papillon-dogAt a glance
Alert and sunny, with a royal appearance and a gracious attitude to boot, the Papillon is a hardy little companion dog that seeks to be the best friend it possibly can. Its ideal lifestyle includes heavy human contact, and being able to please the people around it is what makes its day. It originated from the Continental Toy Spaniel, and it took its name from the French equivalent for “butterfly,” since its unique head markings and ear feathering seem to resemble the wings of those beautiful insects. The Phalene, a separate variety of the breed with drop ears, adopted the French word for “moth.” Phalenes and Papillons can be born in the same litter, but Phalenes do not seem to have the same popularity as that enjoyed by their upright-eared siblings.


  • Names – Continental Toy Spaniel, Phalene, Epagneul nain Continental, Pap, Butterfly Dog, Pap, Squirrel Dog (due to tail carriage)
  • Group – AKC: Toy Group; KC: Toy
  • Size – small
  • Life expectancy – an average of 14 years and a range of 9 to 15 years, but some dogs will live even longer
  • Cost of ownership – low to medium
  • Ease of ownership – medium
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Amount of Exercise – medium
  • Amount of Grooming – medium
  • Ease of Training – high
  • Obedience level – high
  • Suitable for Children – medium
  • Amount of Care Required – medium
  • Susceptibility to Health Problems – low

The Papillon is a dignified, well balanced dog bearing a perky and intelligent expression. The breed has the unique trademark of fringed, erect ears that look like butterfly wings, with a “print” on its forehead of a butterfly’s body. Their plumed tail has also earned them the nickname “Squirrel Dog” among the French. A blaze of the butterfly print on the forehead is preferred for the show ring.

dog/bitch min/max

  • Bitch: 7-9 pounds (3-4kg)
  • Dog: 8-10 pounds (4-5kg.)

dog/bitch min/max

  • Bitch: 8 to 11 inches (20-28cm)
  • Dog: 8 to 11 inches (20-28cm)


  • Color – black and white, lemon, white and red, sable, tri color
  • Coat – long and flowing, and is silky in texture; no undercoat; the coat fluffs at the chest area, and is fringed at their ears
  • Shedding – moderate
  • Suffers from Allergies – no
  • Causes Allergies –  yes

The Papillon character can be described as alert, gracious, and fun-loving. They are intelligent and friendly, these dogs find meeting and greeting everyone to be great fun. A normal Papillon is never shy or aggressive.

  • Separation Anxiety –  Low
  • Barking tendency –  High
  • Aggressive tendency –  Low
  • Compatibility Other Animals – Medium
  • Suitable for Children – Medium
  • Watchdog suitability – Medium

Paps, as they can also be called, are friendly and alert. Though the breed usually sounds the alarm when it sees strangers (this can be trained out of them), these dogs are not aggressive in any way. The breed is drawn to human company and wants to join in activities as much as possible! They will deteriorate if made to live outside in a kennel.

The Papillon is probably the most obedient in the toy breed and has the mental capacity for problem solving. Intense socialization at an early age will help them a lot, especially if they are able to interact with cats. They easily absorb obedience and agility training and are highly trainable for the competitive show ring. Their talents and abilities also extend to being excellent therapy and service dogs. The best way to communicate with them is through positive reinforcement, or consistent, loving, gentle guidance. The Papillon also has the knack for learning and performing tricks. One possible area of concern for the breed is its house-trainability, which may vary from dog to dog in terms of ease.

  • Obedience – high

Exercise required
Papillons need to be walked every day. Play will address most of their exercise needs, but, as with all breeds, a walk is the best way to channel the dog’s instinct to migrate. Paps will also appreciate a good run off lead in a safe open area such as a large fenced-in yard.

  • Energy – high
  • Amount required – 20 to 40 minutes per day of walking

The Papillon is a moderate shedder, which is to be expected from its handsome locks. It needs brushing several times a week if not every day. The brushing must also not miss the hair behind the ears and on the stomach as these areas are the most susceptible to matting. The dog will need bathing only when necessary, since dry shampooing typically provide an adequate solution. The pads of their paws also need regular trimming to prevent splaying. Nails need trimming on a regular basis if not exercised on hard ground or walked on a regularly, including the dew claws if they have them. Individual Papillons may need to have their teeth cleaned frequently. Lastly, the breed  has low tolerance for the cold and can have a negative reaction to anesthesia.

The dog’s breeder is a good source of reliable recommendations regarding an adequate dog diet. The breeder is likely to suggest that you follow his or her own diet plan for the first week or so. After this period, the dog owner can gradually orient the dog’s diet towards a new plan, whether it is a good quality dry dog food or raw diet.

A raw diet plan involves some careful planning and purchase of the meat, but the diet itself will mainly consist of raw meat and bone. Some dog owners also give their dogs 4 to 5 raw eggs a week and Salmon Oil most days. There are a few formula guides to compute the quantity of food the dog will require, but the general rule is to feed the equivalent of 2% to 3% of the dog’s total body weight. From there, adjustments can be made depending on the activity level and fitness of the dog.

Grooming needs are not great although regular brushing is important. The fur under the pads can grow extensively, so this hair will need to be trimmed to give the dog better footing. The fur from the hock to floor on the back leg/pastern can be trimmed to give a neater appearance. Paps hold the distinction of not having the usual ‘doggy odor’ that some dogs tend to have. The breed does shed, and bitches do so after each season, unless spayed, while dogs do so once per year. Regular brushing will then come in handy. Puppies at around 12 to 14 weeks have a fluffy coat, then they tend to go through the ‘ugly duckling stage’ and become more or less hairless, and leggy. At around 5 months, these dogs start growing their adult coat, which may take up to two years to fully develop into that of a grown adult. Ear fringing can take up to 3 years.

  • Ease of grooming – high
  • Amount of grooming – low

According to the American Kennel Club, among the aims of Papillon dog breeding is the creation of elegant dogs with butterfly-like ears. Examples of hereditary issues that breeders are working on are progressive retinal atrophy (eye problem), Von Willebrand’s disease (a blood coagulation problem), mitral valve disease (heart defect), and luxating patella (dislocated kneecap). Another less worrisome but just as pressing issue for many a breeder is that some lines have a thinner coat than others.

  • Litter size – average of 3 and a range of 1 to 5

Hardy and healthy, the Papillon is known worldwide for being long-lived. Care must be taken to discourage the dog from jumping to and from considerable heights, therefore straining their bones. Small puppies need to be watched when being handled by exuberant children. Larger dogs also need to be in their interactions with physically inferior Papillons.

  • Life expectancy – an average of 14 years and a range of 9 to 15 years.
  • Susceptibility to illness – low
  • Common health problems – patellar luxation (loose kneecaps), some eye problems, and occasionally a soft spot or fontanel on the skull, and Von Willebrands disease.

The Papillon is a tough little dog that, while said to be friendly and highly sociable, can also  be a firm protector of family property from strangers. But things could be worse, since an neglected and ill-mannered Papillon can be yappy, and not able to be housetrained.

Papillons may not be good for families with small children under six years. Adult dogs are hardy, but it is not so for the puppies, who can be seriously injured by curious kids with rough play. They are, however, at home among families with older children and among elderly people who want companion dogs. They also make effective therapy dogs. The quirk to owning a Papillon is that, compared to other breeds of dogs, the pure-bred Papillon is often zealously protected and tracked by its breed club. Anybody keen on a puppy may have to cool their heels in a waiting list since litters are small (usually two or three pups) and breeders will want to take their time to choose the right owners for their puppies. Breeders will hold on to the pups until 14 or 16 weeks of age.

This breed would do well for an owner interested in obedience work, since the dog is the most superior toy breed in competition. The Papillon, however, is first and foremost a companion, a job it was developed for and to which it remains aptly suited.

Living conditions
Papillons have no qualms about about living in urban areas, but they are less-than-ideal apartment dogs due to their strong territorial instinct which lead them to bark excessively at nearby noises. They need to be trained at a young age to overcome unnecessary barking.

  • Good with Children – Medium

The earliest toy spaniels resembling the Papillon have been found in Italy in the works of art from the time. The breed itself is estimated to date back around 700 years. The breed gained its earliest following in England, France, and Belgium, which are now deemed the countries of origin of the dog, according to the FCI.
The breed proliferated across Europe in the sixteenth century, becoming a permanent fixture in the royal courts and in contemporary royal portraits. The breed was only recognized by the UK Kennel Club in the mid 1920’s and by the American Kennel Club in 1935.

In the United States and as per AKC regulations, Papillons and Phalenes can both come from the same litter and are shown together as one breed. Currently, the AKC calls the breed a Papillon, with the Phalene being the name for the drop eared variety. On the other hand, the FCI calls the breed a Continental Toy Spaniel with two varieties, the Papillon and the Phalene.

The AKC and the FCI are split as to mating between the two varieties. The AKC allows mix mating, which is contrary to the position of the FCI, which is pre-empting potential issues over the position of the ears.

  • County or origin – Europe, especially England, France, and-or Belgium
  • AKC, KC name and group- AKC: Toy Group; KC: Toys

Did you know…

  • Famous Papillon owners include:
    • French courtesan Madame Pompador: Inez and Mimi
    • Actress Autumn Reeser of The O.C.: Gatsby
    • Tech expert Leo Laporte: Ozzy
    • Actor George Takei, Mr. Sulu from Star Trek: Reine
    • TV character Edna Birch from Emmerdale: Tootsie
    • Pop-Punk band All Time Low frontman Alex Gaskarth: Sebastian Bark
    • Singer Christina Aguilera: Chewy and Stinky
    • Japanese pop singer Yuya Tegoshi: Tiny
    • Musician Shinya Yamada: Ben
    • Libertarian Radio Talk Show Host Neal Boortz: Coco
    • Other notable Papillon owners are: French Queen Marie Antoinette
    • Actress Lauren Bacall
  • Henry III, the King of France, simply adored his Papillons and allowed them to sleep in his bed and to follow him wherever they wanted, even to the State Council.
  • King Henry II allegedly spent upwards of 100,000 crowns on his Papillons.
  • Winsor Pilates

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