Bichon Frise vs. Labrador Retriever: Which Breed to Get?

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Bichon Frise vs. Labrador RetrieverIf you want a new family member, choosing between the lovable bichon frise and the family-friendly Labrador retriever can be a tough decision. These breeds are ideal if you are a first-time dog owner or want an easy-going pup.

Below, we’ll compare the two breeds and highlight some of the main aspects you should consider when choosing the right pet for your household.

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Bichon Frise vs. Labrador Retriever: A Detailed Comparison

Let’s start by looking at the two side-by-side.


Labrador Retrievers were initially called St. John’s dogs after the capital of Newfoundland, Canada. The breed was meant to help local workers, particularly fishermen, retrieve fish that escaped. Despite being bred as working dogs, Labs are now loyal family members that love to be pampered.

It is the most popular breed in America, although it almost went extinct in the 1880s. In Newfoundland, where the breed originated, new laws and government restrictions taxed families that had more than one dog and female dogs, so female puppies were removed from litter. However, the Labs in England survived and were officially recognized by the Kennel Club in 1903, and the American Kennel Club in 1917.

The fluffy bichon frise, on the other hand, has a less certain origin. Some of the first mentions of its ancestors go back to the 14th century when it is believed that French sailors took these pups from Tenerife. Yet, this is only one of the stories regarding how bichons frises were brought to Europe, but what’s certain is that the breed enjoyed popularity among the royal families in the 16th century.

Bichons frises reached the U.S. in 1956 and were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1971. They are one of the breeds in the bichon family.


The peppy bichon frise is absolutely irresistible. With a fluffy, cloud-like appearance, this breed can reach just shy of a foot tall at the shoulder, has a puffy, low-shedding, hypoallergenic coat, and a round head with black eyes. Weighing about 12-18 pounds at maturity, the bichon frise usually comes in a few colors, mostly white, and combinations of white with apricot or cream.

As opposed to the small and fragile appearance of the bichon frise, Labradors are medium-sized dogs with muscular bodies. The coat is shorter than a bichon frise’s and can be chocolate, yellow, or black. Male Labs can reach up to 24.5 inches in height and 80 lbs in weight. Depending on breeders, Labs can have more rare color varieties, including fox red.

Aging Profile

Bichons have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years, while Labs live a bit less, between 10 and 12 years. In terms of reaching maturity, a bichon pup mostly develops until 6 months old but is considered mature at 1 year old.

Labradors reach their sexual maturity at 6-9 months and may continue growing until 18 months. Labs are also known to reach mental maturity later on, so your Lab may behave like a puppy until 2 years old.


Bichons frises are small but mighty – with a bit of stubbornness, plenty of intelligence, and an irresistible charm, this breed lives to be in the center of attention. Bichons frises are perfect for living in small apartments due to their small size and relatively low activity needs. As with any dog, temperament is affected by numerous factors, including training and socialization at an early age.

In general, bichons are playful watchdogs, they love spending time with their owners, and don’t respond well to negative training.

Labradors’ temperament is what makes them ideal family dogs: they are loving and extremely loyal, they simply exist to protect and serve their families. This breed has a calming, sweet presence, so they are often used as therapy dogs, just like bichons. They make ideal companions for elderly or disabled people.

One category in which Labs are failing is being a watchdog. Actually, Labs are so sweet and friendly that they will surely charm any stranger – whether good-natured or not. On the other hand, bichons frises are known for their watchdog qualities and may even bark too much when living in an apartment. Fortunately, this issue can be addressed via training.


Bichons frises are very intelligent, but they tend to be quite stubborn. If you are a first-time dog owner, it may be recommended to opt for puppy kindergarten and professional training services. They can learn tricks quickly, but sessions must be kept diverse, short, and full of treats and praise.

Labs are also intelligent and highly active, but training is compulsory if you want to have a well-behaved pet. They are always pictured as the patient, loyal pups waiting diligently by your side; but, just like with any other dog, you will need to teach them good manners, so obedience training is very important from an early age.

Other Factors

There are several other factors you should consider before choosing the right pet for your family. Some of the main ones are discussed below.


First, bichons frises are known for their low-shedding coat, also called hypoallergenic. This doesn’t mean they don’t shed, but your house will be kept clean as the falling hairs get trapped in the dog’s double coat. For this reason, grooming is quite difficult with a bichon frise. You need to brush their coat daily to avoid matting, which can be very painful for the pup.

You should have plenty of time to take care of your bichon – from daily brushing to regular bathing, checking and cleaning its ears, and keeping its face clean to avoid tear stains.

The grooming and maintenance requirements are not much lower in the case of a Lab. You should consider investing in a high-quality vacuum cleaner since this breed does shed quite a lot, so it’s not recommended for allergic people. Other than that, Labs must also be well taken care of – from bathing to trimming nails, and daily brushing.

Exercise Needs

As briefly mentioned above, Labs were bred to help fishermen and hunters, so they have a high energy level. Although nowadays they are pampered rather than working, it’s important to keep in mind that they need regular physical exercise of about one hour per day. If not, their energy will be spent on destructive activities, such as barking and chewing. They also absolutely love food, so daily activity is recommended to maintain a healthy weight.

If you are not a very active person, a bichon frise may be the right choice for you. Still, to stay happy and healthy, bichons frises should have about 30 minutes of activity per day. You can go for a short walk or simply have 30-minutes of more intense playtime indoors.

Bichon Frise vs. Labrador Retriever: Which Should You Get as a Pet?

Choosing between a bichon frise and a Labrador will finally be down to your preference, activity level, and household. Labs may not do very well in a small apartment or house as it’s a medium-sized breed. Also, you should avoid this breed if you are allergic to pet hair.

For families with kids, a well-trained Lab may be the best choice due to its loyal, friendly nature; meanwhile, bichons frises are small pups and may be easily injured by kids if not treated with maximum care. Regardless of the breed, it’s always recommended to supervise your kids when playing with dogs.


All in all, both bichons and Labs are friendly, intelligent breeds. Some of the most significant differences include the size and physical activity required.

No matter which dog you choose, (you might even want to consider the Labrachon, a cross between bichon frise and labrador retriever) it’s important to train them as early as possible and shower them with plenty of care and love.

Considering Other Breeds Too?

See how bichon frise compares with: Beagle | Bolognese | Boston Terrier | Brussels Griffon | Cavachon | Cavalier King Charles Spaniel | Cavapoo | Chihuahua | Cockapoo | Coton de Tulear | French Bulldog | German Shepherd | Golden Retriever | Goldendoodle | Havanese | Lhasa Apso | Maltese | Maltipoo | Papillon | Pomeranian | Poochon | Poodle | Pug | Samoyed | Schnauzer | Scottish Terrier | Shetland Sheepdog | Shichon | Shih Tzu | West Highland Terrier | Yorkshire Terrier

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