The beautiful Papillon dog has been a treasured breed throughout history. From their popularity in royal courts to the attention they received from historical figures like King Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette, these little dogs are nothing short of glorious. This dazzling and regal breed remains one of the most popular canines in the world today.
Delightful but restless, Papillons are not exactly ideal for dog owners or families with small children. They have boundless energy that makes them naturals at sports, but hard to tame for the inexperienced. But, at the end of the day, Papillons are incredibly affectionate and loyal dogs that can be perfect for the right owner!
Papillon Dog Breed Characteristics (Physical)
These dogs have a famed appearance — no doubt. Papillons are often depicted in paintings from a few of history’s most renowned artists like Rubens, Goya, and Rembrandt.
Perhaps their most recognizable trait is their beautiful, butterfly-like ears. The word “Papillon” means butterfly in French, in reference to the unique shape of this breed’s ears. There is a less common drop-eared variety of Papillons called the “phalene,” the French word for a moth.
Both ear types are accepted by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as part of the breed standard. The phalene variety more rare, but it is not uncommon to find both ear types of Papillon in the same litter.
The Papillon’s large, erect ears have luxurious feathering. They have small, dark, round eyes that are constantly darting around, surveying their surroundings.
Despite their slight, dainty build, Papillons have athletic bodies that help them excel at physical activities. They have well-developed shoulders and hind legs that allow them to jump high and run like the wind.
Papillons have relatively long lifespans at around 12-16 years. Smaller breeds typically live longer than larger breeds because they mature and grow at a slower rate.
Papillon Dog Breed Size
The Papillon is a small dog that puts them in the toy dog breed category. They stand 8-11 inches at the shoulder and weigh on average only about 5-10 pounds. Males can be slightly larger than females, but the difference is barely noticeable with their diminutive sizes.
Any Papillons over 11 inches is considered to be faulty by breed standards. Disqualification from the official breed standard usually means the dog’s pedigree has been mixed with other breeds and is not pure.
Papillon Dog Breed Personality
You might be surprised at how much liveliness, energy, and adventure is packed into the small bodies of Papillons! They are constantly seeking stimulation, so it’s rare to find a quiet moment with them. Papillons are highly independent dogs that are more content with running and playing than cuddling and watching TV.
The Papillon’s high energy level and constant need for stimulation can often put them in mischievous situations. Whether they are peeing on your rug or digging through the garden, Papillons may be a little challenging to train at first. You should begin training your Papillon as early as possible to limit destructive behaviors.
Most Papillons are charming and sociable dogs. If they don’t feel threatened by a stranger, they will be more than happy to play and give wet dog kisses. However, Papillons also have a loyal and protective side that makes them excellent watchdogs if they sense danger.
Papillons also have an affectionate side that is constantly seeking your attention. Their need for physical and mental stimulation is matched by their desire to please. Remember to give your Papillon plenty of care and attention, so they aren’t bored and left to cause mischief!
Like most dogs, if Papillons are left alone for extended periods, they may develop separation anxiety. If you are gone for hours a day at work or often take business trips, Papillons may not be the best breed for you. Many breeders recommend raising a Papillon with other pets to ensure they can stay engaged at all times and not feel lonely.
Papillon Dog Breed Exercise
Papillons are an extremely active breed that requires moderate to intense levels of physical activity. Plan to give them at least 2-3 walks per day, lasting about 20-30 minutes each. Having a yard is a huge plus since it gives your Papillon extra space to run around without having to leave the house.
Papillons can make great exercise buddies as they will be excited to join you on hikes or long runs. Since Papillons also excel in dog sports, you can find many ways to work them, such as playing fetch or throwing frisbees.
Also, giving your Papillon regular exercise and stimulation will help tire them out and make it easier for you to care for them. They will be calmer after they’ve run 20 laps around the park, and you can rest easy knowing they won’t cause mischief later.
The best way to manage their high energy levels is to create a consistent exercise routine. Plan walks in the mornings, after lunch, in the evenings, or at night to help burn off their energy throughout the day.
Papillon Dog Breed Training
Papillons are extremely intelligent dogs, but they can be pretty stubborn if you don’t apply the correct training techniques. Like other tiny breeds, Papillons may have small dog syndrome. This causes them to see themselves as more significant than you, which leads to trouble training them. Obedience classes are the best way to remedy this issue!
Positive-reinforcement is one of the most effective ways to train all dogs, regardless of breed. Most dogs respond well to rewards such as praises or treats. By positively associating rewards with good behaviors, you can reinforce good behaviors and quickly train your Papillon.
CBD calming chews are an excellent training tool for Papillons because they can make your dog take their energy down a notch and make them more receptive to commands. Plus, you can use the treats to reinforce good behavior.
Try to keep training sessions short and sweet to cater to your Papillon’s short attention span. Always stay positive, and never get frustrated if the first couple of sessions are unsuccessful. It may take more than a few tries to get the basic commands down, but as long as you stay consistent, Papillons will be able to pick up their training with ease.
Early socialization to new sights, sounds, and smells goes a long way towards helping your dog become well-rounded as an adult. Exposure to new experiences and other dogs helps desensitize your Papillon to potential stressors like loud noises or strangers.
Though socialization continues through your dog’s entire lifetime, command training can begin as early as eight weeks old, around the time you can bring new puppies home from the breeder. Training your dog as early as possible is critical for building good behaviors before bad habits set in.
Papillon Dog Breed History
The Papillon originated in France around the 13th century. One of the oldest toy spaniel breeds, they were initially called “dwarf spaniels.” These early toy spaniels are ancestors to today’s English Toy Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and the Papillon. Although the locals nicknamed the breed “Papillon” for the ears, the breed is sometimes called the Continental Toy Spaniel.
The Royal Lapdog
Beginning in the 16th century, Papillons were bred to be royal lapdogs for noblewomen across Europe — a practice that continued for hundreds of years. The breed is depicted in many classical paintings during this era, painted by many of history’s most famous artists like Rembrandt and Goya.
You can trace the Papillon throughout history with these works of art. Many of these paintings depicted Papillons with their noble owners, indicating the breed’s immense popularity with royalty across the continent.
Prized for their beautiful looks and miniature size, Papillons quickly became favorites of high royalty, including King Louis XIV, King Henry II, and Marie Antoinette. You can often find Papillons in paintings side-by-side with these well-known historical figures.
Oddly enough, the first Papillons were of the drop-eared variety. The erect-eared variety (and the most common one today) didn’t emerge until the late 1800s.
Popularity in the US.
The first Papillons arrived in the United States in the late 19th century. Papillons quickly gained popularity as people flocked to own this beautiful and stunning breed.
By 1915, the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the first Papillon. Not long after, the Papillon Club of America (PCA) formed in 1935 as the first official breed club.
In 1998, a Papillon named Loteki Supernatural Being won the “Best in Show” top prize at the prestigious World Dog Show. Less than a year later, Loteki Supernatural Being won “Best in Show” at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, solidifying the Papillon’s status as one of the most capable and beautiful breeds in the world.
Papillon Dog Breed Health Problems
Papillons are generally very healthy, but like all breeds, they can still develop certain genetic conditions. Most health issues have been eliminated by responsible breeding, but some might slip through the cracks. Always double-check with the breeder to ensure that the dog has been screened for any health conditions!
Patellar luxation causes the kneecap to slip out of place and dislocate. Toy breeds or smaller dogs are typically more at risk for this condition than larger breeds. In most cases, patellar luxation occurs when the ligament attaching the kneecap to the knee is not centered properly, causing abnormal shifts and eventual dislocation.
In milder cases, the dog will not feel any pain. Your dog may not even experience any issues at all. Interestingly, about half of the dogs affected by this condition will have dislocated kneecaps in both of their hind legs, while the other half is only affected in one knee.
In some cases, patellar luxation can occur as a result of a severe injury. You may notice skipping or total lameness in one or both legs. Here are some other signs your dog may have this condition:
- Skipping or awkward gait
- Lameness in one or both legs
- Excessive shaking or flailing in an attempt to pop the kneecap back into place
- Bow-legged appearance in hind legs
- Decrease in movement
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar (glucose), is a serious issue in smaller pets and toy dog breeds. Active dogs are also prone to low blood sugar if they overexert themselves during physical activity. Some symptoms of hypoglycemia in dogs are:
- Loss of appetite
- Increased hunger
- Low energy, weakness, or loss of consciousness
- Inability to complete simple tasks
- Anxiety or restlessness
- Excessive tremors or shaking
Hypoglycemia is most commonly seen in diabetic dogs due to insulin treatment decreasing glucose levels in the blood. If loss of consciousness occurs, take your dog to the vet immediately for treatment. If your dog does not receive treatment in time, the hypoglycemia may damage its brain beyond repair.
Immediate treatment typically involves consuming foods high in sugar or glucose or injecting glucose into the dog’s bloodstream. Maintaining proper diet and exercise are the only ways to control hypoglycemia.
Tracheal collapse occurs when the trachea, the airway that brings air from the nose or mouth to the lungs, collapses on itself and restricts breathing. This condition is most common in middle-aged or toy dog breeds.
The cause of a tracheal collapse is unknown, but experts believe that it is an inherited condition that occurs from not having enough tracheal rings. Some signs of a collapsed trachea include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Loud, honking coughs
- Vomiting, gagging immediately following a cough
- Excessive wheezing
Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, cough suppressants, steroids, bronchodilators, or sedatives to manage the condition. Prescriptions can reduce coughing, which can irritate the airways. Try to keep your dog away from air pollutants like smoke to improve breathability. For severe cases, vets may have to surgically repair and place rings around the trachea to prevent it from collapsing again.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive retinal atrophy is a degenerative eye disease that eventually leads to blindness in the dog. PRA occurs in two forms – early and late-onset.
In early-onset PRA, the photoreceptor cells do not develop normally, causing permanent vision problems during growth. In late-onset PRA, the cells start to deteriorate over time after they have developed. PRA occurs most commonly in mixed breeds and found mainly in male dogs.
PRA is not a painful condition and may be harder to detect during the early stages of development. However, you may start to notice certain signs that indicate impaired vision loss, such as:
- Night blindness or reluctance to go into dark rooms
- Bumping into objects or walls
- Glossy or reflective pupils
- Increased clumsiness
There is currently no treatment for PRA, and dogs affected typically lose complete vision within 1-2 years. Fortunately, dogs are highly capable of living without vision and have heightened senses of smell to help them walk around the house.
If your dog has been diagnosed with PRA, you can start training them on how to live without their eyesight. Keep their food and water bowls in the same place every time, and lead them to furniture and walls to teach them where everything is.
An open fontanel is a hole in a dog’s head that results from an underdeveloped skull. This condition is more common in smaller breeds, and it can be quite dangerous as it leaves the brain exposed. Veterinarians usually identify open fontanelles by finding a soft spot in the skull, but other signs can be a lack of coordination or eyes pointing in odd directions.
Open fontanelles are often inherited. They can lead to other complications like brain infections or brain fluid buildup, called hydrocephalus. If you notice any soft spots or holes on your dog’s head, take them to the vet immediately for diagnoses.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for open fontanelles. It is vital to make lifestyle adjustments to prevent any trauma or injuries to the affected spot. You can also buy special headgear to help protect your dog’s head.
How to Care for a Papillon Dog Breed
Papillons are royalty and not suited for outdoor living! But, their compact size makes them great apartment dogs. If your Papilion is going to be your flatmate, be prepared to give them plenty of physical activity opportunities. If they don’t get enough exercise, they may run all over the house, potentially knocking things over.
Although Papillons are athletic dogs, they have a thin frame and are prone to injury if they get too worked up. Teach them to dismount from high areas safely or provide steps to allow them to come down quickly.
Nutrition and Feeding for a Papillon Dog Breed
We generally recommend feeding your adult Papillon about a quarter to half a cup of high-quality dog food per day. It’s best to split their feedings into multiple meals so they don’t eat too quickly! Eating too fast can cause bloat, which is dangerous for your dog.
Every dog’s diet and feeding amount will vary based on their activity level, age, and metabolism. A more active dog will need more food than a dog that doesn’t get much exercise.
Monitor your dog closely to determine how much to feed them. If your Papillon constantly asks for more food, they may have a quick metabolism that causes them to be hungry more often. You can always consult a vet or pet nutritionist for more specific guidance!
Small dogs are especially prone to obesity, so be mindful of how much human food and snacks you feed your Papillon.
Coat Color And Grooming
Part of the Papillon’s beauty is their long, flowing coat that is extremely soft to the touch. Their silky, coat flows in the wind with heavy feathering around the ears, backs of the legs, and chest. At the end of their body, the Papillon’s fluffy tail stands proudly in the air.
Papillons are particolored, meaning they are typically white with patches of other colors. These colors are most commonly:
- Brown (chocolate)
- Tan or sand
- Sable or fawn
How to Groom
Papillons only have a single layer of hair, so it is relatively easy to keep them well-groomed. Their coats do not usually get tangled or matted, but we still recommend brushing them weekly to keep the coat healthy and shiny. Brushing also helps distributes skin oils that can protect their skin and coats.
A great tool to use is a stainless steel pin brush with long fine teeth. You can also use a grooming spray to protect the coat. The spray will make the coat easier to brush and help remove any dirt. Remember to brush the tail at the end!
Papillons keep themselves pretty clean and do not require constant bathing. You can bathe them once every couple of months or as necessary if they get dirty playing outside. Papillons typically are odorless and clean dogs!
Small dogs are usually more prone to gum disease, so try to brush your Papillon’s teeth at least once or twice a week. Start grooming your dogs early to help them become used to the process. Daily brushing is ideal for keeping their mouths clean and tartar-free.
Keep your Papillon’s nails short, so they aren’t snagging on furniture or scratching you when they jump in your lap. Daily exercise and activity should be enough to wear the nails down, but if you can hear them clicking on the floor, it’s a sign they need trimming. Be careful not to trim the nails too short. Dogs have blood vessels and nerves in their nails, and it can hurt if you cut them on accident.
Children And Other Pets
Papillons are great for families, but their high energy levels may be too much for young children. Mishandling a Papillon can lead to injuries or cause them to defend themselves. Many Papillon breeders won’t sell to families with small children for fear that the dog will be injured.
However, you can still teach children how to properly pet and handle a Papillon. Teach proper manners for playing, such as never grabbing a dog by its tail or disturbing the dog while eating. Always supervise interactions between young children and your Papillon to ensure that neither party gets hurt.
Papillons are not aggressive animals and can get along great with other pets. If you have a cat at home, they may even become best friends since they’re similar in size. Papillons may try to boss around larger dogs, but they are still very friendly and can fit into almost any household.
Rescue groups are fantastic volunteer, non-profit organizations that save homeless or surrendered dogs. Many of these canine rescue groups are dedicated to a specific breed and work closely with breed organizations to find forever homes for dogs.
One of these fantastic rescue groups is the Papillon 911 Rescue & Adoption, Inc., based out of Marietta, GA. They are a national organization that rescues Papillons and Papillon mixes alike, providing necessary food, shelter, and medical care. The group’s main mission is to rescue Papillons from breeding mills, and to date, they have saved 551 Papillons since 2010.
Consider adopting from a rescue group if possible! Rescue groups are diligent in ensuring all the dogs are medically cleared before being adopted. You’ll be saving an animal from the streets and providing a much-needed home.
The official breed club in America for Papillons is the Papillon Club of America, Inc. The organization is recognized by the AKC as the parent breed club. The PCA is an excellent resource for all things Papillon-related. You can find great information about upcoming Papillon events, detailed care tips, and even find a directory of Papillon breeders in the US.
The PCA is a membership club that offers a great chance to meet other Papillon enthusiasts and learn more about the breed. There is also a dedicated section on how to find reputable and responsible breeders. Check out the website to find everything you need to learn about Papillons!
More About This Dog Breed
Papillons are among the most popular breeds in America, but they are still relatively uncommon to find. It may cost over $300 to adopt from a shelter and about $1000-3000 to adopt from a breeder. Show or competition-quality Papillons with a pure bloodline may cost even more!
Always get the medical history and any health condition screening tests from the breeder to ensure the Papillon you are adopting is fully healthy. Otherwise, any health issues that arise can cost you thousands of dollars out of pocket from the vet.
Papillons are wonderful dogs that have a lot of spunk and energy. They take a lot of patience to deal with, but taking the time and effort to train and raise them can make them one of the best family companions you could ever have. From royal lapdogs to your couch at home, Papillons are sure to add a bit of spice into your life!