Papillon

Table of Contents

papillon dog portrait
Introducing the Papillon, a small canine companion with a big presence! These lively, butterfly-eared dynamos are celebrated for their impressive agility, sharp intellect, and irresistible charm. Boasting a striking coat and soulful eyes, it's easy to see why they quickly become the apple of their owner's eye.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Papillon is an ideal companion for individuals and families who appreciate a small, energetic, and intelligent canine friend. They’re well-suited for those who enjoy interactive playtime and mental stimulation, as these little dynamos thrive on engaging activities and learning new tricks.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEPapillon
OTHER NAMESContinental Toy Spaniel
ORIGINBelgium/France
BREED GROUPToy Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT8-11 inches
WEIGHT5-10 lbs
LIFESPAN14-16 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYHigh
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK51st
papillon dog standing on countryside
Photo: Blue Bird/Pexels

Appearance

The Papillon is a small but captivating canine known for its distinctive appearance and physical features. These charming dogs typically stand between 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder, with an average weight ranging from 5 to 10 pounds. Their petite size makes them a popular choice among those seeking a smaller companion.

One of the most striking features of the Papillon is their large, erect ears adorned with long, flowing hair that creates the illusion of butterfly wings. When combined with their round, dark eyes and alert expression, it’s easy to see why they’ve captured the hearts of many dog lovers.

Papillons have a slightly rounded head that tapers gracefully towards their small, pointed muzzle. Their nose is usually black, while their teeth meet in a scissors bite. The breed has a straight, medium-length neck that flows seamlessly into their well-proportioned body. Their level topline and well-sprung ribs contribute to their elegant silhouette.

Another notable feature of the Papillon is their plumed tail, which arches gracefully over their back and is adorned with abundant feathering. This adds a touch of flair and beauty to their overall appearance. Their legs are slender yet strong, with fine bone structure and moderate angulation, allowing for agile movement.

The Papillon’s eyes are one of their most expressive features. They are medium-sized, almond-shaped, and set well apart, giving them an intelligent and alert expression. The breed’s eyes are typically dark brown or black, providing a beautiful contrast against their coat.

Speaking of their coat, Papillons boast a gorgeous, silky, single-layer coat that is long and flowing. It’s particularly abundant around the chest, ears, and tail, with the rest of the body having a shorter coat.

The breed comes in a variety of colors and patterns, including white with patches of black, red, sable, or a combination of these shades. The most common and preferred pattern is a white body with colored markings on the ears and around the eyes, creating a striking mask-like effect.

papillon dog on a log

Temperament

Papillons are like the social butterflies of the canine world. They’re friendly and outgoing, always ready to make new friends. They don’t possess an ounce of shyness, nor do they show signs of aggression. They’re just happy, content dogs that love being around people.

But don’t let their size fool you. These little dogs have a zest for life that rivals dogs twice their size. They’re adventurous and love nothing more than exploring their surroundings. Whether it’s a new toy or a hidden corner of the garden, they’re always on a quest to discover something new.

Their intelligence is another trait that sets them apart. Sometimes, it feels like they’re more cat than dog. They’re observant, always watching and learning from the world around them. They have an uncanny ability to pick up on things quickly, making them great problem solvers.

When it comes to family life, Papillons slide right in. They form deep bonds with their families, becoming more like a member rather than a pet. They enjoy being part of the family activities, whether it’s cuddling on the couch for a movie night or playing fetch in the backyard. They’re also great with other pets, often forming friendships with them.

Strangers are no problem for these sociable canines. While some can be a bit aloof at first, with proper socialization, they warm up pretty quickly. Before you know it, they’re your new best friend!

papillon sniffing a bush
Photo: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The Papillon is highly adaptable, making them suitable for various living environments and lifestyles. However, there are certain factors to consider when creating an ideal environment for these charming canines to ensure their happiness and well-being.

Physical Environment

In terms of physical surroundings, Papillons can comfortably adjust to both spacious homes and smaller apartments. Their petite size and moderate exercise needs make them a versatile choice for potential pet parents with different living situations. Regardless of the space available, it’s crucial to provide them with a safe, cozy, and stimulating environment where they can play, rest, and bond with their family members.

Additionally, Papillons benefit from having a securely fenced yard or designated play area where they can expend their energy and explore safely. However, they can also be content with regular walks and indoor playtime if outdoor space is limited.

Climate Adaptability

Regarding adaptability to different climates, Papillons can tolerate a range of temperatures but are sensitive to extreme heat or cold.

In hot weather, you should ensure that your Papillon has access to shade, fresh water, and air conditioning if possible. During outdoor walks, avoid hot surfaces that could harm their delicate paws and opt for cooler times of the day. In colder climates, providing them with a warm sweater or coat and limiting their time outdoors can help keep them comfortable and safe.

Ideal Owner

Papillons thrive in households where they receive consistent attention, companionship, and mental stimulation. They are best suited for pet parents who can devote time to engaging activities, training, and cuddling sessions.

Due to their sociable nature, they may not be the best fit for individuals who are frequently away from home for extended periods, as this could lead to separation anxiety or destructive behaviors.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, Papillons generally coexist harmoniously with fellow canines and even cats, especially when introduced early and raised together. However, it’s essential to monitor their interactions with larger animals to prevent accidental injuries during playtime.

Their friendly disposition also makes them a good fit for multi-pet households, provided that proper introductions and socialization take place.

papillon lying in the grass
Photo: RichLegg/Getty Images Signature

Grooming

The Papillon, with its beautiful and silky coat, requires regular grooming to maintain its appearance and overall health. Although their grooming needs are relatively manageable compared to some other breeds, it’s essential for you to establish a consistent routine to keep your Papillon looking and feeling their best.

Coat Care

One of the primary aspects of grooming a Papillon is coat care. Their long, single-layer coat is prone to tangling and matting, which necessitates regular brushing.

It’s recommended to brush your Papillon at least two to three times a week using a slicker brush or a pin brush, as these tools effectively remove loose hair, tangles, and debris while distributing natural oils throughout the coat.

Brushing sessions should be gentle and thorough, paying close attention to areas where matting commonly occurs, such as behind the ears, under the legs, and around the tail.

In addition to brushing, Papillons require occasional baths to keep their coat clean and fresh. Bathing them every 4 to 6 weeks, or as needed, is usually sufficient. Use a gentle, dog-specific shampoo and conditioner to maintain the coat’s softness and shine. Be sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid any residue that could cause skin irritation.

Papillons are considered low-shedding dogs, but they do shed seasonally, typically in the spring and fall. During these periods, daily brushing may be necessary to manage the increased shedding and maintain a healthy coat.

Dental Care

Dental care is another crucial aspect of grooming for Papillons. Regular teeth brushing, ideally every day or at least two to three times per week, helps prevent tartar buildup, gum disease, and bad breath. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-friendly toothpaste for the best results. In addition to brushing, providing dental chews or toys can help support good oral hygiene.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is essential for Papillons, as long nails can cause discomfort or lead to injuries. Trim your dog’s nails every 3 to 4 weeks using a guillotine-style or scissor-style nail clipper designed for small dogs.

Be cautious not to cut the quick, the sensitive blood vessel inside the nail, as this can be painful and cause bleeding. If you’re uncertain about trimming your Papillon’s nails, consider seeking assistance from a professional groomer or veterinarian.

Ears & Eyes

Ears should also be checked and cleaned regularly to prevent infections and maintain overall ear health. Inspect your Papillon’s ears at least once a week for signs of redness, swelling, or foul odor. To clean their ears, use a cotton ball or gauze pad dampened with a vet-approved ear cleaning solution, gently wiping the outer ear without entering the ear canal.

Lastly, it’s essential to keep your Papillon’s eyes clean, as tear stains can develop around their eyes. Use a soft, damp cloth or dog-specific eye wipes to gently remove any buildup or debris.

papillon dog walking outdoor
Photo: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

Exercise

The Papillon, although small in size, is an energetic and lively companion that requires regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. Meeting their exercise needs not only keeps them fit and healthy but also helps prevent boredom and behavioral issues.

Exercise Amount & Types

Papillons typically require at least 30 minutes of daily exercise, which can be divided into two or more sessions depending on their age, fitness level, and individual preferences. It’s essential to tailor the exercise routine to your dog’s unique needs and abilities, adjusting the duration and intensity as required.

A variety of activities can keep your Papillon engaged and entertained while fulfilling their exercise needs. Daily walks are a popular choice, offering both physical exercise and mental stimulation as they explore new scents and sights. Walks can be combined with playtime, such as fetch or tug-of-war, to provide a well-rounded exercise routine.

Indoor exercise options, such as interactive toys, puzzle games, or hide-and-seek, can also provide mental stimulation and help expend energy when outdoor activities are limited due to weather or other factors. It’s important to ensure that your Papillon has access to a safe and secure area for play and exercise, whether indoors or outdoors.

Socialization

Socialization is another essential aspect of a Papillon’s exercise routine. Regular interactions with other dogs, people, and environments contribute to their overall development and well-being. Dog parks, playdates, or group training classes can provide valuable opportunities for socialization and exercise.

Dog Sports

In addition to walks and playtime, Papillons excel in various dog sports and competitions, such as agility, obedience, and rally. Their intelligence, athleticism, and eagerness to please make them well-suited for these activities, which offer an excellent opportunity to strengthen the bond between you and your dog while keeping them physically and mentally challenged.

papillon dog jumping in a park
Photo: jonnysek/Getty Images

Training

Training a Papillon can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience, thanks to their intelligence, eagerness to please, and quick learning abilities. These butterfly-eared beauties are known for their aptitude in various dog sports and obedience training, making them a delight for trainers and pet parents alike.

When it comes to training a Papillon, it’s essential to begin early, ideally during puppyhood. Early socialization and exposure to different people, animals, and environments help shape a well-rounded and confident dog.

Basic obedience training, including commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “heel,” should also be introduced from a young age, providing a solid foundation for more advanced training later on.

Papillons respond best to positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, or playtime, as rewards for good behavior and successful training sessions. This approach not only encourages desired behaviors but also strengthens the bond between you and your dog. Avoid harsh training methods, as these can damage trust and hinder progress.

Consistency and patience are crucial during training, as Papillons can be sensitive and may become discouraged or confused by mixed signals or impatience. Ensure that all family members use the same commands and reward system to provide a consistent learning environment for your dog.

As mentioned earlier, Papillons excel in various dog sports, such as agility, obedience, and rally. These activities offer an excellent opportunity to challenge their intellect and athleticism while reinforcing their training. Participating in dog sports can be a fun and engaging way for both you and your Papillon to strengthen your bond and enjoy the training process together.

It’s important to remember that mental stimulation is as vital as physical exercise for Papillons. Incorporating puzzle toys, interactive games, or trick training into their routine can help keep their minds sharp and prevent boredom.

papillon dog on a beige background
Photo: Laures/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

What to Feed & How Much

A well-balanced diet and proper nutrition are essential for maintaining the overall health and well-being of a Papillon.

When selecting food for your Papillon, it’s crucial to choose high-quality options that meet the nutritional guidelines set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). These guidelines help ensure that the food provides all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support your dog’s growth and development.

Papillons can be fed dry food (kibble), wet food (canned), or a raw diet, depending on individual preferences and dietary needs.

Dry food is often a popular choice due to its convenience, dental benefits, and cost-effectiveness. Wet food offers higher moisture content and can be more palatable for picky eaters. A raw diet, which includes raw meat, bones, and vegetables, can provide a natural, unprocessed option but requires careful planning and preparation to ensure balanced nutrition.

The amount of food to feed your Papillon depends on factors such as age, weight, activity level, and overall health. Generally, younger and more active dogs require more calories than older or less active ones. It’s essential to consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate daily calorie intake and feeding schedule for your Papillon.

As a guideline, adult Papillons typically consume between 1/4 to 1/2 cup of dry food per day, divided into two meals. Puppies may require more frequent meals—three to four times daily—to support their growth and development. Be sure to monitor your dog’s weight and adjust their food intake accordingly to prevent overfeeding and obesity.

Treats

In addition to their regular meals, treats can be offered in moderation as a reward during training or as a bonding activity. However, treats should not exceed 10% of your Papillon’s daily calorie intake to maintain a balanced diet. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats and avoid table scraps that could be harmful or contribute to weight gain.

Water

Fresh water should be available to your Papillon at all times. Ensure that their water bowl is clean and filled with fresh water daily, encouraging proper hydration and supporting overall health.

papillon dog looking up
Photo: yoko_ken_chan/Getty Images

Health

The Papillon dog breed is generally considered a healthy and robust breed, with a life expectancy of 14 to 16 years. However, like all dog breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and proper exercise can help maintain their overall health and well-being.

Here are common health issues associated with the Papillon:

Patellar Luxation: This condition occurs when the kneecap (patella) slips out of its normal position, causing discomfort or pain. It’s a common issue in small dog breeds, including Papillons. Mild cases may not require treatment, while more severe cases might necessitate surgical intervention.

Dental Problems: Due to their small size and compact facial structure, Papillons can be prone to dental issues such as overcrowding, tooth decay, and gum disease. Regular teeth brushing and professional dental cleanings can help prevent these problems and maintain good oral health.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an eye disorder that leads to the gradual deterioration of the retina, eventually resulting in blindness. Responsible breeders screen their dogs for this condition and remove affected individuals from their breeding programs to reduce the risk of passing it on to offspring.

Heart Issues: Papillons can be susceptible to heart problems such as mitral valve disease, which affects the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently. Early detection through regular veterinary check-ups and appropriate treatment can help manage this condition and improve the dog’s quality of life.

Collapsing Trachea: This condition is characterized by a weakened tracheal cartilage, leading to a narrowing of the airway. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, and intolerance to exercise. Treatment options depend on the severity of the condition and may include medication, weight management, or surgery in severe cases.

If you’re considering adding a Papillon to your family, it’s essential to choose a responsible breeder who conducts health screenings and adheres to ethical breeding practices.

papillon on grass meadow
Photo: Bigandt_Photography/Getty Images

History

The Papillon, known for its distinctive butterfly-like ears and elegant appearance, has a rich history that traces back several centuries. Originating in Europe, this small yet captivating breed has captured the hearts of royalty, artists, and dog enthusiasts alike.

The Papillon’s ancestry can be traced back to the toy spaniels of Europe, which were highly popular among noble families during the Renaissance period. These early toy spaniels had drop ears, and over time, selective breeding led to the development of the erect-eared variety we know today as the Papillon.

The name “Papillon” is derived from the French word for “butterfly,” aptly describing the breed’s unique ears that resemble butterfly wings. The drop-eared variety still exists today, known as the Phalène, which means “moth” in French.

Throughout history, Papillons have been favored companions of European royalty and aristocracy. Notable figures such as Marie Antoinette, Madame de Pompadour, and King Louis XIV were known to have kept these charming dogs as pets.

The breed’s popularity extended beyond the royal courts, and they were also featured prominently in numerous paintings by renowned artists, including Titian, Watteau, and Fragonard. These artistic depictions serve as historical records of the breed’s development and prominence in European society.

As the Papillon breed spread across Europe, it became particularly popular in France, Belgium, and Spain. The breed’s development continued throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, with breed standards being established and refined. Although the breed faced a decline in numbers during the World Wars, dedicated breeders worked to preserve and restore the Papillon population.

In popular culture, Papillons have been featured in various films, television shows, and literature, often portrayed as elegant and regal companions. Their intelligence and agility have also earned them success in dog sports and competitions, showcasing their remarkable abilities in obedience, agility, and rally events.

The Papillon breed was first recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1915, and the Papillon Club of America was established in 1935 to promote and protect the breed’s interests. Since then, the breed has gained increasing popularity in the United States, currently ranking 51st on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds.

Today, Papillons continue to be cherished for their affectionate nature, elegant appearance, and lively spirit. They are well-suited to various lifestyles, from city apartments to country homes, as long as their exercise and socialization needs are met.

Parent Club

The parent club for the Papillon in the United States is the Papillon Club of America (PCA). Founded in 1935, the PCA is dedicated to promoting and protecting the interests of the Papillon breed. The club works to ensure responsible breeding practices, educate the public about the breed, and provide resources to Papillon owners.

The PCA also organizes various events, including specialty shows and performance trials. You can visit their webpage for more information and resources on the Papillon breed.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Papillon’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

papillon puppy standing outside among leaves
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Acquiring

Considering a Papillon as your new furry friend? If you opt to buy, it’s crucial to find a reputable breeder who prioritizes health and the breed’s best traits. However, rescuing is also a wonderful option. The American Kennel Club and the Papillon Club of America can help you find a Papillon in need of a loving home.

Get your home ready with the essentials: high-quality food, a comfortable bed, engaging toys, and grooming tools to keep those silky coats beautiful. Papillons love being part of the family, so get ready to offer lots of love and attention.

Whether you choose to buy or rescue, bringing a Papillon into your life will add a dash of joy and liveliness that’s hard to match!

FAQs

Are Papillons calm dogs?

Papillons are generally known for their lively and energetic nature. However, they can also be calm and affectionate companions when their exercise and mental stimulation needs are met. Providing a well-rounded routine that includes exercise, playtime, and training can contribute to a more relaxed demeanor in your Papillon.

Are Papillons friendly?

Yes, Papillons are typically friendly and social dogs. They enjoy being around people and often get along well with other dogs and pets when properly socialized from a young age. Early socialization and exposure to various environments, people, and animals are essential for fostering a friendly and well-rounded Papillon.

Are Papillons related to Pomeranians?

While both Papillons and Pomeranians are small toy breeds, they are not closely related. Papillons belong to the spaniel family and have a history that traces back to Europe, while Pomeranians are part of the spitz family and originated in the Pomerania region of Central Europe.

Do Papillons shed a lot?

Papillons have a moderate shedding level due to their single-layer coat. Regular brushing, at least once or twice a week, can help reduce shedding and keep their coat healthy and tangle-free.

Are Papillons hypoallergenic?

No, Papillons are not considered hypoallergenic. While no dog breed is truly hypoallergenic, some breeds produce fewer allergens than others. Since Papillons do shed, they may not be the best choice for individuals with severe allergies.

Are Papillons good with children?

Papillons can be good with children, especially when raised together. However, due to their small size, they can be easily injured by rough play or mishandling. It’s essential to teach children how to interact gently and respectfully with Papillons and supervise their interactions to ensure the safety of both the dog and the child.

How often should I groom my Papillon?

Papillons require regular grooming to maintain their coat’s health and appearance. Brushing once or twice a week is recommended to remove loose hair, prevent tangles, and distribute natural oils throughout the coat. Additionally, regular nail trimming, teeth brushing, and ear cleaning should be included in your Papillon’s grooming routine to ensure their overall health and well-being.

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