Papillons have not always been called Papillons. Over the years, they have been known as Epagneuls Nains, Dwarf or Continental Spaniels, Little Squirrel Dogs or Belgian Toy Spaniels.
Contents & Quick Navigation
Papillons (pah-pee-yowns) descend from the Royal Toy Spaniels of Europe. Although the breed’s origins are subject to debate (Italy, Belgium, France, and Spain are the leading contenders, but a few argue for Asia or Latin America), the little spaniels were well-established as continental court favorites by the Renaissance.
They appear in European art as early as the 1300s, and portraits by many of the Grand Masters (e.g. Rubens, Watteau, Fragonard, and Boucher) often include a Papillon or two. Madame Pompadour and Marie Antoinette of France, Queen Sophia Dorothea of Germany, and Queen Ann of Austria are among the aristocratic ladies that allegedly owned Papillons.
However, royal men also doted on these elegant little dogs: France’s King Henry III is said to have carried his to court in a basket!
Throughout most of their history, Papillons had drop ears, making their Spaniel ancestry more obvious. The erect eared Papillon now popular in the United States seems to be a mutation dating from the late 1800s.
In some European countries, the name Papillon (French for “butterfly”) is reserved for this erect-eared dog, while the earlier variety, the drop-eared Phalene (“night moth”) is regarded as a separate breed.
In the U.S. and U.K., however, the two are considered varieties of the same breed, and are shown together.
Another relatively recent change has to do with color. Early Papillons were often solid-colored. Today they are predominantly white (parti-colored) dogs with colored markings.
The AKC registers Paps as white and black, white and lemon, white and red, white and sable, or tri-color (white, black and tan). Other once-common colors such as liver are now seldom in evidence.
Despite their great popularity among the landed and titled of Europe, English-speaking peoples were slow to embrace the Papillon. They were introduced to Britain around 1905.
However, the Papillon that would become the first English champion was not born until 1922, and it would be two more years before British fanciers formed the Papillon (Butterfly Dog) Club. The breed was also shown in the U.S. for some years before the Papillon Club of America (PCA) was founded in 1935. Here progress was even more delayed.
PCA held its first specialty show in 1936, but the club subsequently faltered. Although it was reactivated in 1948, the second specialty was not held until 1954.
Papillons continue to be among the less popular breeds in North America. In the U.S. however, Pap production has recently increased, in contrast to American purebreds overall. Individual registrations for the most recent year (1995) totaled 2,592, putting Papillons 52nd among AKC-recognized breeds.
In 1994, Papillons ranked 53rd, with 2,707 individual registrations. In 1993, they ranked 56th, with 2,594 individuals registered; and in 1992, Paps were #57 with 2,400. Current AKC litter registration data suggest that Pap popularity will continue to rise modestly, particularly after Ch.
Loteki Supernatural Being won the Toy Group (and many hearts) at the nationally-televised Westminster Kennel Club show this past February, with the judge declaring him runner-up for Best In Show. Another Papillon, Tussalud Story Teller, won the Toy Group at England’s prestigious Crufts Show this spring.
In addition to being relatively rare (or perhaps because of it), the Papillon population is unevenly distributed around the U.S., with Pap breeders clustered in urban areas (especially in the East) and pockets of enthusiasts in other regions.
This, along with the Pap’s dainty appearance, diminutive size, and great trainability, probably accounts for their reputation as an ideal city dog. However, many regard the Pap as a “big dog in a small dog’s body.” Papillons compete successfully with the larger dogs in obedience, agility, tracking, and even herding.
They are the top-ranked of all toy breeds in several sports, and Ch. and OTCH Loteki Sudden Impulse, UDX, TDX, MX has the distinction of being the most AKC-titled dog of any breed [CH=Champion; OTCH=Obedience Trial Champion; UDX=Utility Dog Excellent, the highest obedience title currently offered; TDX=Tracking Dog Excellent, the highest tracking title currently offered; MX= Master Agility Excellent, the highest Agility title currently offered]. Paps are also often trained to work as therapy dogs.
One result of the Pap’s relative scarcity is that while some parts of the country offer a lively Pap scene–with specialty clubs and many activities—in other areas, show entries may be disappointing and the selection of breeders from which to chose extremely limited.
There are some sections of the U.S. in which there are no Pap breeders for hundreds of miles in any direction. As a result, some have suggested, regional interpretations of the Papillon Standard have evolved.
In some parts of the U.S., larger Papillons (i.e. closer to the maximum of 12″) are popular in the show ring, but these bigger Paps are said to be penalized by judges elsewhere. This could pose a particular challenge for the uninitiated person in search of show or breeding stock.
Anyone with such ambitions needs to invest many months studying the breed, becoming acquainted with the Paps from various lines, and learning from experienced breeders.
The Papillon is a small, fine-boned dog that competes in AKC’s Toy Group. The average show Pap stands between 8-11″ tall at the shoulder and weighs 3-9 lbs. However, pet Papillons may be smaller or larger than this show ideal. This in no way affects their temperament or value as a companion.
Papillons have much to recommend them as pets. Because of their size, they are easily managed. Their soft, glossy coats require little grooming, save regular attention to ear fringe. As they are not double-coated, there is no big seasonal shed. Paps typically do not suffer from doggie odor.
They adapt equally well to close quarters and country life. While they are indoors dogs without substantial exercise requirements, Paps enjoy the outdoors, and fancy themselves great hunters of birds, squirrels, spiders, even butterflies! Some are also mousers.
Paps usually travel well, and because their crates fit neatly under airplane seats, they are often spared the trials of the cargo hold.
Most Papillons are outgoing happy dogs who love to meet people, sit in laps, and give “kisses”. They do not have a reputation for being high-strung, nervous or fearful. They generally show great enthusiasm for children, cats, and other dogs, if they are raised with them.
However, Paps may be possessive and bossy with other (sometimes larger) dogs, and a Pap in motion may even appear as prey to some dogs. Responsible owners will always remain alert to the problems inherent in such situations.
Many Paps seem not to realize that they are vulnerable because of their size. They are great jumpers, and puppies particularly must be prevented from trying to leap tall buildings. Paps also must be protected from rough handling by children, and an active Pap pup can easily escape a youngster’s arms and land in a way that could break a leg or worse.
For these reasons, some breeders are reluctant to place their pups in homes where children may be too young to appreciate the fragility of a tiny pup.
Papillons are attractive, amusing, and merry companions, and with their keen intelligence and desire to please, they can be readily trained to household routines. Some Paps like to bark, and as with other small breeds, house-training may take longer than for a larger dog.
Obedience training is recommended for all pet Paps, as it can be invaluable in overcoming any stubbornness and in counteracting the natural tendency to spoil such a charming family member. Because of the sizes and types of dogs found in some dog training classes, small dog owners may be reluctant to involve their pets in such activities.
Ask your breeder, veterinarian or dog club for references to responsible trainers, and visit several to watch them work. You are looking for an experienced person who uses positive reinforcement to train and does not permit out-of-control dogs in their classes.
You can also train privately (in individual classes) or at home. Books on dog obedience written by knowledgeable Pap people are listed in the bibliography section below.
New Papillon owners need to carefully review the security of their premises. No matter how snug fencing appears to be, there are often small spaces between fencing and posts, gates and buildings, or under the fence, through which an active and curious pup may be tempted to seek adventure.
Papillons are known as a healthy and long-lived breed. Most remain active and youthful well into their teens. Although they have few hereditary/congenital diseases, problems common to small dogs (such as patellar luxation, “open” fontanels, and bite or palate defects) do occur. PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), a hereditary eye disease that affects many breeds, has recently been found in Paps.
Conscientious breeders now have their breeding stock tested for PRA, and registered with CERF (the Canine Eye Research Foundation). The Papillon Club of America has received much positive recognition for its efforts at halting this problem while it is still rare in the breed.
Papillons are among the more anesthetic-sensitive breeds, and owners should always discuss this with their veterinarians before scheduling surgery or dental procedures. Use of the newer safer (albeit more expensive) anesthetics such as isoflurane is strongly recommended.
Acquiring a Pet Papillon
The uneven distribution of Papillon breeders can present major challenges for those who want to acquire a pet puppy. In areas where demand exceeds supply, and particularly in those parts of the country where there are no Pap breeders, pet prospects can be few and far between.
However, some breeders will ship puppies to new homes in adjacent states (expenses always borne by the buyer). This process is often facilitated by use of videotapes to show off the puppy, its litter mates, sire, dam, and even the breeder and their home or kennel.
The breeder lists published by national or regional breed clubs are generally the best avenue for locating a responsible breeder. Many breeders also participate in the E-mail Papillon List on the internet, and if you join, you will find many helpful folks who can often refer you. (Papillon Club of America and Papillon-List addresses are listed below).
Other sources include referrals by local AKC- affiliated all-breed or obedience dog clubs, and the classified sections of fanciers’ magazines such as the AKC Gazette. There are also some breeders now listed on the internet (see the section below on Online Resources). Remember that all advertising is promotional in nature, and a truly dedicated breeder will be delighted, not offended if you ask for references (names of others to whom s/he has sold pets).
The wise pet-buyer will concentrate on getting a healthy, happy dog with a temperament suitable for their situation. Try to remain flexible regarding size, sex, color, and even age.
Finding the right match is much more important. Don’t be impatient. Many Pap breeders have long waiting lists, and the dog of your dreams won’t be on your doorstep next week. Serious, seasoned breeders (you don’t want to deal with any other kind) will ask many questions, and expect to see references from you before agreeing to part with one of their dogs.
Informed consumers will not be offended, knowing the breeder to truly avoid is the one only interested in making a sale!
Pet Papillons should always be spayed or neutered. Having pets “fixed” while young provides many health benefits, and results in lower vet bills and longer lives. The behavior and convenience advantages of spaying/neutering are also well-known.
Moreover, there are unusual risks, responsibilities, and expenses involved in breeding toy dogs. This is a job better left to those who really know what they’re doing!
No matter how badly you want a Papillon, or how scarce they are in your area, do not purchase one from a pet shop, commercial kennel, or supplier. The little dogs these businesses deal in have typically been bred and raised under deplorable conditions on commercial puppy farms.
The pup in the pet-shop window has been taken from its dam too young so that it can be shipped cross-country and put on display at its most appealing age. Such a pup cannot have been properly socialized and its sire and dam have likely never been seen by a vet.
They certainly have never been tested for PRA or other problems, and are too often depleted by constant breeding. The pups may not only be incubating infectious diseases, and subject to lifelong stress-related disorders, but carrying genes for one or more of the hereditary defects to which our modern dogs are prone.
“Rescuing” such a pup by buying it only perpetuates the cycle. You would be far better off getting a pup of your second choice breed from a reputable breeder, who will be there to provide counsel, support and assistance throughout the life of the dog than to invite heartbreak and huge bills later on.
The Standard is the physical “blueprint” of the breed. It describes the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed otherwise known as type. Some characteristics, such as size, coat quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function for the dog.
Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye color, but taken together they set this breed apart from all others. The Standard describes an ideal representative of the breed.
No individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the breeder to strive for.
The various national/international dog organizations (AKC, the Kennel Club (of England), Canadian Kennel Club, etc) maintain a written Standard for each officially recognized breed.
Standards for any given breed will vary somewhat from one organization to the next. Copies of the standards may be found in the publications listed below, or from the club in question. AKC Standards are accessible from the AKC homepage. URL is http://www.akc.org/