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THE BICHON FRISE - A PROFILE

by Norma Dirszowsky

Udora, Ontario. Canada. L0C 1L0


"The Little People in Fur Coats" and "The Smiling White Powderpuffs" are but two of the endearing names given this charming breed by Bichon Frise fanciers. Bred for companionship the Bichon is a delightful little dog that likes nothing better than to spend as much time as possible hobnobbing with humans. Being very intelligent, as well as affectionate, the Bichon can very quickly steal your heart.

The Bichon has a non-shedding white coat which, when trimmed according to the Standard, has a powderpuff appearance. The coat does require grooming and must be properly combed and brushed several times a week and scissored approximately every six weeks. The expressive dark brown or black eyes, rimmed in black and surrounded by dark haloes, and the black nose and lips, create a pleasing contrast to the snow white coat. This is a small breed, being no more than 12" at the shoulder, just a nice size to "go anywhere". The Bichon is a very versatile little dog. It is equally at home in a small city apartment or on a large country property. Although the breed does not physically require a lot of exercise, Bichons love to be taken for short walks, but are just as happy romping around the house.

The Bichon is a relatively healthy breed with few medical problems and selective breeding programs by reputable breeders are aimed at keeping it that way. Some Bichons can be prone to allergies. Canine bladder stones is one disease known in the breed. Canine Hip Dysplasia, a hereditary abnormality of the hip joint does exist but is rarely found in the Bichon. You should feed your dog a well-balanced diet, which in itself can prevent many health problems. Keep your dog's teeth clean and immunizations up to date. If you have any question regarding the health of your Bichon, don't hesitate to discuss it with your veterinarian.

If pet insurance is available in your area, take out a policy on your dog. You may never have an emergency with your Bichon, but if you do it can prove very expensive and the security of insurance is well worth the investment.

Although ancestors of the Bichon Frise date back centuries, we tend to think of it today as having its beginnings in the Mediterranean. From there these little dogs were transported by sailors to the Canary Islands, possibly for the purpose of trade, where the breed became established on Teneriffe; thus they were called the Bichon Teneriffe. In the 14th Century the Bichon was returned to the Continent the way it left, by the sailors. During the French Renaissance Bichons became the darlings of royalty who pampered them and carried them around in little baskets. They also appeared in the paintings of several famous artists, such as Goya, Durer and others. Later on, these little dogs lost favour with royalty and became dogs of the street and the common people, sometimes performing in circuses and with organ grinders because of the affectionate nature and versatility they possessed.

After World War I a few fanciers in France and Belgium took an interest in and began breeding the Bichon (then being known as the Bichon a Poil Frise as well as the Bichon Teneriffe) and in 1933 a standard for the breed was written. The breed was recognized in France in 1934 and given the name "Bichon Frise".

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The Bichon arrived in the United States in 1956 when Helene and Francois Picault arrived from France with seven little dogs. It wasn't long before American breeders took an interest in the breed and after much hard work on the part of the breeders and the Bichon Frise Club of America the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1973. The interest in the Bichon spilled across the border into Canada and in 1975 the Bichon Frise was recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club. The Bichon Frise Club of Canada was formed in 1980 for the betterment and protection of the breed in Canada.

In most recent years, the Bichon Frise has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity and some sources forecast that it will be among the top five breeds by the end of the 1990's. This sudden popularity has a down side in that puppy mills and backyard breeders thrive on breeding popular breeds for sale to pet shops. Unfortunately they do not breed for quality but for quantity and, as a result, many poor specimens are being bred, some of which hardly resemble what the standard requires.

A word of advice to prospective puppy purchasers.....check with the A.K.C. in the United States or the C.K.C. in Canada. They can direct you to the breed clubs who can refer you to Bichon breeder/members. Shop well; visit breeders; ask many questions; and buy only when you're satisfied with the quality of the puppy you are purchasing. Don't create a market for the puppy mills......BUY FROM A REPUTABLE BREEDER!

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