Papillon Dog: An intelligent, friendly, and alert companion

Last Updated on April 23, 2023

The correct pronunciation of the Papillon dog, despite popular belief, is Pap-ee-on.

This dog breed shares ancestry with spaniels and got its name from the French word for butterfly because of the distinct wing-like shape of their ears.

A Papillon dog close-up image
A portrait of a Papillon dog 

While they are easily trainable, obedient, and intelligent, they are also fun-loving, playful, and affectionate. Paps make for excellent show dogs and are also loyal and family-oriented animals.

Where did the Papillon Dog originate? 

These canines originated in Europe, Spain around the 16th century, where they quickly gained traction, especially with society’s elites.

Papillons are part of the toy group of miniature dogs and have an air of elegance and grace

Avid lovers of this breed included King Henry II, Louis XIV of France, and Marie Antoinette. Many artists at the time also made these small dogs the subjects of their paintings. 

Paps have strong breed ties to France. But Spain and Italy had early breeding centers where this small breed became refined and popularized.

The Papillon goes by Epagneul Nain or the Continental Toy Spaniel in these parts of Europe. 

The early breeds went by ‘dwarf spaniels.’ Paps developed in the Renaissance period by crossing existing toy breeds with spaniels.

The ancestor breed, dwarf spaniel, was later named Papillion, which originated in France. Here they got their name from their signature ears.

During the 1900s, Papillons were great to show dogs and acclaimed throughout England and the U.S.

The Papillion got its first breed recognition from the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1915.

Sometime later, in 1935, they had their own breed club, the Papillon Club of America. They are the official custodians of the breed standard. 

In 1999 a Papillon named Loteki Supernatural Being (Kirby) won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show 1999. He also won the World Dog Show and the Royal Invitational in Canada. 

What does a Papillon look like?

These petite but sturdy dogs have beautiful ears shaped like the wings of a butterfly which, as previously discussed, is how they got the name Papillon – the French word for butterfly. However, not all paps have erect ears. 

When they have drop ears, they go by the name of Phalene, which means night moth. This variety is not considered a fault or defect in any way. Both the erect and drop-eared variety can be born in the same litter. 

All Papillons are born with their ears down. The ears only begin to stand up at a few weeks old but can take up to four months to pop.

As mentioned above, some ears may never stand up. The original Papillon did not have raised ears, and those genes are still present today.

A white and brown Papillon looking up
A white and brown Papillon dog looking up

These butterfly dogs also went by the name of Squirrel Spaniel in France. This is because their plumed tail had a squirrel-like resemblance in the way they carry it curled up on their backs.

Their eyes are dark, round, and alert in appearance.

On their forequarters, they are slender and fine-boned with well-developed shoulders. Their hindquarters are well-angulated and petite. 

Size: How big does a Papillon dog get?

Papillons are little dogs that stand 8 to 11 inches tall and weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. These canines have a fine bone structure and their weight should remain in proportion to their height. 

But don’t let their small size fool you – they are by no means sedentary lap dogs

Most small dogs are fully grown around the age of 6 – 8 months old. However, the Papillon grows slower and matures at around 9 -12 months of age. 

This small breed is adaptable and thrives in most environments, whether it’s an apartment or a house with a yard.

Two Papillon dogs on a bench
Two adorable Papillon dogs on a bench

Papillon dog’s coat & hair

Papillons have a long, flowing coat and no undercoat. Their hair is straight, fine, and silky and Papillon shedding is minimal.

It lies flat on their backs and sides with a lavish frill on their chest. Their coat color is particolored with the base color always being white.

Their coats can have a red, sable, black, lemon, or tan colors along with white which is never absent. They can also have black or tan markings and a black mask. 

Personality: Are Papillons good family dogs?

The Papillon dog breed is amongst the smartest and most trainable of the toy breeds. They are indeed little dynamiting in small packages.

Because of their excellent trainability, they excel in competitions, particularly in areas of obedience and agility. Here they thrive off plenty of mental stimulation. 

While they always maintain an air of grace and elegance, they are lively and playful dogs.

While they love some good lap time in between runabouts, if it’s a calm lap dog you’re after then these squirrel spaniels may not be the best choice. 

A Papillon dog catching a tennis ball in the park
An energetic Papillon dog catching a tennis ball

Are Papillons aggressive?

Paps are very swift and have lightning-fast reflexes which they maintained from their spaniel heritage.

This manifests in their excellent hunting or stalking abilities. Insects, birds, mice, and lizards all fall victim to these speedy Paps. 

Keep this in mind before letting yours off their leash in public, unless well trained. This is a natural instinct and doesn’t necessarily mean that Papillons are aggressive.

Despite their small size, they are surprisingly assertive and bossy which means they aren’t easily intimidated, even by larger dogs. They make rather decent watchdogs for their size because they are so vocal

They are polite with strangers but require adequate socialization before feeling fully comfortable with new people. They are loyal and make great companion dogs because they love being around their humans.

Due to them being rather touch-sensitive, they don’t do well with small children where rough handling may occur. 

Papillons require plenty of active playtimes and don’t love being left alone. For this reason, they make decent apartment dogs if you walk them regularly and perhaps have other pets for company. 

These dogs will even get along nicely with cats if you train them well. They thrive best in a house where they can have plenty of human time and a yard to run in freely. 

These high-energy fellas are not immune to the incessant barking that is common amongst most toy dogs.

They are alert and have keen senses, which means they will sound the alarms when someone is at the door or passing by. 

In order to prevent incessant barking, you have to be quick to stop them. This will only work if your Papillon listens to you and respects you as the boss.

This leader-follower dynamic you can establish is known as Respect Training.

When it comes to training Papillon puppies, consistency is key. Use plenty of praise when they do their business outside correctly.

Being attentive to their needs is also crucial, they’re smart and are likely to tell you what they need and when they need to go. 

They are highly intelligent, so with a consistent and reliable schedule, you will be able to easily housebreak your Papillon pup. 

Similarly, it’s best to introduce them to swimming at a young age and expose them to bodies of water regularly and consistently.

A wet Papillon puppy
A wet Papillon puppy standing on a rock

How do you take care of a Papillon dog?

Papillons are lovely easy-to-care-for companions. They don’t have demanding exercise needs, as long as they get time to run around and play. 

They make excellent part-time lap dogs and part-time exercise buddies. They tend to have separation anxiety when they’re left alone at home because they bond closely with their owners. 

If your schedule results in long periods away from your pup, consider making use of portable baby gates or a crate.

These will help separate them from valuable rugs or carpeting till you get home and can take them outside to go. 

Because they only have a single coat, they may need a sweater in icy weather or some kind of protection against the elements. 

Exercising your Papillon

The exercise needs of a Papillon are not too demanding. While they are active dogs, they don’t require any kind of structured, strenuous activity. 

30 minutes of daily walking should suffice, although some added playtime is ideal. This is when having other pets, even cats are handy. They make for readily available playmates when you aren’t around or are busy. 

A smiling portrait of a Papillon puppy
A smiling Papillon puppy

Grooming: Do Papillons shed?

Their gorgeous butterfly-like ears are their trademark but need regular combing to avoid becoming matted.

Papillons require moderate grooming and combing. Regular haircuts are not necessary because their hair doesn’t grow continuously. 

These fluffy friends are not completely hypoallergenic, but their shedding is minimal. As mentioned previously, they only require brushing a few times a week – two to three times should do the trick.

They aren’t prone to matting in general, but behind their ears and under their arms are the areas to look out for when it comes to knots. 

Every couple of months a bath is good for the health of their skin and general upkeep. One of the best features of these Paps is their lush, silky locks.

Keep this feature in top condition by doing small trims to keep the look uniform. 

What makes Papillon grooming so low maintenance is that it’s limited to their backside. The hair on their face and chest don’t require regular trims as this long hair is their best feature. 

A confident and beautiful Papillon standing
A beautiful Papillon standing on the grass

Getting your Papillon professionally groomed is not necessary. Doing it yourself is fine, but remember not to shave your Pap as this may interfere with their temperature regulation since they don’t have a double coat. 

However, a neat, sporty cut is great for summer. This also minimizes the collection of leaves or debris in their fur when they play outside. These minor trims will highlight the stellar looks of your beautiful Pap. 

Their paws will need some special attention when it comes to grooming. Their nails grow faster than other dog nails. And because their feet are so tiny, it’s important to be careful not to trim too close to their paw.

It’s important to trim the dewclaw particularly (this one grows higher on the leg). If it gets too long, it can curl around and hurt the skin. 

Feeding your Papillon: Food consumption and weight management 

Papillon dogs require a nutrient-rich diet and dog food that suits their age (puppy, adult, or senior).

They can become overweight if not carefully monitored, so keeping an eye on your Pap’s calorie consumption is useful. 

When they are overweight, they are more vulnerable to knee problems. It’s also advised not to leave food out for free-feeding during the day or to feed them human food as both can lead to weight gain.

And while treats are a useful tool in training, too many can lead to obesity. 

What health problems do Papillons have?

A Papillon mother with her pups loving the sun
A Papillon mother with cute puppies

A Papillon’s lifespan is around 12-15 years. A good diet and regular exercise both aid in giving your Pap a long and happy life. They have high energy levels and have a willingness to stay active. 

Reputable breeders will always aim to breed Papillons according to the breed standards. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to develop hereditary conditions.

Unfortunately, there may still be hereditary health problems that occur. These are some of the most commonly found health concerns in Papillons. 

  • Patellar Luxation: This is when the patella slips out of place, also referred to as a loose kneecap. When this happens, it causes pain and lameness until the muscle relaxes and can return to its position. 
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye condition that can lead to blindness. You can detect PRA years before the onset of blindness. 
  • Collapsed Trachea: It’s uncertain how this occurs. You can see it in symptoms like coughing. This is when the tracheal rings lose their stiffness and become unable to retain their circular shape.
  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood pressure shows in paps by signs of listlessness, weakness, and trembling. They may also have low body temperature and if early signs aren’t detected, it could lead to seizures. 
  • Open Fontanel: Papillons are born with a soft spot on the top of their head which usually closes, much like a baby’s will. Sometimes it will not close fully. In which case an accidental blow to that spot on the head could be fatal. 
  • Other health issues and health screening: It’s best to get your Papillon puppy screened for other health issues like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and Von Willebrand’s Disease.

How much is a Papillon dog worth?

While they don’t eat a lot, their food should be of good quality which is often pricey. And keep in mind, that if they do develop diseases, it may cost you a lot. 

Papillons have a small to an average litter size of only two or three pups. 

A Papillon puppy is likely to cost between $500 – $1,900 with the average Papillon dog price being $1,000.

A bored Papillon puppy

You can budget first-year expenses to be around $3,440 and will be about $1,015 per year (or $85 a month) after that.

Through the dog’s lifetime, the average cost of owning a Papillon Dog is $17,650.

Papillon dog breeders

Papillons are a prized dog breed in high demand. Finding a reputable breeder is important when it comes to ensuring good genetic traits in your Pap. 

There are also a few different stores and puppy farms you can visit when looking for your pet papillon. 

These are some of the best Papillon breeders to check out:

  • Papillon Club of America
  • American Kennel Club Marketplace
  • A Breed Apart
  • Swan Creek Kennel

Papillon rescue and adoption

If you’re looking for a Papillon to love and give a new home to, you will find plenty of loveable dogs to adopt from shelters and rescue centers.

Many of the dogs that end up in these institutions have experienced neglect or abuse. 

So while some would need extra love or medical attention, it’s worth it when you can give a dog a better life. For this reason, many people prefer adoption

These are some of the places to consider looking: 

  • Papillon 911 Rescue and Adoption, Inc
  • Adopt a Pet
  • Papillon Haven Rescue
  • Papillon Pals Rescue
  • Pap Adopters

Curious about Papillon mixes?

Many dog parents prefer to get mixed breeds rather than purebreds. Mixed pups are often full of surprises, you can never be sure what you’re going to get.

Even pups from the same litter may look completely different and have distinct personalities. They also tend to live longer and are less prone to genetic disorders. 

And on top of all of these benefits, choosing a mixed breed may often mean you’re saving their life – unlike purebreds, they are often thrown in shelters. Let’s take a look at some of the best Papillon mixes. 

Chihuahua Papillon mix

This mix breed goes by several names, Chions, Papihuahua, Pap-Chi, and Chi-a-Pap. They inherit lovely traits from both parents such as being petite, playful, and loyal.

If you love Chihuahua’s or Papillons and you’re looking for a small dog with a big personality, then this one’s for you. 

A Chihuahua Papillon mix sitting and smiling
Source: @aile519_  / IG

If you love Chihuahua’s or Papillons and you’re looking for a small dog with a big personality, then this one’s for you. 

Pomeranian Papillon mix

There is little known about this hybrid breed. But Paperanian is the name for this mix. They are energetic and affectionate with no shortage of grit. 

A brown Pomeranian Papillon mix sitting
Source: @zivipom / IG

Poodle Papillon mix

Papipoos make a wonderful mix of active, intelligent, and loving pets. They also go by Papoodles, Papi Doodles, Papidoodles, and Papi Poos.

These are devoted family dogs and are in high demand. 

A smiling Poodle Papillon mix on couch
Source: @tobesandbell / IG

Maltese Papillon mix

The Papitese is a designer hybrid of two companion purebred dogs.

These canines are highly social and affectionate and love spending time with their family. Otherwise known as Maltillon, they are cheery and eager to please. 

A standing Maltese Papillon mix dog
Source: @leo_malpapi / IG

Corgi Papillon mix

The Corillon is a small-sized hybrid of the Welsh Corgi and the Papillon. They range between 8 and 12 inches in height and weigh around 25 pounds.

The body is more delicate-boned than the Corgi. And the coat matches Papillon colors with a variety of colors and white markings. The tail is also feathery and curled over the back like a Papillon. 

A Corgi Papillon mix wearing stripes hoodie
Source: @ohmeygord / IG

Who should get a Papillon dog?

Papillons are active, playful, and easy to train. Their intelligence means that they learn fast and are obedient. However, they require a lot of attention and get separation anxiety when left alone. 

A Papillon puppy being held

If you want a dog that also doubles as your shadow, then you’ll enjoy having your Pap follow you everywhere – even to the bathroom. 

If you’re looking for a peaceful, calm dog that you can leave for long periods, then a Papillon is not the dog for you. However, if you want lively, smart, and active, these dogs make excellent companions.

These are quite verbal canines, so you will have to be willing to deal with lots of barking. 

Papillons are not always lap-dogs, despite looking like them. They may prefer jumping and running around to laying on you calmly and cuddling.

They are stubborn, feisty, and tend to bark a lot. While they are mostly healthy and long-living breeds, you may need to consider common health problems along the line.

They are by no means quiet couch potatoes or ideal pets for small children. These canines are portable, intense, dependent, busy, trainable toy dogs.

If this sounds like a good fit, then the Papillon might just be your match. 

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