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Bichon Frisé Dog Breed

A Bichon Frisé (French, literally meaning curly lap dog) is a small breed Bichon Frisé Dog Breed of dog of the Bichon type. They are popular pets, similar in appearance to, but larger than, the Maltese. They are a non-shedding breed that requires daily grooming.



The Bichon Frisé is a small but sturdy dog that weighs approx. 4–7 kg / 10-18 lbs and stands 23-30 cm/9-12in at the withers. It has a black nose and dark round eyes and its white fur consists of a curly outercoat and a silky undercoat. A small amount of buff or cream color may be seen around its ears, snout, paws or on its body, but normally these colors should not exceed 10% of its body. The head and legs are proportionate in size to the body, and ears and tail are natural (not docked or cropped). Often the coat is trimmed to make the fur seem of even length.


The AKC refers to the Bichon Frisé as "merry" and "cheerful", and the breed standard calls for a dog that is "gentle mannered, sensitive, playful and affectionate". Bred to be companion dogs, the Bichon Frisé tends to get along well with both children and other animals.

Bichon Frises are very obedient if training is started early and continued consistently.

Bichon Frisés often appear on lists of dogs that do not shed (moult), but this is misleading. Every hair in the dog coat grows from a hair follicle, which has a cycle of growing, then dying and being replaced by another follicle. When the follicle dies, the hair is shed. The length of time of the growing and shedding cycle varies by breed, age, and by whether the dog is an inside or outside dog. "There is no such thing as a nonshedding breed." The grooming required to maintain the Bichon Frisé's coat helps remove loose hair, and the curl in the coat helps prevent dead hair and dander from escaping into the environment, as with the poodle's coat. The frequent trimming, brushing, and bathing required to keep the Bichon looking its best removes hair and dander and controls the other potent allergen, saliva.

Bichon Frisés are suitable for people with allergies, as they are bred to be hypoallergenic. However, it is important to note that, human sensitivity to dog fur, dander, and saliva varies considerably. Although hair, dander, and saliva can be minimized, they are still present and can stick to "clothes and the carpets and furnishings in your home"; inhaling the allergens, or being licked by the dog, can trigger a reaction in a sensitive person.

Grooming and Skin/Coat Care

Bichon Frisés should be professionally groomed every 4 to 6 weeks.

Bichon Frisés being shown in conformation have their coat styled in the full-volume cut required by most show standards. Bichon Frisés not being shown are more often kept in a "puppy cut," which is shorter and requires less maintenance.

Like all dogs that require frequent grooming, Bichon Frisés should be accustomed to grooming from a young age and care should be taken to keep grooming pleasurable. Daily grooming prevents tangles and creates a puffier coat. To prevent matting, the coat should be kept clean, brushed thoroughly before bathing, and brushed and completely dried after bathing.

Excess hair should be removed regularly from ears and between foot pads. The Bichon Frisé's nails grow at a fast to moderate rate so should be cut regularly.

The hair on the face of a Bichon Frisé should be kept clean and trimmed, as eye discharge and mucus tend to accumulate in the hair that grows in front of their eyes. In common with most white dogs Bichon Frisés are prone to tear-staining around the eyes. The tear staining causes the hair around the eye to turn a reddish color. Tear staining may be caused by allergies, infections, blocked tear ducts, stray eyelashes, or foreign material in the eyes.


Since inbreeding has occurred, Bichons have many health problems. They can produce a red swollen area in the corner of their eye called a cherry eye. They can also get warts all over their bodies, and even have ligament problems.

Mortality (Longevity)

Bichon Frisé in (combined) UK and USA/Canada surveys had an average life span of about 12–13 years, with Bichon Frisé in the UK tending to live longer than Bichon Frisé in the USA/Canada.This breed's longevity is similar to other breeds of its size and a little longer than for purebred dogs in general. The longest lived of 34 deceased Bichons in a 2004 UK survey died at 16.5 years.

The oldest Bichon Frisés for which there are reliable records in various USA/Canada surveys have died at 19 years. In August 2008, a Bichon Frisé from Illinois named Max died at the age of 20 years and 3 months.

In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the leading causes of Bichon Frisé death were old age (23.5%) and cancer (21%). In a 2007 USA/Canada breeders survey, the leading causes of death were cancer (22%), unknown causes (14%), hematologic (11%), and old age (10%). Hematologic causes of death were divided between autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP). AIHA and ITP were responsible for the greatest amount of Bichon Frisé "years lost." "Years lost" is a measure of the extent to which a condition kills members of a breed prematurely. While cancer is a more common cause of death than AIHA/ITP, Bichon Frisés that died of cancer died at a median age of 12.5 years. Hematologic deaths occurred at a median age of only 5 years. Bichon Frisés in the UK survey had a lower rate of hematologic deaths (3%) than in the USA/Canada survey (11%).

Bichons are also prone to liver shunts. These often go undetected until later in life, leading to complications that cannot be fixed, and therefore liver failure. Bichons who are underweight, the runts of the litter, or have negative reactions to food high in protein are likely to be suffering from a shunt. When detected early, shunt often can be corrected through surgery. However, the later in life the shunt in the detected the likelihood of surgery being a success decreases. Shunts can be kept under control through special diets of low protein. (Hill's Prescription diet K/D or L/D), and through various medications to support liver function, help flush toxins that build up in the kidneys and liver, and control seizures that often occur as a symptom of the shunt. Without surgery, Bichons with shunts on average live to be 4–6 years old. If you own a smaller than average size bichon please consult your vet. Other symptoms include dark urine, lethargy, loss of appetite, increase in drinking. Also seizures come in all forms; episodes of seizures can begin early on but go undetected. Early seizures can appear to be seeing the bichon in a hypnotic state (staring at something not there), or to be experiencing an episode of vertigo, or being drunk. Shunts are a serious condition of smaller breeds, and often not associated with Bichons. But more and more bichons are being afflicted by this condition.


The Bichon Frisé descended from the Barbet or Water Spaniel, Poodle, and is a generally white, small "lap" or ladies' dog, which existed in the Mediterranean area as far back as 600-300 B.C. from which came the name "Barbichon", later shortened to "Bichon". The Bichons were divided into four categories: the Bichon Malteise, the Bichon Bolognaise, the Bichon Havanese and the Bichon Tenerife. All originated in the Mediterranean area.

Because of their merry disposition, they traveled much and were often used as barter by sailors as they moved from continent to continent. The dogs found early success in Spain and it is generally believed that Spanish seamen introduced the breed to the Canary Island of Tenerife. In the 1300s, Italian sailors rediscovered the little dogs on their voyages and are credited with returning them to the continent, where they became great favorites of Italian nobility. Often, as was the style of the day with dogs in the courts, they were cut "lion style," like a modern-day Portuguese Water Dog.

The Bichon went to sea as a working Spanish boat dog. Though not considered a retriever or water dog, the Bichon, due to its ancestry, has an affinity for and enjoys water and retrieving. On the boats however, the dog's job was that of a companion dog.

The "Tenerife", or "Bichon", had success in France during the Renaissance under Francis I (1515-47), but its popularity skyrocketed in the court of Henry III (1574-89). The breed also enjoyed considerable success in Spain as a favorite of the Infantas, and painters of the Spanish school often included them in their works. For example, the famous artist, Francisco de Goya, included a Bichon in several of his works.

Interest in the breed was renewed during the rule of Napoleon III, but then waned until the late 1800s when it became the "common dog", running the streets, accompanying the organ grinders of Barbary, leading the blind and doing tricks in circuses and fairs.

On March 5, 1933, the official standard of the breed was adopted by the Société Centrale Canine, the national kennel club for France. (This was largely due to the success of the French-speaking Belgian author Herge's "Tintin" books, which featured a small, fluffy, white dog named Snowy.) As the breed was known by two names at that time, "Tenerife" and "Bichon", the president of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale proposed a name based on the characteristics that the dogs presented - the Bichon Frisé. ("Frisé" means "curly", referring to the breed's coat.) On October 18, 1934, the Bichon Frisé was admitted to the stud book of the Société Centrale Canine.

The Bichon was popularised in Australia in the mid 1960s, largely thanks to the Channel Nine mini-series Meweth, starring Bruce Gyngell alongside his pet Bichon, Molly. The show ran for one season only, however it gained a cult following. In subsequent years Bichon ownership, especially in the Eastern states, climbed dramatically.

The Bichon was brought to the United States in 1955, and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1973. The first US-born Bichon litter was whelped in 1956. In 1959 and 1960, two breeders in different parts of the USA acquired Bichons, which provided the origins for the breed's development in the USA.

The Bichon Frisé became eligible to enter the AKC's Miscellaneous Class on September 1, 1971. In October, 1972, the breed was admitted to registration in the American Kennel Club Stud Book. On April 4, 1973, the breed became eligible to show in the Non-Sporting Group at AKC dog shows.


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