Bichon Frise vs. Sheltie: Which Breed to Get?

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Bichon Frise vs. SheltieWhen it comes to sheer canine good looks, you’d have a hard time choosing between the Sheltie (Shetland sheepdog) and the bichon frise. As a miniature of the “lassie dog” or rough collie, the sheltie has classical movie star appeal. Meanwhile, the bichon frise’s iconic powder puff coat makes it ready for the red carpet on any day.

But aside from being two strikingly beautiful companion dogs, these are actually very different pets with different needs. So, let us delve deeper into these two breeds to determine which one is best for you.

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Bichon Frise vs. Sheltie (Shetland Sheepdog): A Detailed Comparison

Bichon frise and Shetland sheepdog are two very different breeds. It’s impossible to confuse or mistake one for the other because they have distinct physical characteristics and temperaments.


Even though they are commonly associated with France, bichons frises were originally from Spain. The bichon frise originated on Spain’s largest Canary Island, Tenerife. They were beloved by sailors before becoming a favorite in the French royal court as the ideal lap dog. They are part of the bichon family of breeds.

Meanwhile, Shetland sheepdogs, often known as Shelties, are herding dogs that originated in the Scottish Shetland Islands. Initially registered as Shetland Collie, they were renamed Shetland Sheepdogs and eventually Shelties due to protests from rough collie enthusiasts. It has long been thought that a Northern Spitz-type dog brought from Scandinavia by the Vikings is the Sheltie’s distant ancestor.

Still, they are more closely related to the Scottish Collies, border collie, and King Charles Spaniel.


The bichon frise is a small purebred dog with a hypoallergenic, dense double coat that puffs outward. They are available in apricot, buff, and cream colors in addition to their more common pure white. Sturdy for their size, bichons frises stand between 9 ½  and 11 ½ inches tall.

A typical bichon frise will weigh between 10 and 15 pounds when fully grown, although it can be more or less.

On the other hand, a Sheltie has long, dense hair and a graceful and athletic appearance. They look very much like a smaller version of the rough collie with their long elegant nose. However, they are an entirely separate breed. They come in various colors such as black, brown, white, sable tan, merle, and blue.

Shelties are between 13 and 16 inches tall and weigh around 22 pounds on average.

Aging Profile

The Sheltie is a shorter-lived breed, averaging between 12 and 13 years. They typically become adults around a year old. As the Sheltie sits on the cusp between small and medium-sized dogs, they age a little faster than the bichon frise and become seniors after the age of 8.

The bichon frise lives well into its teens, usually from 12 to 16 years. They reach physical maturity a bit earlier, usually around 10 months. They are generally only considered senior dogs after they are 10 years old.

Both breeds are susceptible to health problems like hypothyroidism. Still, there are a few more genetic issues in the Sheltie bloodline, such as cataracts, cancer, epilepsy, and hip dysplasia, so be sure to ask for DNA test screening if you are buying a puppy.


The bichon frise was bred primarily for companionship. As a result, they have upbeat, playful, and affectionate personalities. They enjoy the interaction and play and are ideal companions for the less active owner. However, they experience separation anxiety and tend to become destructive if left alone for long periods without mental stimulation.

On the other hand, the Sheltie was bred as a sheepdog. As a result, they are very friendly, hardworking, affectionate, and eager to please their owners. Because of their loving nature, they fit in well with families with other pets, but their instincts and energy can cause them to try to herd other pets like cats. They are also extremely lively and responsive.

These friendly dogs can be reserved around new people and need lots of early socialization. The key difference is that the Sheltie is a working breed that thrives on herding or other physical challenge. As such, they can grow anxious or destructive if they don’t get enough exercise and mental stimulation.

Intelligence and Trainability

The bichon has high emotional intelligence and is a very smart dog, but it can be challenging to train. You will need a lot of patience, consistency positive reinforcement to bring out the best in them. They can also be challenging to housebreak. Nonetheless, if you are patient and stay consistent, the hard work and effort are all worth it.

On the other hand, Shelties are highly intelligent and easily trainable dogs. However, their quick minds and high energy levels mean they get bored extremely quickly. Shelties thrive with a job to do, and investing time in herding trials, agility, obedience, or another activity is the best way to keep a sheltie from becoming frustrated and destructive.

Grooming Requirements

When deciding between bichons frises and Shelties, it is crucial to consider their grooming requirements. Both breeds have extremely high grooming needs. Both require daily brushing and visits to the parlor every 4 to 6 weeks.

Bichons frises are low shedders while Sheltie shedding can be extreme when the seasons change. Both breeds need regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and good dental hygiene.

Exercise Requirements

Exercise is one of the most critical differences between a Sheltie and a bichon frise. Bichons frises have a lower energy level than Shelties. While they still enjoy plenty of playtime, they only need about a 30 min walk a day to stay happy and happy and healthy.

On the other hand, Shelties require more physical exercise than bichons. A Sheltie needs at least an hour a day of exercise. This will need to include some activity that is more intensive than just a walk. Whether playing fetch, going for a run, hiking, or navigating an agility course, your Sheltie needs to hit that cardio.

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

Consider both your and the dog’s needs before deciding between a bichon frise and a sheltie.

Get a Bichon Frise If:

  • You need a dog better suited to an apartment or smaller living space. Shelties are prone to barking and are high-energy, so they are usually not the best apartment dog.
  • Somebody in your household struggles with allergies, the bichon frise is a good choice as a hypoallergenic dog.
  • You are a household with only adults or older children.
  • You are up for plenty of intensive grooming.
  • You don’t want a dog with excessive exercise needs but rather a companion that will enjoy cuddling on the couch.
  • You need an easy-going dog that doesn’t need loads of daily training and mental stimulation.
  • You have other pets like cats, but not large dogs that could inadvertently hurt the bichon.
  • You or somebody in your household is home most of the time.

Get a Sheltie If:

  • You have a larger area with a yard.
  • You want a dog that can be relatively active with you, such as joining you on light jogs or taking part in agility trials.
  • You are up for plenty of obedience training and socialization.
  • You want an alert dog that will warn of any intruders.
  • You are prepared for daily grooming sessions.
  • You’re in love with the classical “lassie” looks.
  • You don’t have smaller animals such as cats. While shelties tend to get on with other animals when socialized, their instinct to herd can become a nuisance for smaller pets.
  • You are looking for a hyper-intelligent small breed that will rake in those obedience trophies.

If you still can’t decide, also check out Shelchon – a mixed breed that combines the best that these two have to offer.


Bichons frises and shelties are both gorgeous and affectionate dogs, so picking one can be difficult. Although these two dogs share the same intensive grooming requirements, they are extremely different in most other ways.

The Sheltie is a high-energy working dog that thrives on having a job to do and plenty of exercise. Meanwhile, the smaller bichon frise is suited to a more sedate and leisurely lifestyle, with fewer space requirements.

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 | Labrador Retriever | Lhasa Apso | Maltese | Maltipoo | Papillon | Pomeranian | Poochon | Poodle | Pug | Samoyed | Schnauzer | Scottish Terrier | Shichon | Shih Tzu | West Highland Terrier | Yorkshire Terrier

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