Breed At A Glance


Happy, self-assured and affectionate

Life Expectancy
15+ years

Average Height
9-12 inches

Average Weight
7-12 lbs

Coat Color

Also known as Bichon à poil frisé, Bichon Tenerife

General Temperament

Though they might have the appearance of a fluffy little lap dog, the Bichon Frisé is a stout breed with lots of energy and desire to play. They are known for their sunny and inquisitive dispositions and endless enthusiasm. Compact, relatively quiet and virtually shed-free, they adapt well to apartment life if given enough exercise and playtime. Bichon Frisé are bright and highly trainable, and are even capable of performing tricks. They aim to please, and bask in the love they get in return.

Bichons desire the attention of their human families and make excellent companion dogs for an active owner or family; but with this devotion comes a propensity for separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time. Owners that are away from home much of the time would not be a good match for a Bichon Frisé.

Though they get along well with other pets and most children, Bichon Frisé can be a bit skiddish with rough play or sudden touching, so younger children should be taught how to be gentle with this breed. Bichons thoroughly enjoy the company of their family and do not enjoy being kept outdoors.

Many Bichon Frisé live well into their late teens and become beloved members of their human families.

Breed History

The Bichon Frisé is one of several breeds that developed from Mediterranean water spaniels (or “Barbet’). The exact evolution of this breed in particular is unclear, though it is believed that sailors carried the spunky little white dogs on their ships as intercontinental trade routes expanded through the Mediterranean, often using them as barter. One particular group made it’s way to the island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands prior to the 14th century. Spanish Sailors are credited with returning many of the Tenerife descendants Mediterranean in the early 1300’s. The “Tenerife” was widely popular among Italian and Spanish royalty, and eventually made it’s way to France in the late 1400’s. By the late 1800’s, the breed was no longer the lap dog of nobility, but could commonly be found in circuses and fairs, accompanying various street performers, or simply roaming the streets.

This fluffy white intercontinental canine was referred to as both “Tenerife” and “Bichon” for centuries, until the breed was adopted by the national kennel club of France in the 1930’s, and given the name “Bichon Frisé,” referring to the breed’s curly coat.

The Bichon Frisé started to make an appearance in the United States when soldiers returned home with the dogs after World War I, though breeding programs did not begin until the late 1950’s. The breed enjoyed sudden popularity in America in the mid 1980’s, which lead to unfortunate overbreeding in “puppy mills.”

The Bichon Frisé was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1973.

Body Structure and Composition

Often described as a “puff ball” or “powder puff,” the Bichon Frisé has long fluffy white fur, and resembles a large Maltese with curly hair. The head is held forward atop an arched neck, with inquisitive black eyes and a black nose. The ears lay flat and are covered in long fur, often blending in with the facial fur. This breed as an accentuated stop, meaning that the angle where the muzzle connects with the skull is very pronounced. The Bichon Frisé is longer than it is tall, with a level topline leading to a plumed tail that curves up over the back.

A Bichon Frisé should be professionally groomed at least every three months and brushed regularly to remove loose hair, dander and saliva that has builds up in the dog’s coat and causes mats.

Medical Information

Most diseases that affect the Bichon Frisé are not life-threatening, assuming the individuals come from a reputable breeder. Many Bichon Frisé suffer from allergies and other skin-related problems, but these can be easily maintained through routine care, diet, and regular maintenance of the coat. Dental disease is also common and can be controlled with regular cleanings.

Patellar luxation – or the tendency for the kneecap to slip out of place – is a common ailment among Bichons, and can cause pain and lameness, or an unwillingness to bear weight on that leg. This condition may be related to genetics, but can also come as a result of the Bichon being too fat or out of shape, therefore bearing too much weight on the joints. A respiratory condition called primary ciliary dyskinesia has been found in some Bichons, though it does not appear to be a widespread problem.

Anecdotal Information

Francisco de Goya was a Bichon lover and included them in several of his works.

Although the Bichon Frisé is considered a non-sporting breed by the AKC, many individuals enjoy swimming and retrieving, given their seafaring ancestry.

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