Bichon Frise, the adorable white fluffy dogs originated in the Mediterranean regions of Italy, Spain, and the Canary Islands. Descended from the Barnet (or water spaniel), they were often called Barbichon, which was shortened to Bichon, and later were called Bichon Teneriffe. The breed’s small size, happy personality, and appealing coat made the dogs wonderful companions. In the 1300s, sailors brought the dogs aboard ships as companions and as barter for other goods at ports of call. Using them as barter spread the dogs’ popularity throughout the Mediterranean and into Europe. In the 1500s, Henry III was a fan of the breed, as was Napoleon III.
The Bichon Frise stands between 9.5 and 11.5 inches tall and weighs between 10 and 16 pounds, with females smaller than males. The eyes are dark and expressive, the tail is carried happily over the back, and the white fluffy coat draws your hands—you simply must touch it. Although the Bichon is a small dog, she is sturdy, with a strong little body. At one point during the breed’s history, in the late 1800s, she was known as the circus dog or organ grinder’s dog and danced and performed tricks for the amusement of onlookers.
Bichon Frises today still retain those athletic abilities. The breed’s fluffy white coat is very appealing but does require regular grooming to keep it in shape. If the coat is ignored, it will mat (tangle). If matting is not taken care of right away, the entire coat could become matted, requiring a professional groomer’s services to shave the dog. Therefore, the coat should be brushed and combed daily. Although the Bichon’s coat does not shed, it does grow continually and requires trimming. If you wish to trim your Bichon Frise yourself, talk to your dog’s breeder for guidance. Most Bichon Frise owners find a professional groomer who knows the dog breed and then bring their dogs in for grooming every four to six weeks.
The Bichon Frise’s exercise requirements are not extreme. Older Bichon Frise puppies and young adult dogs are the most active, but a good walk morning and night with a game of catch at midday will keep most of them happy. Bichons do like to play, are always open to a challenge, and have participated in obedience competitions, agility, and flyball. Early socialisation is important for all Bichons.
Although the Bichon Frise dog breed is, for the most part, happy and extroverted, some puppies can be quite reserved. With socialisation, even these puppies can learn that the world is really a wonderful place. Training is important as well; this is a bright breed, and if not trained, they can easily train their owners to do exactly what they wish. Housetraining can be a challenge; set up a routine, use a crate, watch the dog carefully, and be patient and consistent.
Bichon Frises are alert watchdogs, barking when anyone approaches the house. With family and friends, they are very affectionate and playful. Although they are sturdy, have a happy temperament, and enjoy children, they can be too small for rough childhood play. They are good with other pets, although interactions with small animals should be supervised. Primary health concerns include knee problems, eye disorders, and allergies.