The Bichon Frise.


The Bichon Frise or, “curly lap dogs”, were revered in the royal palaces of Spain and France. Ever popular today, Holidays4Dogs takes a look at the fascinating history of the Bichon Frise.

These tough little dogs have a long ancestry going back to a breed known as the Barbet, or Water Spaniel.  There were four types of Bichon which evolved from the Barbet and all originated in the Mediterranean area. They were known as the Bichon Maltais, the Bichon Bolognaise, The Bichon Havanese and the Bichon Tenerife. The latter variety later became known as the Bichon Frise we know and love today.


These little dogs were doted on by royalty in Spanish and French palaces for centuries. In many instances, they were pampered, preened, clothed and perfumed.

Wives of French Kings were frequently seen carrying these little white dogs around in baskets. Bichons were often depicted in paintings during the 16th Century. Several of these dogs can be found in the paintings of the famous Goya.

By the end of the 19th Century, however, the Bichon Frise fell out of favour and went into decline. A few dogs could be found among street entertainers, but they were generally regarded as street pests and were often the companions of beggars. 

As a result, the status of these little dogs plummeted from pampered pets of royalty to little more than scruffy little street dogs. Only the strongest of these dogs survived.

After the First World War, breeders in France and also in Belgium, became interested in reviving the Bichon Tenerife. In 1933, a breed standard was drawn up and the breed was officially named the Bichon Frise.

This little dog has most certainly had a colourful past which reflects, perhaps, the adaptable characters they retain today. They are now firmly re-established and highly regarded house pets and much-loved companions.


As pets they are small, but sturdy. Although they are lively and energetic, they don’t need vast amounts of exercise. Bichons generally get on well with other dogs, animals and people, since they are not naturally challenging, or aggressive.  Because they get along so well with other dogs and unfamiliar people, they are generally regarded as laid back in character and nothing much really phases them. They are happy to accompany their owners to various new places and don’t normally become stressed in novel situations.

They do, however, have a tendency to be ‘yappy’ and their bark can be quite piercing. Unfortunately, they are reputed to be notoriously difficult to house train.

As with all dogs, positive training approaches are essential, but as harshness can spoil these sensitive little dogs. However, equally, they do need to understand the house rules. Like many cute and endearing small dogs, it is easy for them to get away with things.

Bichon’s are fairly high maintenance, when it comes to grooming. Their coats need to be clipped every four to six weeks, so this can be an expensive business unless you are confident about doing this yourself at home.  They also need daily brushing to avoid the coat become matted.


Unfortunately, these little dogs are not free from hereditary disease and can suffer from a range of problems. These include skin allergies, eye problems, slipped knee caps, heart murmurs, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease and hereditary cataracts.

While there are currently no DNA tests available in relation to health issues within this breed, there are currently eye tests available for hereditary cataracts under the BVA and KC health schemes. Always purchase from breeders who have addressed this by eye testing their stock.

Like many breeds of dog, in the right environment, these little dogs make delightful pets and will bring much pleasure and happiness to their families.