Breeds, Health & Colors
This page has some general information about the health & temperment of both the Bichon Frise breed and the Cocker Spaniel breed. 
It also has a section explaining and showing examples of the Merle gene. I hope it is useful to you!

On this page:
* About The Bichon Frise Breed
* About The Cocker Spaniel Breed
* About the Merle Color



Here is a little general information on the Bichon Frise and Cocker Spaniel breeds. 
Hopefully it will help you when making your decision on whether or not one of our puppies will fit your family & needs.

Remember, each dog is different, so when I talk about the breed traits, they are not "set in stone".  Also remember, we breed Bichon X Cocker puppies, so our puppies tend to get a mix of traits from both breeds.  When dogs are a mixed breed, they get what is called "hybrid vigor" where quite often negative breed-specific issues do not come through, or come through a lot less than they would on a purebred of either breed.

This information is of course general, and some of it is based on our own experence and opinions. It should in no way be considered a "complete" list of good/bad/health concerns/information. If you have questions, you should always consult your veterinarian first and never use our input in place of his/her professional opinion! 
About the Breeds, Health & Colors

About the Bichon Frise Breed: 

Bichons are not the typical small dog.  They are typically not yappy, hyper or snippy.  This is why I chose to get Bichons. With our small children, I had to have a dog that was absolutely child-safe!  They will bark if something is going on, but can easily be trained to not be obnoxious about it.  They love all people and are excellent with kids.  They are friendly, happy and outgoing little dogs.  They typically grow up to be between approximately 10 and 15 pounds.  They are non-shedding (they have hair similar humans, so it grows continually rather than shedding like other dog breeds who have fur) and are one of the only truly hypo-allergenic breeds.  They do require regular brushing and grooming.  They are a sturdy, healthy, happy, intelligent, outgoing dog that can live on a farm as easily as in a city apartment. They were prized by the French royalty as companion & lap dogs & for being women's pets.  They were also used in circuses because of their animated personalities & trainability.

Some Bichon resources say they are difficult to housebreak. I had no problem housebreaking my girls, and numerous people who have bought puppies from me in the past have commented on how easily their puppy housetrained (read through the Past Puppy Sales page to see just a few of those comments).  My girls, and most puppies that I have sold in the past, 
have been housebroke by the time they were 3-4 months old! I start my puppies on going outside with mom, weather permitting, as soon as they're capable of following her around. This helps them learn by example & really seems to make a lasting impression on them.  And when they're in the house, they're introduced to paper training. Early introduction and consistent training is the key to training any puppy, no matter what breed!

Life Expectancy: 14-20 Years
Size: Approximately 9-12 inches tall & 10-18 pounds.

Here's are lists I've compiled on Bichons' possible Good & Bad Traits as well as Health Concerns:Once again, this should not be considered a "complete" list, and you should always consult your veterinarian if you have any questions. Do Not take my word over his/hers!

Possible Bad:

Can be a "barky" dog if not trained otherwise. With consistent firm training, they can quite easily be trained not to be that way, though. My dogs do not bark unless someone comes in the yard & then stop on command.

A rather independant breed overall. But loveable and devoted. Not as "clingy" as some other breeds though. Each dog's personality is different though. Our Lacy is a little more independant, where Frilly is very much a lap dog & can be rather clingy.

Needs consistent grooming. Must be brushed regularily. And because they do not shed, they do need to be clipped as well. If not properly cared for, they can develop skin problems. And some Bichons are prone to allergies and hot spots. Our girls don't have any skin issues at all. Also, because of their floppy ears, they need their ears properly cleaned regularily.

Like any other dog/puppy, they do need socialization. If not exposed to things they can be shy, leary or even sometimes nippy about new situations or people being thrust on them.

Good: 

                Is a very old breed, so has very few genetic health problems. Most problems were bred out of the breed & it's very sturdy.

                Is a smaller sized dog, but they are very sturdy.

                Are good watchdogs but is not typically aggressive about it.

                Are good with other pets and with children, especially when raised with them.

                Can be very athletic and agile dogs who can be tought to do many tricks and stunts. 

                Is a non-shedding and hypo-allergenic breed. Is one of the best breeds for people with allergies.

                Overall an easily-trained dog who loves to please and responds well to rewards. Were used in the past as circus dogs because they were so agile and trainable.

                  Does not require a lot of exercise. They enjoy getting out, but can be easily acclimated to an apartment or that type of setting. 

Possible Breed-Related/Genetic Health Concerns:

Overall, Bichons are noted for being a healthy, sturdy breed. Their breed is so old, that many of health issues have been bred out of them over the years.There are a few things that they are somewhat prone to: (Our girls have been checked and are known to have any of these issues. If they did, we would not breed them!)

        Skin Problems

        Allergies (air-borne)

        Dental Disease (preventable with regular veterinary care/cleanings)

        Patellar luxation and cruciate ligament tears.

        Bladder & kidney stones (if these issues arise, they can often be treated simply with diet.  Of course you would need to consult your veterinarian).

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About the Cocker Spaniel Breed:

If you're looking for a happy, outgoing, sturdy dog who's as happy being your buddy as they are being outdoors, then you may be looking for a Cocker Spaniel! Cocker Spaniels are listed as a "Sporting Breed" and are active, outgoing dogs. They are highly intelligent dogs who generally excell in training.  They love to please and are very devoted! They thrive on being part of the family and love to play. They tend to not be timid dogs and enjoy social interaction with people and animals alike. Their outlook on life is cheerful & joyous.  They are typically excellent with children, especially when raised with them. They're not overly protective, but will tend to bark if something strange is going on. They do have a coat that requires regular brushing and occasional clipping. Also, because of the hair, and the floppiness of their ears, they should get their ear canals cleaned & the hair removed from them on a regular basis. Overall, they're a cheerful, smart dog who loves their people are a joy to be around!

Life Expectancy: 10-15 Years.
Size: Approximately 13-16 inches tall and 15-30 pounds.

Here's are lists I've compiled on Cockers' possible Good & Bad Traits as well as Health Concerns:
Once again, this should not be considered a "complete" list, and you should always consult your veterinarian if you have any questions. Do Not take my word over his/hers!

Possible Bad:

Very dedicated (can be both a good & bad trait!) so can become a one-person dog quite easily. Can be over-dedicated and clingy. 

Can be a "barky" dog if the time is not taken to train them otherwise.

Does shed, so a purebred is not suited for someone with dog allergies.  But, they cross well with Bichons and Poodles, and the resulting puppies tend to inherit the non-shed, hypoallergenic properties of the Bichon or Poodle.

Need to be groomed (brushed and clipped) regularily. Also have floppy ears, so they need to be properly cleaned regularily.

Do need exercise. But can be acclimated to a small home/apartment setting if regularily walked.



Good:

                Very devoted and loves their people.

                Easily trained and intelligent.

                Excellent with children and other pets, especially when raised with them. Tend to be quite tollerant.

                Happy, outgoing dog, especially when properly socialized.

                Can be kept in a smaller setting. But they do like to get out.

                Personality and trainability makes them suited for a first-time owner as well as an experienced owner.

                Excellent outdoors dog. They love to swim, hunt & join you in most anything else you might be doing outside.



Possible Breed-Related/Genetic Health Concerns:
(Ranger has been checked and is not known to have any of these issues. If he did, we would not breed him!)

        Deafness

        Skin problems

        Allergies

        Cataracts/blindness (can be genetic or caused by trauma, illness or allergic reaction)

        Epilepsy (may be genetic or brought on by an allergic reaction)

        Autoimmune Thyroiditis & Hemolytic Anemia (body's immune system attacks its own blood cells or hormones). Can typically be treated with steroids.
        
        Hypothyroidism (Is the most commonly diagnosed hormone imbalance found in dogs; not just Cocker-specific. All clinical signs are reversable once treatment is started.)
        
        Hepatitis/Liver Disease (May be caused viral or bacterial infection or some medications. Not necessarily a "breed" issue, though Cockers seem to be more sensitive to the factors that cause/result in liver problems)


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About the Merle Coloring:

Merle is a dilute gene that will take the base color of a dog and "bleach" it out. But it does not change the entire dog and is not uniform. It leaves neat splashes, lines & splotches of the original, dark color over the dog.  It will often give the dog blue or partially blue eyes as well. 

A breed where you commonly see merle colored dogs is Australian Shepherds. It is also often seen in Dachshunds, Great Danes, Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs, Welsh Corgis and others. It is rather rare in Cocker Spaniels.

Here is the Wikipedia link that gives a full explination on the merle gene:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merle_%28coat_colour_in_dogs%29

A merle dog should not be bred to another merle dog, though, as this can possibly create a double-merle gene in the resulting puppies, and this can create a multitude of health problems or even be lethal. Unfortunately the AKC does not differentiate between the Merle and the Roan genes in Cocker Spaniels and they require that both be registered as Roan (roan is where white hairs are uniformially mixed with the base color over the entire dog; it does not "bleach" out the base color like merle). The AKC not recognizing the difference between the colors/genes is a problem because of the issue with the double-merle gene. A person could unknowingly breed two Merle dogs together thinking they were Roan because of the color stated on the registration papers. Two roan dogs bred together (or a double-roan gene) does not cause problems. 

*Note: A single merle gene, as is seen in our puppies, does not cause problems, and does not make the dogs weaker or inferior in any way. When they get blue or partially blue eyes caused by the Merle gene, it does Not effect the dog's ability to see; it's simply a color change (similar to people being blue eyed or brown eyed). 
Merle just gives our puppies some pretty and unique colors!

Here are a few examples of Merle V/S Non-Merle colored puppies:
"Normal" Black & Tan Puppy
Black & Tan Puppy with a Merle Gene
"Normal" Black Puppy
Black Puppies who also carry a Merle gene. Without the Merle gene, they would have been Solid Black.
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