The Bichon Frise – A Summary of the Breed Standard

Bichon Frise standing on a carpet


The Bichon Frise – A Summary of the Breed Standard

The Bichon Frise Breed Standard is one of the better ones, as it defines the essence of the breed, how it should be groomed and moved, and even its attitude. The Bichon is balanced with no exaggerations. It must be pretty, never course, and should be merry.

Heads and expressions are important, with the dark eyes (dark brown or black) surrounded by black pigment referred to as “Halos.” While the nose is jet black and prominent, it is the eyes that should be the focal point, not the nose.

What’s happening to Bichons’ ears? They are to be set on slightly higher than eye level—not the top of the head. This is a drop ear breed, not a prick ear. The leather should extend approximately halfway the length of the muzzle when extended towards the nose.

In 1974, Tom Stevenson once spoke about Non-Sporting breeds at a judges seminar. His general description of the Bichon was, and still is, SPOT ON!

It’s a white powder-puff of a dog to look at and a substantial dog to feel. It’s a compact dog, made more so by a coat that is rounded off from any direction. It gives you balance, it gives you expression… just be sure you’ve got bone and substance in balance, a forechest, a rib-cage carried back to a short loin and the ninety-degree angulation to permit the kind of movement the standard doesn’t tell you about. That movement is the family hallmark passed on to the derivative breeds, a delight in profile, with steady top-line and pads they show you from the rear.” —TS

The silhouette should scream BALANCE—simplicity to the eye. While standing, the front is under the forechest, the neck is arched forward, and the hind legs are extended back. Profiles should NOT be with the head laying on the back. This is a short-backed breed, but keep in mind they are measured from sternum to point of buttocks. It is proportions that create the correct profile.

While the Bichon stands wide behind, they will bring the hindquarters closer together during movement. The trot is effortless, with equal reach and drive. The tail “set” is set on level with the topline and is well-plumed. It is a high tail set with a high tail carriage. Low tail sets disturb the balance of the profile both while standing or moving. The plume curves gracefully over the back, completing the balanced look.

Bichons are a sturdy little breed with a merry temperament. Please do not penalize them for having a “good time” in the ring for a moment or so, as we breeders have worked very hard to achieve this temperament and we hope judges and admirers appreciate them as much as we breeders do!

Kathie Vogel with her Bichon Frise at a dog show

  • Along with her parents, John & Mary Vogel (now deceased), Kathie Vogel has been breeding and exhibiting the Bichon Frise before the AKC recognized them. Her Father served as President, Treasurer, and Board Member of the Bichon Frise Club of America (BFCA). He also served on the first Standard Committee as well as the Illustrated Standard Committee. With the help of longtime friend Danielle Ardagna, Kathie has bred and owner-handled multiple BISS, BIS, and Group-winning Bichons. She is presently a BFCA Judges Mentor and BFCA Chair for Breeder Education, the AKC Delegate for Tidewater Kennel Club, and the Biewer Terrier Club of America Chair for Breeder Education. Kathie is listed on the BFCA website and is just a friendly phone call away if you have any questions!

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