The Bichon Frise is a playful white powder puff of a dog -- and so much more. While most lap-sized dogs are content to lounge, the Bichon represents a merry marriage of athleticism and intelligence, with plenty of cheer thrown in for good measure.
Bichons -- once a favorite in 16th century French royal courts -- enjoyed an illustrious career as early American circus performers. Today, this all-around family dog has secured a top spot in the hearts of dog-lovers looking for an affectionate friend as apt to take backyard romp as enjoy a quiet cuddle. Now that's versatility.
If you're welcoming a Bichon into your home, get ready. These adorable dogs need moderate exercise, consistent training and frequent grooming. The pay-off, however, is a great one: They make for astoundingly loyal best friends.
Before you adopt your own little fluffball, take a look at our list of things to know.
5: They're a Great Match for Families
The Bichon Frise is unflaggingly cheerful, which makes it a natural fit for families. While young children should be supervised around any dog breed, Bichons seem especially equipped to play well with others.
These easy-going beauties adapt well to new environments, which bodes well for adoptive families. Bichons will bond quickly with their new humans because of their affectionate temperament and because they love to part of a family "pack."
Initially, don't leave your Bichon alone for long periods of time. She longs for your company, so ease into being absent. On the flipside, your Bichon enjoys being the center of attention and will typically settle into her new home with ease. Plus, a Bichon will get along well with other pets, including cats.
4: They Need a Dog-Friendly Home
Bichons are smart and curious. This combination makes for a wonderful companion, but also one that needs close supervision. If you aren't able to keep an eye on your Bichon, offer her the security and safety of a crate.
You'll also need to get down to dog level and look for tempting but potentially dangerous objects, such as electric cords, poisonous plants, garbage cans or small toys that could be swallowed. Remove these objects, offer acceptable alternatives and respond with a firm "no" if she chews on something that's off limits.
Even after dog-proofing your home, you're not out of the woods. A Bichon is good-natured but adventurous. This means she'll be likely to make a dash for the door the moment it's opened. Teaching your Bichon to "sit" and "stay" will not only create a more harmonious home; it could just save her life. And on that note, make sure your yard is fenced just in case she's not in a listening mood.
3: They Don't Require Many Vet Visits
Bichons can live to age 17, and the majority will do so in good health. Unlike some breeds genetically prone to fatal diseases, Bichons are affected primarily by diseases that are either preventable or easily treatable. For example, they're predisposed to skin allergies, but proper nutrition can boost natural defenses and soothing baths and antihistamine medication can treat symptoms.
About 11 percent of Bichons develop cataracts -- a largely inherited disease that causes vision loss -- and require costly surgery to correct the condition. A greater number of Bichons are genetic carriers for cataracts and could pass the mutation to their puppies. If your Bichon's sire and dam are known, check the Canine Eye Registration Foundation to see which dogs in its pedigree have been screened for and cleared of the disease.
2: They're Great for Allergy Sufferers
The Bichon Frise has long been called "hypoallergenic," a moniker that sits well with dog lovers who also happen to be allergic to canine fur. The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology estimates 10 percent of the United States' population is allergic to animals, and up to 30 percent of those with asthma also experience pet allergy symptoms. So it's especially nice that Bichons shed less than other dogs.
Still, all dogs shed (even those called "hypoallergenic"). However, your Bichon only sheds about as much hair as a human. She'll also need a bath about once a month, followed by a nail and hair trim, blow dry and brush out. Your Bichon will require a daily combing from you, too. All this cleanliness keeps dander levels down and removes stray hairs before they become an allergy concern.
Between grooming appointments, a thrice daily cleansing of tear-stained facial hair (pink or rust in color) may be necessary, washing below her eyes with mild shampoo, salt water or diluted lemon juice. Why does she "cry" these tears? It's not out of sadness, nor usually infection. Bichons are prone to leaky orbs because of the round shape of their eyes; it keeps the tears from running into their tear ducts and causes them to spill over onto their facial hair. The tears' red tint may be caused by excess iron in the dog's diet or drink, which turns a rust color when exposed to air.
1: They Like to Snack
Whether your new Bichon is a puppy or an adult, sound nutrition offers a better today and a healthier tomorrow. Safeguard your animal companion's health by offering a high-quality dog food with main ingredients that include meat (not meat byproducts) and barley, brown rice or oatmeal, as well as vitamins, probiotics (good for digestion), a variety of vegetables and natural preservatives. Feeding your dog nutritional kibble means he'll more easily digest it. This translates into uniform, solid feces that are easier to clean up.
Bichons, like most dogs, love treats. Beware of packaged and chemical-laden snacks. Instead, offer a few pieces of his regular dog food and deduct the amount from his overall daily allowance. You'll keep him lean and avoid the joint and endocrine problems that come with obesity. After all, your Bichon will be part (perhaps the best part) of your daily life for years to come.