Don't let the delicate package fool you — though the Papillon will fit on your lap, this extrovert is happiest romping around and making friends.
- Dog Breed Group
- Companion Dogs
- 8 inches to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
- 4 to 9 pounds
- Life Span
- 12 to 16 years
Adaptabilitybased on 6 ratings
Trainabilitybased on 6 ratings
Health & Groomingbased on 6 ratings
All-around friendlinessbased on 4 ratings
Exercise needsbased on 4 ratings
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The Papillon dog breed descends from the toy spaniels that are frequently portrayed in paintings by the Old Masters, from as far back as the 16th century. He's highly active and is a wonderful competitor in agility and obedience. His sparkling personality makes him a favorite of all who meet him.
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The Papillon, whose name comes from the French word for butterfly, is a portrait come to life, the modern representation of the small spaniels often seen in paintings from centuries past. The dwarf spaniel, as he was once known, has changed somewhat in appearance over the years, but he's still the same wonderful companion who graced the laps of ladies and kings so many years ago.
The word papillon, meaning "butterfly," refers to the breed's fringed upright ears, which resemble a butterfly's outspread wings. The breed also comes in a drop-eared variety called the phalene, which means "moth," a cousin of the butterfly that folds its wings at rest. Both varieties can be born in the same litter, although the Papillon is the more popular and recognized variety.
While he might be categorized by size as a lap dog, the bright, busy, and curious Papillon is no shrinking butterfly. If you want a dog to sit on your lap while you watch television, he's probably not the best choice. He's more likely to be flitting around looking for something to do and will happily rid your home and yard of any small rodents that might be lurking there. And this small dog in a sturdy package takes seriously his duties as family companion and guardian. He has a big-dog attitude and a level of alertness that makes him a super watchdog, but when it comes to protecting you it's important to make sure he doesn't bite off more than he can chew. He has no idea that he weighs only 4 to 9 pounds.
The Papillon is outgoing and energetic. He loves to be with people and is a happy dog who gives kisses freely to all. The Papillon's small size makes him easy to handle, and his coat, while profuse, is easy to care for and doesn't shed excessively.
His energy level ranges from moderate to intense, and being highly trainable he's a great choice if you want to participate in dog sports such as agility or rally. Papillons are also excellent competitors in the obedience ring and are the number-one toy breed in obedience competition.
All Papillon owners should attend obedience class if only to ensure that they don't spoil their charming companions. Papillons can develop a stubborn streak if not shown early that such behavior will not be tolerated. On the plus side, their will to please and desire to succeed make them good at learning tricks or anything else a creative person can teach them. Papillons can even learn to pull a tiny cart and will proudly pull it in parades.
Papillons get along well with other pets in the family, including cats, if introduced at a young age. The fearless Papillon will often boss around dogs much bigger than he is, and this may or may not cause problems. It's not unusual for the smallest dog to be the one in charge.
Papillons love children, but the combination of a tiny dog and a young child can be a recipe for disaster. A Papillon may leap from a child's hands and injure himself if he's not being held correctly, and he won't hesitate to defend himself if he's being mistreated. No matter what the breed, dogs and children must always be supervised when they're together.
This is a long-lived breed. It's common for Papillons to live well into their teens, and if you're considering purchasing one you should take that into consideration. The dog will be a member of your family for years to come.
A Papillon made breed history in 1999 when for the first time one took Best In Show at the Westminster Kennel Club show. The dog, Ch. Loteki Supernatural Being, or Kirby to his friends, also won the World Dog Show in Helsinki, Finland, and the Royal Invitational in Canada in 1998. This dog's wins introduced the breed to many who had never seen or heard of the Papillon and has contributed to the breed's rise in popularity. Nonetheless, you won't find a Papillon on every street corner. He's not a rare breed, but he's not common, either. Most breeders have a waiting list because Papillons tend to have small litters.
The Papillon has been bred for centuries to be the ultimate companion. They are extremely people oriented and demand to be included in their person's life at all times. If you are looking for a lively, energetic, outgoing, and gregarious companion this could be the breed for you. You and your Papillon will live happily together for many years.
- Some lines can be nervous, high-strung, and timid. This is not appropriate for the breed. Avoid puppies with these characteristics or puppies from parents with these characteristics.
- Papillons do not do well in environments where there is little time for the dog. They will choose to be never separated from their human companions.
- Puppies are fragile and can be injured by rough and tumble play. They are not suitable for families with very small children.
- Papillons are among the breeds sensitive to anesthesia. Keep this in mind when scheduling any surgical procedure.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they're free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
HistoryThe Papillon was portrayed in portraits dating to the 16th century, a testament to the breed's age and staying power. Rubens, Watteau, Boucher, Van Dyke, Rembrandt, and Fragonard all portrayed them in various artworks, usually accompanying their doting mistresses. The little spaniels were favorite companions of court ladies throughout Europe. Traders carried them in baskets on mules through France, Italy, and Spain.
The early toy spaniels from which the Papillon descended had drop ears, but in the 17th century court of Louis XIV a small spaniel with upright ears was developed and given the name Papillon for its resemblance to a butterfly. Other names by which the breed has been known over the centuries include Epagneul Nain (dwarf spaniel), Dwarf Continental Spaniels, Little Squirrel Dogs (because their full, plumed tail resembled that of a squirrel) or Belgian Toy Spaniels.
Besides the ears, the only other major change in the breed's appearance was in color. Originally the little spaniels were solid-colored, but these days they're white with patches of color. Otherwise, a Papillon today looks much the same as one you might see portrayed in a painting in the Louvre. The drop-eared variety, known as the Phalene, still exists although he's not as commonly seen. The Papillon ranks 35th among the 155 breeds and varieties registered by the American Kennel Club.
SizePapillons stand 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder and weigh 4 to 9 pounds.
The Papillon is happy, alert, and friendly. He should never be shy or aggressive. This is, however, a take-charge little dog with a moderate to intense activity level. He's very smart and highly trainable and is best described as a doer, not a cuddler.
Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialization. Puppies with nice temperaments are curious and playful, willing to approach people and be held by them. Choose the middle-of-the-road puppy, not the one who's beating up his littermates or the one who's hiding in the corner. Always meet at least one of the parents — usually the mother is the one who's available — to ensure that they have nice temperaments that you're comfortable with. Meeting siblings or other relatives of the parents is also helpful for evaluating what a puppy will be like when he grows up.
Like every dog, Papillons need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences — when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Papillon pup grows up to be a well-rounded dog. Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Papillons are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Papillons will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Papillons, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts — the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf) — is not properly lined up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
- Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a possible problem with all toy breed puppies. Hypoglycemia is easily treatable in the early stages but can be fatal if not treated. It is important that breeders and owners of toy breed puppies recognize the signs and symptoms because this condition can often be misdiagnosed as viral hepatitis or encephalitis by veterinarians. A puppy with hypoglycemia will slow down and become listless, followed by trembling or shivering. Place some honey under his tongue and get him to the vet immediately. If the situation is allowed to continue, he'll eventually collapse, go into convulsions, fall into a coma, and die. Any time your Papillon is limp, with grayish-blue gums and tongue, it's an emergency. Hypoglycemia occurs in toy puppies because they do not have the fat reserves to supply adequate glucose in times of stress or when they do not eat regularly.
- Collapsed Trachea: It is not completely understood how this occurs, but the rapid inhalation of air causes the trachea to flatten and makes it difficult for air to enter the lungs, much like a soda straw being drawn on too vigorously. This condition may be inherited; it occurs in certain breeds, and dogs with it show an abnormality in the chemical makeup of their tracheal rings in which the rings lose their stiffness and become unable to retain their circular shape.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don't make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable breeders have their dogs' eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.
- Open Fontanel: Papillons are born with a soft spot on the top of their head. Usually the soft spot closes, much like a baby's will, but sometimes one will not close fully. An accidental blow to that spot on the head could kill a Papillon with an unclosed soft spot.
Papillons are housedogs and aren't suited to living outdoors. They are active, however, and will enjoy having a yard where they can run in wild, fast circles. If that's not available, however, they'll make do with tearing through your house and jumping on and off the furniture. They are often described as mountain goats, so don't be surprised if you find yours up on the kitchen table or some other high spot.
Adults need two or three 20- to 30-minute walks or playtimes per day, and they'll appreciate more if you can provide it. Start puppies with two or three 10- to 15-minute walks and gradually increase the time and distance. Puppy or adult, they'll let you know if they're getting tired by stopping or sitting.
Although they grow up to be sturdy little dogs, Papillon puppies can be fragile. They can easily break a leg soaring off the back of the sofa or jumping off the bed, so try to avoid such situations by teaching them to use steps to get on and off furniture or waiting until you lift them down.
Papillons are easy to housetrain if you keep them on a schedule. Always take them out when they first wake up in the morning, after every meal, after naps, after playtime, after a grooming session or bath, and just before bedtime. When you can't supervise them, they should be crated or placed in a puppy-proofed room.
Crate training benefits every dog and is a kind way to ensure that your Papillon doesn't have accidents in the house or get into things he shouldn't. A crate is also a place where he can retreat for a nap. Crate training at a young age will help your Papillon accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized. Never stick your Papillon in a crate all day long, however. It's not a jail, and he shouldn't spend more than a few hours at a time in it except when he's sleeping at night. Papillons are people dogs, and they aren't meant to spend their lives locked up in a crate or kennel.
Train your Papillon using positive reinforcement techniques such as food rewards, praise, and play, and you will soon find that he can learn anything you can teach.
Recommended daily amount: 1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
It's easy to overfeed a Papillon, but he has delicate knees and shouldn't be allowed to get fat. Keep your Papillon in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the hands-on test. Place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Papillon, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat, Color and Grooming
The Papillon's long, flowing coat is straight, fine, and silky, with no undercoat. Cascading down his chest is a frill of hair. His beautiful butterfly-like ears are fringed with hair, and the insides are covered with medium-length silken hair. Feathering covers the backs of the forelegs, and the hind legs are dressed in breeches, a fringe of longish hair on the thigh area, also known as culottes. Topping it all off is a long, flowing plume of a tail carried proudly arched over the body.
The Papillon is always parti-colored, white with patches of any color. On the head, any color other than white covers both ears back and front and extends without interruption from the ears over both eyes. The ideal Papillon has a clearly defined white blaze and nose band, but one with a solidly marked head still makes a great companion. The nose, eye rims, and lips are black.
The coat isn't prone to matting but should be combed and brushed once or twice a week to distribute the natural skin oils and keep the hair and skin healthy. The Papillon doesn't have a doggie odor, so bathe him only as needed. He's a wash-and-go kind of dog. Trim nails two or three times a month or as needed. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Small dogs are prone to periodontal disease, so start dental hygiene early. Brushing your Papillon's teeth two or three times a week — daily if possible — will help keep them clean and tartar-free.
Children and other pets
Papillons love children, but the combination of a tiny dog and a young child can be a recipe for disaster. A Papillon may leap from a child's hands and injure himself if he's not being held correctly, and he won't hesitate to defend himself if he's being mistreated. Many breeders won't sell puppies to families with toddlers for fear that the dog will be injured.
Make it a rule that young children can only hold or pet the Papillon if they're sitting on the floor. Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Papillons get along well with other pets in the family, including cats, if introduced at a young age. The fearless Papillon will often boss around dogs much bigger than he is, and this may or may not cause problems. It's not unusual for the smallest dog to be the one in charge.
Papillons are often purchased without any clear understanding of what goes into owning one. There are many Papillons in need of adoption and or fostering. There are a number of rescues that we have not listed. If you don't see a rescue listed for your area, contact the national breed club or a local breed club and they can point you toward a Papillon rescue.
All Breed Characteristics
Measures how well this breed potentially adapts to different environments
Measures the amount and difficulty of training potentially required for this breed
Health & Grooming
Measures how much effort this breed potentially needs to keep a tidy hound and home
Measures this breed's potential to get along with other dogs and humans
Measures this breed's potential to require lots of physical activity
Adapt well to apartment living
Contrary to popular belief, small size doesn't necessarily an apartment dog make -- plenty of small dogs are too high-energy and yappy for life in a high-rise. Being quiet, low energy, fairly calm indoors, and polite with the other residents, are all good qualities in an apartment dog.
Affectionate with family
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they've been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn't the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
Amount of shedding
If you're going to share your home with a dog, you'll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds: Some dogs shed year-round, some "blow" seasonally -- produce a snowstorm of loose hair -- some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you're a neatnik you'll need to either pick a low-shedding breed, or relax your standards.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you've got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you're a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog that rates low in the drool department.
Easy to groom
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog that needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Easy to train
Easy to train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word "sit"), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training. Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a "What's in it for me?" attitude, in which case you'll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they're more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells. Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you'll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise -- especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, such as herding or hunting. Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don't like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Friendly toward strangers
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with a wagging tail and a nuzzle; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn't mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they're at an increased risk. If you're buying a puppy, it's a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you're interested in, so you can ask the breeder about the physical health of your potential pup's parents and other relatives.
Good for novice owners
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don't get the mental stimulation they need, they'll make their own work -- usually with projects you won't like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
A vigorous dog may or may not be high-energy, but everything he does, he does with vigor: he strains on the leash (until you train him not to), tries to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who's elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who's on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (aka pit bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren't so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they're not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Potential for mouthiness
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn't puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or "herd" their human family members, and they need training to learn that it's fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a chew toy that's been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Potential for playfulness
Some dogs are perpetual puppies -- always begging for a game -- while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Potential for weight gain
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that's prone to packing on pounds, you'll need to limit treats, make sure he gets enough exercise, and measure out his daily kibble in regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Dogs that were bred to hunt, such as terriers, have an inborn desire to chase and sometimes kill other animals. Anything whizzing by -- cats, squirrels, perhaps even cars -- can trigger that instinct. Dogs that like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you'll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren't a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won't chase, but you'll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called "easygoing," "tolerant," "resilient," and even "thick-skinned," can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world's smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if he is compatible with you and your living space.
Tendency to bark or howl
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how the dog vocalizes — with barks or howls — and how often. If you're considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you're considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious "strangers" put him on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby?
Tolerates being alone
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive, barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Tolerates cold weather
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Tolerates hot weather
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can't pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, the dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you'll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they'll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses, or that bunny that just ran across the path, even if it means leaving you behind.
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