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We all love our bichon frises as the perfect companions that they are, however, many of their owners forget that training is just as important as cuddles. A well-rounded bichon frise is played with, fed a nutritious diet, given the chance to excercise, and also well-trained. But a bichon frise isn’t a labrador or a German shepherd, and has its own training needs.
So, how do you train a bichon frise?
When Should You Start Training Your Bichon Frisé?
You should start as early as possible. Training a bichon frise puppy is not all that different from training most pups. The ideal age is around the eight-week mark. That is when a pup is usually ready to be separated from its mother and comes to their new home.
At this early stage potty training and early crate training should start straight away.
Are Bichon Frises Easy to Train?
Many professional trainers consider the bichon frise to be a highly trainable dog. As a result, they are particularly popular amongst dog show enthusiasts. However, the little bichon frise is also an independent dog who does not respond well to boring repetition or harsh treatment.
So patience, short sessions, positive reinforcement, and consistency are vital.
3 Common Bichon Frise Training Problems
While, as mentioned, bichons frises are trainable, the process is not always very easy. Below are some of the typical issues you might face.
1. Potty Training
Bichons frises can be difficult to potty-train. We will come to the recommended potty training method below, but we must emphasize the importance of patience.
Anxiety is perhaps the most prominent training challenge that you are likely to face. Bichon frises become very attached to their primary caregivers. So much so that they experience serious anxiety when separated from them and this can cause problems during training. If they are anxious dogs, they may also struggle to train in the presence of triggers such as strangers or other dogs.
The little bichon does have a mind of its own. Owners need to work hard to keep their dog’s attention and to keep them engaged. Never get into a battle of will with a bichon, at best it will create a negative experience for everyone involved. At worst, you will lose.
Should You Train Your Bichon Frise Yourself or Hire a Professional?
It is always best to hire a professional trainer or, at the very least, get advice from one. A large percentage of dogs’ behavioral problems can be attributed to mistakes that their owners may have made during training.
A professional trainer has the knowledge and insight to help you do the very best job you can in raising your bichon frise.
3 Types of Training Your Bichon Frise Should Go Through
There are many different types of training that you can have your bichon frise go through. However, below are the three most important ones that you should do as the very minimum.
1. Potty Training
Potty training is one of the most important steps in your pup’s training program, and the first big step. A positive attitude and a good deal of patience are key. You will also need a crate, a leash, and snacks.
You will start by blocking access to areas of your home where your bichon frise need not be. For example, bathrooms and unused bedrooms, as well as pantries, are quiet places beckoning your pup to relieve itself calmly. The idea is that there should not be a more convenient place to go than outside.
Introduce your pup to the crate. Your baby bichon must be comfortable with both crate and leash. Don’t opt for an adult dog-sized crate if possible. The larger the crate, the more likely they will favor a corner to do their business.
The routine is the most important thing. Bichon frises have very small bladders. That translates to a need for frequent outings, but they can hold their bladder for longer as they grow. However, even then small dogs generally need more frequent potty times than larger breeds.
I also wrote a more detailed article about how to potty train a bichon frise.
2. Basic Obedience Training
Obedience training is very important for bichon frise. It can help avoid behavior problems and even save your dog’s life. A dog that comes when called can avoid many tragic accidents.
Let us look at some important basic obedience training:
Sit is the first lesson you give your bichon frise puppy. The reason is that every well-trained dog knows that “sit” means please, so that they learn this is the polite way to ask you for something, rather than barking or jumping on you.
To train your dog to sit, you will start by holding a snack close to its nose. Next, move your hand upwards, and you will notice that your dog lowers its hindquarters. Once the dog is in the sitting position, you give it the treat. Only say the word “sit” once they understand the action, so that you can connect the action to the word. Never repeat commands, as you only desensitize your dog to them.
This command is crucial should you plan to take your bichon off the leash on walks. In addition, there are a variety of other circumstances in which the skill could be a lifesaver.
You start by leashing your bichon. Then, squatting down to the pup’s level while they are on a leash, and making a big fuss to draw them to you. Make sure there is nothing to distract. Say the command only when they are actually coming to you, never while they are doing something else.
Remember, they need to connect the action of coming to you with the command, before the word becomes a command. Should the pup come to you, offer praise and a treat. Repeat the exercise a couple of times per day.
Once the command is mastered while leashed, remove the leash and continue the same strategy, albeit in a calm, closed-off environment.
For this command, your bichon must master the “sit” command first. Reward your pup for sitting, and quietly step back. Try to get back to reward your puppy for staying in the sit before they move to follow you. If you didn’t get back in time, shorten the time and distance that you step away. Even just leaning away for a moment can be enough, if it means you can reward them for staying in place.
Every time your pup stays sat, even if it is brief at first, you should reward the behavior. Then, when it becomes apparent that your dog understands the exercise, begin taking additional steps back and adding the verbal command to the action.
Remember that “stay” is one of the more complex basic commands for a pup to master. It will require patience.
Bichon frises are an intelligent and curious breed, a trait that has its pros and cons. One of the cons is that they might seek out interesting smells and mouth potentially dangerous things.
You can start teaching “leave it” by giving your puppy a toy. While they have it in their mouth, offer them a treat and give the command. Continually reinforce the “leave it” command by always offering something better in exchange for what they have.
3. Place Training
Place training is a method whereby you use a command to send your dog to a specific spot, such as its bed or crate. The trick is that the dog needs to stay in that spot until you “release” it.
Benefits of Place Training a Bichon Frise
Place training teaches your dog self-discipline. Perhaps more importantly, at least for a bichon frise, it teaches them to be comfortable away from you, in their own spot, and helps them prevent and deal with separation anxiety. Knowing that you will always return imparts a sense of security that stops the hyper attachments which causes so many bichons to panic when they are alone.
It also gives the dog something on which to focus. Rather than responding to stimuli, they can go to a specific spot and remain calm until you “release” them.
First, Get a Clicker
Clicker training is a powerful tool to use in your pup’s training, one that you should certainly consider. The objective is to teach your pup that the clicker marks the correct behavior and signals a reward will follow.
Prepare the spot, or spots, that you want to train your bichon to go to when commanded. It should be a relatively quiet area, out of the way. For this exercise, a mat works well.
Plain vs. Tasty
You will need two sets of treats for the next step. As with the “leave it” command training, one must be your pup’s preference. The other can be their regular kibble. When a snack is an incentive, it’s always best to start on an empty stomach.
Place the mat where you would like the pup to go when issued the relevant command. Next, it is critical that you not try and coax your bichon pup onto the mat. Instead, leave it be until it takes an interest of its own accord.
When the pup does get on the mat, it’s time to give a verbal cue in the form of the desired command. Let’s go with “mat” for this exercise. Immediately reward the pup by scattering treats on the mat.
Rewards Are Crucial to Success
The puppy will begin to associate getting on the mat with the reward it receives. Therefore, you should keep high-value treats for specific desired behaviors, such as sitting or lying down on the mat.
Over time, reserve the best treats for when your bichon can lay on the mat and stay there as you move away.
When Off the Mat
When your pup gets off the mat, the treats and praise stops. Do not interact with the puppy until they get back on the mat. You will also need to teach your bichon a “release word.”
It is important not to expect too much when you start place training. The process takes time and dedication and perhaps more patience than the other basic commands we have covered here.
Three to five seconds is a reasonable target at first. The duration will build over time. Trying to force it might make the training a negative experience, in which you may ruin case place training for your bichon frise pup.
Starting with a couple of seconds, you can add five minutes for every month as your puppy grows. Because a puppy can easily grow bored, it might be helpful for you to leave a puzzle toy on the mat to keep the pup busy. As the duration increases, so will your distance from pup and mat.
Don’t Overdo It
Incentivize your bichon frise pup where possible, and reward them for staying on the mat. The training should be intermittent. If you overdo it, you run the risk of boring your puppy, which will lead to a negative experience for both you and the pup.
Remain patient, don’t become frustrated, and always end the training session on a positive note.
To Ease Separation Anxiety
The distance that you can move away will increase gradually. Then, finally, there will come the point where your pup can no longer see you. This step in the process is particularly important for your bichon frise. Over time, you can increase the time that your dog is asked to stay on their place and you can teach them to ignore distractions.
As your pup learns that you always return, its confidence in being away from you improves. The process can aid in relieving a bichon frise from a good deal of their separation anxiety.
Additional Training for Specific Problems
In addition to the basic training above, you can also take your bichon through other processes to teach them good behavior and even some tricks.
1. Training to Stop Biting
Socialization is key in preventing aggressive behavior. Therefore, many trainers offer socialization classes suited to puppies. The earlier your pup starts, the better. In short, socialization teaches your pup “doggy manners.”
It will influence your dog’s interactions with people and dog’s throughout its life.
Early play is a great way to train your pup not to bite. There is a simple method in which you allow your Bichon pup to mouth your hand. Then, when they bite down, you give out a high-pitched “yelp.”
Ideally, your puppy should be startled and let go. Use the moment of peace to redirect your puppy to a toy that is safe to chew on. This may mean that you keep chew toys close by as your puppy learns what is appropriate to chew on and what isn’t.
There is a “time out” variant of this method where you pull your hand away and ignore the pup for a bit.
For more techniques, read my guide detailing how to train a bichon frise to stop biting.
2. Training to Not Bark
Bichon’s are usually quiet dogs, but if one is developing an issue with barking, you can try the following method.
Put your dog in their crate or a gated room and turn away, effectively ignoring them. When the barking stops, offer a treat and praise. Your bichon will begin to catch on that they get a reward when they stop the behavior. If barking has developed out of boredom, make sure to up the amount of exercise and stimulation your dog gets to help them channel their energy somewhere else.
As with all dog training, remain patient. It may take time before the dog gets it. At first, you should reward the pup for even a short period of silence. Then, as the pup improves, extend the duration of silence before giving the reward.
Remain consistent in whichever training method you decide to use, and consider enlisting the services of a professional. If barking is a concern, make sure to read this article too.
3. Crate Training
Crate training follows the same basic procedure as place training. Many people advise getting a crate suited to the predicted size of your dog as an adult. While this is counterproductive for potty training, the bichon frise is a small dog, even as an adult. So that opens your options up a bit.
Next, you must work to set the tone of crate training. It must be a positive experience for your pup. Therefore, it is important that you not take a pup straight from play to its crate. You want your pup to be in a calm state of mind when the training starts.
The crate also needs to be made comfortable. You can use a doggy bed or even soft towels to make the space more inviting to your pup.
When you get the pup into the crate, be sure to offer it a treat. Make sure you don’t leave your puppy in the crate for too long. That is important for potty training, as well as your pup’s perception of the crate.
Regarding the puppy’s perception of the crate, try and incorporate games involving the crate. For example, you could hide a favorite toy in the crate. A dog should never be restricted by a tag or collar when in its crate. It is a matter of safety.
As with all training, remain patient. Don’t overdo it at first, and keep it a positive experience for both yourself and your bichon frise.
The bichon frise is ideally suited to this sort of training. There is no end to tricks you can teach your pup, each requiring specific steps and tools, once you have the hang of training your pup. The foundation of most tricks rests upon basic obedience training.
Break every trick down to its simplest and easiest parts and teach your dog each part step-by-step. Never ask them for too much at once. Always set your dog up for success.
The bichon frise is an intelligent breed. They are eager to please and are easy to train. There are relatively few common training challenges when covering the basics, except for severe separation anxiety and barking.
As with all dogs, basic training and socialization are essential to the mental and social well-being of the bichon. Training can start as early as eight weeks, keeping in mind that patience is mandatory and training should be fun.