Thinking About Getting A Bichon Frise?

by Steven P. Williams

Commitment for Life / Have You Considered All the Breeds Available?

Did you just see/hear about a Bichon for the first time today? this week? or within the last few weeks? and because they are so cute (just like a stuffed animal), now you have to have one? or you have to get one for your child, your significant other, or your parents? or (even worse) you have to get one for Christmas or for someone’s birthday or anniversary which is coming up very soon?

Well, Stop!

It does not matter whether it is a Bichon, some other pure bred dog, or even a mutt, unless you have done your "homework," you are not ready to get a dog. Do not let your recent infatuation with a Bichon (or other dog) cloud your reasoning abilities? "Puppy love" is as real and as dangerous as the initial infatuations one can have about another person and it also can be likened to "new car buying fever."

A dog should be a companion for life !

You should never get a dog as a present for someone who is not aware of what you are doing. Also, you should not get a dog for yourself or anyone else unless you and/or that person have taken the time to evaluate your/their lifestyle and financial resources. Furthermore, before "settling" on a Bichon, have you really researched all the other different breeds that are available? You might be surprised that another breed would be a better "fit" for what you want in a dog and for your lifestyle, or it may confirm that the Bichon is the breed for you.

To help you determine whether you are ready for the commitment required for a dog and to explore all the breed options available, please make sure you read: So You Think You Want A Puppy/Dog?-- The Right Way to Start.


Some Things to Think About if You are Considering a Bichon

While Bichons are a wonderful companion breed, this breed is not for everyone!

High Maintenance:
Concerning grooming, when compared to many other breeds, the Bichon should be considered high maintenance. The Bichon is a white dog that has a "double" coat when adulthood is reached and will most likely be on your lap, your sofa and your bed. Because of this, your Bichon generally will require frequent bathing and grooming. You will probably be bathing the dog every week, but at least every two weeks. For an adult Bichon, just the bathing, drying,  brushing and combing can take about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. This does not include any scissoring time if you are going to learn and do that yourself. If you are going to use a professional groomer, unless money and time are no object (where you can take your Bichon in every week), you still will be bathing the dog at least two weeks out of the month and maybe three. The cost of one visit to the professional groomer which should be done about every 4 weeks will cost anywhere from $35 to $50. This is the cost if the dog is in good condition and has not been allowed to get matted. The double coat of an adult Bichon not only requires more "complicated" grooming than some other breeds, but you will need to have the time and ability to brush/comb the dog about every 2-3 days depending on the length of coat.  If you aren't able to brush a Bichon regularly, they can get extremely matted.  It will be no fun for you or especially the Bichon if it has to be shaved down to the skin because of mats.   If you don't think you have the time and money for the higher grooming requirements of a Bichon, you should consider other breeds which will be much easier to maintain.   {Note: You may think that you will just keep the Bichon shaved down all the time to help make the maintenance easier. This is probably ok if this is done at a certain time of year (i.e., summer), but I have a question: What was it that attracted you to the Bichon? Was it not that "powder puff" and that "Bichon look?" I don’t believe that people who have Bichons should have to keep them in longer "show" coats, but they should be allowing enough hair to grow and providing proper grooming so that the Bichon looks like a Bichon. If you are not going to do this, then why get a Bichon? You might want to consider another pure-bred or mixed breed.}

"In Your Face" Breed:
The Bichon is very much a companion dog ! This means that you need to have a lifestyle where you can be with your Bichon most of the time. If you travel a lot (and are not going to take your Bichon with you) or if your employment requires you to work 9-12 hours a day and you are out doing other things on the weekends, then a Bichon is not the breed for you. While some would disagree, I believe a person who works an 8 hour/day job can have a Bichon, but you should be there the rest of the time during the week and most of the time on weekends. When you are home, you can expect a Bichon to want to be at your heals, at your side and in your lap—very much "in your face." While you may think this is exactly the type of dog that you want, make sure that after the "newness" of a puppy wears off, you will still want to put up with this demand for human interaction and affection. There are other breeds that aren’t quite so demanding of their owners.

While I personally do not believe this breed has a "problem" with housetraining, I have heard enough of other owners' woes that I guess I will at least admit that some Bichons may be more difficult to housetrain than others. But, I absolutely do believe that the problem with most housetraining issues can be traced back to the owners! This breed is a slow maturing breed. Therefore, in general, you do have to be aware that it could take a longer time for a Bichon to be able to be physically and mentally housetrained. This does not mean that you wait to train your puppy, it means you may have to work even harder and longer in training your Bichon puppy. "Crate" training is an absolute for this breed.  This does not mean though that you just put your puppy in a crate and there is very little work on your part !   You are going to have to take your Bichon puppy out when he/she first wakes up, right after he/she eats and every few hours in between, then before you go to bed, and even for a little while, you will need to set you alarm and get up once or twice during the night to take the puppy out. Even after all of this, there are going to be "accidents." If a dog having "accidents" in your home is going to bother you, then in general you should not get any dog, but for sure, you do not want to get a Bichon.

Family Dog, Good with Children, But:
The Bichon is a great family dog. However, I generally recommend that if you have young children that you wait at least until the youngest is about 7 or 8 years old before considering a dog. Having older children could also present some problems. As mentioned above, this breed is an "in your face" dog demanding a lot of human interaction and attention. Also as mentioned above, a Bichon will require time for brushing and grooming. With infants and very young children, you not only have the new demands of young children, which takes an incredible amount of financial resources and time (especially these days with both spouses working), but you have to be careful to constantly monitor the younger children so they do not harm the dog. With older children, as they become involved with various extra curricular activities, there may be very limited time to give attention to a dog. So while you may have fond memories of having a dog as a child and want to provide the same for your children, realize that the times and lifestyles have definitely changed and you should be very sure that there will be an adult that will be able to provide the necessary time and attention that a Bichon requires. One final note, if the children have finally grown and "flew the coup" and you are an older couple that may be considering retiring soon, remember that a Bichon could live 12 to 16 years. If you will be doing some extensive traveling and will not be taking the Bichon with you (which presents a whole different set of obstacles), then maybe you should consider whether obtaining a dog right now would be an appropriate decision.

"Hypoallergenic" Myth:
While some people with allergies can do well being around Bichons, as well as with some other breeds, there are some people that are still very allergic to Bichons! If you have allergies and are considering a Bichon, then before getting one, you should find someone with Bichons and hold them and be around them for several hours to determine if you can tolerate them. I would even make it a point to make several different visits to make sure you don’t have a reaction.

Non-Shedding, But:
While the Bichon does not go through a cyclical shedding process like some other breeds, all dogs lose hair.  The frequent brushing should help capture much of the hair that is given off.  But, if you think you won't ever see some white hair "dust bunnies" on your floors or some white hairs on that navy blue suit pant or skirt.  Think again!

All dogs chew and Bichons are certainly no different. Again, it is up to the owner to monitor and train a dog. It is not the dogs fault if they chew the bottom of your sofa, the leg of the antique dining table, the baseboard of the utility room, your shoes, or if they chew a writing pen resulting in ink going all over the white dog and the sofa. Even with monitoring and training, there still could be some "incidences." If such things are really going to bother you, then I would suggest that you not get a dog.

All dogs do tear, but with a white dog you are going to notice tearing and associated staining under the eyes more. Some Bichons tear more than others. Excessive tearing and staining can be a result of the actual structure of the eye and eye socket, blocked or partially closed tear ducts, irritation caused by hair, hormonal changes in the dog, allergies, certain types of diets, etc. Some excessive tearing can be controlled through medical treatment. Also, you can minimize the staining through more diligent daily maintenance such as cleaning and wiping the area under the eyes. I have known some people that are very much "turned-off" by any tear stains whatsoever. While, as mentioned, there are ways of keeping tear staining to a minimum, if you are one of these individuals where it really may bother you, then I would suggest that you might want to consider another breed and possibly a darker colored breed.

Health Problems:
Bichons, like all breeds, can develop and suffer from health problems. While you can hopefully limit the chances of some of these occurring by obtaining a Bichon from a reputable breeder who performs general and specific health checks on the sire and dam (i.e., father and mother) before breeding them, there is no guarantee that your Bichon will not develop some health condition that could require ongoing (and potentially expensive) treatment. It appears that many Bichons suffer from skin "problems." In general, most Bichons are particularly sensitive to fleas (flea saliva/bites). Also, Bichons can suffer from allergies related to air borne allergens as well as ingredients that make up the diet. Some other known health problems appear to be bladder (and kidney) stones, patellar luxation (i.e., loose kneecaps), juvenile cataracts, excessive tartar/tooth decay, and hip dysplasia. While hopefully, if you decide to get a Bichon, he/she will live a long and happy life without much additional veterinary care, before getting a Bichon (or for that matter, any dog) you should be aware that health problems can and do arise and the treatment thereof sometimes can be costly.  Make sure you believe you have the financial resources to be able to provide the proper care for your Bichon if health problems arise.

Well, Maybe a Bichon is Worth Considering Further

If after reading and thinking about all this, you believe that a Bichon still may be on your "short list" for a breed in which you may be interested, you can read more information on the Bichon Frise in the literature available: Bichon Frise Information: Books, Periodicals, Booklets, Rescue, Training & More and at the web site of the  Bichon Frise Club of America.   You also can see some of the items you may need to purchase if you get a Bichon at: Bichon Frise: Recommended Grooming Items, Kennels, Leads, Toys, Bones, Etc.

Remember to take your time and seek out a reputable breeder !  Make sure they perform the health checks.  Also, don't take their word, politely ask for proof of passing CERF examinations and OFA certifications.  Ask for names and phone numbers of other owners who have obtained Bichons from them.  Talk to more than one breeder. For more information please read: What To Look For In and How To Find A Bichon Breeder.

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