is not suitable for people who have to leave the dog, home alone, for hours.
As Bichon Frise is quite sensitive and curious, it is a perfect alarm dog. Its favourite activity is to patrol the house and garden. The dog will let you know when your neighbours are getting out of the house or returning, when the UPS or FedEx trucks are passing by, or alarm you about the suspicious mailman next to your door. Your task is to teach your pup when it is needed to alarm you and when it is ok just to observe. If left uncontroled, patroling behaviour might escalate to undesirable and annoying barking. Also it is best to avoid keeping your dog alone in the garden next to the street where a lot of activity is happening as it increases number of opportunities to bark.
The Bichon Frise can adapt to just about any kind of home, from an apartment to a castle. It really does not matter as long as its family is there. But if Bichon Frise could have a vote in choosing a house, ideal would be a little home with any size garden to run around and strech its legs after a long day of patroling the teritory. Garden would be great for yet another reaon, as Bichon Fise is not an easy breed to housebreak. Door with doggy hatch might help when your companion is in a hurry and you are not. It is important to note that this breed is sensitive to high temperature, so if you are living in hot country it is advicable to have an air conditioning in the house.
Even though, Bichon Frise is considered to be a soft, lovely character you should be adviced to take a puppy from a respected breeder. Avoid taking puppies from puppy mills, pet stores (as they often purchase their pups from puppy mills) or back yard breeders to avoid heredital deseases, mismatching characteristics or mental problems.
This breed is friendly with all people of all ages and with other household pets. If properly socialised in puppyhood Bichon is able to find a friend in any being. Start bringing your dog in dog day care to play with other canines as early as its vactinations are done and it is safe to play. Have friends and people over as often as you can, that will help your dog to accustom oneself to guests and do not freak out or over react when some strainger is in the house. Even though its prey drive is quite high but atachment to the owner and fear of being left alone seems to be bigger. It is one of the dogs which has good reliability while off leash, and good recall. Reliability and soft caracter makes this breed perfect for novice owners, families and older people who wish to have a companion.
Grooming might be the biggest challenge when it comes to this breed. You can not expect that this dog will look like a toy all the time. That puffy and cotton like appearance is made for the shows and photosessions. It takes hours of professional stilyst work to make it happen. Also, people who own Bichon Frise as a show dog, do not let their pet to play in the garden or any other dirty enviroment. But if your goal is to have a playful companion you do not need to spend hundreds of euros to have a cotton dog. Although that saves a lot of trouble, that doesn’t mean you should abandon coat care entirely. This dog, even when not used for conformation shows, requires weekly brushing and trimming of the hair every six weeks. If the coat will be unattended it will continue to grow and form dreads which is painful and can cause serious skin infections to the dog. The coat is not fully developed until the dogs is about one year old. Until outer coat comes out the brushing is not needed, but it is adviced to brush your puppy daily to get it used to the process. As long as combing and coat care is essential for this dog, if neglected in young age, will cause problems later, as the dog will not be acustomised to the process and might struggle and even become fearful or agressive towards pin brush and groomer.
Dogs face also needs care. These magnificent dark eyes in a white coat might not always be easy to keep. This breed has is prone to teary eyes, which means, that minerals and salts from eyes can give unpleasant rusty looks to the coat around. Veterinarians can offer specific wipes for cleaning dog’s face, but it is still a routine which adds extra time to the grooming process.
Bichon Frise, as a breed, is generally healthy, but like all breeds, it has some breed related health issues. Although not all individs are prone to common breed deseases, they still need to be taken into consideration before owning a Bichon Frise.
Some of the heredital deseases can be avoided. When you are buying a dog, you can ask the breeder for health clearance of bouth puppie’s parents. Health clearances proves that breeder did all the exams of possible heredital illnesses. In Bichon Frise’s case, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip and elbow dysplasias, hypothyroidism and von Willebrand’s disease; from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal, to avoid dog predisposed to cataracts. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- One of the most common problems in Bichons are allergies. This breed is prone to skin, food and insect bite allergies. This is due to inherited faulty immune system and famous double coat. Allergies can be caused by grass, pollen, insects, shampoo and so on. If your pup is scratching or rubbing its nose often, have it checked to the vet, if untreated, dog might scrach off the skin and get infection.
- Bladder stones and infections are not so uncommon. Bladder stones might form due to incorrect diet or long periods of time between potty breaks. It is recomended to let your Bichon out to pee 3-5 times a day. During the night Bichon will support arround 10-12 hours of “no pee time”, but it is not advisable to train it to support more, as it might result in bladder stones and crystals. If you notice that your Bichon’s urinating habbits had changed (for example it needs to urinate more often or has difficulty peeing) or there is blood in urine, you need to take it to the vet for a check as soon as possible. Females are usually more predisposed to bladder broblems than males.
- Kneecap dislocation (Patellar Luxation), is a common problem in a small dogs, not only Bichin Frise. This condition causes dislocation of the joint, often of a hind leg, which causes pain to the dog. There are ways to help your dog to feel more comfortable and still enjoy life even with this condition. Talk to your vet to find suitable activities for a dog uffering from kneecap dislocation.
- Vaccination Sensitivity. It is, yet, another problem which is common among small breed dogs. When vaccinating Bichon Frise, ask your vet for a version of vaccine which is less allergenic. If your vet can not provide you with it, you can always ask where is possible to get one. It is always adviced to supervise your dog for a few hour after vaccinating, and call the vet if you notice lethargy, facial sweeling, scratching, or vomiting, call your vet for advice. In rare cases, vaccine-sensitive dog might develope severe complications or even die. If your dog experience some side effects of the vaccination, try to use different (preferably less agressive) vaccine, next time.
- Hip Dysplasia is an inherited condition. It is a very serious illness, and dogs which have hip dysplasia should not be bred. In order to avoid this problem, you should ask the breeder for proof that its parents were tested and are free of problems.
Even though this pup might have the appearence closely resembeling a toy, it still needs to be trained at least the basic commands and learn its place in the family. But worry not, Bichon Frise is quite intelligent, combine that together with its wish to pelease and be in the center of attention and viola – you have a dog which is ready to learn anything you wish. This breed’s intelligents needs to be challanged with various tasks, the more the better. They enjoy learning tricks over the usual obedience training. After all the difficult tricks are the ones that buy a round of applause. Bichon Frise is quite a sensitive breed and do not respond well to a harsh, dominant training methods. Using such tactics will only force this dog to close itself in its shell and even get scared of you. The best way is to apply positive training methods, as it will strengthen the bond between you and your dog making it wish to do more in order to see you happy.
When it is the best time to start training Bichon puppy? It is best to start the training the moment you bring it to your house, but do not hurry up, as young puppies are still forming their body, it is not adviced to train them to jump. Start with basic obedience, this does not require a lot of space (home enviroment is enough), as the time is needed till all the vactinations will be done and it will be safe to go out. More advanced training might be introduced when all the skeleton is fully formed and vet gives the green light that the dog is healthy and has no pathologies. It is necessary to remind that Bichons have tendency to overheat, so during the training sessions outside this breed needs to be closely supervised.
Bichon Frise has a distinctive looks which makes many to believe that this dog is only good for conformation shows. As a matter of fact it is, and it does it damn well, but that’s far from what this little dog is capable of. After shaking all the puff and powder off its fur it can whipe the nose to a lot of others in competitve sports. Bichon Frise is an itelligent and agile dog. Sports like agility, Rally-O and competitive obedience are perfect for this breed. It will not only discarge the dog physically but will challenge its mental capabilities. Sprots like Rally-O and competitive obedience, in particular, are sports which will satisfy Bichon Frise, as it is really challenging intelligents and reaction of a dog. While practicing these two types of sports, you not only get a very well trained dog, it helps for your pet to understand its place in the family and who is the master, without applying any agressive training methods.
Flyball, on the other hand, lets Bichon to explore its speed and agility in yet another level. It is quite noisy with dogs barking and crowd cheering for running dogs, so for the pup who likes to be in the spotlight that’s the perfect activity. Although, before attempting this sport, it is necessary to desensualise the dog not to be afraid of loud noises.
And, of course, freestyle is one of the activities which will allow Bichon Frise to shine. As it is not so strict as other mentioned sports and activities before, it really satisfies this breed. Remember, we already mentioned, that Bichon Frise prefers tricks over commands, and as it is light in weight and very well proportioned, it can learn quite difficult and challenging combinations, add a cunning looks of this puppy and you are a sure winner. This activity requires very strong bond between master and its dog, so training method is strictly positive and fun. After all, dogs are like schildren, they learn faster and better while having fun.
Pros & Cons
- It is a small, but far from fragile dog (easy to carry around, but can walk long distances without getting too tired),
- It is playful, but doesn’t need much outdoor exercise (though it enjoys it!),
- This breed is famous for its curly white coat which doesn’t shed. Even though it is not a hypoallergenic, but it helps to keep the house cleanner,
- Tendency to bark and sensitivity makes this breed a good alarm dog, which is not agressive,
- It gets along well with other pets and children,
- It is easy to handle which makes it suitable to novice owners and elder people,
- It is a great companion dog.
- Dog is very attached to its owner and requires a lot of attention, so it is predisposed to suffer from Separation anxiety when left alone,
- This breed is particulary hard to housebreak,
- The dog might be timid and skittish when not socialized properly,
- One of the bigger issues is constant need to take care of the fur,
- If not stopped or trained to stop barking on command, this dog might become nutorious barker,
- Sensitivity to heat makes it harder to have this dog as a pet in hot countries.