Our Choice of Family Dog - The Bichon Frise
Choosing a dog is something that many families can find difficult, especially those with young children. As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons we decided to make this website was because of the difficulties we encountered when researching for a suitable dog for our family. In our quest for finding the best family dog, we opted for a Bichon Frise (pronounced beeshawn freezay). We bought ours, named Alfie, just over 4 years ago, and he's since proved to be an excellent choice. Although it's sometimes tempting to explain that he's not a poodle to interested passers by (nor a Frize, Frese, Friese, or even Bishon!), it is thought that the breed originated in 14th century Tenerife as the result of crossbreeding between the Poodle and the Barbet Water Spaniel. After reaching other parts of Europe, the Bichon became popular in France and Spain and was a favourite of the royal courts in the 16th century. By the 1700s, however, the Bichon Frise was more commonly associated with organ grinders and the circus. This small dog with loads of character seems to be at home in any company.
The Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise is a small but sturdy dog with a black nose, dark round eyes and white hair consisting of a silky undercoat and a curly outercoat. Its ears and tail are natural (not cropped or docked), and often the coat is trimmed to make the hair appear to be even in length. However, note that the picture above left is reality for a regular family dog (although he was overdue a brushing), whilst the picture on the right is considered the standard Bichon Frise (for shows).
Why we chose a Bichon Frise
We felt that a dog would be a great complement to our family, and with 3 young kids, we knew we had to choose carefully. We'd chosen badly before, buying a Springer Spaniel. As beautiful as she was, her energy level and needs were completely wrong for us back then as we were both working full time (before the kids came along). So this time we did our research, needing to find the best family dog, and two dogs seemed perfect: A King Charles Spaniel, and a Bichon Frise, which I'd never heard of (a Bichons what...?).
After learning of the congenital heart defects and other health problems associated with the inbreeding of the misfortunate King Charles, we opted for the Bichon Frise (French for curly lap dog), and for the following reasons:
- Their small size (toy dog - 9.5" to 11.5" and 10-18lbs). We simply felt more comfortable with the dog being smaller than the kids (they do small poos too!). No matter how tolerant a breed is, any dog can have a bad day. Be it injury or ill health, they can all snap and pose a threat to kids, which is why we were surprised to hear the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is listed as being suitable for children. As we've all heard on the news, those powerfull jaws only have to go astray once for disaster;
- Good lifespan: 15-17 years. Alfie will see our kids well into their teens;
|Equivalent dog years for a Bichon Frise|
- Adaptable exercise requirements. Unlike a Springer Spaniel, for example, which are impossible to wear out, Alfie is quiet pleasantly tired with a walk every other day. Occasionally I take him on one of my runs (4 miles) and he manages just fine (better than me, actually);
- High suitability for kids. They have an excellent temperament, low aggression levels and are a protective but gentle dog;
- High compatibility with other pets. Again they have low aggression levels and so won't drag you by the lead to take chunks out of the nearest dog;
- They don't shed their hair like most dogs. In fact some say they don't shed at all but this is misleading. The regular grooming required removes loose hair, plus the curl in the coat prevents dead hair from escaping. This is a real plus for allergy sufferers, and if you don't fancy vacuuming hairs from your carpet every day. We've had dogs before, and Alfie is by far the least messy;
- We read somewhere they are nortoriously hard to potty train but Alfie took to it quickly enough. Simply putting a newspaper near the back door and gradually moving it outside worked fine, and if he needs to go, he lets us know;
- We also read somewhere that the Bichon can be hard to train! Since when? This has certainly not been our experience. Alfie soon learned some simple tricks, from sitting and laying down on command to offering a paw and walking on two legs. Remember, these dogs were once at home in the circus;
- While they may be a little small for a guard dog, being very loyal to their owners they are an excellent watchdog. Alfie will bark if strangers approach the house but won't disturb us with constant barking, unlike some of our neighbours' dogs;
- Bichons are very inexpensive dogs to feed and normally eat very little. Alfie eats just once a day;
- This is one of the few dogs with eyes like a human; it shows the whites of its eyes as well as expressions of happiness in them. When working as Spanish boat dogs, their job was to meet and greet with enthusiasm to make weary people feel at ease;
- Bichons are very healthy dogs and relatively free from hereditary and congenital problems. Although dislocation of the kneecap and epilepsy have been recorded (and bladder stones can occur too), taking proper care of the teeth, eyes and coat are most important. A healthy diet is advised also to build a healthy immune system to combat such diseases as pemphigus (a skin condition common in some breeds).
In fact the only downside we found initially was the grooming. Alfie needs brushing most days as his hair continues growing but this is painless; it doesn't take long and he sits patiently until it's finished. Take comfort from the fact that, unless you intend showing your dog at Crufts, then there's little point brushing to the standard shown on the right! See the page on Dog Grooming for grooming tips.
|Summary of The Bichon Frise|
|Compatibility with animals||High|
|Suitability for children||High|
|Tendency to bark||Low|
|Level of aggression||Low|
|Ease of transportation||High|
|Distress caused if left alone||Low|
All in all, it would appear that Bichons Frises (the correct plural) can fit into virtually any household, something that shouldn't be surprising really considering their interesting and varied history - from being the pampered pets of nobility to humble street urchins and circus entertainers. Our Bichon, Alfie, is just as happy to sit quietly while we watch TV as he is to romp in the park, follow the kids around and chase sticks. He is a valued addition to our family. In addition, being a submissive and friendly breed he poses absolutely no threat either to our authority or to the kids, who simply adore him. This isn't something that can be said about many breeds. For us, he's definitely proved to be the best family dog we could have chosen. It is worth mentioning that we didn't simply choose a dog based upon looks, as my favourite in that deparment is the Basset Hound!