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Norwich Bulletin - 10/14/2007

The Little White Dog

The charming Bichon Frise has a personality that makes you feel that everything would be right in the world if everyone had a little white dog to make them smile. Their enthusiasm for life is catching and they have a way of training their humans to acquiesce to their demands without minding one bit.

There are many different suppositions on the lineage of this breed. Some think it originated on the Island of Malta and others think the dog came from Italy. We do know that predecessors of the Bichon Frise lived in Europe during the 1200ís in the Mediterranean area.

Spanish sailors carried these dogs on their voyages and used them as barter. Eventually the dogs found their way into the Renaissance palaces of Italy and France. King Frances I kept many during his reign, as did King Henry the III. It is said that he wore his smaller dogs on a beribboned tray around his neck!

I would have loved to see that! The ladies of the court also carried their little white dogs everywhere too. But the fickle aristocracy went on to new fads and the Bichon Frise was relegated as street performers and circus acts.

Once Napoleon acquired a Bichon in the 1800ís, the breed became popular again. The French were responsible for the final naming of the Bichon Frise (Bichon of the curly coat) and the breed was admitted into the Stud Book of the French Kennel Club in 1934. The first documentation of the dog coming to the United States was in 1956, receiving full AKC recognition in 1973. The dog immediately won the heart of America and in their first year here, there were over 1,000 Bichons registered.

In 2001, Champion Special Times Just Right became Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog show. He celebrated by jumping into his trophy and waving to the spectators. The Bichon had truly arrived!

The Bichon is a cheerful and pleasant little fellow to be around. They are gregarious with other animals and do very well with children, even babies. They are intelligent and very human oriented which means they want to be wherever you are. They are very much a companion animal and do not like being left home along for long periods of time. In fact, many breeders will not sell a Bichon puppy to a couple where both have full time jobs and are away from the home eight or nine hours a day.

As wonderful as these dogs are, they do have their drawbacks. For one thing they can be a bit hard to housebreak. In fact, this tends to be the number one reason this breed is turned over to rescue groups. You need to be patient and consistent in order to succeed. T

he other drawback is the commitment that is needed to grooming. While you can do the weekly bathing and brushing, you also have to be willing to get them professionally groomed every month. And while they are considered one of the best breeds for people suffering from allergies, they themselves are prone to allergies which can manifest itself as skin problems.

As with all popular small breeds, the Bichon is a favorite of puppy mills and pet stores. Please go to a responsible breeder and ask some necessary questions, which can not be answered by a pet store. Do the parents of the puppy have allergies? Have either parent experienced kidney stones? Do not even think of buying a puppy from anyone who does not do testing for eye problems or hip dysplasia, and always ask to meet the dogs on the premises and check out their temperaments.

This is a wonderful little dog that has a big personality. If you would like to learn more about the Bichon or want help in finding a responsible breeder, please visit

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