Papillon – Everything You Need To Know

Papillon belongs to the Spaniel-type breed of dogs. This toy breed is a scene of stunning beauty with its large and distinct butterfly-wing-like ears and symmetrical face. Interestingly, his distinct appearance has contributed to deriving his name from the French word ‘Papillon,’ which means ‘butterfly-eared’. Papillon comes in a couple of varieties where. One is butterfly-eared, and the other has characteristic dropped ears called the Phalene.

Papillon Pros and Cons

Loving companion dogsSusceptible to stubbornness 
Highly Trainable Prone to separation anxiety
Long live breed Highly energetic

Papillon Basic Information 

  • Name: Papillon
  • Origin: France
  • Group: Companion dogs
  • Size: Small
  • Height: 8 – 11 inches
  • Weight: 4 – 9 pounds
  • Coat: Long, flowy and silky
  • Color: Parti-colored, white with patches of any color.
  • Energy: Medium to high
  • Activities: Watchdogs, companion dogs
  • Barking Level: Low to medium
  • Shedding Level: Low to medium
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 1 – 3 puppies 
  • Other Names: Continental toy spaniel
  • Breed’s Original Pastimes: Family companion, guardian and watchdog
  • Life Span: 12 – 16 years 


Papillon’s origin can be traced from portraits of the 16th century. These little Spaniels were often portrayed in the painting of royal and merchant-class European families. In some other portraits, they are often seen accompanying their mistresses of early Europe. Hence, this popular breed was most prominent in England, France, and Belgium.  

Types of Papillon


The Phalenes bear droopy ears that resemble a moth (a French word for moth – Phalene). Otherwise, they share the same features as their cousins – the Papillons. 

Papillon Highlights 

  • Papillons are known for their butterfly-wing-like ears. Despite the two varieties, Papillons have especially attained popularity.
  • Papillons are active and energetic toy breeds that need some exercise to keep them off their destructive behavior. 
  • They are known to be fragile beings. Hence, they have to be handled with care, especially when around children.
  • Papillons are sensitive to anesthesia. 

Papillon Personality 

The Papillon has a petite personality with fine bones. Their head is small, symmetrical, and apple-shaped. Further, their head is slightly rounded between their large ears. Their ears can be either dropped or butterfly-wing-like and covered with hair. Before ending with a well-defined stop, their short, thin muzzle tapers to the nose. Their tail is covered with hair, set high, and carried over the body. They are single-coated and white with patches of varied colors. 

Friendliness Overview

Affection level Medium to High 
Family-friendly High
Kid-friendly Medium
Pet-friendly Medium to High 
Stranger -friendly High

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment living High
Good to new owners High
Sensitivity level Medium
Tolerates being alone Low
Cold-tolerance Low to Medium
Heat-tolerance Medium to High 

Papillon Physical Features 

Head: Papillons wear an alert expression with a small head accompanying medium-sized, dark, round eyes with black eye rims. Their ears can be drooping and down or like the spread wings of a butterfly. They are blessed with small, black, rounded, and flat noses. They have thin and tight lips that accommodate teeth meeting in scissor bites. 

Neck: Papillons have medium-length necks. 

Topline: They have a straight and leveled back. 

Body: They have a characteristic medium-depth chest with well-seen ribs while their belly is well tucked. 

Tail: They have a long, highly set tail that arches over their body. Further, it is covered with a long, flowing plume on either side of the body. 

Forequarters: They have well-developed shoulders to facilitate movement without hindrance. Their forelegs are slender, fine-boned, straight, elongated, thin front feet. 

Hindquarters: Their hind limbs are well-developed and inclined. The slender hind legs are finely boned and appear parallel to each other with elongated, thin hind feet. 

Coat: They are endowed with a long, fine, silky, and flowing coat devoid of an undercoat. Their hairs appear fringed around their ears and thin around their feet.

Color: They are particolored, white with patches of any color except the liver. 

Gait: They have an effortless and graceful gait. 

Papillon Temperament 

Papillons are a petite bunch of joy who wear an alert expression and are pretty companionable. They love being around people and don’t do well when alone. Their lively nature and energetic disposition may encourage destructive behavior. Therefore, you have to give them enough physical and mental stimulation. These dogs are good with kids. However, they have to be supervised to prevent mishaps. With appropriate social opportunities, gel with other pets, including cats.  

Papillon Training 

Papillons are smart canines that can be house-trained on a schedule. They need a yard or open lawn to drain their bursting energy. However, if you don’t have that option, you must take them out frequently for a walk or play. Further, positive reinforcement techniques work well with them through food rewards, praise, and play. 

Crate training is necessary for your Papillons to learn to stay confined in a place. This will keep them from unwanted accidents and remain a place of retreat for a nap or helpful during any hospitalization. However, they should spend a maximum of a few hours inside a crate. 

Trainability Overview

Easy to train High
Intelligence Medium to High
Mouthiness tendencies Medium
Barking and Howling tendencies Low to Medium
Prey drive Medium to High 
Wanderlust tendencies Low

Papillon Exercise Needs 

Although Papillons must be taken outdoors often, they are people-oriented house dogs. Given their spirited nature and smart minds, you must take adult dogs for 20- to 30-minute walks twice or thrice a day. However, for a puppy, you must start with 10- to 15-minute walks and gradually increase their time. If they stop, you must take it as a sign of tiredness. They love jumping and reaching elevated points, which is why they are called mountain goats.

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy level Medium to High 
Exercise needs High 
Intensity Medium 
Playfulness High 

Papillon Grooming 

Papillons are devoid of an undercoat, while they are blessed with a straight, long, flowy, and silky coat. Their chest is covered with a cascading frill of hair, while their ears are fringed with hair. Further, they have scattered hair around their forelegs, hind legs, and thigh. Their tail ends with a flowing plume carried over and dangled along their side. 

  • Their coat isn’t prone to matting. Hence, brush and comb once or twice a week. These canines are generally free of doggy odor and can be bathed only when required.  
  • Trim their nails when you feel their growth and must expedite when you hear a clicking sound on the floor when they walk. 
  • Since small dogs are prone to periodontal diseases, brush your Papillon’s teeth twice or thrice a week to help them avoid tartar buildup. 

Grooming Overview

Easy to groom Medium 
Drooling tendency Low
Amount of shedding Low to Medium 

Papillon Health

Papillons are generally blessed with robust health. However, they are predisposed to certain medical conditions due to their ancestral genetics. Here are specific medical conditions you will have to look out for:

Health Overview

Overall health Medium 
Weight gain tendencies Medium 
Size Low

Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia is a disorder that can affect several tiny dog breeds. It results when a dog’s blood sugar level drops too low. This can occur in dogs :

  • After an exercise session
  • Skipped meal
  • While witnessing an exciting occurrence.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from hypoglycemia, make an appointment with your veterinarian. 

Corneal ulcers: Canines with flat faces or prominent eyes are predisposed to corneal ulcers. Depending on the severity of the ulcer, your canines will be advised to take pain-relieving medications like antibiotics, eye drops, ointments, or surgery. These ulcers are painful and may cause other symptoms, such as:

  • Squinting 
  • Pawing or rubbing the eyes
  • Redness and excessive discharge or tearing.

Collapsed Trachea: A dog’s trachea (windpipe) is a muscular tube supported by soft cartilage rings. The trachea travels through the dog’s neck to the lungs. When a dog pulls too hard on a collar or chokes on a chain, it can cause tracheal collapse. On the other hand, many little dogs are born with malformed or weaker tracheal cartilage. This can cause the windpipe to collapse, making it difficult for the dog to breathe. 

Patellar Luxation: Knee Dysplasia, also known as patellar luxation, is a condition that affects both parent breeds. The dislocation of the kneecap can be excruciatingly painful, causing the dog to avoid leaning on the injured leg.

Signs of the luxating patella in dogs:

  • While your dog runs along, he may suddenly pick up a back leg and hop for some time. 
  • He kicks his leg sideways to get the kneecap back in position, which is normal.

Open Fontanel: Toy or small breed dogs are prone to this inherited condition. Dogs suffering from this condition develop a hole in their skull at birth. Although it does not cause any symptoms or discomfort, such dogs will be prone to brain injury and need consistent monitoring. Hence, the only way to avoid this condition is to stop breeding dogs suffering from this genetic disease. 

Recommended tests for the Breed (if any) 

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam

Papillon Diet and Nutrition 

Papillons have fragile knees, which restricts them from gaining weight. Hence, measuring and feeding him 1.25 to 1.5 cups of high-quality dry food is better. Feed him twice a day rather than letting the food on the plate all day long to eat. However, ensure the diet that you feed is measured and tailored to your specific dog’s age, size, activity level, and weight. Additionally, limit the treats you give your dog, especially while training. You can always prefer high-quality dog food, either homemade or commercially manufactured. In the case of a commercial diet, check the label for the statement if it meets the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials.

However, if you suspect your dog of being overweight, you can perform the below tests to confirm the same.

  • Eye test: You must be able to see your canine’s waist.
  • Hands-on test: You must be able to feel his ribs while you place your hands on his back and thumbs on his spine and not see it without pressing hard. If not, he is obese. 

In case of obesity, schedule a visit to your vet and get a mealtime and exercise plan to help him lose those extra flabs. 

Papillon Living Condition 

Papillons are relatively easy to care for canines who adapt well to city and country life. They require an open space to expend their energy, but even if not, frequent walks to the doggy park can compensate. They are small dogs, requiring less food to survive and lacking the doggy odor. Their petiteness aids in making air travel a breeze. They are buoyant with joy and crave to be around their families. Hence, they shouldn’t be left alone for hours as they are prone to separation anxiety. 

Did You Know? 

  1. The Papillons earned the favor of the last queen of France, Marie Antoinette. She is often described as walking to the guillotine with her small pet tucked under her arms. Her pup was cared for in a building that came to be known as the Papillon house. 
  2. The non-English speaking countries still refer to the Papillon as the Epagneul Nain (ENC).
  3. Papillons have another name – Squirrel Spaniel, owing to a variation in their tail (curled over their back like a squirrel). 
  4. The renowned artist Titan portrayed these small dogs in many famous paintings in the 1500s. 

Breed Club Recognition 

  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
  • CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • UKC = United Kennel Club

Adding a Papillon to Your Family

Things to Remember Before Adding a Papillon

Adding Papillon to your family will need proper research about their parent breeds, cost, breeders, health, and certificates. Then, purchase your Papillon from a reputable breeder who will provide you with vaccination and gene testing certificates. Also, ensure the health of the puppy’s parent breeds.

Cost of a Papillon Puppy

The cost of a Papillon Puppy is around $1000 – $2000

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