A Bichon Frisé (French, literally meaning curly lap dog) is a small breed of dog of the Bichon type. They are popular pets, similar in appearance to, but larger than, the Maltese. They are a non-shedding breed that requires daily grooming.
Because Bichon Frisés do not shed, they are suitable for many people with allergies; however human sensitivity to dog fur varies considerably. People with dog allergies should first visit with a Bichon to test their individual reaction before committing to ownership.
Like most non-shedding dogs, Bichon Frisés are high-maintenance. They require regular grooming, which can be expensive and/or time-consuming. If their hair isn't brushed, it will get matted and tangled. An alternative to the high maintenance Bichon Frisé cut is a shorter puppy cut, which when done properly can eliminate daily grooming. Short Bichon puppy cuts do require trips to the groomer every six to eight weeks.
Because Bichon Frisés are so susceptible to skin problems and allergies, good grooming practices are very important. Bichon Frisés should be professionally groomed at least once every three months.
Bichon Frisés being shown in conformation have their coat styled in the full-volume cut required by most show standards. Bichon Frisés not being shown are more often kept in a "puppy cut," which is shorter and requires less maintenance.
Like all dogs that require frequent grooming, Bichon Frisés should be accustomed to grooming from a young age and care should be taken to keep grooming pleasurable. Daily grooming prevents tangles and creates a puffier coat. To prevent matting, the coat should be kept clean, brushed thoroughly before bathing, and brushed and completely dried after bathing. This breed has little to no shedding (see Moult)."
Excess hair should be removed regularly from ears and between foot pads. Owners should clean their dog's hind (anal) area with a damp cloth after each bowel movement to keep feces from sticking to the hair. The Bichon Frisé's nails grow at a fast to moderate rate so should be cut regularly.
The hair on the face of a Bichon Frisé should be kept clean and trimmed, as eye discharge and mucus tend to accumulate in the hair that grows in front of their eyes. In common with most white dogs Bichon Frisés are prone to tear-staining around the eyes. Tear staining may be caused by allergies, infections, blocked tear ducts, stray eyelashes, or foreign material in the eyes.
Bichon Frisés, like many other dogs with fluffy, flappy ears are prone to ear mites and usually need constant care around the ears.
The oldest Bichon Frisés for which there are reliable records in various USA/Canada surveys have died at 19 years. In August 2008, a Bichon Frisé from Illinois named Max died at the age of 20 years and 3 months.
In a 2004 UK Kennel Club survey, the leading causes of Bichon Frisé death were old age (23.5%) and cancer (21%). In a 2007 USA/Canada breeders survey, the leading causes of death were cancer (22%), unknown causes (14%), hematologic (11%), and old age (10%). Hematologic causes of death were divided between autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) and immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP). AIHA and ITP were responsible for the greatest amount of Bichon Frisé "years lost." "Years lost" is a measure of the extent to which a condition kills members of a breed prematurely. While cancer is a more common cause of death than AIHA/ITP, Bichon Frisés that died of cancer died at a median age of 12.5 years. Hematologic deaths occurred at a median age of only 5 years. Bichon Frisés in the UK survey had a lower rate of hematologic deaths (3%) than in the USA/Canada survey (11%).
The Bichon Frisé descended from the Barbet or Water Spaniel, Poodle, and is a generally white, small "lap" or ladies' dog, which existed in the Mediterranean area as far back as 600-300 B.C. from which came the name "Barbichon", later shortened to "Bichon". The Bichons were divided into four categories: the Bichon Maltais, the Bichon Bolognais , the Bichon Havanais and the Bichon Tenerife. All originated in the Mediterranean area.
Because of their merry disposition, they traveled much and were often used as barter by sailors as they moved from continent to continent. The dogs found early success in Spain and it is generally felt that Spanish seamen introduced the breed to the Canary Island of Tenerife. In the 1300s, Italian sailors rediscovered the little dogs on their voyages and are credited with returning them to the continent, where they became great favorites of Italian nobility. Often, as was the style of the day with dogs in the courts, they were cut "lion style," like a modern-day Portuguese Water Dog.
The Bichon went to sea as a working Spanish boat dog. They were perfect for a boat because they do not shed, don't need a lot of exercise, and are fine companions, as well as obedient and easily trained. Though not considered a retriever or water dog, the Bichon, due to its ancestry, has an affinity for and enjoys water and retrieving. On the boats however, the dog's job was to meet and greet people with great enthusiasm. Their purpose was to make weary people smile and feel at ease, but most of all to cause these people to like the Spanish. It is one of the few dogs that has eyes like a human, that it shows the whites of its eye as well as expressions of happiness in them. The Bichons were the little happy ambassadors for the Spanish at every new port of call.
The "Tenerife", or "Bichon", had success in France during the Renaissance under Francis I (1515-47), but its popularity skyrocketed in the court of Henry III (1574-89). The breed also enjoyed considerable success in Spain as a favorite of the Infantas, and painters of the Spanish school often included them in their works. For example, the famous artist, Goya, included a Bichon in several of his works.
Interest in the breed was renewed during the rule of Napoleon III, but then waned until the late 1800s when it became the "common dog", running the streets, accompanying the organ grinders of Barbary, leading the blind and doing tricks in circuses and fairs. Even though the Bichon Frisé is no longer known as a common dog, when you go to a circus if any of the acts contain a dog it's very likely to be a Bichon due to its high ability to learn.
On March 5, 1933, the official standard of the breed was adopted by the Societe Centrale Canine of France. As the breed was known by two names at that time, "Tenerife" and "Bichon", the president of the International Canine Federation proposed a name based on the characteristics that the dogs presented - the Bichon Frisé. ("Frisé" refers to the dog's soft, curly hair.) On October 18, 1934, the Bichon Frisé was admitted to the stud book of the French Kennel Club.
The Bichon was popularised in Australia in the mid 1960s, largely thanks to the Channel Nine mini-series Meweth, starring Bruce Gyngell alongside his pet Bichon, Molly. The show ran for one season only, however it gained a cult following. In subsequent years Bichon ownership, especially in the Eastern states, climbed dramatically.
The first US-born Bichon litter was whelped in 1956. In 1959 and 1960, two breeders in different parts of the USA acquired Bichons, which provided the origins for the breed's development in the USA.
The Bichon Frisé became eligible to enter the AKC's Miscellaneous Class on September 1, 1971. In October, 1972, the breed was admitted to registration in the American Kennel Club Stud Book. On April 4, 1973, the breed became eligible to show in the Non-Sporting Group at AKC dog shows.
The serial killer in 'The Silence of the Lambs' has a Bichon Frisé.