Papillon Dog – The Ultimate Guide

Written by: Bojana Radulovic
Papillons were originally bred to be companion dogs to royalty families in Europe. Since then they got a long way. Read on and learn what this action-packed dog has to offer.
Dog Breed Group:
Companion Dogs
8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
4 to 9 pounds
Life Span:
12 to 16 years

Breed Characteristics:

Apartment Friendly


How well will this breed adapt to apartment living? Is the apartment size the most important factor when it comes to proper living conditions? Is the breed suitable for apartment living?

Good For First-Time Owners


Some dogs aren't suitable for first-time dog owners. Is this breed a good match for someone with no dog experience? Can training help them be on their best behavior with owners with no dog experience? Are they suitable to be handled by someone who is just entering the canine world?

Overall Sensitivity


Some dogs are sensitive. Certain breeds are rough on the outside, while having the softest heart on the inside. In other words, some dogs are 'thick-skinned' while some are 'easygoing.' Is this breed prone to sensitivity?

Tolerates Being Alone


Separation anxiety in dogs is a serious condition that can affect a dog's life quality. Is this breed prone to this condition? Can you leave him alone for hours? How destructive this breed can become when bored, neglected, or not loved enough?

Affectionate With Family


How affectionate this breed will be around his humans? Will he welcome new family friends easily or he will choose to be shy? Some breeds can be clingy with owners, while others don't attach a lot. Will this breed act as the family's best friend?



Some dogs will tolerate children, while others will adore well-behaved ones. Dogs and children should always be supervised, no matter how well trained the dog might be. Will this breed act as a nanny dog or he will stay away from children?

Friendly Toward Other Dogs


Some dog breeds cannot wait to run to the dog park and run with others. Others prefer to be with their humans, and not to be a part of a multi-pet household. Is this breed dog lover or not? How friendly this breed will be toward other dogs?

Friendly Toward Strangers


Some dog breeds tend to be reserved toward strangers and highly suspicious. Others are fast to walk away with them easily. How welcoming this breed is toward strangers?

Drooling Level


If you love to clean all the time drooling level in dogs is a trait that you should mind. Is this breed less likely to drool, or you will always need a towel on hand?

Easy To Groom


Heavier shedding during the shedding season is something that every dog needs to go through. However, some dogs shed just a bit all year round. Is this breed one of them? How often should you groom this dog?

Overall Health


What can you expect from this breed in terms of health? Are there any genetic conditions to vary about? Is obesity a major issue in this breed? By knowing more about the dog's health, you are learning how to help him live a longer and healthier life.

Prone To Obesity


Treats are a great addition to training sessions. Dogs love sweet bites of dog treats but they should be served in moderation. Treats can lead to obesity, next to poor nutrition. Can this breed gain extra weight from treats? How prone to obesity this breed actually is?

Trainability Level


Training some dogs is easier than others. How easy this dog will be to train? What can you expect? Some dogs are huge people pleasers and they will master commands easily, while others will try to outsmart you.

Intelligence Level


Dogs are smart beings. We do our best to train them, but they do still end up training us to adapt to their needs. How intelligent is this breed? Will he try to outsmart you? Or he will need multiple training sessions to master basic commands?

Prey Drive


Dogs were bred for a specific purpose. Those who were bred to hunt have natural instincts to hunt, even today. This is why many dogs, like Terriers, will chase other animals. They will also have a hard time concentrating on your commands when there is something small moving. Is this breed prone to following his prey instincts?

Barking Level


How vocal this breed is? Can you expect neighbors to ring you often to calm your dog? Or you can sleep without worries of hearing your Fido bark? Some breeds are highly vocal, others have unusual sounds, and some are silent. Is this breed prone to barking?

Energy Level


Low-energy dogs are happy with regular walks and indoor chill times. High-energy dogs are always ready for action. Is this breed a couch potato, energetic dog, or somewhere in between?

Exercise Needs


Some dogs are more than happy with a slow stroll down the street. Others need hours of active time to stay happy and fit. Is this breed demanding in terms of exercise? How much exercise this breed needs to stay happy and healthy?

Playfulness Level


Some dogs never lose that puppy spirit, not even in their senior years. Others are more serious and prefer having a job to do. Is this breed demanding in terms of playfulness? Can you expect playfulness in their senior years as well?

The Papillon dog is also known as the Continental Toy Spaniel. This breed is one of the oldest of the toy spaniels. ‘Papillon’ means ‘Butterfly’ in French. They were named like that due to its large, winged shaped ears. There are even some Papillon with erected ears, known as a Phalene type.

Quick Facts

Real name: Papillon
Other names: Phalène (drop ear type), Continental Toy Spaniel, Epagneul Nain Continental
Origin: Belgium/France
Common nicknames: Butterfly dog, Squirrel dog
Breed type: Companion Dog
Weight: Male 8–10 pounds (3.6–4.5 kg), Female 7–9 pounds (3.2–4.1 kg)
Height: Male 8–11 inches (20–28 cm), Female 8–11 inches (20–28 cm)
Lifespan: 12-15 years
Color: White with patches of anything but liver
Coat: Straight, long, fine, single layered

Papillon Dog: History

Originally, Papillons were bred as companion dogs for noblewomen, and they were great favorites and lapdogs for hundreds of years. They were one of the biggest favorites in the royal courts of Europe. Nowadays, you can see the love the royalty shared for them in numerous portraits of long-ago princesses and queens. The world’s greatest painters, such as Goya and Rubens included this breed in their paintings.

Papillons were developed during the Renaissance by crossing toy breeds of the time with spaniels. At the time, this breed was also known as ‘dwarf spaniels’. Also, that era was remembered for keeping the era’s mania among nobles for miniaturized versions of their favorite breeds.

The origin of this breed is French, Belgium, and Spain. As a high-status dog, the breed was admired by Marie Antoinette. Therefore, the breed is well connected with its french side. This breed will forever be linked with France and Marie Antoinette.

Namely, the Papillon named Thisbe was Marie’s dog who stood faithfully outside the prison where the helpless queen awaited beheading. However, with time the breed starts loosing on its popularity. In the early breeding centers of Italy and Spain, the breed gains its popularity again. The AKS registered its first Papillon in 1915.

Papillon Dog: The Name

The word papillon, meaning ‘butterfly’ comes from the French language and it refers to the breed’s fringed upright ears. Their ears are special and they do resemble a butterfly’s outspread wings.

The Papillon also comes in a drop-eared variety called the phalene, which means ‘moth’ and stands for a cousin of the butterfly that folds its wings at rest. Interestingly, both varieties can be born in the same litter. However, the Papillon is more popular and more recognized variety.

Papillon Dog: Physical Appearance

The Papillon is a small, friendly, and elegant toy dog with a fine-boned structure. It seems like his body was made for lively action because this breed is all about being active and going to adventures. Their beautiful butterfly-like ears are what distinguishes them from all other breeds. Eyes are always dark and alert like they are in dogs, overall.

The head is generally small, while the skull is of medium width and gently rounded between the ears. Interestingly, the neck is medium length, while the belly is tucked up. Their tail is always long, set high, and covered with a long and flowing plume. The body is covered with long, fine, and silky coat.

There is no undercoat. Interestingly, any Papillon can be disqualified from dog show if his height is over 12 inches and if he is an all-white dog or a dog with no white.

Papillon Dog: Personality

Papillons are small in size, but it has nothing to do with their true spirit. This is a true action-packed breed. This small dog comes with a lot of energy! In general, Papillons are alert, happy, friendly, and fearless. They are also one of the most intelligent breeds nowadays. This is something that you should consider if you are looking for dogs that are easy to train.

Surprisingly, for a smaller dog, Papillon is not aggressive or shy. They are extremely playful, and also one of the most friendly breeds nowadays toward children, strangers, dogs, and even other pets. When you have a lively breed such as Papillon you need to understand that this breed thrives on mental stimulation, so you have to make sure that you can provide several interesting and challenging games both outdoor and indoor.

Are they good with children?

Yes, Papillons love children, so they will be more than happy to spend time with them. However, a combination of a tiny dog and a young child, especially a toddler, can be unplanned recipe for disaster. If children don’t respect the dog’s boundaries, he will most likely defend himself.

When it comes to this breed, you will have a difficult time to find a breeder that will give you the dog if you have toddlers. Simply said, they are scared that Papillons might be injured. On the other hand, if you wait for a little for toddlers to grow, you can visit the same breeder, because he is showing the traits of a responsible breeder.

Always teach your children how to behave around dogs

Are they good with other pets?

Your Papillon will get along well with other pets, including cats. However, when it comes to cats it’s important to introduce them at a young age. You can expect to see Papillon bossing around to other pets, especially bigger dogs, and this may not or may cause problems. Interestingly, it’s not unusual for the smallest dog to be the one in charge.

Do they suffer from separation anxiety?

Papillons always form strong ties with their family members and other dogs or pets, that they are never happy when they find themselves left on their own for a longer time.

Although they won’t develop strong separation anxiety, you should think twice if this is your breed, if you spend the majority of your time outside and you are never sure when you will be at home. That being said, Papillon would be the perfect choice for people who work from home or there is always someone staying with them in the household. If left alone for long, your Papillon might develop separation anxiety or may demonstrate destructive behavior.

Papillon Dog: Training

The Papillon is an intelligent dog who is always ready for some outdoor action and ready to please his owner or family members/owners. Therefore, they are easy to train. However, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to invest your time and energy into proper training. You need to put your Papillon into several new situations. Also, training should start as soon as you get your Papillon home and not before he turns a minimum of 8 weeks. Anything below 8 weeks will be pointless, as dogs are not capable to learn that young.

All dogs are little stubborn and Papillon is no exception. So, make sure that you have some treats on you to help him stay focused. In general, they quickly pick on up commands, therefore, are easy to train.

The biggest challenge here might come with puppies, especially when it comes to housetraining, but with a proper plan and with understanding and perseverance, you will manage to teach them to do their business outside. Puppies are really cute and it is also easy to spoil them when they first arrive in the home. However, you should introduce them rules and commands, and moreover where are the boundaries so that a Papillon truly understands what kind of behavior is not acceptable and what is acceptable behavior.

Like many other toy breed and small breeds, if you let them get away with too much they can develop ‘small dog syndrome’. This syndrome is something that you want to avoid. The very first commands that your Papillon needs to learn are so called basic commands.

Papillon Dog: Exercise

Papillons are perfect for city life or apartment living due to their small size. However, their size by no means presents their exercise needs. That being said, bear in mind that Papillons need regular and adequate exercise outdoor. After all, they are active, intelligent dogs and they will want their people to play with them. When indoors they need should be entertained and played. They will quickly learn to retrieve a small toy or a ball.

Outdoor, they will happily chase chipmunks, squirrels, and even insects. Interestingly, they don’t realize how small they are, so owners need to watch carefully if they set out after a larger dog, or even s big size cat such as Maine Coon.

Papillon Dog: Grooming

Papillons need only a little grooming, which is more than surprising for a breed with long and silky hair. The main reason why this breed is so thankful when it comes to grooming lies in the fact that this breed has no undercoat.

Basically, grooming every month or so is fine. However, you should brush your Papillon at least once a week, and you should expect seasonal shedding. While you are brushing your dog you should run through the hair inside the hind legs, behind the ears, and thigh hair, as mats tend to form there. Your Papillon will need a bath every few months or when he or she becomes especially dirty or muddy.

Their nails grow fast so make sure that you clip them regularly, especially the dewclaw, which can curl around and even pierce the leg. Of course, don’t forget about regular puppy vaccination and afterward, regular gums checking and dental health, and regular veterinarians check-in.

Papillon Dog: Health

The truth is that Papillons are tough, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are small. So, as an owner, you need to be extra careful while they are puppies. Clean their way around stairs, larger animals, and furniture. Also, keep the small children away, unless they have been taught how to act around pets, especially smaller dogs. Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as a fontanel in the top of the skull, which is similar to a human baby’s soft spot.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

Ophthalmologist Evaluation
Patella Evaluation
Cardiac Exam

Papillons are generally healthy just like any other breed. Likewise, they are prone to a few problems including von Willebrand’s disease, elbow dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia. Health check-up is mandatory from time to time to prevent Papillons from getting these diseases.

The Takeaway On Papillon Dog

Papillons are one of the most popular breeds when it comes to having an active intelligent small dog breed. Everything that makes this breed so unique is not-size related.

They have a great personality, amazing preferences for outdoor life, and a lot of patience when it comes to mingling with children and other pets, including cats.

As long as you introduce this breed at an early age with other pets, they should get along nicely. However, this doesn’t apply to squirrels or smaller animals (even insects) that move fast.

Overall, this breed is fragile while they are puppies and can be easily injured. Therefore, they are more suited for families with bigger children. To get a healthy Papillon, always check the breeder and find the responsible one, or if you are set for adoption to check the local shelter.

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