Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Are Bichon Frises Smarter Than Most Dogs? Breed Facts & FAQ

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

bichon frise dogs near tree

Bichon Frises are small, people-oriented dogs with lots of personality. Most people compare it to a living stuffed animal because of its curly and fluffy white hair. It is an averagely intelligent dog, according to IQ tests done by Stanley Coren. It is ranked as the 75th smartest dog breed for working and obedience intelligence.1

However, what sets this tiny dog breed apart from other dogs is its adaptive intelligence. They are great problem solvers and skilled at reading and understanding human emotions.

In this article, we will discuss the intelligence of Bichon Frise, the reasons for their intelligence, and how they compare against other breeds. Read on to learn more.

Divider 2

How Intelligent Is the Bichon Frise?

Usually, a dog’s intelligence is measured by how quickly it can learn new tricks. If a breed can learn new commands in five tries or less and obey them in 95% of the tries or more, it would be ranked in the top 10 smartest dog list.

This method was developed by Stanley Coren, a canine researcher. According to the test, the Bichon Frise was ranked number 75 out of the 138 breeds tested. It may seem like a poor result, but when compared to other highly intelligent breeds on Coren’s ranking, its ranking puts it at above-average intelligence, similar to the Great Dane, Dachshund, and Shiba Inu.

What this means is that the Bichon took 25 to 40 repetitions to learn a new command. Also, this breed is likely to obey a known command on the first try 50% of the time or even more.

If ranked more generally, the Bichon Frise would be considered the 45th most intelligent breed on the list, right next to King Charles Spaniel and the Siberian Husky.

However, Cohen would soon realize that there are problems created by focusing on one aspect of canine intelligence. Therefore, he opted to focus on adaptive and instinctive intelligence, which is more important when assessing canine intelligence.

Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to measure and assign a ranking to adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Nevertheless, the Bichon Frise ranks well in adaptive intelligence,2 instinctive or inherent intelligence, and problem-solving.

bichon frise
Image Credit: Vladimir Nenezic, Shutterstock

What Makes the Bichon Frise a Smart Breed?

As mentioned earlier, Coren’s ranking of intelligent dog breeds was initially based on one aspect of the dog’s intelligence. However, he later understood that more components of IQ are arguably more important.

One has to understand these concepts in order to measure a dog’s true intelligence.3 Bichons are intelligent because of the following two reasons.

1. They Are Excellent at Reading Human Emotions (Instinctive Intelligence)

A dog’s instinctive intelligence simply refers to the skill or ability for which it was originally developed. Initially, all dog breeds were purpose-bred to fulfill a specific role. The Bichon group of dogs has had a long history of serving as human companions for over a century. Companion dogs generally know how to give their owners company in the best possible way.

For a Bichon Frise to be a worthwhile companion dog, it must also be able to discern the owner’s emotions and needs. Moreover, they need to adapt to the different emotions and provide comfort and relief if they deem it necessary. Some Bichons can even pick up on environmental cues that allow them to predict their owner’s intentions.

So, when someone says that a Bichon Frise has instinctive intelligence, they simply mean that the dog has the uncanny ability to understand its owner’s emotions and needs and, as a result, offer comfort.

bichon frise dog smelling his owners face
Image Credit: ilona.shorokhova, Shutterstock

2. Bichon Frise Can Learn From Past Experiences (Adaptive Intelligence)

The other dimension used to measure a dog’s smartness is adaptive intelligence, which refers to a dog’s ability to learn by himself, solve problems, as well as learn from previous experiences. Sure, it may be hard to measure, but it is perhaps the most important canine intelligence test.

And while it may vary a lot in Bichon breeds, most of them have high adaptive intelligence because of their instinctive approach to companionship.

The Bichon Frise is often considered “tightly wound” and can be very observant of the owner and his needs. They are also called “Velcro dogs” because they never want to leave their owner’s side. Additionally, they are a very cheerful breed that always seems to have an optimistic life view.

The internet is replete with anecdotal evidence of the adaptive intelligence of the Bichon Frise. However, you need to keep in mind that adaptive intelligence will not be the same for individual dogs. But still, the Bichon Frise has an exemplary IQ level regarding this type of intelligence.

Bichon Frise
Image Credit: Antranias, Pixabay

How To Tell How Smart Your Bichon Frise Is

There is a wide range of signs that can indicate just how clever your Bichon Frise is. If your dog can successfully do a lot of the things we have highlighted on our list, then you have a dog that is as clever as a cookie. They include:

  • Are escape artists
  • Can easily remember commands, even without practice
  • Will cuddle and snuggle you whenever you are under the weather
  • Can solve puzzle toys, even the complex ones
  • Understand how to keep themselves safe
  • Know when you are about to leave your house
  • Know how to get your focus and attention
  • Can easily learn and master new techniques and skills
bichon frise dog lying on bed
Image Credit: mikeledray, Shutterstock

Tips for Increasing Your Bichon Frise’s Intelligence

Do you feel that the intelligence of your Bichon Frise is somewhat mediocre, and you would want to make them smarter? Here are a few tips on how you can go about it.

  • Offer your Bichon Frise a lot of praise, and if the situation allows, give doggy treats whenever they display intelligent behavior. This will prompt them to repeat the same behavior in the hope of getting more treats and praise in the future.
  • Properly socialize your Bichon, preferably from an early age. You can regularly take your dog out and subject them to different scenarios and surroundings because it will help them develop their cleverness.
  • Train your Bichon while still in the puppy stage, preferably immediately after he gets acclimated to your home. This will help make them more trainable, thus improving their general intelligence.
  • Make physical adjustments with your dog every day. This might be more necessary while your pooch is still in its youthful stage. However, routine handling would be better when teaching your dog to learn new commands and accept change.
  • Teach new tricks and commands continuously. Since all dog breeds can learn and master new tricks, make sure that you are always on the lookout for new things to teach your Bichon Frise.
  • Offer continuous exposure to problems and challenges. For instance, you can buy dog food bowls that prompt them to utilize their intelligence to eat.
bichon frise dog with his owner
Image Credit: Mladen Mitrinovic, Shutterstock

Divider 2


If you are looking for an affectionate, loyal, and small companion dog, look no further than the Bichon Frise. Sure, there are a lot of choices for small dog breeds, but you can’t really go wrong with this toy-like dog breed that is not just a cute dog but also a very brilliant dog breed.

Sure, they may not score high on obedience training, but most owners don’t experience a lot of problems when training this lovely little dog. However, it has a very high adaptive intelligence that allows it to learn by itself, solve problems and learn from experience.

The intelligence level, coupled with its adorable physical appearance, makes this dog one of the most sought-after breeds by canine enthusiasts the world over.

Featured Image Credit: Eudyptula, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database