A Quick Look at the Papillon…

The Papillon is a small, alert and elegant dog. Also known as the Continental Toy Spaniel, and sometimes called the “Butterfly Dog” because his ears give the appearance of butterfly wings, he is a hardy and lively breed that loves human company and is intelligent and highly trainable.

An animated and charming dog, the Papillion is tougher than he appears and enjoys engaging in activity and being outdoors. He is not shy, nor is he aggressive, and can be a relatively good watchdog, but has a friendly disposition and will greet everyone he meets. Overall, this small canine is a patient, proud, loving and gentle dog that is a pleasure to call a companion.

Here are some fast facts about the Papillon:

Dog Group:
Toy (AKC)
Recognized By:
Dogs – 8 – 10 lbs (4–5 kg)
Bitches – 7 – 9 lbs. (3-4 kg)
Dogs – 8 – 11 in. (20-28 cm)
Bitches – 8 – 11 in. (20-28 cm)
Average litter size:
1 to 3
Life expectancy:
14 years (average of 9 – 15 years and sometimes longer)
Health problems:
Coat care:
Exercise needs:
Suitable for children:
Pet compatibility:
Barking frequency:

Brief History

Papillons are a very old breed of dog; their history dates back to almost 700 years ago and begins in Europe. Most of the Papillon’s development has been recognized through the many depictions of these dogs in paintings. They can be seen in Italian art that dates back to the 13th century. They were frequently painted on the laps of French and Spanish noblewomen, and, like today, were primarily companion dogs.

Initially, the breed had large drooping ears and was called Dwarf Spaniels. They were later known as the Continental Toy Spaniel, the official name given by the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale). Eventually, some of the dogs developed erect ears that were fringed to resemble the shape of a butterfly. These dogs were called Papillon, the French word for the insect. There were then two varieties of the Continental Toy Spaniel that were recognized – the erect-eared Papillon, and the drop eared dogs, called the Phalene (“Moth”).

The American Kennel Club, who recognized the Papillon in 1915, considers each variety to be the same breed, and both of these dogs can be born of the same litter. Furthermore, the AKC allows the two varieties to mix-mate, but this practice is strictly prohibited by the FCI to avoid problems with the ears.

Papillon Breed Appearance and Characteristics

General Appearance – They are a fine-boned, little dog that has a very elegant appearance. Papillons have a small head that is somewhat rounded between their large fringed ears that are either erect or droop down with rounded tips. They have a well defined stop, and a somewhat short and thin muzzle that tapers to their black nose. Their round dark eyes are medium in size and are black rimmed. The Papillon has a long tail that is set high and covered in their long hair. It is carried over their back.

Their single layered coat is straight, fine and long, with additional fringe on the ears, chest, back of the legs and their tail. The color of their coat is white, and features patches of any color with the exception of liver. A colored mask that is not white covers their ears and eyes from front to back, enhancing the “butterfly” appearance.

Typical Temperament – Papillons, or Paps, as they are sometimes nicknamed, have a friendly, alert and charming disposition. They are very animate, vivacious, playful and ready to engage in any activity that they can with their human family. They are a gentle, intelligent, and obedient dog that is hardy and enjoys outdoor exercise. This pooch is a natural born barker and a good watchdog, but is not aggressive. He will alert his owners to the approach of strangers or to any other noise he finds suspicious or of interest, but should not be overly yappy.

The Papillion can enjoy the companionship of children, but must be properly socialized with kids. They are generally fonder of older and more responsible children who understand how to play and respect the dog. They are typically not recommended for children under 6 years of age, and can be easily injured if handled roughly or carelessly. They usually get along well with other dogs, and can tolerate cats if they are socialized with them at a young age.

Basic Papillon Care Requirements

Grooming – Although their coat does not matt or tangle, a daily coming and brushing will suffice to keep the silky, single layered coat clean and healthy. The coat does not need to be clipped, but sometimes fur can grow excessively under the pads of their feet and should be trimmed to provide them with a more comfortable and sturdy footing. They should only be bathed or dry shampooed when necessary, as they are usually, naturally odorless and clean. Papillons are average shedders.

Their nails should be clipped on a monthly basis and their teeth cleaned frequently (every few days) to help with oral care.

Exercise – They are small, but don’t let the size of a Pap fool you. This dog needs to be walked everyday for a good 20 minutes, and should have additional play time to meet their exercise requirements. They are active indoors, but outdoor exercise is loved by this canine and it is good for his overall physical and mental wellbeing. Whenever possible, Papillons should be provided with the freedom to run around off lead in an enclosed and safe environment.

Approximate Food Cost – It costs an estimated $10- $15 per month to feed this breed, and the average Papillon eats 1 – 1¼ cups of dry food daily.

General Health Information

Papillons are resilient, long-lived dogs, and when provided with the proper care, exercise and nutrition, generally lead healthy lives. However, all canines, regardless of how hardy their breed may be, are predisposed to certain illnesses that may be linked to their environment, lifestyle or heritage.

Ailments that some Papillons have been known to suffer include: problems with their kneecaps (particularly their hind legs); eye issues, Von Willebrands disease; strains on their joints, muscles and bones caused from jumping too high; fontanel (a soft spot on the head that is caused by an opening in the skull that never entirely closes, putting the dog at risk of head injury that could lead to death); adverse reaction to anesthesia. Also, Paps are sensitive to cooler temperatures and can become chilled easily in colder climates.

Common Illnesses include: patellar luxation (knee dislocation), eye problems, fontanel and Von Willebrands disease.

Are You the Right Papillon Owner?

Living conditions – Papillons can live comfortably in an apartment, as they are active indoors and will be fine without a yard as long as they have a good daily walk. That being said, they are sometimes not ideal for apartment life only because they do have a strong instinct to protect their home. Thus, many of these dogs may bark excessively when they hear noises, and will not distinguish between regular sounds and those worth of actual alarm. However, barking can be controlled with training.

Training – He is a very obedient dog and is a sharp thinker, who has a knack for problem solving, allowing him to become a dedicated and fast learner, and a pleasure to train. He excels at obedience, agility and tricks, and is very competitive in the show ring. Papillons also have the ability to be wonderful service and therapy dogs.

This breed responds well to positive reinforcement, gentle guidance and consistency. He requires a firm, kind, fair and dependable leader. He must have intense socialization when he is young, and must be taught to obey and follow the rules of his master, or he will seek the position as head of the pack for himself. A poorly trained Papillon is not a sweet, friendly or charming pet. If this canine believes he is the pack leader, he will develop Small Dog Syndrome and will display highly negative behaviors that can lead to real problems, including guarding, possessiveness, snapping, obsessive barking, become high-strung, untrustworthy with children and so on. In addition, pooches that are not socialized properly can become nervous, timid and wary of other animals and people.  Hence, training and socialization are a necessity, not an option.

Common Problems – The Papillon has the tendency to bark a lot, and this can become very annoying if not controlled. Teaching the dog to stop barking on command will help with this issue. They can be difficult to housebreak, but a consistent housetraining routine and patience will eventually pay off. Papillons crave lots of attention and love to be with their owners, this makes them highly susceptible to separation anxiety when left alone. To help prevent and ease this problem, owners shouldn’t leave their animal home alone for more than a few hours per day, and need to include their pet in as much of their daily activities as possible.

The bottom line…

Papillons are a resilient, loveable, endearing and beautiful breed that can adapt to just about any living condition (apartment, house, city or country setting), as long as they are provided with the exercise, training, socialization, care and love they need. This canine requires plenty of affection and attention from his owner, and is not suited to a person or family who is away for many hours of the day. He should be included in as much of his family’s lifestyle as possible, and should be provided with good challenges to keep him happy.

The Papillon is a smart and wonderfully charming pooch that is truly one-of-a-kind in both his appearance and in his companionship.

Filed Under: Papillon Training


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