Bichpoo

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Bichpoo
mbtrama / Flickr.com

Also known as the Poochon, the Bichpoo is a sturdy and playful companion dog that is bred for its endearing personality and low-shedding coat. As a cross between a Bichon Frise and either a Toy or Miniature Poodle, this small dog is extremely clever and equally affectionate. Its outgoing nature means it is no guard dog, and will socialise equally well with other animals and humans, as long as it has been well socialised when young. Poorly socialised Bichons, in particular, can be nervous, and may become snappy when cornered or frightened, so it is important that their puppies learn to embrace new situations and individuals. This hybrid has little or no instinct to hunt, and so is usually very reliable with smaller pets. Its playfulness and tendency to explode into a frantic play mode without warning make it a favourite with youngsters, and as long as the Bichpoo is not an extremely fragile specimen, it should be a good playmate for most kids.

Bichpoos are generally easy to train, having a great combination of willingness to please and intelligence, although excessive barking can be a problem. This vocalisation can be managed, if not completely eliminated, by providing plenty of stimulation, including lots of playing around the house and walking. Whether the Bichpoo’s coat is more Poodle- or Bichon-like will determine the exact grooming schedule, but all Bichpoos need a committed owner who is willing to brush and detangle the hair at least every other day. This is generally a healthy hybrid, though exceptions do occur, and the parents of cross-bred puppies should be scrutinised carefully for physical or temperamental flaws that could potentially be inherited. Although the Bichpoo has an average life expectancy of 12–14 years, some individuals can live for several years longer, with the oldest I have seen in my career being 18 years old. Choose your puppy wisely – it will hopefully be by your side for a long time to come!

About & History

The Bichpoo was first bred in Australia in the late 1990s, and has become extremely popular in its homeland in the years since. Chevromist Kennels, in Melbourne, are credited with being the first breeders, although this is difficult to verify. Whoever the mastermind behind the cross, they were looking to combine the traits that make both parent breeds excellent companions, including the desirable low-shedding coat that both carry. Crossbreeding is also done as much to soften negative characteristics, and Bichpoos do tend to be less clingy than Bichons, and sturdier than the Miniature and Toy Poodles, who can be somewhat delicate.

Although they have a reasonably long heritage in comparison with some designer breeds, very few Bichpoos are multigenerational mixes, meaning they usually have two pedigree parents. Bichpoo to Bichpoo breeding is rare, and results in a high rate of inherited health problems. However, a good number of breeders do favour back-crossing, where a Bichpoo will be crossed with one or other of the pedigree breeds to accentuate particular traits.

Appearance

Bichpoo Large Photo
mbtrama / Flickr.com

Rating very highly on the cuteness scale, Bichpoos are small, but surprisingly sturdy dogs with an abundant woolly coat. It is impossible to describe a standard appearance, as it is for all cross-breeds, as each pup varies in how much it resembles each parent. Further complicating this in the Bichpoo is the fact that one of the parents (the Poodle) can be either Toy or Miniature with a large disparity in size between the two. Toy Bichpoos can be as light as 3–4 kg in weight, although the average range is 4–6 kg (9–13 lb). Miniature Bichpoos, on the other hand, are much more solid, and can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb). The height range is 20–30 cm (8–12 in), with toy-sized dogs obviously tending toward the lower end of the spectrum.

The coat is always fluffy and dense, and usually soft, although the coarser hair of the Poodle is appreciable to some extent. The parents’ coats also differ in other ways: the Bichon’s is more fluffy and frizzy, while the Poodle’s is tightly curled, so the Bichpoo’s will always be some mixture of these two types. The Poodle can also be credited with the wide variety of coat colours in this hybrid, which include:

  • White
  • Tan
  • Brown
  • Black
  • Apricot
  • Grey
  • Any of the above with white markings
  • Tricolour

Character & Temperament

Bichpoos are playful and friendly dogs that are extremely affectionate with their families and usually quite outgoing when meeting new people. They can be sensitive, and may become stressed and withdrawn during times of tension in the home. This cross-breed is less easy to antagonise than either of the parent breeds, and enjoys living in a home with children. However, they can also revert to typical small-dog behaviour and be a little nippy when frightened, but this is not a common problem. It is gentle and considerate of smaller pets, and is more likely to be bullied by the family’s cat than to be a threat to it.

When excited or frustrated, the Bichpoo likes to bark – and bark, and bark, and this can become a problem, especially if the dog is left alone for long periods. Anyone intending to get a Bichpoo must realise the dog’s need for constant human company, and that this is not a good choice for homes in which all adults go out to work during the day. Separation anxiety is not an uncommon response to these bouts of abandonment, and manifests as destructive and highly strung behaviour that is distressing for both dog and owner.

Trainability

Photo of Bichpoo puppy
mbtrama / Flickr.com

Most Bichpoos are easy to train, as they are very focused on, and attuned to, their owners. Even at a young age, they are capable of picking up simple commands within just a few repetitions, and basics such as “sit” and “stay” are rapidly learned, especially if practiced around feeding time. Socialisation training is an important responsibility of dog ownership, and all pups should be given the opportunity to meet new people and pets on a regular basis once they have the protection of their primary vaccination course behind them.

Strangers should be encouraged to crouch down, thus making themselves look less intimidating, and to shower affection on the pup, and introductions to other pups, or to calm, patient adult dogs should also be arranged. Making such efforts in puppyhood will ensure the Bichpoo grows up to be a confident, sociable adult.

Health

As a rule, this hybrid tends to be healthier than its parents, but this doesn’t mean one should be careless about the choice of parent stock or the examination of pups for congenital or inherited diseases. There are several health problems of note in both the Bichon and Poodle, and anyone choosing a Bichpoo pup should insist on meeting at least the mother, and preferably both parents, to assess their condition and temperaments.

  • Addison’s disease – A deficiency of hormones essential for normal health and responses to stress. Signs are first seen in young adults, who may suffer recurrent bouts of gastrointestinal upset before being diagnosed. Supplemental hormone therapy usually allows good quality of life long term.
  • Cushing’s disease – In many ways the opposite to Addison’s disease, with excess stress hormone (cortisol) being produced by one or both adrenal glands. Seen in older dogs. Treatment with medication that reduces cortisol secretion works well in most cases.
  • Immune-mediated haemolytic anaemia – Overactivity of the immune system leading to destruction of red blood cells and consequent loss of oxygen-carrying capacity. Signs range from lethargy to sudden collapse. Treated with immunosuppressive medications.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease – Degeneration of the bone of the upper hindlimb, causing severe pain and lameness in growing pups. More commonly seen in toy-sized dogs.
  • Patellar luxation – Those Bichpoos with very fine bones may not have sufficient support around the knee joint to keep the kneecap, or patella, in its normal position during exercise. Patellar instability can then cause an intermittent, but dramatic, lameness, with the dog carrying the limb off the ground for several strides before walking apparently normally.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy – Often inherited by Poodles and their crosses, this degenerative condition causes blindness in young adults. A blood test is available to detect carrier status, and should be performed in adult Poodles to identify those fit for breeding.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Bichpoos have high energy levels, and should not be expected to spend their entire lives indoors. Though they can easily adapt to apartment living, they need to get out for around an hour of walking or playing. They are very unlikely to wander far from their owner when out in public, so chasing a ball or other toy is a great way to blow off steam off the lead. They are also known for their sudden manic burst of energy, which appear to catch them unawares throughout the day, so it is important to also keep toys around the house to provide entertainment when needed.

Grooming

As discussed above, the coat type can vary, but all Bichpoos need regular brushing – at least three or four times a week. The nature of their hair also means they need to be washed every few weeks in a non-irritant dog shampoo. A professional groomer can advise on the frequency at which to clip the coat, and whether a Poodle- or Bichon-style cut will best suit the individual dog.

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