Bichons Frises - Breed Introduction
The Bichon Frise is a happy, intelligent, non-shedding dog. His name literally means “curly lap dog.” He is a popular house pet because of his happy, friendly disposition and hypo-allergenic coat.
This small dog is 9 to 12 inches in height (23 to 30 centimeters) and weighs 7 to 12 pounds (3 to 5 kilograms).
History of Breed
The Bichon Frise was developed by crossing the Barbet Spaniel and the Poodle to create a small, white lap dog. It became known as the Barbichon, which was later shortened to Bichon.
Due to its travels aboard Spanish boats and its introduction to the Canary Islands, it was also known as the Tenerife. In 1933, when the dog was officially recognized by the Societe Centrale Canine of France, the name was changed to Bichon Frise.
Because of its ease of care and happy disposition, the Bichon was a popular means of barter among sailors. In the 1300’s, Italian sailors returned the dog to the region from which it originated, and the dog quickly became a favorite of Italian nobility.
The Bichon also was found working as the official greeter aboard Spanish vessels. Bichons were highly popular in France under Francis I, and even more so during the reign of Henry III. They were a favorite of the Infantas in Spain, and several were captured in the paintings of Goya.
The Bichon was first brought to the United States in 1955, and was introduced to Australia in the mid 1960’s.
Color and Coat
The Bichon is typically all white, but cream, grey, or apricot colored hairs are permitted, usually around the ears. It has a soft, silky undercoat that is 3 to 4 inches long, and a loosely curled outer coat. This dog is known as a hypo-allergenic breed that does not shed.
Personality and Temperament
Bichons Frises are feisty, playful, intelligent, affectionate, and loyal. Despite their independent spirit they love to be in the company of human companions. They are very social and love to be taken along, anytime, anywhere. They are excellent with children and other animals, and need people in their lives in order to be happy.
Some of the easygoing personality of the Bichon was lost in the 1980’s, when the overwhelming popularity of the dog led to overbreeding. As a result, some dogs became somewhat temperamental and had a tendency to snap. This type of behavior can be avoided by locating a reputable dog breeder.
Bichons have an independent nature and a stubborn streak that can make them difficult to housebreak, but they are otherwise very easily trainable.
These friendly, happy little dogs are quite active indoors and can live in an apartment setting, but they love to go for walks and to play outside. They may experience sudden bursts of energy and race around in circles for no apparent reason.
An adult Bichon must be 90 percent white in order to show. A puppy must be at least 50 percent white. The thick coat should spring back when touched and should feel velvety. It can be shown with a Poodle cut or trimmed around the feet and muzzle for a rounded appearance.
The Bichon should have a soft, inquisitive, alert expression with either black or brown eyes. The “halo” present in purebred puppies and dogs refers to the very dark skin surrounding the eyes. The nose and lips are also dark, and the Bichon Frise “triangle” is formed by the prominent dark eyes and nose against the fluffy white fur of the face. Ears are covered in long fur and drop down.
There should be excellent muscle tone in the Bichon, especially in the area of the haunches.
Typical Health Concerns
Although Bichons typically do not cause allergy symptoms in people that are normally allergic to animals, they are highly prone to allergies and skin problems. Many of these problems can be alleviated through proper diet and regular grooming.
Bichons may also experience autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA), which is responsible for a large percentage of premature deaths. With this condition, the dog’s own immune system attacks its red blood cells, leading to severe anemia that is life-threatening.
Symptoms can include loss of appetite, weakness, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid breathing and heart rate, dark urine, and pale or yellow gums. Immediate veterinary care should be sought.
The Bichon Frise requires extensive and frequent grooming. The coat may be trimmed into a “puppy cut” if the dog is not showing, which is shorter and easier to maintain. A show dog will have its coat in a full-volume cut that is required by most show standards.
Because they need frequent grooming, it is a good idea to get them accustomed to it at an early age and should be kept a pleasant experience for the dog. Brushing the Bichon several times each week will prevent tangles and give the dog a puffier, “marshmallow” look.
The coat should be brushed before bathing, then dried and brushed again after the bath. Dog dryers, which are cooler and less forceful than those designed for humans, are preferable for grooming the Bichon. The anal area should be wiped clean after each bowel movement to prevent feces from sticking to the hair.
Areas that need trimming include the eyes, ears, and between the foot pads. This can be accomplished with a pair of blunt scissors.
If tear staining occurs around the eyes, which is common, a saline solution can be used to irrigate the eyes. Tears should be wiped away on a daily basis, and some pet supply stores carry special wipes for this purpose.
For a show dog, professional grooming is recommended once every four weeks. Show dogs should only be trimmed with scissors, but electric clippers can be used on those that do not show.
Country of Origin
The Bichon descended from the Barbet, or Water Spaniel, and originated in the Mediterranean region.
Average Life Span
The Bichon can be expected to live 15 years or more.