Bichon Frise: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Bichon frise standing indoors in profile

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

The bichon frise is a small non-sporting dog breed with long, curly white hair that makes its dark eyes and nose pop. Many say bichons are fluffy like a cotton ball and resemble a “living stuffed animal.” These are peppy, people-oriented dogs that don’t like being left alone. One of their favorite spots will probably be snuggling in your lap.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Non-Sporting

HEIGHT: 9.5 to 11.5 inches

WEIGHT: 12 to 18 pounds

COAT: Long, curly

COAT COLOR: White, white and apricot, white and buff, white and cream 

LIFE SPAN: 14 to 15 years

TEMPERAMENT: Affectionate, friendly, playful

HYPOALLERGENIC: Yes

ORIGIN: Spain

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Click Play to Learn More About the Joyful Bichon Frise

Characteristics of the Bichon Frise

Bichons tend to have a very playful and affectionate personality, and they love people. They also have a good temperament for kids and other household pets. They respond fairly well to training and typically don't bark a lot.

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Bichon Frise

The earliest bichons can be traced back to the 13th century in the Canary Islands. Sailors took them aboard their ships and used them in trade, thus making the dog popular around Europe. Aristocrats especially took a shine to these fluffy little canines and treated them as pampered lapdogs.

Many bichons lost their aristocratic owners during the French Revolution. But luckily street performers picked some up and trained them to perform tricks for money. The breed ended up being a staple at circuses and fairs. 

The bichon struggled again during the World Wars, but people in France and Belgium worked to preserve the breed and set its official standard. The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1972.

Bichon Frise Care

Bichons don't need an excessive amount of activity, but they shouldn't be couch potatoes either. They also require proper training and socialization to be well-mannered dogs. And their grooming is somewhat involved.

Exercise

Bichons often have bursts of high energy followed by restful spells. They should get at least an hour of exercise per day via activities such as walks and play sessions. It’s ideal to have a fenced area where they can run freely, as well. Many bichons also enjoy dog sports to challenge their bodies and minds.

Grooming

The soft, curly coat of the bichon grows continuously and sheds minimally. Because of this coat type, routine grooming is an absolute necessity. Otherwise, the coat can become matted and tangled. Bichons should be brushed at least two to three times per week. Haircuts are usually necessary every four to six weeks. Make sure to keep the hair around the eyes trimmed to maintain a clear sightline

Bichons also will need a bath roughly every month, depending on how dirty they get. Their white fur shows dirt easily, and they are prone to developing tear stains around their eyes. Check the nails about every month to see whether they need a trim. And look in your dog's ears weekly for any wax buildup, dirt, and other abnormalities. Finally, aim to brush your bichon's teeth daily to help prevent dental disease.

Training


The bichon needs proper training and socialization to be happy and well-adjusted. Do not make the mistake of skipping training just because the bichon is a small and generally affable dog. Bad habits can develop when you let training slide. Bichons tend to learn quickly, though housebreaking can take some extra effort. They respond well to positive training methods; harsh corrections can cause them to shut down and not learn.

Socialize your bichon with different people and in various scenarios to boost its comfort and confidence. Bichons tend to be adaptable dogs who are friendly with strangers, but it's good to reinforce this with positive experiences.

If you must be away from home for long periods on most days, a bichon might develop separation anxiety and destructive habits. Having another dog for company might help. Crate training can also help curb destructive behavior when you are away from home.

bichon frise portrait
The Spruce / Kevin Norris
bichon frise dog sitting on blue-gray wooden vintage chair next to side table

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Closeup of a bichon frise's fur
The Spruce / Kevin Norris 

Common Health Problems

This is an overall healthy breed, but bichons still are prone to some hereditary health issues, including:

bichon frises as pets illustration

The Spruce / Kelly Miller

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your dog. And provide a quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. It’s typical to feed two measured meals per day. But discuss the quantity and type of diet with your vet to make sure you’re meeting your dog’s individual needs. Even though these dogs often know how to work their owners for treats, be mindful of extra food to prevent overeating. Even a pound of weight gain is significant for a small dog. 

Where to Adopt or Buy a Bichon Frise

Because bichons are quite popular dogs, it’s worth checking local animal shelters for one in need of a home. Also, see whether there are any breed-specific rescue groups in your area. For a reputable breeder puppy, expect to pay around $700 to $2,500 on average, though this can vary widely.

For further information to help you find a bichon frise, check out:

Bichon Frise Overview

Pros
  • Generally very sweet and friendly

  • Often good around kids

  • Can live in a small space

Cons
  • Needs more than basic grooming

  • Prone to separation anxiety

  • Prone to allergies and dental disease

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Do plenty of research first to determine whether a bichon frise is right for your lifestyle. Talk to veterinarians, bichon owners, rescue groups, and reputable breeders. Also, try to visit with some bichons in person if possible.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • What were bichon frises bred for?

    Bichons were bred to be companions, spending lots of time as pampered lapdogs. They even were historically used as barter thanks to their value as companions.

  • Are bichon frises good family dogs?

    Bichon frises can make excellent family dogs. They’re generally tolerant of children, though it’s important to make sure kids do not roughly handle them.

  • Are bichon frises good apartment dogs?

    Bichons can be excellent apartment dogs as long as they get out every day to stretch their legs. They're usually not problem barkers, though they will alert you to visitors.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bichon Frise. American Kennel Club.

  2. Bichon Frise Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.