Bichon Frise Temperament: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em
Bichon Frise Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2018
The AKC Standard calls the Bichon Frise "a white powder puff of a dog whose merry temperament is evidenced by his plumed tail carried jauntily over the back and his dark-eyed inquisitive expression."
The Bichon Frise is pretty easy to live with. This cheerful, pleasant house dog enjoys playing games, snuggling into laps and pillows, and perching on the back of the sofa so he can peer out the window (and often BARK.... but we'll get to that!).
Exercise needs are easy to meet: a daily walk or two, plus a small yard in which to trot around and stretch his legs.
Bichons are peaceful with everyone, including other pets. There is timidity in some lines, so early socialization is important to develop their confidence.
Though he does have an independent streak, the Bichon Frise is not a dominant dog. He responds well to training, though he prefers learning tricks to formal obedience and is especially bright-eyed when food treats are offered as rewards. Harshness only makes him spiteful.
The three most common behavioral issues with the Bichon Frise are:
- Housebreaking: Bichons are usually difficult to housebreak, often VERY difficult to housebreak
- Separation anxiety: most Bichons are so sociable and dependent on human companionship that they don't do well when left for long periods of time
- Barking: some Bichons are barky, and some have a high-pitched bark that can set your teeth on edge
If you want a dog who...
- Is small but sturdy
- Is playful, but doesn't need much outdoor exercise (though he enjoys it!)
- Has a curly coat that doesn't shed (one of the best breeds for allergy sufferers)
- Makes an alert watchdog, but is not aggressive
- Is good with other pets
A Bichon Frise may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- Notorious housebreaking difficulties
- "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness and barking) when left alone too much
- Shyness in some lines, or when not socialized enough
- Frequent clipping of the curly coat
- Potential for excessive barking
A Bichon Frise may not be right for you.
Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.
- You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Bichons have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
- If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
- Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Bichon Frise to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.
More traits and characteristics of the Bichon Frise
If I was considering a Bichon Frise, I would be most concerned about...
- Grooming. Bichon Frise coat care is a major responsibility. They require weekly brushing and combing, and also clipping and trimming every 6-8 weeks. Otherwise their coat keeps growing and turns into a matted mass.
Just don't expect your pet Bichon Frise to look like the "puff-ball" show dogs you've probably seen on the Westiminster Kennel Club show on television. That particular look takes hours of work by experienced show groomers, and then they're reluctant to let their dogs play outside in the yard. You and your dog don't want that!
Instead, clip your Bichon's coat short so that brushing and combing is minimized. Then he will look like an adorable puppy throughout his life, and he can play in the dirt like every other dog.
- Housebreaking. As a behavioral consultant, I must put the Bichon Frise on my Top 10 List of "Hardest Breeds To Housebreak." Consistent crate training is mandatory. Sometimes a doggy door is necessary so the dog can go out whenever he needs to (though that can lead to another problem if he stays outside and barks, which Bichons enjoy doing!). You will have greater success if the potty area is COVERED, since many Bichons despise getting wet. Read more on housebreaking your Bichon Frise.
If the potential housebreaking problem sounds like a deal-breaker to you, don't give up! Consider adopting an already-housebroken adult Bichon Frise from a rescue group.
- Potential separation anxiety. More than most other breeds, the Bichon Frise needs a great deal of companionship and does not like being left alone for more than a few hours. They tend to express their unhappiness through destructive chewing and barking.
- Potential barking. Like most small dogs, the Bichon Frise is often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop your Bichon from turning into a barker. To do this successfully, you must establish the right relationship between the two of you, where you are the leader and he is the follower. In other words, you must teach your Bichon Frise to respect you. A dog who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No." Read more about respect training.
- Potential health problems. Many Bichons live a good long life. Unfortunately, as a breed, the Bichon Frise tends to inherit a faulty immune system which makes them susceptible to allergies. Bichons can be allergic to fleas, grass, pollen, certain shampoos, and so on. Allergies cause your Bichon Frise to scratch and chew himself into horrendous skin conditions.
Other concerns in the breed are urinary problems and bladder stones, along with loose knee joints that may require surgery, ear infections, cataracts, diabetes, heart disease. Read more about Bichon Frise Health.
To help you train and care for your dog
Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.
The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.
To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.