The Franco-Belgian Bichon Frisé is an easy-going charmer that enchants many dog lovers in the blink of an eye with its friendly nature. Find out more here about this popular breed.
White head of curls
On first sight, the Bichon Frisé resembles a fluffy cotton-wool ball on four legs. The breed is around 30cm in height and weighs a maximum of 6kg. The entirely white fur can reach up to 10cm in length and according to the breed standard, should resemble the Mongolian goat. The fur is fine, silky and incredibly soft due to the corkscrew curls, whilst the top hair is somewhat tougher. The curls give the breed its name, as the rough translation of Bichon Frisé is “lapdog with curly hair”. The Bichon Frisé observes the world with curiosity through its dark eyes, whilst its lop ears are covered by curls. The tail is arched over the back but shouldn't be rolled.
Dogs to love going back centuries
Even back in the ancient world, there were small dogs resembling poodles that later became popular with the French and Spanish nobility. These “lapdogs” have always had one primary objective: being dogs to love. Their sheer presence alone delighted mainly rich people without them having to fulfil any other purpose, for which reason they are classed as “companion dogs”. This silky-haired breed presumably originates from the Canary Islands, which also led to the name “Tenerife dog”. It isn't fully clear which breeds played a role in forming the Bichon Frisé, with expert opinions ranging from water spaniels to toy poodles. These lapdogs reached the European mainland from Tenerife in the 14th century. At the beginning of the 16th century, the ancestors of the Bichon Frisé entered the French stately homes where they would be regularly perfumed and pampered by noble ladies, allowing them to reach the status of socialites of fine society. From the 1930s, they underwent a revival mainly in France and Belgium, whereas in 1928 they were still exhibited as “curly-haired silky poodles” in Duisburg, Germany. In 1933, the Bichon Frisé was granted its own official name and standard. The first Bichon Frisé litters in Germany and the US weren't born until 1956. Via this detour, the Bichon Frisé eventually came to Britain with American immigrants. The first puppies of this Franco-Belgian breed were born in 1974. Since then, the breed has enjoyed great popularity, particularly in the US, though here it did in part take quite some getting used to. Along with the Bichon Frisé, a total of five breeds form part of the “Bichon” group: Maltese, Bolognese, Havanese and Löwchen.
A Bichon Frisé certainly knows how to win friends through its charm: it is a cheerful, open dog that loves being part of everything. This cheerful soul with curly hair radiates positivity that permeates to its surroundings. As a result, this smart dog can effortlessly influence most people. They also love being stroked, preferably on the lap of their caregiver to ensure close physical contact. This easy-going companion is hardly ever stressed, gets along well with other animals and is generally friendly to strangers. The temperamental Bichon Frisé does tend to be vigilant and can bark at the postman an awful lot, but it is not aggressive and far from the typical dog that never stops barking. Don't indulge your Bichon Frisé when it comes to new encounters, such as coming across strangers or noisy tradesmen or going to the vet. Due to the size of the breed, some owners make the mistake of immediately reassuring or comforting their dog. This often makes the dog even more uncertain, therefore it comes to think that the situation is out-of-the-ordinary. If you remain cool and composed, your dog will too!
These cheerful souls experience hardly any breed-typical diseases. They can somewhat more frequently suffer from watery eyes, resulting in brown-coloured lines of tears in the snow-white fur. You should always check that the area around the eyes is free of long hairs in order to avoid irritation. Bichon Frisés have a partial tendency to suffer from inflammation in the respiratory organs. The breed is considered robust and capable of living a long life, with a well cared-for Bichon Frisé fed in a species-appropriate manner able to live to the age of 15 years, even 17 years in isolated cases.
Like every dog, a Bichon Frisé requires species-appropriate food adapted to its needs. Since most of these curly-haired charmers aren't particularly selective – exceptions are definitely the rule here – you can choose between numerous types of food. When choosing a dog food, make sure the meat content is high, both with wet and dry food. Meat should be right at the top of the ingredients list. The food should consist of a maximum of 30% protein. For dogs with a normal activity level that don't do any dog sport or walk long distances on a daily basis, 25% raw protein is sufficient. Sugar has no place in a good dog food, but sometimes it crops up under code names such as “beet molasses”. You're best off avoiding products containing vegetable-based by-products such as substandard grain. If you only feed your dog dry food, you should definitely make sure that it drinks enough. There is also special dry food for small dogs - such as your Bichon Frisé weighing up to just 6kg – made up of biscuits appropriately adapted to their size and better suited for the tightly positioned teeth of tiny dogs. In addition, you can receive special dental care toys and snacks to prevent tartar. Another good tip for healthy teeth is regularly giving your dog raw pieces of meat, because intensive chewing also helps to clean the teeth.
Curl care required
The top coat with under-wool is relatively easy to care for and offers the Bichon Frisé perfect protection from the cold and wet during the winter, whilst keeping out the heat in summer. A big advantage for Bichon owners and their homes is that the breed does not shed fur. You should brush puppies every two days to remove dirt and prevent the curly fur from felting. Adult Bichon Frisés require thorough brushing for one hour a week. Your dog's „beard“ needs to be cleaned regularly, particularly after eating wet food. The lively Bichon's curly fur should also be regularly cut into shape. Companion dogs that won't be exhibited can have much shorter hair than the breed standard demands in order to making grooming easier. The most important thing is that the hairs around the eyes aren't too long in order to prevent eye irritations and to keep the line of vision free.
If you don't constantly succumb to the charm of the Bichon Frisé, they are easy dogs to train. They are eager to learn, clever and therefore suitable dogs for beginners, as long as the owner is familiar with the basics of dog training. Remain friendly but consistent at all times during training and you will soon be successful with this smart little dog. It's of course also recommended to attend a dog school, where the Bichon Frisé can ideally gain contact with other dogs right from the puppy phase. These bright little dogs also love learning a few tricks.
Activity: whenever, wherever
The connection to its “pack” is the most important thing of all for the Bichon Frisé, which certainly doesn't demand constant activity all day long. Nonetheless, it relishes long walks and is more than happy to keep you company on hikes, because this “lapdog” is also a genuine nature lover that loves to feel the fresh air. If you're into cycling, your Bichon Frisé can accompany you: you're best off placing it in a special dog bicycle basket. From time to time, fully-grown dogs can also run alongside the bike at an appropriate speed, allowing them to let off steam too. Since these dogs don't tend to poach, they are generally easily retrievable – providing they are well trained – and can therefore run free in suitable areas. Furthermore, Bichon Frisés are well suited for dog sports like agility for small dogs. And don't forget that this little wild child loves long hours of cuddling after sharing in adventures together.
Is a Bichon Frisé right for me?
A Bichon Frisé is a real all-rounder that mostly adapts well to its environment, therefore it is also suited to living in a city apartment. It loves children and makes a wonderful playmate for them, provided that they have been taught to treat animals with respect. You should take particular care to ensure that children handle Bichon Frisé puppies with great caution, because they really are miniscule. The breed mostly gets on very well with other pets like dogs or cats. When it comes to smaller animals, you should always keep an eye out to make sure that these playful curly-haired dogs do not treat them like “live toys”. However, this too can work extremely well if you get the animals accustomed to one other from an early age. A Bichon Frisé can be left alone for a short period of time and generally adapts very well to the family's daily routine if all its requirements are met. In short, it is a perfect dog both for families and singletons, as well as for elderly people who often wish to spend time outdoors with their dog.
Before your Bichon Frisé moves in, you should ideally cover all bases, since a four-legged family member means responsibility for the forthcoming years. If you live in rented accommodation, clarify whether dogs are allowed and receive written confirmation if it isn't explicitly stated in the rental contract. Even though the breed doesn't shed hair, you should play it safe and check whether any family members suffer from allergies to dogs before it enters your home. Organise in advance care arrangements for times when you may go on holiday or fall ill. Many hotels now agree to accommodate dogs, so this could also be an option for you. Along with the commitment of dealing with your dog on a daily basis for the coming years, be mindful of the financial outlay that you will have to account for, in the form of both regular costs (high-quality food, snacks, veterinary check-ups, dog taxes and liability) and basic equipment (brush, lead, basket, blankets or cushions, bowls). Furthermore, you could face unforeseen costs should your dog suffer from illness.
How to find the Bichon Frisé of your dreams
If you're sure that you and a Bichon Frisé will make a great team, you can start searching for a responsible breeder for this white-haired charmer. Make sure the breeder belongs to an association and that they only hand over their dogs with a pedigree and health certificate, vaccination record and microchip. When undergoing the search, take sufficient time to find a breeder that you trust and who treats their animals well. This includes giving the mother of your potential dream puppy sufficient recovery time between litters, patiently dealing with your questions and critically enquiring what sort of home you will provide for their charge. During a visit, you can become acquainted with the puppies, along with their parents and their character. With a responsible breeder, you usually also gain a future point of contact for all questions relating to your four-legged family member.
Don't purchase from so-called “breeders” selling dogs without pedigree certificates or being members of an association, since they are generally only out for fast profits, meaning that health, character and often too the social behaviour of the puppies and their parents can fall by the wayside. Their prices may appear cheaper on first sight, but in many cases you end up paying high vet fees and also have no guarantee regarding your dog's origins. You should also steer clear of private “fluke litters”.
If an older dog is acceptable, it's worth looking for Bichon Frisés in local animal homes or special animal protection organisations dedicated to rehoming Bichons. Older dogs can offer an advantage in terms of already being well-trained. Of course, however, there are also dogs whose owners gave them away due to being over-fazed by training demands. Animal protection associations and foster homes are generally good at identifying whether you and the Bichon Frisé in question have the potential to make a dream team. When it comes to a private arrangement, it's best if you meet the dog beforehand and take it on a walk, for instance. In any case, giving a mature Bichon Frisé a new home can be a very rewarding experience!
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