Bichon Frise Dog Breed

Happy Bichon Frise
  • Other names:
  • Bichon A Poil Frise
  • Tenerife
  • Bichon Tenerife

The bichon frise is a perky small dog breed with a doll face and a body covered in white fluffy hair. They are often mistaken for white toy poodles due to their size and coat appearance. The breed is well known for their cheerful attitude and happy demeanor. Their charm quickly makes them the center of attention, which is what the bichon frise wants most of all.

The bichon frise is an intelligent dog breed and is highly trainable. Their small size makes them an ideal dog for any apartment, but they do suffer from separation anxiety which is something potential owners need to consider if they are frequently away. They do have a lot of energy, but as a small dog their exercise requirements is less than larger dogs breeds with the same level of energy.

Bichon Frise Breed Details

Breed Specs
Purebred12-15 yrs.9-11 in.7-12 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

The Bichon Frise was originally bred to be a ratter and companion dog for sailors in the Mediterranean. In time, they became royal pets, and eventually, entertainers for the common people. These days, they are basically companion dogs and family pets. Their long, diverse history has lent them a great many talents. Bichons are good for first-time dog owners, as companions for elderly people, and for most indoor living situations. Many people get Bichon puppies without understanding that there's far more than feeding and walking them, however, and think that they are too small to attack or be dangerous.

Here are some interesting facts and information about this breed:

  • Pros
  • Friendly
  • Highly alert
  • Very quirky
  • Seek to please
  • Good watchdog
  • Small yet sturdy
  • Constantly active
  • Wonderful with kids
  • Very low shedder, if at all
  • Plays well with other pets
  • Requires little outdoor exercise
  • Cons
  • Can yap a lot
  • Prone to anxiety
  • Not a guard dog
  • Needs constant attention
  • Stubborn behavior problems
  • Extremely difficult to housebreak
  • Highly given to separation anxiety
  • Coat must be constantly groomed
  • Requires a lot of socialization to not be shy

Bichon Frise Breed Description

The bichon frise has officially been around since the 1300's, however that was the first documented records of the breed so it's likely they were around for much longer. Regardless, when the bichon frise arrived in Europe it has grown in popularity and is today one of the most popular 25 dog breeds.

The breed's happy attitude, intelligence, and charm has made it a favorable dog for centuries. The bichon frise is elegant enough to be favored among kings, charming enough to be used by performers for entertainment, and intelligent enough to be used as guide dogs. Needless to say, it comes as no surprise that the dog is still a favorite among breeders and families.

Bichons make great companion dogs and are wonderful with children. They are very tolerant of sudden noises and commotion commonly associated with small kids. The bichon frise does well with other pets, but they can become a jealous dog if they feel other pets are getting more attention than they are. The breed suffers from separation anxiety, so it's not recommended for owners who are frequently away from their pets.

Bichon Frise Breed History

Hailing from the Mediterranean and more than 2,000 years old, this breed was known by many different names. The origin of the Bichon Frise was the Water Spaniel, better known as the Barbet. (The Barbet was also an ancestral breed to the Poodle and the Maltese.) Originally called a Barbichon, the breed's name was eventually contracted to just Bichon. It was not several centuries later, in the 1930s, that the "Frise" was added.

Spanish sailors carried them on their ships, often to the Canary Islands and in particular to the island of Tenerife. This prompted one of the many name changes: Bichon Tenerife. It was from the Tenerife that the modern Bichon Frise came. By the 14th century, the Bichons were also popular in Italy. Italian sailors took them abroad and traded them to others. During the following century, they were imported by French sailors. They were a hit among the royalty. From the 15th until the mid-19th centuries, Bichons were frequently featured in paintings. A couple of the more famous painters of these dogs were Titian (from Italy) and Goya (from Spain).

By the end of the 1900s, however, the Bichon had fallen into disfavor, and they ended up in the streets doing tricks and relying on their cute looks to survive. After World War I, breeders revived the breed. In 1933, a new breed standard was composed. It was accepted by the Societe Central Canine de France, and a new name was coined: Bichon Frise. The following year, the French Kennel Club officially recognized the breed.

Following WWI, American soldiers took the little dogs home. A few decades later, a French couple took six of the dogs to Milwaukee, WI. In 1964, the Bichon Frise Club of America was founded. A few years later, in 1971, the breed was allowed to be in American Kennel Club (AKC) competitions. The following year, 1972, the AKC recognized the Bichon Frise.

Bichon Frise Appearance

The Bichon Frise is a unique-looking dog that is unmistakable in anatomy and appearance. The button nose is black and matches their little round black eyes. A round skull and little muzzle sits atop a short neck that leads to a small yet sturdy body. The ears are long and floppy and hang halfway down their small heads, and yet they may be groomed to appear without ears. Make no doubt, however: the Bichon Frise face is a very cute one!

The legs of the Bichon are proportionate with the body but may appear short and stubby due to the coat style. The tail, like the ears, is a lot longer than it may appear when groomed in a fashionable way. Under all that poufy hair, the tail should curl up and over the back. The paws are fair-sized and, when popularly styled, may seem like a tubular part of the leg.

The typical coat style is a powder puff look, but if left ungroomed, that same coat can look like a scruffy poodle or terrier. Regardless of which look a Bichon Frise may have, there is no shedding of theft and curly yet robust hair.

Bichon Frise Coloring

The popular belief is that the Bichon Frise only comes in a snow white coat. While the white (or blanc) coat is certainly the standard required to be in dog shows, it is not the only color. There may be shades of apricot, buff, cream, or grey, and even then, they may be only on parts of the dog. Some Bichon puppies are born with coat colors that may disappear after about 18 months. Also of note is that these dogs sometimes have dark skin — desired for show dogs — and can also have other skin colors (under the coat): beige, black, and blue.

A Bichon Frise that is black (or noir), brown, chocolate, tan, or another dark coat color is not a purebred dog. To get such colors, people cross Bichons with Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers.

Bichon Frise Size

The Bichon Frise is too often described as a tiny dog. While it is a small breed, it's only tiny if crossed with some other breed or hybrid dog of a toy size. If that happens, it's no longer a Bichon Frise but a mixed breed. If you're now wondering just how big do Bichons get, it's definitely on the smaller side of dog size. The typical height of a full grown Bichon Frise is about 9 to 11 inches tall. The average adult weight range is between 12 and 18 pounds.

Average Adult Height

9-11 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

7-12 lbs

Bichon Frise Variations

When it comes to the Bichon Frise, there is no real variation. Although the coat color varies in shades from off-white to other light colors (all of which are discussed on this page in Bichon Frise Coloring), these are not recognized as varieties.

As for ads you might see selling a teacup Bichon Frise, or a Bichon Toy, or a miniature, mini toy, petit, micro, or even a giant (yes, there are "giant" Bichons being advertised!), none of these types are a purebred. In the rare chance that a tiny Bichon is a purebred, it is sure to have dreadful health problems from being produced by runts or Bichons with congenital defects such as dwarfism. Because these dogs are very popular in Europe, they may have in other languages names that imply very small sizes: Bichon nain (dwarf), Bichon nano (very small), etc.

Bichon Frise Temperament

The Bichon Frise temperament is cute, playful, and affectionate. These gently mannered pooches have the potential to keep this disposition so long as constant and daily care is given them. In return for helping them keep their bubbly behavior intact, you'll be rewarded with a doting dog whose loyalty and love is bigger than her!

On the other hand, the Bichon Frise is highly sensitive to your moods. They can easily become anxious if neglected, handled roughly, subjected to shouting or loud noise, or left alone for most the day. What was once a feisty puppy may become an aggressive and distrustful dog. This dog's cheerful characteristics demand your time, your love, and a lot of socialization with people and other pets. Like grooming her coat, maintaining your Bichon's appealing personality traits can't be done once a week or whenever.

Bichon Frise and Children

A Bichon Frise is wonderful with children of most all ages and certainly one of the best family breeds. Still, the socialization of their pleasant temperament is a life-long project. Any dog that lives with kids requires as much — if not more! — training of the children to respect and understand the dog. It's especially important with small dogs as they are seen by kids as toys and less a danger. Left alone together, a small child and a dog can quickly end in injury of one or both parties, and often by accident. If you have a newborn or babies, however, you'll want to be extra-careful in supervising them when together. With work, your Bichon can be a great family pet that gets along with friends, family, and considerate kids.

Bichon Frise and Other Pets

It's widely accepted that the Bichon Frise is one of the best dogs to have with cats and most other pets. While very small furries such as hamsters, gerbils, etc., might pose a problem, cats tend to be just fine with these dogs. Because the Bichon is typically calm in her demeanor, cats are not upset by them. Most cats are fine without much attention, and this may be why your Bichon will be fine with cats. (These dogs demand loads of attention!) In many cases, adult Bichons and cats can learn to live together easily. This may be one of the few breeds that, as puppies, need not always be socialized with kittens.

Bichon Frise Photos

Below are pictures of the Bichon Frise dog breed.

Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise Puppy
Bichon Frise Dog Breed
White & Apricot Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise Head
Happy Bichon Frise

Living Requirements

The novelty of the Bichon Frise is undeniable, but inside that cute pet is a living creature — and this breed is prone to separation anxiety, fear aggression, and non-stop barking. There is much love and care that must be administered to keep Bichons happy, unanxious, and relatively quiet.

As they are small dogs who prefer to be inside and close to their owners and loved ones, Bichons are adaptable to tiny apartments, small houses, and sprawling mansions. They are fine outside as they don't have much desire to dig; they don't have a strong prey drive; and they won't roam far. If you do live in a rural area, however, it's best they not be left outside and unattended. Small dogs like the Bichon Frise are easy prey to predators on the ground and in the sky.

These dogs are hypoallergenic, but they are prone to allergies.

Random Details

The Bichon Frise is a universally cute dog that does have a shortened muzzle but not a smushed face. They have a lot of health issues but few that are typical of centuries-old purebred (AKA "inbred) dogs. They might have some teeth crowding or other dental problems, but they are neither "so ugly they're cute" or found among candidates for ugly dog contests. Perhaps the only ugly Bichon Frise you'll find is on an ugly Christmas sweater, and even those are kinda cute. (It's the sweater that's "so ugly it's cute"!)

As for Bichon Frise circus dogs, you'll find more mentioned in the breed's history than these dogs in real life performing at carnivals and fairs. They can still be trained to do an amazing array of circus-like stunts to entertain you, your kids, family and friends.

Bichon Frise Health

The Bichon Frise has been purebred for some centuries, and this lends to problems caused by in-breeding. Recent attempts to make these dogs even smaller while maintaining their purity has also harmed the breed. As such, they have some problems that tend to be found primarily among large dogs (hip dysplasia), and they also have some rare deadly diseases (Kartagener's syndrome). They may also temporarily experience a harmless "ailment" called reverse sneezing.

Here are some of the other health problems that Bichons can experience:

  • Epilepsy
  • Gingivitis
  • Pyoderma
  • Liver shunt
  • Ear infections
  • Hemophilia B
  • Heart disease
  • Crowded teeth
  • Patellar luxation
  • Inherited cataracts
  • Endocrine diseases
  • Severe chronic allergies
  • White Shaker Dog syndrome
  • Urinary infections and stones

The average life expectancy of a Bichon Frise is 12 to 15 years.

  • Allergies
  • Bladder Stones
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Juvenile Cataracts
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Vaccination Sensitivity
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Bichon Frise Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Bichon Frise as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • The Bichon Frise Club Of America
  • View all 15...