If you're looking for a small, devoted companion canine, you won't go wrong with either a toy poodle or a bichon frise. People unfamiliar with the latter breed often assume it's a poodle at first encounter. If you're undecided, certain traits in either breed could influence your choice.
Although poodles come in three distinct sizes -- standard, miniature and toy -- the breed standard is identical with the height exception. According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, toy poodles can't exceed 10 inches in height at the shoulders. Any small poodle exceeding that limit is considered a miniature. Poodle coats are dense and curly, appearing in a variety of solid colors, including white, apricot, black, gray, brown, silver, blue and cream. While toy poodles sometimes sport two colors, such dogs can't be shown.
Who can resist these powder-puff dogs with the black button eyes? Bichon frises mature between 9 and 12 inches tall at the shoulder, with males larger than females. A double-coated breed, bichon hair consists of a dense, soft undercoat and a curlier and somewhat harsher topcoat. You don't have much of a color choice with bichons -- they are white, although cream shading around the body and ears is permissible in young dogs.
Both of these breeds require regular trips to the groomer. If shown, the toy poodle must be clipped so that most of the body is clipped but a pom-pom is left on the tail, head and ankles with optional pom-poms on the hips. If you don't show, a puppy clip -- in which the face, feet, throat and tail base are shaved and the rest of the coat trimmed -- suits a poodle of any age. The bichon's coat is trimmed to highlight the body's natural outline. Hair on the tail, ears, tail and face -- including the beard and moustache -- are left longer. Overall, the trimmed bichon should appear rounded and have that powder-puff appearance. Both breeds might suffer from tear staining, which requires special cleaning agents for removal. Staining is especially noticeable on white dogs.
Noted for their good temperaments, bichon frises were bred to be a companion dogs. While that is the toy poodle's current role, poodles originally were developed to hunt. As misplaced as it might seem given their little bodies, toy poodles can have a strong prey drive. Beneath the froufrou hairstyle and any doggie accessories lies a tough little canine. Both breeds are devoted to their people, but the bichon is more dependent than the toy poodle and more likely to suffer separation anxiety. Since the bichon usually loves everyone, regardless of size or species, he's more likely to get along well with cats, kids and other dogs. While bichons are bright little dogs, the poodle is among the most intelligent of all canine breeds. That means a toy poodle is probably easier to train than a bichon frise. If you wish to compete in any canine sports, such as agility, the toy poodle is a better choice.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.