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  • Temperament: Playful, Curious, Peppy
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 45 of 194
  • Height: 9.5-11.5 inches
  • Weight: 12-18 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 14-15 years
  • Group: Non-Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Bichon Frise standing in three-quarter view
Bichon Frise head facing left
Bichon Frise lying down in three-quarter view facing foward
Bichon Frise coat detail
Bichon Frise

Find a Puppy: Bichon Frise

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Bichon Frise is a small, sturdy, white powder puff of a dog whose merry temperament is evidenced by his plumed tail carried jauntily over the back and his dark-eyed inquisitive expression.
This is a breed that has no gross or incapacitating exaggerations and therefore there is no inherent reason for lack of balance or unsound movement. Any deviation from the ideal described in the standard should be penalized to the extent of the deviation. Structural faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Bichon Frise as in any other breed, even though such faults may not be specifically mentioned in the standard.

HEAD

Expression – Soft, dark-eyed, inquisitive, alert. Eyes are round, black or dark brown and are set in the skull to look directly forward. An overly large or bulging eye is a fault as is an almond shaped, obliquely set eye. Halos, the black or very dark brown skin surrounding the eyes, are necessary as they accentuate the eye and enhance expression. The eye rims themselves must be black. Broken pigment, or total absence of pigment on the eye rims produce a blank and staring expression, which is a definite fault. Eyes of any color other than black or dark brown are a very serious fault and must be severely penalized.

NECK, TOPLINE, BODY

The arched neck is long and carried proudly behind an erect head. It blends smoothly into the shoulders. The length of neck from occiput to withers is approximately one-third the distance from forechest to buttocks. The topline is level except for a slight, muscular arch over the loin. Body – The chest is well developed and wide enough to allow free and unrestricted movement of the front legs. The lowest point of the chest extends at least to the elbow. The rib cage is moderately sprung and extends back to a short and muscular loin. The forechest is well pronounced and protrudes slightly forward of the point of shoulder. The underline has a moderate tuck-up.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders – The shoulder blade, upper arm and forearm are approximately equal in length. The shoulders are laid back to somewhat near a forty-five degree angle. The upper arm extends well back so the elbow is placed directly below the withers when viewed from the side. Legs are of medium bone; straight, with no bow or curve in the forearm or wrist. The elbows are held close to the body. The pasterns slope slightly from the vertical. The dewclaws may be removed. The feet are tight and round, resembling those of a cat and point directly forward, turning neither in nor out. Pads are black. Nails are kept short.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarters are of medium bone, well angulated with muscular thighs and spaced moderately wide. The upper and lower thigh are nearly equal in length meeting at a well bent stifle joint. The leg from hock joint to foot pad is perpendicular to the ground. Dewclaws may be removed. Paws are tight and round with black pads.

COAT

The texture of the coat is of utmost importance. The undercoat is soft and dense, the outercoat of a coarser and curlier texture. The combination of the two gives a soft but substantial feel to the touch which is similar to plush or velvet and when patted springs back. When bathed and brushed, it stands off the body, creating an overall powder puff appearance. A wiry coat is not desirable. A limp, silky coat, a coat that lies down, or a lack of undercoat are very serious faults.

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bichon frise illustration

About the Bichon Frise

A good-size Bichon will stand a shade under a foot tall at the shoulder. The breed’s glory is a white hypoallergenic coat, plush and velvety to the touch, featuring rounded head hair that sets off the large, dark eyes and black leathers of the nose and lips.

Bichons are adaptable companions who get on well with other dogs and children. Alert and curious, Bichons make nice little watchdogs—but they are lovers, not fighters, and operate under the assumption that there are no strangers, just friends they haven’t met yet. Their confidence and size make them ideal city dogs. Bichons train nicely and enjoy performing for their loved ones. Finally, there’s the happy-go-lucky Bichon personality that draws smiles and hugs wherever they go.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Bichon Frise

Find a Puppy: Bichon Frise

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Bichon Frise Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Bichon Frise should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

Bichons should be brushed at least two or three times a week, but every day is best. They need a bath and a clipping at least once a month. Owners who show their Bichons learn to do this, but most pet owners take their Bichon to the groomer every four to six weeks. The Bichon is considered to be relatively hypoallergenic, as the breed sheds very little because the shed hair is caught up in the undercoat. That shed hair has to be brushed out to prevent mats from forming. As with all breeds, the Bichon’s nails should be trimmed regularly as well.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Specialty/Professional

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Infrequent

EXERCISE

The Bichon is classified as “somewhat active,” but that’s an average. Long stretches of calm are interspersed with brief bursts of high activity, often just running through the house or around the yard. Daily play sessions, in addition to walks, are required. Another dog can be a fine exercise companion, but the Bichon will still need quality playtime with his owner. A fenced-in backyard is a good idea; Bichons are surprisingly fast, and if one makes a dash for freedom, he may be difficult to catch or to call back to you. Many Bichons enjoy participating in obedience, agility, and rally competitions.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

As with all breeds, early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended. Bichons have a reputation for being difficult to housebreak. In every other respect, however, they are very easy to train. For example, Bichons love to perform tricks and learn new ones quickly. They respond very well to training based on positive rewards, rather than harsh or negative methods. A Bichon needs to be with his family, and undesirable behaviors are likely to result if he is regularly left alone for long periods of time.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Agreeable

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Outgoing

HEALTH

Bichons are generally healthy dogs, and a responsible breeder will screen breeding stock for health conditions such as allergies, bladder infections, luxating patella, and cataracts and other eye diseases. Bichons may experience early tooth loss or complications from gum infection if dental care and regular tooth brushing  are not a priority. To avoid ear infections, regular ear cleaning is recommended.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise

History

Bichons are a member of the clan of little white dogs formally known as Barbichon types. (These also include the Bolognese, Havanese, and Maltese.) It is thought that these ancient breeds began their modern development on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. One of these breeds became so popular with the island’s sailors that it was known as the Bichon Tenerife, the primary ancestor of today’s Bichon Frise.

The breed’s close association with European nobles began sometime in the 13th century. Most notably, they endeared themselves to the royal courts of Spain, Italy, and France, and came into their own during the Renaissance.

With the advent of the French Revolution in 1789, the Bichon’s days as the pampered and perfumed lapdog of aristocrats came to a rude end. One by one the breed’s benefactors were trotted off to prison and the guillotine, and their Bichons lost their positions of privilege. Many were turned out into the street to fend for themselves. Street entertainers took in the bright, agile dogs and trained them coax a coin or two from passersby with their antics. Soon, the Bichon was earning his keep as a circus performer. Trainable, impossibly cute, and always at their best when in the spotlight, Bichons were excellent candidates for showbiz success.

In the 20th century Bichons again faced hard times because of the shortages and austerities brought on by the two world wars. And again, many Bichons found themselves out in the cold. Thanks to a few fanciers who gathered Bichons off the streets of France and Belgium, the breed survived and was recognized in France under the auspices of the Societé Centrale Canine in1933 as the Bichon a Poil Frisé—the “Bichon of the curly hair.”

The Bichon Frise Club of America was founded at San Diego in 1964. The AKC accepted the Bichon into the Miscellaneous class in 1971, and full breed recognition in the Non-Sporting Group came two years later.

Did You Know?

The Bichon descended from the Barbet or Water-Spaniel, from which came the name "Barbichon", later contracted to Bichon.
Appreciated for their dispositions, Bichons traveled much through antiquity, finding early success in Spain and frequently used as items of barter internationally.
The "Teneriffe" ("Teneriffe" being the Canary Island) or "Bichon" made its appearance in France under Francis I, the patron of the Renaissance, but its greatest success was in the court of Henry III.
The Bichon was developed in the Mediterranean area.
Bichons were rediscovered by the Italians in the 14th century and became great favorites of Italian nobility.
The Bichon was also a favorite in Spain, becoming a favorite of the Infantas and painters of the Spanish school (the breed is featured in a number of Goya's paintings).

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Bichon Frise is a small, sturdy, white powder puff of a dog whose merry temperament is evidenced by his plumed tail carried jauntily over the back and his dark-eyed inquisitive expression.
This is a breed that has no gross or incapacitating exaggerations and therefore there is no inherent reason for lack of balance or unsound movement. Any deviation from the ideal described in the standard should be penalized to the extent of the deviation. Structural faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Bichon Frise as in any other breed, even though such faults may not be specifically mentioned in the standard.

HEAD

Expression – Soft, dark-eyed, inquisitive, alert. Eyes are round, black or dark brown and are set in the skull to look directly forward. An overly large or bulging eye is a fault as is an almond shaped, obliquely set eye. Halos, the black or very dark brown skin surrounding the eyes, are necessary as they accentuate the eye and enhance expression. The eye rims themselves must be black. Broken pigment, or total absence of pigment on the eye rims produce a blank and staring expression, which is a definite fault. Eyes of any color other than black or dark brown are a very serious fault and must be severely penalized.

NECK, TOPLINE, BODY

The arched neck is long and carried proudly behind an erect head. It blends smoothly into the shoulders. The length of neck from occiput to withers is approximately one-third the distance from forechest to buttocks. The topline is level except for a slight, muscular arch over the loin. Body – The chest is well developed and wide enough to allow free and unrestricted movement of the front legs. The lowest point of the chest extends at least to the elbow. The rib cage is moderately sprung and extends back to a short and muscular loin. The forechest is well pronounced and protrudes slightly forward of the point of shoulder. The underline has a moderate tuck-up.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders – The shoulder blade, upper arm and forearm are approximately equal in length. The shoulders are laid back to somewhat near a forty-five degree angle. The upper arm extends well back so the elbow is placed directly below the withers when viewed from the side. Legs are of medium bone; straight, with no bow or curve in the forearm or wrist. The elbows are held close to the body. The pasterns slope slightly from the vertical. The dewclaws may be removed. The feet are tight and round, resembling those of a cat and point directly forward, turning neither in nor out. Pads are black. Nails are kept short.

HINDQUARTERS

The hindquarters are of medium bone, well angulated with muscular thighs and spaced moderately wide. The upper and lower thigh are nearly equal in length meeting at a well bent stifle joint. The leg from hock joint to foot pad is perpendicular to the ground. Dewclaws may be removed. Paws are tight and round with black pads.

COAT

The texture of the coat is of utmost importance. The undercoat is soft and dense, the outercoat of a coarser and curlier texture. The combination of the two gives a soft but substantial feel to the touch which is similar to plush or velvet and when patted springs back. When bathed and brushed, it stands off the body, creating an overall powder puff appearance. A wiry coat is not desirable. A limp, silky coat, a coat that lies down, or a lack of undercoat are very serious faults.

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bichon frise illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
White Check Mark For Standard Color 199
White & Apricot Check Mark For Standard Color 200
White & Buff Check Mark For Standard Color 205
White & Cream Check Mark For Standard Color 206
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