Are Bichons Aggressive?


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Ah, the Bichon Frise, small, cute, and lovable. This lap dog has seen a surge in popularity over the past few years, but is this breed for everyone? Before getting a Bichon Frise from a breeder or animal shelter be sure to do your homework on what you can expect from this breed. As loveable as they can be, they may not be for everyone.

Are Bichons Aggressive?

Usually not but it depends on the quality of training they receive early in life. Bichons are described by the American Kennel Club (AKC) to be “lovers and not fighters.” But they can develop aggressive behavior if forceful training is used or they experience trauma. 

This shouldn’t worry you though. Any breed can develop aggressive behavior. Bichons usually aren’t aggressive as long as they are trained and socialized as pups. 


If you have an aggressive Bichon, certain things are causing it, keep reading to find out what it’s from and what to do about it.

Bichon Frise Temperment

The Bichon Frise is a happy little dog that loves the company of humans as well as other dogs. Generally, they get along well with everyone. The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes this breed to be “merry” and “cheerful” and the breed standards are described as being “gentle mannered, sensitive, playful, and affectionate.”

One thing is for sure, Bichons crave attention. They love life and their quirky little personalities bring joy to almost everyone they encounter. Without the proper amount of attention, the Bichon Frise can become depressed and withdrawn. So daily socialization is a must for a Bichon Frise.

Bichons are also known to be independent. They can be hard to housebreak but as long as you are firm and consistent in training it shouldn’t be an issue.

They are also known to bark a lot. This makes them excellent watchdogs as they are very curious and will alert their owners to new sights, sounds, and smells. They don’t make good guard dogs though due to their trusting and lovable nature.

What Causes a Bichon Frise to be Aggressive?

Several things can cause a Bichon to act aggressively. Most people assume aggression is caused by dominance, but that’s not always the case. There are different types of aggression a dog can exhibit. Taking the time to understand your Bichon and learn what’s causing him to be aggressive will go a long way in training and rehabilitating him.


Improper training and trauma are the most often cause of aggression. Forceful training techniques should not be used on Bichons. Sensitivity, on your part, should be used to make sure your Bichon is not put in a situation where he will experience trauma. Trauma can come in many forms but most often, if it’s not owner-induced, it comes from bad experiences with other dogs, such as at dog parks, kennels, and veterinary clinics.

Fear Aggression

There are a lot of things that can cause a Bichon to experience fear. In many instances, you may not even realize it. Bichons are small dogs and there is a lot that goes on indoors and outdoors that can provoke fear in your Bichon. These can be sounds or even gestures you make to your dog that you don’t realize he doesn’t like.

For example, dogs are wired to view sustained eye contact as a threat. If you gaze into your Bichons eyes, without looking away, this could cause him to experience fear, even if he doesn’t show signs of it. Another example would be standing and hovering over your dog, this can be intimidating, especially for small dogs.

Fear aggression can manifest if forceful training techniques are used on the Bichon. Forcing him to do something by using fear or grabbing him suddenly can cause fear to manifest. Dogs are like us in that when faced with fear we either fight, flight, or freeze. Each dog is unique and will react to fear differently but prolonged abuse or forceful training may cause the dog to snap and develop aggression later in life.

Fear aggression manifests when your dog is in a situation in which he is experiencing fear. If force was used in training and trauma developed then similar situations may cause the Bichon to experience fear in anticipation of a negative event happening.

Territorial Aggression

Some bichons can become aggressive when a person or other animal invades a space that they view as theirs. It’s usually not caused by dominance but by anxiety over the situation. This could show itself if your Bichon acts like an angel at home with a family but barks and behaves aggressively towards visitors you invite into your home.

Possessive Aggression

This is a type of aggression that is directed towards an object, such as a toy, or food. This is also caused by anxiety. It can show itself when you give your dog food and your dog becomes aggressive if a person or another dog gets near its food. It’s a fear-based response. It can often be caused by the Bichon being in a situation with bigger and more aggressive dogs that stole its food. This can happen in certain kennels and other environments where more than one dog is fed together.

Possessive aggression can also be towards a specific person. If the Bichon has bonded with one family member more than the others and allowed to get away with bad behavior, he may become aggressive anytime another person or animal gets near the family member that they view belongs to them. It’s based on fear.

Redirected Aggression

This type of aggression is mostly from the Bichon becoming frustrated. This could be from separation anxiety if the dog is left alone for too long, or from the dog not getting enough attention. In a sense, it’s them acting out. It’s often directed towards destroying objects in the house.

Dominance Aggression

Believe it or not, dominant aggression is very rare. Dominance aggression is not something you should worry about with a Bichon. Most aggression is caused by fear but many people assume it is from dominance. For example, if a Bichon is displaying territorial aggression, most people assume the Bichon is trying to dominate over others when really he is just reacting to fear and trying to protect himself from what he views as a threat, even if it isn’t.

How to Spot Fear & Aggression in a Bichon Frise

As you get to know your Bichon over the years you should come to understand how he communicates with you. He will display certain types of body language that will allow you to gauge the emotions he is experiencing. It’s important to keep an eye out for any type of body language that displays fear and aggression, as they are closely related.

Body Language To Watch Out For

  • Tailed tucked between their legs
  • Visible shaking or trembling in response to a person, sight, or sound.
  • Standing in a confident posture while staring at a person or animal and freezing there as if to wait for a chance to react
  • Avoiding eye contact with you, other people, or other dogs
  • Submissive urination that occurs in the presence of people or other dogs
  • Lip curling back to show teeth in the presence of a person or dog

What Do Do With An Aggressive Bichon Frise

If your adult Bichon Frise is showing signs of aggressive behavior there are things you can do to manage their behavior but you may not be able to cure it completely. The best thing to do is contact a dog behavioral specialist, just ask your vet for a recommendation. They will be able to help you diagnose the cause of your dog’s aggression and give you techniques to help manage it.

Techniques used in managing aggression should be done in love and gentleness. It’s not a good idea to use aggression on aggression. Your Bichon is already in a fearful state and combatting fear with more fear will only make things worse. Force should only be used in situations where the Bichon is out of control and in danger of hurting himself or others.

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Positive reinforcement and conditioning are the way to go. This will depend on the type of aggression but involves slowly exposing your dog to the situations that are causing him to fear and helping him learn a new behavior, which is reinforced with praise, love, and treats.

Are Bichons Aggressive?

Now you know that by nature Bichons are not aggressive. You should also have a good understanding of fear and how it contributes to aggressive behavior.

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