Papillon Dog

A Great Companion Dog with Plenty of Spirit

Papillon Dog

A Great Companion Dog with Plenty of Spirit.

Looking for a lively, playful little dog that's easy to train and super intelligent? The Papillon dog is one of the smartest of all toy breeds. Full of energy, this is not what you would describe as a "lap" dog, as it is constantly in motion, especially as a puppy. However, even though Papillon puppies are always looking for a way to entertain themselves, you won't have to worry about your pet wrecking your home, as this is a breed that's graceful and light-footed. Wonderful with children as well as with other pets, the Papillon is a great companion dog with plenty of spirit.


Dating back some believe more than 700 years, the Papillon has had various names throughout the years and has one of the longest histories of the toy breeds. Some of the names given to the breed through time include the Continental Toy Spaniel, Dwarf Spaniel, Little Squirrel Dog and Belgian Toy Spaniel. Papillon, the French word for "butterfly," can be seen in tapestries, paintings and sculptures dating back as far as the 1300s.

In fact, the history of this popular breed has been traced through these works of art. Italy is where toy spaniels resembling this breed were first found. Beginning around 1500, these delicate, tiny little dogs were often painted by Tiziano Vicelli. The Papillon dog was the subject of many famous artists, including Paolo Veronese, Fragonard, and Watteau. The FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) considers Belgium, England and France the countries of origin of the Papillon. There have been many stories throughout the centuries associating this breed with royalty. It is said that Marie Antoinette clutched her small pet Papillon under her arm as she was led to the guillotine. The AKC first recognized this breed in 1935.


Longer than it is tall, the Papillon dog has one feature that definitely stands out from the rest – its unique butterfly ears that are large and well-fringed. Fine-boned and very petite, this breed is one that is full of grace and elegance, which is surprising given its playful, lively nature. In most cases, your pet will stand less than a foot tall as an adult, usually growing to only about 11 inches.

Nearly any color may be found in the Papillon, but a distinguishing mark is usually a band of color across the nose, which extends up to the ears, highlighting the "butterfly" effect. Chest, ears, and legs typically have longer hair, while that of the skull and muzzle is shorter. The coat is long, layered, straight and soft with no undercoat.

Lips, nose, and rims of eyes are typically black in color. The coat may be nearly any color from white and black, red, lemon or sable; to blackish red with white; blackish brown with white, red, or sable; white, or white and silver. Most weigh between 5 and 10 pounds as adults, which is very small. They also have a generous plume of a tail that curls up over the back.


Neither aggressive nor shy, the Papillon is a dog that is friendly, happy, and even adventurous, capable of finding something to do or even creating new games to entertain itself. Your puppy will love to play and exercise, and acts completely unaware of its small stature. Smarter than a whip, this is the most obedient and responsive of all toy breeds.

While your dog won't be aggressive toward strangers, it will likely bark excessively when someone who is unfamiliar approaches. When socialized from an early age, your dog will get along well with other pets. Because Papillon puppies grow to a small size, take care that small children don't play too roughly with them.

This breed craves attention, and does not like to be left alone for long periods of time. Behavior issues such as chewing or digging may result if your pet becomes lonely or bored. Thus, this would probably not be the breed of choice for owners who work full-time and are gone much of the day. As long as it gets the attention that it needs, you will find your pet to be happy, friendly, playful, and extremely intelligent.

Proper Living Environment

Whether you live in an apartment, townhouse, in a suburban home, or on a farm, the Papillon dog will adapt well. However, it will not tolerate extremely cold temperatures and should be supervised when outside in cold weather. Because this is a delicate breed, those who live in your home should be gentle and careful about dropping your dog, squeezing too hard, or accidentally sitting on it.

While the Papillon loves to be outdoors where it can explore, chase birds or insects, and just run around freely, it's recommended that you have a fenced-in area so that the risk of injuries is minimized.


Dental problems such as gingivitis are more common in smaller, toy breeds like the Papillon, simply because they have smaller teeth and a more fragile root structure. This could cause tooth loss, but regular brushing and providing chew toys to prevent the accumulation of tartar can help.

Patellar luxation is a genetic disorder common to this breed, a condition in which the kneecap may become displaced because of weak ligaments. PRA (progressive retinal atrophy), an eye problem in which the retina deteriorates, is another condition that many breeds suffer from. Various types of liver shunts may also affect the Papillon dog, causing symptoms such as lack of appetite, depression and fatigue, and occasionally seizures or balance problems. Contact your vet at once if you notice any of these symptoms.


Sometimes known as the "wash and wear" breed, the Papillon will have a beautiful and luxurious coat if properly groomed. Lengths of coats vary from short to long, depending upon ancestry. To keep your dog's coat shiny and healthy, brush frequently while hair is slightly damp. Do not pull mats out, but brush in small sections while pulling the matted area apart gently with fingers. Be sure to brush inside the rear legs, behind the ears, and other areas that tend to mat.

It is not necessary to bathe your pet every week unless you condition the coat with oil, as some breeders do. Otherwise, bathe about once per month or whenever the coat becomes grimy or dirty. Trim the hair between the pads of the foot; keep nails trimmed as well. As mentioned above, the Papillon is prone to oral problems such as gingivitis or periodontal disease, so caring for the teeth is essential, as mouth infections can lead to damage of the kidneys and heart.

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