13 Facts About the Bella Bolognese Dog: Italy’s Bichon Companion

Holy Bolognese! Meet the small breed that won the hearts of aristocrats and came back from a brush with extinction.

Mar 21, 2024By Jessica Montes
facts about the bella bolognese italy bichon companion

You’ve heard of weenie dogs, but did you know there’s another canine named after food? Of course, we’re talking about the charmingly fluffy and affectionate Bolognese. From its Italian origins to its friendly temperament and fun-sized stature, there's much to discover about Bolognese dogs.

The Bolognese Dog Hails from Italy

Photo by: Griffin Wooldridge

The Bolognese breed has roots back in the ancient city of Bologna, Italy, where it gained popularity among royal families and the wealthy class during the Renaissance period. Because they were known for having snow-white coats and loyal personalities, the Bolognese quickly became a popular furry companion for the elite. They were a sign of high social standing and given as gifts between aristocrats.

Their exact ancestry isn’t known, but it is believed that they originated from the Bichon family of dogs, which makes them cousins to the Maltese and the Bichon Frise.

These Dogs Have a Distinctive, Adorable Appearance

Bolognese dog
Photo by: Boel

It’s difficult to look at these petite pups and not smile. They look like fluffy, white clouds on four legs and sport a soft, cotton coat. Bolognese are considered a toy breed; they have compact bodies that only weigh between 6-10 lbs and stand 10-12 inches tall. This makes them small enough for lap sitting, holding, and riding in purses.

A Bolognese’s coat is long and wavy with the fur on their heads getting enough volume to resemble an 80s rockstar. With their cute button noses and signature fluffy tails that curve over their backs, Bolognese dogs attract admiring glances wherever they go.

These Dogs Have Low-Maintenance Grooming Needs

Bolognese breed
Photo by: Grace via Wikimedia Commons

Despite the floof, Bolognese are low-maintenance groomers. They don’t shed as much as other breeds, so you don’t have to deal with as much fur around your home and on your clothes. This also means you can get away with brushing their coats one to two times a week to prevent matting. As with other breeds, a monthly bathing, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and tooth brushing routine will keep a Bolognese dog healthy and comfortable.

If it’s not bath day yet, give them a quick check after outdoor playtime. Pick out, wipe, or brush away any debris that clings to their fur.

They Can Develop Tear Stains

Dog tear stains
Photo by: Bellissibolo Bolognese

Although they do not need weekly full-body grooming, their fluffy faces need a bit more TLC. As an all-white breed, Bolognese are more likely to develop tear stains. This refers to dark streaks under the eye area that appear from excess moisture.

Some flatter-face breeds have tear ducts that don’t drain properly, leading to moisture under their eyes and then staining. Tear stains can also develop from allergies. If a dog has environmental or food allergies, they can experience watery eyes when they come into contact with or consume the allergen.

For allergy cases, visit your vet for an examination. For genetic cases, carefully clean their faces with tear stain wipes every day. Use tear removal shampoo during bath time and trim their undereye fur to prevent moisture retention.

These Dogs Are Friendly and Loyal

Dog Bolognese
Photo by: American Bolognese Club

One of the most endearing qualities of the Bolognese is its gentle and affectionate personality. These dogs are adored for their loyal devotion toward their owners. Despite weighing less than 10 lbs, Bolognese dogs possess a confident and outgoing personality.

They are so amiable, that they’ll even approach unfamiliar faces with curiosity and friendliness, not caution. If their adorable appearance didn’t give it away, this breed is the opposite of a watchdog as they see everyone as a potential friend.

Their love of human interaction makes them ideal for households of all sizes. If they are socialized properly, they can get along with other dogs, pets, and young children.

Separation Anxiety Is Possible

Bolognese pups
Photo by: Bellissibolo Bolognese

As we mentioned in the last section the Bolognese thrives on human companionship. They love feeling like part of the family and interacting with their humans. These pups form strong bonds with their owners and can become distressed when left alone for too long. In severe cases, Bolognese will develop separation anxiety. Not only does this stress out your pet, but it can lead to common problem behaviors, such as bathroom accidents and chewed-up furniture.

To prevent separation anxiety, provide Bolognese dogs with puzzle feeders and toys for independent play that increase mental stimulation. Crate training and slowly increasing alone time can also reduce their anxiety and encourage independence.

Bolognese and Bichon Dogs Are “Related”

Bichon frise
Photo by: David Brown

Since they belong to the Bichon family, Bolognese are related to Bichon Frise, Havanese, and Maltese. On first look, you will notice similar small bodies with long, white fur. They have minimal shedding coats and drooling levels too. Additionally, all three breeds have cute button noses and look great in a top knot!

In terms of their personalities, all of them are playful, loyal, and curious. Because of their history as companions for wealthy families, they enjoy spending time with their owners and don’t do well if left alone for hours. These breeds are also excited about training, and teaching them simple tricks provides mental stimulation and bonding time with their favorite people!

These Dogs Have Minimal Exercise Requirements

Bolognese tunnel
Photo by: Bellissibolo Bolognese

Think about a Bolognese living its best life in an Italian palace. They were probably busy eating like royalty, being paraded around, and taking naps in the sunshine. This hectic schedule didn’t leave much time for hour-long walks or extended periods of physical activity. Modern Bolognese also prefer a low-activity lifestyle, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) lovingly refers to them as couch potatoes who prefer hanging out instead of high-energy activities.

While a daily walk around the block is recommended, the Bolognese is fine playing indoors, catching a frisbee in a small backyard, or learning a new trick. They are perfect for people who have less active lifestyles or busy household schedules outside of being a pet parent.

Being Bolognese: The Benefits of Being Small

Bolo dog
Photo by: ValeG94Wiki

There are several benefits to owning a smaller breed. A Bolognese’s toy breed label means it’s compact and a great option for people with smaller living spaces or without access to dog-friendly outdoor areas. Second, their portable size makes them ideal travel companions, whether you have a weekend getaway or a trip across the globe in mind. Consider packing their doggy bags and visiting one of the most dog-friendly travel destinations in the United States.

Lastly, a petite-sized Bolognese means that they can snuggle comfortably on your lap or in bed. They don’t take up much space and provide a pocket of warmth during the chilly months. Note: cuddles do not discriminate, and you can do this with larger breeds as well. However, it might not be as comfortable!

There Are Breed-Specific Health Concerns

Bolognese sweater
Photo by: Ekorin

While they are generally healthy dogs, Bolognese dogs can develop certain health conditions. Potential and current owners should be aware of luxating patellas where the kneecaps become dislocated. Luxating patellas are a painful, inherited health concern that limits a dog’s mobility and in extreme cases can prevent them from walking completely. Genetic testing done by a vet or breeder will show if a pup could develop it.

The American Bolognese Club also recommends annual eye exams to screen for any diseases or abnormalities. Early diagnoses for health conditions increase the chances of a successful recovery plan and decrease further degeneration. Not to mention it can lead to a happier, more comfortable life for your furry friend.

Bolognese Dogs Aren’t the Only Italian Breed

Italian Greyhound
Photo by: Christina via Wikimedia Commons

Italy is home to several charming canine companions beyond the Bolognese. There is the majestic Neapolitan Mastiff, with its impressive wrinkles and massive build that exudes strength and loyalty. One of the most popular breeds is the elegant Italian Greyhound, known for its graceful stride, need for speed, and affectionate nature. Like the Bolognese, they are playful pups who were reserved for royal families.

Unlike the last two, the Lagotto Romagnolo is a friendly, curly-coated hunter bred to catch waterfowl before being trained to find savory truffles. Each Italian breed has a unique charm and adds to the diversity of the country’s most beloved canines.

These Cuties Had a Brush with Extinction

Bolognese drawing
Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Bolognese thrived when social classes had clear divisions and noble families had the ultimate rule. However, as societies became more equitable to lower classes, this breed’s role as a marker of wealth diminished, population numbers drastically decreased, and Bolognese struggled to survive. It wasn’t until the late 1900s when loyal breeders in Italy, England, and the U.S. took action.

They found healthy pups from around the world to breed, increased the population size, and ensured recognition from national kennel clubs like the AKC and Crufts in the UK. Because of their efforts, the Bolognese breed gained exposure and was restored. According to the American Bolognese Club, the AKC has approved the breed’s admission in the Miscellaneous Class. Full recognition will become official on June 26, 2024.

These Dogs Are Featured in Famous Artwork

Bolognese art
Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to the aristocratic families who owned the Bolognese, these dogs are featured as the main stars and companions in artwork across Europe. In 1975, Spanish artist Francisco de Goya painted The White Duchess. It features Doña Maria, duchess of Alba de Tormes, in a long, flowy dress with red accents in the ribbons and hair piece. To her left stands a shaggy Bolognese with fur covering its eyes and a red bow to match its owner.

You will also find a Bolognese sitting up with a bell collar in the image above from Otto Eerelman’s painting titled “Sitting Up.” The Dutch artist was known for creating portraits and depictions of play for several breeds, including Saint Bernard and German Shepherd.

Jessica Montes
By Jessica Montes

Jessica is a California-based writer, journalist, lover of animals, and vegan of 17 years. Growing up, she owned parakeets, fish, a rabbit, and a red-eared slider turtle. She currently has a black cat named Marty and a tabby named Jellybean. In her free time, she enjoys reading, baking, camping, and roller skating to funky tunes.