How to Train a Bichon Frise

Three Parts:Housebreaking Your Bichon FriseCorrecting Bad BehaviorsTeaching Basic Commands

Bichon Frises are highly trainable dogs who are driven by a desire to please their owners. However, for housebreaking especially, Bichons can be stubborn and difficult to train. A combination of consistency, dedication, and positive reinforcement are necessary to properly train your Bichon Frise.

Part 1
Housebreaking Your Bichon Frise

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    Start house breaking immediately. House breaking starts as soon as you get home, by putting the dog on their toilet spot and praising them when they go. This is the first step toward training your bichon frise.
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    Proceed with crate training. Bichon Frises are quick learners in most aspects, but can be notoriously difficult to potty train.
    • Many owners are wary of crate training as they don't want to confine their pets. However, dogs are den animals and do not mind being occasionally confined to a crate. Periodically crating a dog, for road trips or overnight vet visits, is inevitable. It's good idea to get your pet used to a crate regardless of potty training.[1]
    • Try to make entering the crate a treat rather than a punishment. Keep it comfortable, with bedding and toys, and offer your Bichon a small treat before he enters his crate. However, make sure any toy you put in the crate is big enough your dog cannot swallow it. This is especially important if you have a puppy who may not know better.[2]
    • If you have a puppy, he might occasionally have an accident in his crate overnight. Most puppies should be able to sleep soundly in their crate without urinating or defecating after three months. If your Bichon is still having bathroom problems after three months, talk to a vet to rule out underlying medical issues.[3]
    • You'll have to keep your Bichon in the crate any time he is not supervised. When you go to bed, go out, or are busy with household chores, your Bichon will need to be in his crate. Play with him for 10 to 15 minutes before putting him in the crate so he's relaxed and does not have pent up energy.[4]
    • However, it is important not to treat the crate as a "cage" or "prison" and to keep use to a minimum. If necessary, when you are home keep the dog on a lead so you can keep an eye on him and take him outside to toilet as soon as you spot signs of him wanting to toilet.
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    Take your Bichon Frise out every two to three hours. If you have a puppy, take it out even more frequently (every 20 - 30 minutes). You need to get your Bichon on a bathroom schedule and teach him outside is the proper place to do his business. When you're first housebreaking your Bichon, let him out every two to three hours.
    • Ideally, you should let your Bichon out 10 to 15 minutes after he eats. This is when he's most likely to need to use the bathroom. Praise him when he goes outside and otherwise encourage the behavior. This can be done by allowing the Bichon to walk around, as movement stimulates bowel movements. You can also take him to a spot in the yard you've seen other dogs use as a bathroom. He will recognize the scent and is more likely to go there.[5] Then when he toilets make a big fuss, tell him he's a clever boy and offer a treat.
    • Keep a diary for the first couple of weeks. Take notes of when and where your Bichon went outside and any accidents that occur. Write down times. You want to get a sense of your Bichon's bathroom schedule. Planning walks and outings when you know he's more likely to go can help teach him to associate the outdoors with using the bathroom.[6]
    • Until your Bichon is accident free in the house, you will have to continue crating him while you're gone, sleeping, or busy.[7]
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    Try paper training if your Bichon is particularly stubborn about housebreaking. Bichons, and small dogs in general, can be difficult to house train. If you keep having problems with him going inside, despite following proper training protocol, you might want to consider paper training your Bichon.
    • Paper training means teaching your Bichon he can go inside but only if he uses newspaper, pads sold for paper training purposes, or other absorbent material you can leave around the house.[8]
    • You should only use positive reinforcement to paper train your Bichon. Praise him when he uses the proper materials indoors and correct him when he does not. Scolding should be done in a deep, authoritarian voice. Never get hysterical and resort to yelling. This only frightens and confuses a dog.[9]
    • If you have a male, paper training is not advised. Males tend to have more trouble differentiating between appropriate and inappropriate places to urinate than females and are more likely to struggle with paper training.[10]

Part 2
Correcting Bad Behaviors

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    Teach your Bichon Frise not to bite. Biting can be a problem with Bichons. They are a friendly breed, so the biting is usually a non-aggressive form of play. However, the dog might not realize biting can be painful to humans. It's important that you train this behavior out of your dog, especially if you have young children.
    • Teach your kids to use the "Be a Tree" approach. This means standing still, with limbs held at your side, and avoiding eye contact with the dog. Bichons bite for a variety of reasons, whether it's to assert authority or an attempt to play. If the behavior is not getting a response, they will grow bored and stop.[11]
    • If you have young children, especially toddlers, supervise their interaction with your Bichon. In particular, do not let your child interrupt a Bichon while he is eating, playing with his toys, or drinking water. If the dog becomes territorial, he might bite. If his resources are frequently threatened he might learn to habitually engage in biting. Until your child is old enough to respect a dog's boundaries, supervise any interactions.[12]
    • Positive and negative reinforcement are a great means of training a Bichon not to bite. When a Bichon is out of his crate, supervise him at all times. If you notice biting, correct the behavior immediately with a stern "No."
    • Redirecting a Bichon's biting tendencies is also an effective means of curbing biting. When a Bichon nibbles on hands or fingers, immediately place a toy or a bone in his mouth instead. This teaches him biting is okay, as long as it's done to his toys and snacks and not his people.[13]
    • Biting should never be encouraged, even in play. A Bichon is not a dog you should wrestle or otherwise rough house with as this leads to timid and even aggressive behaviors.[14]
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    Practice good leash manners. Bichons can be excellent walking companions, but like all dogs they do need basic leash training.
    • Make sure your Bichon is familiar and comfortable in his collar, especially if he's a puppy. A lightweight leather collar is ideal for a Bichon. It might take him a bit for him to get used to wearing the collar, so take it off when he's unsupervised until he's used to it.[15]
    • Introduce your Bichon to the leash slowly. Allow him to sniff it and familiarize himself with it before attaching it to the collar. Once he's familiar, you can begin walking him.[16]
    • Start small. Just walk the Bichon around the house. Praise him if he walks by your side on a loose leash. If he pulls, do not pull the leash back. Not only can this strain a Bichon's neck, it reinforces the behavior by giving the dog attention for acting out. You need to show your Bichon that pulling on the leash will result in him getting nowhere. Simply stop walking and call your Bichon back to you.[17]
    • Once your Bichon is well behaved inside, you can start taking him for short walks around the neighbor. A 15 to 20 minute walk a few times a day is ideal and will give your Bichon enough time to adapt to walking on a leash.[18]
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    Be aware of small dog syndrome. Small dog syndrome can be a problem with smaller breeds like Bichon Frises. Owners do not discipline their dogs for behaviors like barking and biting and attempt to protect small dogs from the world. What results is improper socialization that leads to a number of behavioral problem.[19]
    • Make sure your Bichon feels happy, safe, and confident when near larger dogs. People often pick up small dogs in the presence of bigger dogs, or yell loudly when they're approached by big dogs. Both behaviors teach Bichons big dogs should be feared, which can lead to biting, yipping, and other territorial behaviors.[20]
    • If your Bichon seems nervous around big dogs, talk to him calmly and give him treats and praise if he stays calm. Do not continue to praise him, however, once a big dog has passed. This will lead him to becoming spoiled and expecting extra attention in response to day-to-day circumstances.[21]
    • Remember, small dogs should be disciplined for the same behaviors as large dogs. People often let nipping, barking, and aggression go unchecked in small dogs because they believe they're less likely to cause physical harm. However, a small dog could easily lash out at a young child and their bites can be hard enough to require stitches. Do not let your Bichon's size determine how you treat him and never give him a pass for aggressive behaviors.[22]

Part 3
Teaching Basic Commands

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    Start with "sit" and "lie down." Sit and lie down lay out the groundwork for nearly every command a dog can perform. To shake paws, a dog must be sitting. To roll over, a dog must lie down. When you begin teaching your Bichon Frise, start with "sit" and "lie down" as these are foundational commands.
    • Begin with sit. To teach sit, stand up, say sit, and then use a treat and draw an arc over the puppy' s head so that as his head goes up his bottom goes down.The instant your Bichon sits, praise him with treats and other rewards.[23]
    • Use hand motions once your dog understands they need to sit when you say sit. Put your hand forward and gesture for your dog to sit down. As they begin to master the command, you can phase out hand gestures. Try to repeat the command 10 or 15 times a day until your Bichon learns to sit without hand gestures of constant reinforcement in the form of treats or praise. Ideally, you should be able to get your Bichon to sit when he's being disruptive with guests or before you take him for a walk.
    • You can smoothly transition from sit to lie down by commanding your Bichon to sit. Then, while saying "lie down," use a treat to lure him into a lying position. Get him to sit then hold the treat at floor level but slowly move it away from him so that he stretches and lies down to get it. Praise him with treats and attention as soon as he's lying down. Much like you taught sit, practice until you can gradually phase out rewards and hand gestures.
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    Teach your Bichon to come. Come is an important command every dog should learn quickly. Knowing to come when called can prevent accidents and can allow your dog to have greater freedom in certain situations.
    • Your goal in teaching "come" is to get your dog to go to you upon hearing the command, regardless of what else is going on. This can be difficult, but with dedication and patience it's achievable.[24]
    • Always praise your dog when they return to you upon hearing the command. Never punish them, even if you were calling them back because they were misbehaving. You don't want your dog to associate coming to you with any negative consequences.[25]
    • You can teach come by giving your dog positive reinforcement every time he obeys. Provide him treats, praise, or access to a toy or bed he likes. Come should be a positive sound for your dog, something he looks forward to hearing. Practice several sets of "come here," making your dog perform the command 15 to 20 times. Three to four sets a day should eventually solidify the behavior in your dog.[26]
    • Never let your Bichon off his leash in public until he has mastered the "come" command.[27]
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    Move on to other basic commands. Bichons are a highly trainable breed. Once you've mastered behaviors like sit, lie down, and come, you can move on to other basic commands.
    • It's sometimes easy to watch for behaviors you can observe and reinforce with a command. Watch for the desired behaviors and then praise them. For example, if you want to teach your Bichon to "speak" say "speak" when he barks, and praise him. Make sure, however, this is not in response to disruptive barking, such as barking at other dogs or people.[28]
    • Consequences need to be immediate as dogs live in the present. If you want your Bichon to beg on cue, and you see him on his hind legs, say "beg" and immediately reward him with food or praise.[29]
    • The best way to teach certain behaviors is by simply watching for them, but other behaviors can be maneuvered the way you taught "sit" and "lie down." For example, if you want your Bichon to shake you can physically move his paw towards you while saying "shake" or "give me a paw." Reward him as soon as his paw hits your hand. Eventually, he should pick up on the fact he needs to lift his hand when you say "shake."[30]
    • Once the dog has learned what verbal cues signify what behaviors, practice the desired behavior 15 to 20 minutes a day. This will solidify the connection and get your dog to perform on cue when needed.[31]
    • Many owners believe they have to behave like an alpha dog. While your Bichon should understand you're in charge, never engage in disciplinary behaviors like rolling a dog on his side, pinching his neck, or other physical forms of punishments. Dogs do not actually respond to this and it can foster feelings of fear. A better way to assert authority is by making your dog understand his schedule is on your terms. Make him sit before putting on his leash for a walk. Make him lie down before you place food in his bowl.[32]
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    Look into more elaborate training opportunities. Bichons are highly trainable, and can easily get beyond the basics. If you're interested in dog training, there are a variety of paths to teach your dog more elaborate skills.
    • Consider enrolling in an advanced training class once your dog knows the basics of sit, lie down, and come here. A professional trainer can help you teach your dog more elaborate tricks and, as an added bonus, training is a great way to socialize your Bichon. He'll learn how to behave appropriately in the presence of multiple different types of dogs.
    • Bichons skill sets are not limited to party tricks. Many owners enjoy professional agility training with their Bichons. Look into agility courses in your area. You can compete at shows, sometimes for cash prizes, and it's a great hobby that fosters a healthy, happy relationship between you and your dog.[33]
    • Bichons are also excellent therapy and/or hospital dogs. If you're interested in getting your Bichon certified for hospital or therapy work, look into programs available in your area. Bichons have a naturally friendly personality and love people. Having your dog interact with sick people, or help those with mental or physical disabilities, can be an extremely rewarding endeavor.[34]


  • Treats are a good way of rewarding behavior, but do not give out a treat every time. You want your dog to engage in good behaviors even without the promise of a food-based reward.
  • Scolding, if necessary, should be done in a deep, stern voice. However, you should not raise your voice or yell at a Bichon. This is ineffective and only serves to upset your dog.

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Categories: Dog Obedience | House Training Dogs