What is the difference between a toy poodle & bichon dog?

Updated April 17, 2017

The toy poodle and the bichon frise are popular dogs. According to American Kennel Club (AKC) registration statistics for 2010, poodles, including all sizes, ranked ninth out of 167 breeds, and the bichon frise ranked 37. Although these two small and fluffy pups are similar in size, personality and appearance, the two breeds are not related. Each of these dogs has its own breed characteristics and history.

Toy Poodle Characteristics

The toy poodle is the smallest of the three poodle varieties recognised by the AKC, topping out at 10 inches in height at the shoulder. As a member of the Toy Group, this smart little dog's main purpose is to entertain and be a companion. Its coat can be soft and curly or have a denser, springier feel to it, and it can be any of nine solid colours, including black, grey, blue, silver, brown, cafe-au-lait, apricot, cream or white. The toy poodle is highly intelligent, a trait that makes it a good candidate for obedience trials and other types of performance venues, including circuses.

History of the Poodle Breed

The poodle originated in Germany sometime before the 16th century. These dogs were large, now called the standard variety, and they were water retrievers, a job that led to the practice of clipping the coat over much of the dog's body. Although the poodle's dense curly hair kept the dog warm in cold ponds, it also absorbed a lot of water and became very heavy. Rather than lose an animal to drowning, hunters resorted to clipping the dog's hair, but left it long over the vital organs and around joints for extra warmth. By the 18th century, selective breeding had created the miniature and toy varieties of poodle, and the toy was a favourite of the French King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.

About the Bichon Frise

The bichon frise is often a bit taller than the toy poodle, reaching 11.5 inches at the shoulder. It has a playful, gentle personality and is a good companion. This dog's curly double coat is always white, with a silky layer underneath the more textured outer coat. It needs regular grooming to prevent tangles and mats, and it is usually trimmed slightly to give the dog a rounded, puffball appearance. Unlike the poodle, the bichon frise's tail is plumy and curves up over the back.

Bichon Frise Origins

Although the breed was not officially listed by the AKC until 1971, it has a long history going back to the 14th century. Its ancestors were water spaniels in the Mediterranean region, and by the 1500s the little dogs known as bichons were living in the court of Francis I of France. They remained a favourite of the upper class until the end of the 1800s, when they fell out of favour. Many were plucked off the streets by circuses, where the dog's athletic build and intelligence made it a natural performer.

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About the Author

Cynthia Gast began writing professionally over 25 years ago in the automotive magazine niche and has also taught preschoolers and elementary grades. She has been a full-time freelance writer since 2008. Gast holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of Illinois.