The history of the Bichon Frise began centuries ago in the Mediterranean, where they became prized for their friendly dispositions. They frequently were offered as items of trade, transported by sailors from continent to continent. They are believed to be descended from the Water Spaniel and as a breed spread rapidly throughout Europe, finding much early favor in Spain. In the 1300s, this lovable little breed became favorites with Italian nobility. In the 1500s, they were favored in France, and their popularity in Spain continued throughout these eras. In the 15th and 16th centuries, the breed flourished on the Canary Islands off the northwestern coast of Africa. In the late 1800s, the Bichon Frise lost its aristocratic popularity in Europe and became more of a common dog, running loose in the streets of Europe and performing with organ grinders and in circuses and fairs. After World War I, a few fanciers in France and Belgium began reestablishing the breed through careful and controlled breeding programs. The official breed standard was adopted in France in 1933, and the Bichon Frise was admitted to the studbook of the French Kennel Club in 1934. The Bichon Frise was introduced to the United States in 1956, and they debuted in the Non-Sporting Group at American Kennel Club dog shows in 1973.
The Bichon Frisé has an average life expectancy of 13 to 16 years. The breed is predisposed to congenital patent ductus arteriosus, as well as several dermatological and ocular conditions. They also may be predisposed to intervertebral disc disease and certain kidney disorders. Dental problems, ear infections, patellar luxation and allergies are also seen in this breed.