The history of the Bichon Frise goes back to the 13th century. These pretty little dogs were descended from the Water Spaniel, and commonly traveled throughout Europe in the company of Spanish sailors. During the 16th century, the French Royal Family became very fond of the breed’s charming appearance and cheerful nature. They also featured regularly in the works of famous Spanish painters of the time, such as Goya.
Bichon Frise were once favored as circus performers but these days their main role is as an affectionate and loyal companion to their owners. The breed made its way to the United States in 1955, but wasn’t recognized by the AKC until 1972.
The Bichon Frise looks like a cotton ball on legs. Their white curly outer coat is thick and fluffy, and may have shades of cream or apricot particularly around their ears. Their undercoat is soft and downy. They carry their tail arched over their back and this, together with their jaunty gait, gives them a cheerful and merry appearance.
Contrasting nicely with the white fur is a black nose, and inquisitive dark eyes.
These dogs don’t grow very large, only reaching 12 inches (30cm) at the shoulder and weighing up to 20lbs, or 10kg. This allows them to fit nicely into your lap.
If you are looking for a merry little companion that is affectionate and playful, then the Bichon Frise might just be the right dog for you. Their compact body houses a lot of personality. These dogs love everyone, and will want to accompany you wherever you go.
Bichon Frise learn quickly and are very easy going. They do very well at obedience training, and this should be started from puppy-hood. One thing to keep in mind is that despite their size and their sweet nature, they are still a dog and need to be treated as such. If they are allowed to get away with being naughty because of those soft eyes, and start to rule the household, they may become snappy and bossy.
Generally a healthy breed, the Bichon Frise only has a few medical conditions that prospective owners need to be aware of.
They are prone to liver shunts, which are abnormal blood vessels that carry blood past the liver, so it isn’t detoxified. The result is an increase in toxins in the blood, particularly ammonia. These will cause symptoms of liver failure. Owners should watch for lethargy, extreme thirst, possibly vomiting and even seizures. Blood tests will diagnose this condition, and in some cases, surgery can be effective in closing off the abnormal blood vessel. For those dogs whose shunts aren’t suitable for surgery, treatment will include medication to support their liver, and dietary changes to reduce the amount of toxins in the blood.
Luxating patellas or loose kneecaps are also a problem in the breed. They can cause lameness, and if untreated, may lead to arthritis in the knee joint. Surgery will prevent the kneecap from moving out of its position, and reduce the risk of long term damage to the joint.
Bichon Frise can also suffer from allergies. Affected dogs lick their feet and bite their bodies, and their saliva turns their white fur a reddish color. If they damage their skin, they may develop a secondary bacterial or fungal infection, which only makes the situation worse.
The Bichon Frise is an active outgoing dog and enjoys regular exercise. While they will appreciate a game and this is often enough to use up their energy, they do prefer to go for a long daily walk. They are extremely sociable, and enjoy exploring their environment and meeting other dogs and people.
Like Poodles, the Bichon’s coat will grow continuously, and they don’t shed. This means that they need thorough and frequent grooming to prevent their curls turning into mats and tangles. Ideally, they should be brushed daily, and the hair around their eyes should be trimmed regularly with blunt-ended scissors. They don’t need regular bathing, unless they are particularly dirty. Excessive bathing may remove the natural oils from their coat, and make them itch.
Many Bichon Frise owners prefer to keep their dog in a low maintenance puppy clip to reduce the amount of time they need to spend on “hair care”.
The Bichon Frise is a perfect companion for families, children and the elderly. Their easy going and cheerful nature will endear them to anyone. If you take a Bichon for a walk, be prepared to be stopped by strangers, asking to pat your friendly and outgoing little dog.
They don’t like living outdoors, and are much happier being an indoor pet. They are relatively quiet and don’t bark much. This, coupled with their low exercise requirements, make them an ideal pet for apartment dwellers.
These dogs are a good choice for allergy sufferers. Their curls are thought to trap dead hair and skin dander which reduces an allergic person’s exposure to them. It’s important to realize that no dog is 100% hypo-allergenic, and some people will still react to the Bichon Frise. If you have allergies and are considering buying a Bichon Frise, make sure you visit several of these little dogs to make sure you don’t react to them. It would be a shame to bring home your new canine buddy, only to have to give them up because you can’t stop sneezing, or you keep breaking out in a rash.
If you decide that you’d like to share your life with a Bichon Frise, they will put a smile on your face and a spring in your step for up to 13 years.