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Bichon Frise

Country/Date of origin: Spain/1400s

The history of the Bichon Frise is like that of a mysterious and exotic stranger. Some claim a Maltese as the foundation stock, others see a dash of Poodle or Barbet. The truth is the breed is probably a mixture of the best qualities of a lot of little lap dogs. The breed is an ancient breed at any rate. Bichons have been the favored playthings of aristocratic ladies since the Middle Ages. They spread around the Mediterranean region because sea captains knew well the favors they could buy with one of the little canine charmers. But as royalty's fortunes declined, so did that of the Bichon Frise. However, for a dog that was bred to please, it had other ways to make a living. They literally joined the circus. For almost a century the little powder puffs have amused audiences as clown dogs or dancing companions of organ grinders. They remained popular in France but it wasn't until the 1950s that they began to attract an international following again. The American Kennel Club gave them full recognition as a member of the Nonsporting Group in 1973.

Other Names Body Type Personality Coat Health Concerns

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Tenerife Dog

AKC Group: Non-Sporting

Breed Club: Bichon Frise Club of America, Inc.

Rescue Club: Bichon Frise Club of America Rescue

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Body Type:

  • Small, fluffy dog with a poodle-like appearance
  • Height: 9-12 inches (at shoulder)
  • Weight: 7-12 pounds
  • Tail curls over the back and is not altered
  • Narrow ears hang close to the head and frame the face. They are never altered


  • Happy. Happy. Happy. This breed is Pollyanna in canine form. The Bichon lives to make you happy also
  • Loving and lovable
  • Requires little exercise so it is quite suited to apartment living
  • Intelligent although sometimes exhibits a stubborn streak


  • An extremely thick double coat, which left to its own devices, would form short, corkscrew curls. However, it is usually brushed and trimmed to form a fluffy powder puff effect
  • The outercoat is silky and long ( 2" or more). The undercoat is soft and short
  • Hair on the ears and tail is longer than that on the body
  • Permissible colors are white or white in combination with buff, cream, apricot, or gray
  • Professional grooming is absolutely required for pets as well as show dogs
  • Plan on once every six weeks

Health Concerns:

  • Generally quite healthy
  • Subject to ear and skin ailments
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Can suffer from low blood sugar
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Tasty Tidbits:
  • The name Bichon Frise means simply little fluffy dog in French (pronounced Bee shoan Free say)
  • Bichons were powdered and perfumed and coifed till Bichon came to mean pamper or make beautiful
  • Bichons are literally clowns. They enjoy entertaining people and many of the circus dogs most people think are Poodles are actually Bichons
  • A high purchase price and monthly professional grooming can make the Bichon an expensive breed to own

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