Choosing a Bichon Frise

Choosing a Bichon Frise

The bichon frise is a small, friendly, affectionate dog of Mediterranean ancestry. Related to the Maltese and the poodle, the bichon frise is often recommended for people with mild allergies because its curly coat infrequently sheds. (If you have allergies, speak with your doctor before making a decision to buy any pet.) This breed has recently become even more popular after winning the 2001 Westminster Dog Show and 2001 AKC/Eukanuba American Dog Classic.

History and Origin

The bichon frise is an old breed that can be traced to the 1300s, but it is likely far older (some people say it pre-dates the Common Era). Its oldest recognized ancestor is the barbichon cam, or "water spaniel," which evolved into four breeds: the bichon bolognese, the bichon havanese, the bichon Maltese and the bichon Tenerife. Today's bichon frise, named in 1933, is directly descended from the Tenerife and is a member of the non-sporting group of dogs.

The bichon Tenerife attracted the attention of Europe's nobility, particularly those in Italy, as well as wealthy merchants. As Italian influence spread, the Tenerife happily followed. The dog became part of the court of the French King Francis in the early 1500s. By the late 1500s, the Tenerife had become a favorite of France's King Henry III, who reportedly had a Tenerife travel with him wherever he went. The dog was pampered, perfumed and beribboned, giving rise to the French verb, "bichonner" (to pamper).

The bichon Tenerife was soon given a prominent place in other countries, and artists included a bichon-like dog in many of their portraits. The Spanish artist Francisco Goya was one famous artist who favored the bichon Tenerife.

The dog gradually lost his aristocratic favor and became a street dog, performing in circuses and fairs. The breed survived and in 1933, the name was changed to bichon a polio frise (bichon with the curly coat). The name was shortened to bichon frise, and the dog was admitted to the French Kennel club in 1934. The bichon frise was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1972.

Appearance and Size

"Bichon frise" refers to the breed's curly coat, which is white. The dog has black eyes, eye rims and halos. Puppies sometimes have beige to apricot markings, but these fade over time. An adult dog is sturdy and muscular.

The white coat hides graying hairs, so it can be difficult to tell the age of a particular bichon frise.

The adult bichon stands 9 1/2 inches to 11 1/2 inches at the shoulder and weighs between 10 and 18 pounds.


The bichon frise is gentle, sensitive, playful and affectionate. The cheerful attitude is the breed's hallmark.

Home and Family Relations

The bichon frise gets along well with people of all ages and in varied living conditions. The dog loves to play but is not hyperactive. This breed tends to be good with children and with other animals. The bichon frise is not a guard dog, but is a watchdog and will announce strangers.


The breed is easy to train using standard obedience commands. The bichon frise is alert and eager to please.

Special Care

It is very important to groom a bichon frise. Because the coat sheds slowly and infrequently, it will become matted quickly if not brushed often.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the bichon is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that develops between the ages of 2 to 5 years.
  • Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to loose transparency and can result in blindness.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Urolithiasis is a condition affecting the urinary tract resulting in the formation of bladder stones.
  • Corneal dystrophy is a primary, inherited, bilateral (both sides), symmetrical condition of the cornea that is not accompanied by corneal inflammation or systemic disease.
  • Diabetes is a disease of the pancreas related to insufficient amounts of insulin production.
  • Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) is a congenital birth defect caused by a blood vessel that normally closes after birth, but remains open resulting in the passage of extra volumes of blood into the lungs.
  • Congenital hypotrichosis - is a congenital disease causing symmetrical hair loss.
  • Atlantoaxial subluxation is a condition in which the first two cervical (neck) vertebrae are not firmly attached. Dogs are born without ligament support to their atlantoaxial joint.
  • Patellar luxation is a disorder affecting the kneecap.
  • White shaker disease is a tremor condition seen in small white dogs.
  • Dermatitis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the skin and can be caused by allergies, infections or even parasites such as mange.

    In addition, bichons may also be prone to allergies and immune skin diseases.

    Life Span

    The average life span of the bichon frise is 12 to 15 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.