Bichon Frise Guide

Non-Sporting Dog Breeds

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The striking powder-puff appearance of the bichon derives from its double coat, with a soft dense undercoat and coarser, curly outer coat, causing the coat to stand off the body and even spring back when patted. It is a merry, agile breed, longer than it is tall, with an effortless trot. Its looks, combined with its fitness, enabled it to earn its living as a street performer. Its soft, inquisitive expression enabled it to worm its way into many hearts and laps.

Perky, bouncy and playful, the bichon frise's happy-go-lucky outlook endears it to all. It is friendly toward strangers and other dogs and pets, and it is very good with children. It is sensitive, responsive and affectionate, as eager to cuddle as it is to play. It can bark a lot.


FAMILY bichon, companion, water dog


DATE OF ORIGIN ancient times

ORIGINAL FUNCTION companion, performer


AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 9.5-11.5 Weight: 11-16

AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 9.5-11.5 Weight: 10-15

OTHER NAME Tenerife dog, bichon Tenerife, bichon a poil frise

Energy level High energy

Exercise needs Low

Playfullness Very playful

Affection level Very affectionate

Friendliness toward other dogs Very friendly

Friendliness toward other pets Very friendly

Friendliness toward strangers Very friendly

Ease of training Hard to train

Watchdog ability High

Protection ability Not very protective

Grooming needs High maintenance

Cold tolerance Medium tolerance

Heat tolerance Medium tolerance

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Although small, the bichon is an active dog and needs daily exercise. Its needs can be met with a vigorous indoor game or, better, a romp in the yard or a short walk on leash. The white powder-puff coat needs brushing and combing every other day, plus scissoring and trimming every two months. It doesn't shed, but the loose hairs become entangled in the coat and can mat. It may be difficult to keep white in some areas. This is not a dog that should live outdoors.
• Major concerns: patellar luxation
• Minor concerns: tooth loss, cataract
• Occasionally seen: none
• Suggested tests: knee, eye
• Life span: 12 – 15 years
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The bichon frise has its roots in the Mediterranean, originally produced by crossing the barbet (a large water dog) with small, white lap dogs. This cross eventually produced a family of dogs known as barbichons, which was later shortened to bichons. The bichons were divided into four types: the bichon Maltaise, Bolognese, Havanese and Teneriffe. The Teneriffe, which was to later become the bichon frise, developed on the Canary Island of Teneriffe, probably having been taken there by Spanish seafarers in ancient times. In the 14th century, Italian sailors brought specimens back from the island to the Continent, where they quickly became favored pets of the upper class. Following a series of French invasions of Italy in the 1500s, the little dogs were adopted by the French. They were special pets of Francis I and his successor, Henry III. They also enjoyed popularity in Spain, but for some reason, the breed's popularity waned throughout Europe. It did experience a brief resurgence during the reign of Napoleon III in the early 19th century, but once again it quickly faded from favor. This began a new chapter in the bichon's history, as it sank from court favorite to common street dog. The bichon survived, however, because of its propensity for performing tricks, and it teamed with peddlers and organ grinders to entertain passerbys or fair-goers for money. With the advent of World War I, the little dogs were nearly lost. A few dogs were brought back home by soldiers, but no real effort to save the breed was made until a few French breeders began an earnest effort to establish the breed. In 1933, the name officially became bichon a poil frise ("bichon of the curly coat"). The breed was threatened once again, this time by World War II, and it was not until it came to America in the 1950s that its future became more secure. Even then, the bichon frise did not catch on until it received a new hair cut and greater publicity in the 1960s. The breed suddenly caught the attention of fanciers and was recognized by the AKC in 1971.
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