Showsight Presents The Bichon Frise

JUDGING THE BICHON FRISE

by ANN D. HEARN, breeder/exhibitor/judge

A s you stand in the ring with your judges book and pen in hand and check off each armband, you find it is a bit difficult to keep your mind on the paperwork requirements without moving your eyes downward to catch a glimpse of the stunning, joyous parade propelling themselves into the ring with an exhibitor attempting to get some bit of control from their entry. It’s an instant ‘feel good’ moment. Well, you smile to yourself, this ought to be fun! And, I promise you, it will be. You may be fairly new to this breed, as well as new to dogs with an abun- dance of coat, but your eyes have long been trained to see and evaluate leg movement. As you take them around the ring to the examining table, you watch to see which ones display equal dis- tance of reach in the front and matching rear. Your experience also tells you that you can have equal front and rear leg extension—and still not get anywhere. This style dog has reach in front that never gets out from under his chin, but, GloryB, the rear has the same stretch! That means the dog is balanced, doesn’t it? There’s good balance, under bal- anced and overbalanced. A Bichon was once the Circus trick dogs and as such must have a healthy reach and drive that will propel him agilely toward his goal. They want and should move right along, but not as if the Devil himself is chasing them with evil intent. It is not a race of speed, but a pace to get where they need to be efficiently—and then be ready for the next cool thing asked of them. You probably didn’t get to see the Hallmark of the breed, the face and head as they were coming in and going around, but on the examining table, you can quickly and breathlessly have your heart stolen right out of your body as you look in those sweet faces. At this point, you’re probably saying—I have got to have one of these at home so I can look at that face all day long! If the correct head and face are not maintained, the breed will totally lose its individuality, appeal and a good bit

give the most beautiful frame to the sweetest face at the dog show. Now that you have the head in your mind’s image, how do you determine if that skull is wide and rounded and the ears are not too high, or too low and houndy? Yes, you can put your hand in all of that coat to feel. It is incumbent of you to find and reward the proper structure. The exhibitor can and will fluff it back up before the down and back. Please allow just a few seconds for this repair. It is much easier to judge a dog that looks good than it is to have to judge a totally disheveled one. The Bichon coat is double and therefore, an adult coat should merely shake back into place. The coat texture is certainly not like a Maltese, Havanese, Lowchen, Poodle, etc., other than as some of these breeds, it has a soft undercoat and it is that undercoat that helps keeps the coat off- standing and prevents it from lying flat. A puppy will have a very soft texture with undercoat just developing and will, therefore, its coat will hang down- ward. Forgive that—it’s only temporary. Unless you’ve been in the breed for years and know your bloodlines well, it would be impossible for you to guess whether the puppy coat will become the full-bodied textured substance it should become. Remember ‘on the day’. In my opinion, just acknowledge that the puppy has predominately white hair and just accept it. The texture of a mature coat, while still of a comfortable soft feel, it is not like silk and smooth, but each hair is more bodied than that, with a feel of straightened curl to it. Some people sug- gest it offers a feel of cotton. I can only guess they are suggesting a pulled apart cotton ball with fibers of strength, but pleasant to the fingers. When Bichons first came to America we didn’t really know what to do with all of that hair that, by golly, just kept growing and if not brushed frequently, matted. A pattern of presentation was developed and this style of groom- ing has remained, enhanced, poofed, enhanced some more and nowadays

of its purpose as a companion dog. So, let’s begin a thorough study of what we should see in this cloud of white and prominent black portions arranged so pleasingly. The Bichon is not a narrow, elongat- ed dog with refined bone. It is a sturdy dog, with sound bone and a solid body. Therefore, the head should equal the density of the body. In other words, it is a rather broad head to allow the pleas- ing picture of two extremely bright, dark eyes to be able to look forward on a skull that is wide enough to allow the eyes to lay on the face without having to curve a bit around the too narrow skull. The eyes are totally on the front of the face—this is important. They are dark and round and have a natural (Hum, well) dark halo on the skin sur- rounding the eye and eye rims that have a dark unbroken rim. Sometimes, an extremely round-eyed dog will have a bit of a bulge to his eyeball. The Bichon does not—please! The roundness of the Bichon eye is not Coke-bottle round but is much softer. The skull is rounded slightly and is greater in width and depth than the muzzle. Actually, the muzzle is short, and with the coat parted on the bridge of the nose, with usually some wispy hairs sticking out and up, will look even shorter. A good balance of skull to muzzle is not half as much muzzle as skull, but a bit less in length of muzzle. Or, as the Stan- dard says, “Three parts muzzle to five parts skull.” However your brain visual- izes things, the point being made here is—it is not a 50–50 balance. There is a stop and not just a hint of a sloping indentation. The skull doesn’t slide down into the muzzle. And, the muzzle width and depth, while not the same circumference of the skull, must match the apparent fullness of the skull and not be narrow, snippy or chinless. The nose is somewhat prominent and very, very black. The lips are also black, thus giving a pronounced contrast of black and white. With the ears placed slightly above the eyes and being very flexible, they can swing forward at attention and

314 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ANUARY 2019

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