Bichon Friies feeding

I am new to this website and a not very knowledgeable dog owner. We have three weeks ago rehomed an 18 month old Bichon Frise (Muffin) from a rehoming centre in London where I live.

We have previously had two Staffies from the same place. We were given a selection of Pedigree dog food when we obtained the dogs and the Staffies seemingly did fine with the dried food (forgive me, I knew no better). After a break of a couple of years we decided to get another dog but one who was a bit smaller as we are getting older and not as fit as we were. We were asked to consider taking Muffin having been told that he had already had more than one owner and the last owner had given him up because he did not get on with their other (already living there) dog.

I do not think our problem with Muffin is entirely food-led but believe that some of it is. We have been feeding him as suggested by the rehoming centre, dividing his (Pedigree small dog) food into two halves given morning and evening. Always an energetic dog we soon noticed that after his feeds he would go a bit crazy, not quite bouncing off the ceiling - he is too small - but racing all around the house, leaping on and off furniture and generally on the move very quickly. He also has an irritating habit of picking up anything he can and chewing it. (Picture a half-naked 60 plus year old woman chasing a dog with a bra in its mouth down the stairs.) We are getting some advice and are trying to curb the latter instinct as well as doing other fairly basic training which it appears he has either never had or never taken on board.

On our first plea for help to the rehoming centre it was suggested (amongst other things) that we buy some things he was allowed to chew such as pigs ears as this might keep him occupied for a while. When the racing around the house continued it finally occurred to us this week that it might be linked to his diet. Knowing very little about doggie diet I bought a bag of Harringtons small dog food which was the best I could find in my local supermarket one evening. That was the first evening he did not run around in his crazy way. I also that evening gave him a pigs ear which he happily chewed, carried around and hid all evening and the next morning.

To cut the story short, he is still something of a crazy dog but is no longer bouncing around the house for an hour or two after each meal. I understand that Harringtons is not the best of the additive-free food but it sure seems better than what he was getting. I also wonder what the pigs ears and other such chewies contain in the way of nasty things.

I would really appreciate some nutritional advice. We are not wealthy people and are both retired but are prepared to do the best we can for Muffin. We want this to work even though we have been very unhappy sitting in the wreck of our home as a dog goes crazy.

When he is not going crazy Muffin is loveable and we take him for long walks every day.

I could add that my impression of the rehoming centre has gone downhill somewhat given the things we were not told and that they thought he would be suitable for us but this is not the place.

Hello and welcome to the forum,
I also have a dog called Muffin and what you describe sounds very familiar. When we re homed her, she was bouncing off the walls. She took a while to settle and I don’t think she had been well socialised even though she was estimated to be 3. She had some obedience training which helped us but she is fear reactive with dogs she doesn’t know so we carried on with it at home.
Food wise, I changed Muffin to a cold pressed food but didn’t really notice a calming down although she had good health and digestion.
She is now mainly fed on a raw complete and although she does seem much calmer these days, It could well be just that she has settled and matured. She still has an occasional zoomy session in the evenings! I was pretty overwhelmed with it all at first but often we will never know as much as we can about our rescues so just have to embrace their quirks.
If you have noticed a difference on the harringtons, it could be that your boy was reacting to something in the pedigree.
I am no expert on nutrition but if you use the filter on the dog food directory, you can enter your budget and anything you may want to exclude from the ingredients. If any foods look appealing, try searching the forum to see if anybody has posted about it.
There is also some posts about high protein and hyperactivity (or not). I personally have not found that a higher protein diet does not make my girl hyperactive. Hope this helps a bit but choosing a food can be a long process.

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Hello, you do seem to have a bundle of ‘fun’ on your hands.! I have a minature schnauzer who had behaviour problems and he too was fed Pedigree -tinned wet food, not dry kibble. As well as intensive training I too looked at his diet and this began my journey into researching quality dog food. I currently feed raw, but he tested many other foods along the way. What I am sure about is that certain foods can effect his behaviour. In his case it effects his ability to control his emotions and focus. I also found that grain free diets are better for him.

I would encourage you to really study this website to inform your choice, I found the information in all areas the meantime a few pointers would be to look for ingredients that start with a meat source, avoid the terms meat and animal derivatives, look in the ingredients part of this site for more detail. Look for food as natural as possible. Beware of supermarket foods although one or two better quality foods are creeping onto their shelves. If you have a local pet shop see what they stock or Pets at Home have some good ones, their Wainwrights grain free has good reports. I personally don’t like feeding dry kibble and they have some good wet varieties, Natures Diet, Natures Menu, Forthglade to name a few.

If you find the a Harringtons helps I’d try this for a while and then try something else. I found there is no quick fix and
research can be confusing and daunting- but its worth it. The change in my dogs behaviour and appearance has been wonderful. So do keep trying with your boy. The reward will be worth it.


Just want to say hello and welcome to the forum. Also, well done for not only rescuing your Bichon but paying attention to giving him a good diet - it is so very important. Harrington’s is not the highest scoring food but as you say, it is readily available and of the supermarket products it is one of the better ones. There is a sticky thread here about the principles of selecting a suitable dog food so that may help you in choosing something suitable and not too expensive. I agree with DQ about the Wainwright’s, particularly the grain free. Please come back to us if you need any further advice and we will try to help.

Wow, thanks very much for your prompt responses. It is good to know we are not alone with our problems - it helps when we are reduced to thinking “Oh my goodness, what have we done!”. I will certainly take time out to go through your forum in greater detail - I did take a look through before posting and I thought how much more knowledgeable than myself everybody seemed; I am grateful that you are trying to help me.

Muffin will always be a stubborn little dog, I think, but I hope that by following your advice and by trial and error we can start to create the best diet for him which will hopefully make the other training easier.

I would be most grateful to receive any other advice that your members can give and will get back to you with our progress. I would also be grateful if it is okay to give items such as pigs ears - I don’t know what if anything has been added to them.

I have given pigs ears a very long time ago but it gave one of the dogs awful diarrhoea. I don’t know what the analysis is but I expect that they might be high in fat - could be wrong though. Wouldn’t give them nowadays. Over the past couple of months I’ve been giving my lot an occasional treat of Natures Menu Paddywacks and they have been good because they are safe and haven’t caused digestive upsets. Cut in half, they are the right size for my small dogs. I now don’t bother to thaw them because they last longer in the frozen state, each one giving the dogs probably about 10/15 minutes chew time.

As Tinyplanets points out, when taking on a rescue dog it is perfectly natural to be a bit overwhelmed, particularly if you haven’t had a dog before. However, it opens up a whole new world of interest and experiences so you have a lot to look forward to. Take your time with the food - there is no rush. Over the years I’ve tried all sorts of food with my lot and I haven’t finished any off with my experiments! LOL

I’ve no experience with pigs ears. If it is helping his behaviour, with no adverse effects, I’d keep on with them whilst you gain knowledge and experience. Another thing you could try to help keep him occupied is a Kong. These are a bit like a cross between a ball and a rugby ball, with a hole at one end. They come in different sizes. You can put treats inside them and they keep dogs occupied trying to get them out. You need to remember to reduce his main meals if you use them otherwise he might put on weight!

Agreed DQ, kongs have been great for us. I generally fill with some moistened coldpressed food or natural yogurt and freeze. It takes longer to chew the food out then.

Again, many thanks for all the help given. Muffin has a Kong. I fill it with sticky stuff (peanut butter usually) to bind the contents together but he still empties it with great speed. He hurls it around to get the last contents out. I had not thought of freezing it! The things we have to do to keep our dogs occupied!

Muffin went a bit crazy again for a period yesterday. I wondered if it was because I had been giving him some Sainsburys dog biscuits as part of an (ultimately fruitless) training session to stop him doing some of his more annoying acts. Possibly they contain undesirable additives too so I will go to my local pet shop today to get some better treats. The owner sells a large range of good-quality dog foods and he never tries to push anything on to me. It was he who suggested I look up the subject of dog food on the internet and this led me to your website. When I spoke to him again he recommended Burns for Muffin but again suggested I do some research before buying it. Does anyone have any experience of Burns for small dogs please?

I do hope I can one day help someone else when (and if!) I have made progress with Muffin and his dietary issues.

Try not to get disheartened by training it is still very early days. In the early days with me, I decided to concentrate on bonding for a few weeks first. Muffin was then more keen to please us then. I know it is easier said than done but try to relax a bit. He is still young and the zoomies are pretty normal judging by what other dog owners I know say.

It is great that you are doing your best to find a good diet for him but don’t be surprised if his behaviour doesn’t change too much yet. He may also be in his teens now! A notoriously difficult time. Lots of dogs in shelters are in their teens.

I am afraid I haven’t used Burns so can’t comment.

Edited to add, having just reread your first post, I see the zoomies are lasting a couple of hours, this may indicate a reaction to food. I would agree that the foods DQ listed would be worth trying as they have fewer ingredients.

I fed Burns many years ago when it hadn’t been out all that long. Unfortunately it made them itchy. My Labrador owner friends had the same experience. It’s high in grains/carbohydrates so don’t know if that was the problem. Having said that, some people swear by it. The only way to tell if it will suit is to try it I suppose. Have a look at the reviews in the Dog Food Directory to help you decide.

I haven’t forgotten all you helpful people on this forum. Our little Muffin has had a recurrence of the cherry eye that he had while at the rehoming centre and has had to have further surgery so we have just been keeping him on the Harringtons for the time being as it seems to suit him. We took some with us to the vet for feeding in the two days he spent there. He has returned home today (with a collar to stop him scratching) and we are not going to do anything at the moment until the stitches are dissolved and he has a clean bill of health. He seems his usual active self but at least he is no longer manic!


Muffin is on the mend now after his cherry eye surgery. As the Harringtons was coming to an end I decided to try a “better” type of dry food and after discussion with my pet shop owner I got a pack of Canidae Pure Land. He has had it for a couple of days now and appears to be coming manic again. It seemed such a good choice but I am now totally thrown. It doesn’t even have a high quantity of protein (I mention this even though the link between high protein and hyperactivity is disputed). At this precise moment Muffin has calmed down (a couple of hours after his evening meal) and is resting in the midst of the chaos he has caused. I feel exhausted.

I would be so grateful for any further advice. Has anyone got a Bichon Frise or other toy dog which has had hyperactivity problems? How were they resolved if so?

Thank you all. This website has been a godsend.

This change in behaviour is odd and tbh it puzzles me too. I have no knowledge of Canidae Pureland so have just checked it out on the Directory - link. As you say, it is not high in protein (27.8 dry weight). Harringtons is 22.8 and has a lot of filler/carbohydrate.

The notion that high protein can cause behaviour problems has now been debunked but that is not to say that it can’t happen because each dog is different. It’s possible that your Bichon did not react badly to the higher protein but to something else in the Canidae. Alternatively, it could be just his nature but you know your dog and if you instinctively think that it is food related you need to discover what the problem is.

Regarding where to go with this, it seems to me that there are two choices - continue with the Harringtons or look for something better. If you choose the former you could reduce the amount of food and top up with something more nutritious. I am not a fan of topping up but it would increase the protein and lessen the carbohydrate. If you decide to go for a better quality product then I would advise to choose one with a single source of meat, possibly avoiding chicken for the time being. Fish is a good source of protein as it is easily digestible and few dogs have problems with it. There are plenty of products containing fish. If you decide to try something different, make sure that you have a longish transition period to allow your Bichon to get used to the new food.

I’m sorry you’ve had this set back, the road to finding the right food can be frustrating and expensive! Like Dottie I can’t see anything obvious that would trigger the hyperactivity, I’m not sure about bison and know little about it but when my dog was having his behavioural problems I did think he was worse when eating beef.
I mentioned previously that I’m not a fan of dry food. Have you thought of trying wet? The ingredients are often simpler and its less proccessed. If the hyperactivity comes on after a couple of days it might be less wasteful and expensive. Or have you thought of trying raw? Pets at Home stock Natures Menu nuggets which are easy to feed as you just defrost the number you need. Natures Menu have guidelines on their site. Or theres home cooking. I personally would look for something less highly proccessed.
Do keep us informed.

Some good points made in DQ’s post. Yes, the NM nuggets are really easy to feed. The other advantage is that you don’t have to buy a large bag. They are higher in protein but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for dogs. The issue is more about the quality of protein and what dogs can utilize.

NM do wet food too. PaH also do Wainwright’s grain free wet which has a simple formula. If you use the Dog a Food a Directory and select wet under type of food there will be plenty of choice.

In terms of food, I would agree with others that a wet food with fewer ingredients might help.

Just a thought but in addition to frozen kongs, I use puzzle games to give small treats such as homemade liver cake. They can be expensive but you can make some simple ones by just hiding treats under cups for Muffin to find. These can help with boredom which may cause an energetic dog to be hyper. I thought my dog would get frustrated with hers but she was methodical and worked it out. It tires her out though.
Here she is having a go

Hello, just another thought. I was wondering when he has these hyper periods what do you do? In your first post you mention chasing after him to retrieve your underwear! Often if you chase after a dog it just adds to their fun and increases the behaviour. If possible it might be better to ignore him. Try not to leave things around he might steal, I know its not easy. Or distract him with treats or a toy. I had little pots of training treats placed all over the house, just incase. Also my dog is good at ‘sit’ Often I make him sit just to get him back focussed on me.

I can recommend a book Helping Minds Meet by Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills, both of Lincoln University Animal Behaviour Clinic. It explains how dogs think, what their body language says and how they react to our behaviour. It’s an easy book to read and not very thick!

I have been away for some weeks down in Devon where Muffin has had a marvellous time - although he did not appreciate having to have the occasional wash after rolling in mud and other more disgusting things.

I have been keeping him on the Harringtons as it does not seem to stimulate his hyperactivity and I did not want to keep chopping and changing all the time. But now we are back home I need to look more seriously at his diet. He scratches a lot and I understand that this may be due to the type of protein in his diet, Just to confuse me, I also realise that it may be nothing to do with his diet and may even be an inherited trait. What is an ignoramus like me supposed to do!

I will take some time to read the latest discussions on this forum and try to formulate a plan of action. Poor little Muffin started to cough again recently (he had kennel cough when we got him from the rescue centre) and the vet gave some antibiotics after finding his glands were swollen. He has not coughed now for a few days so I am keeping fingers crossed that it will be okay.

I love this little doggie and would do a lot to give him the happy life he deserves - I just have to find out the way to go!

We often tend to assume that itching/scratching is down to food but sometimes it isn’t. I was mistaken just a few months ago with one of my dogs. She is old but uncharacteristically started scratching. Changed food - small improvement but not much. Eventually dawned on me that it might be the anal glands, took her to the vet and indeed that was the cause. I was thrown out of synch because she has never had anal gland problems in her entire life and I would know because I bred her myself. Having said that, changing food is always worth a shot. Coincidentally, I have a friend who used to feed Harringtons and had exactly the same problem as you see in Muff. He feeds his two Canagan (grain free) now and they are fine.

From your previous comments, you seem to feel that higher protein levels exacerbate the hyper behaviour. I’d be inclined to go for grain free but you will struggle to find one that has as low a protein as the Harringtons (22.8%). I know this because earlier this year I too was searching for products within these parameters. I can’t check this at the moment because the Directory doesn’t seem to be working correctly but IIRC, Wafcol Salmon and Potato (two varieties) and Fish4Dogs weight control came up. If the Directory comes back online I will have another look.