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The Bichon Frise (or simply “Bichon”) is a small, sturdy dog famous for its curly, fluffy white coat. They were popular in France as performing dogs and companion dogs.
Bichons have a puffy white double coat which requires frequent grooming but which very rarely (if ever) sheds. The soft undercoat combines with the coarse overcoat, giving the dog its voluminous, fluffy texture. They will need a trip to the groomer every 4 months in order to keep a healthy coat and have their nails trimmed.
Bichons quite high-maintenance for grooming and are not recommended for owners who will not have enough time to maintain the dog. Bichons require brushing at least two times a week and should be bathed relatively often. It’s a good idea to begin brushing and examining the dog from a very young age so that when it is older it will not be reserved when it goes to the vet.
Despite their independent spirit, Bichons thrive on human company and their temperaments are very affectionate, lively and intelligent. They are charming and gentle and are not known to be yappers.
Bichons weigh around 3 – 6 kg, with males reaching about 23 – 30 cm tall and females standing at 23 – 28 cm tall. The average life expectancy of a Bichon is 13 years or more.
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Having been popular as performing dogs, Bichon puppies are highly trainable, obedient and intelligent, though housebreaking can occasionally be a difficult task. Training and socialising should begin from a young age. Their origin as performers is quite obvious in the Bichons temperament – they are famous for being entertaining and love being the centre of attention.
Bichons are happiest when they are with their family, but they are naturally sociable and tend to get along well with everyone. They are great companions for families with young children, the elderly, and households with other pets. Make sure any young children are told to be careful around the Bichon, however, because their fluffy toy-like appearance can lead younger kids to play rough with them as if they were a stuffed toy.
It is important that owners do not allow the dog to do things they wouldn’t allow a larger dog to do (such as jumping up on people and furniture), as this can lead to dominant behaviour where the dog believes it is pack leader.
The Bichon requires a daily walk in order to give it the mental and physical stimulation it requires. Like all dogs, if its needs are not met, the Bichon can become anxious and develop serious behavioural problems. Bichons also need a safe, enclosed indoor or outdoor space in which they can play and use up their energy.
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The Bichon Frise is quite an old breed of dog, believed to have descended from the Water Spaniel and Standard Poodle and was first bred around 1300. The name comes from the Middle French words for “small long-haired dog” (bichon) and “curly” (frise).
The first Bichon Frise puppies, bred around 1300, were the result of the Queen breeding her Poodle and a Maltese. Though not a water dog, the Bichon Frise is quite fond of the water, thanks to its ancestor, the Water Spaniel.
King Henry III is credited with boosting the breed’s popularity in England in the 16th century. He loved his Bichons so much that he carried them with him everywhere in a special basket which hung around his neck.
Bichons were immensely popular during the Renaissance in France but became less popular in the 19th century when they were seen as “common”. Their popularity dropped so much that they almost became extinct, but French Bichon Frise breeders gained a renewed interest in preserving the breed after World War I.
The first breed standard was adopted in 1933, and by the mid-1960s, the Bichon had become very popular in Australia thanks to a TV series called Meweth, starring Bruce Gyngell and his pet Bichon “Molly”. It was brought to the USA in 1955 and was recognised by the AKC in 1972.
In 2013, the Bichon Frise was the 40th most popular dog breed in the USA.
Bichon Frise Club of America – http://www.bichon.org/