This breed of dog was born in the Mediterranean in the days of ancient exploration and the opening of trade routes between east and west. The Bichon is a healthy breed, hardier than his powder-puff appearance suggests to the casual observer.
They took up residence on various islands and on the European mainland and eventually became the five Bichon breeds of today: the Coton de Tulear, Bolognese, Havanese, Maltese, and Bichon Frisé.
The Bichon Frisé began life as the Tenerife Terrier on Canary Islands. Eventually, as trade routes expanded and countries changed hands, the Tenerife Terrier travelled to the Continent and evolved into the Bichon Frisé of today.
This dog stands 9.5 - 11.5 inches and weighs 7 - 12 lbs. His compact body is medium-boned and is slightly longer than tall. His sassy expression is enhanced by halos of dark skin around black eyes and by black eye rims and nose leather.
Bichons are always white, but puppies can have shadings of cream, or apricot around ears and on the body. If the colours on adult dogs are not correct then they can be heavily penalized in the show ring.
Their coat is unique. The undercoat is soft and dense, the guard hairs coarser and curlier. When trimmed, the coat follows the lines of the body and is left long enough to give the breed's characteristic poufy appearance, with hair left longer on head, ears, beard, and tail.
Known for being Gentle, perky, playful, and affectionate, the Bichon is a delightful family companion, well suited for apartment living or for families with older children. Some Bichons dislike sudden touching, which makes them generally unsuitable for families with small children. They tend to get along well with other animals; and are bright, and outgoing and love to learn tricks.
As this dog is all white they need frequent bathing to keep their coats bright. The coat must be completely free of snarls before bathing or the hair will compress into felt-like mats and other than coat care, the Bichon is a relatively easy keeper.
They are a wonderfully easy to train breed. They enjoy obedience, tricks, therapy work, and agility. Training must be gentle and firm, with no harsh corrections or scolding. Buckle collars, leather training collars, or reversed pinch collars are acceptable for training, but chain or nylon chokers will get tangled in the hair.
Many find that treat training works well, although an owner could easily fall into the habit of treating a Bichon into obesity when the little dog learns the variety of tricks he is capable of.
The Bichon is highly sociable but can become frantic if not appropriately trained as a puppy and young adult. He's fairly active indoors, so owners must teach some manners for control.
His gentle nature is perfect for therapy work in nursing homes and children's hospitals, a calling that can be rewarding to the owner, the dog, and the patient.