Breed Group:
Companion Dogs

Middle Age: 6 years

Geriatric Age: 12 years

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

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Papillon Breed Info & Background

The Papillon is a cute, long-haired toy breed descended from the dwarf spaniels that were popular in 16th century Europe. The Papillon breed is named for its distinctive look created by its upright ears that frame it’s delicate and expressive face. Combined with it’s long, gently textured flowing hair, the ears create a unique outline that is the namesake of the Papillon breed. Papillon, meaning “butterfly” in French, captures the silhouette of this dainty breed. They were also exceedingly popular with European nobility from the 16th century onward and were common gifts for visiting nobility from different countries. Although early Papillons were all characterized by their perky ears, as time went on, litters could contain both erect and drop-eared variants. Papillon’s with drooping ears were known as Phalene, or “moth,” in French. These designations are still used today to distinguish Papillon ear characteristics.

The Papillon breed has been bred to serve primarily as companion or lap dogs, although they have the intelligence to function in other roles. As befitting their role, Papillon’s are incredibly small dogs, weighing only 4-9lbs on average and standing 8-11” tall. The Papillon is one of the oldest toy breeds, and their continued popularity stands as a testament to their suitability for their role as a companion to humans. Although the exact provenance of their breeding is unknown, it is believed that the breed had been distinguished from the Continental Toy Spaniel by the mid 16th century France through the work of breeders in both France and Belgium. Although carrying their French name, Papillon’s were primarily bred in Spain and Italy, both of which were known for their dwarf spaniel breeding programs.

Papillon Temperament & Personality

Papillons thrive on human companionship with their gentle, amiable, and playful personality. From the beginning of the breed, Papillon’s have been bred for this purpose and it shows. They are intelligent, curious, and love to please their owners. Their innate desire to spend as much time with their human companion as possible can lead to separation anxiety, so this is not an ideal breed for owners who will be gone from home for long lengths of time. The Papillon is considered friendly towards all, including others of the four-legged variety. It should be noted, that someone should be supervising them while they are playing with larger dog breeds. Papillons are small and light, and can be easily injured if not properly supervised.

Papillon Trainability

The Papillon is considered the most obedient and trainable of all toy dog breeds. Their natural intelligence allows them to learn new commands quickly, and retain training well over time. The Papillon is very sensitive to their owner’s moods and desires, so using positive reinforcement to reward good Pomeranian behavior will produce much better results than scolding or punishing. The Papillon is a curious dog, so they will be happy to incorporate training into their daily exercise routine.

The Papillon’s alert nature and natural desire to please, when combined with dedicated obedience training, can come together to create a dog that performs exceedingly well in competitions. Papillons are renowned for their prowess in agility competitions, mixing their high energy with adherence to their owner’s commands to put on masterful demonstrations of both obedience and agility for crowds and judges alike. Because Papillons are so incredibly trainable, it is highly encouraged for owners to regularly work towards training their companions. This will help owners avoid behavioral issues that stem from boredom, as well as provide an additional level of stimulation that can greatly benefit the Papillon.

Papillon Exercise Requirements

The Papillon has a lot of energy for a small dog and will have higher exercise requirements than some other toy breeds as a result. The Papillon should be brought on a daily short walk around the block. Owners should also have several play or training sessions throughout the day. Integrating training into your play sessions will give your Papillon some mental exercise alongside physical movement, which will help them be happier over both the short and long term. Your Papillon may also let you know when they demand more exercise or playtime. They are an outspoken breed and are not afraid to bark at you to let you know that they are displeased. Owners recount stories of their dogs repeatedly dropping toys in their lap to let them know they want to play. This intelligent dog will need a lot of attention, so be prepared!

Papillon Lifespan & Longevity

A healthy dog breed, a Papillon lifespan tends to be longer than other breeds. On average, Papillon life expectancy ranges between 12 and 15 years of age, with some exceptionally healthy dogs living even longer.

Papillon Breed Popularity

According to the AKC, the Papillon is currently ranked as the 53rd most popular dog breed. This indicates popularity, but not an abundance of it. There are a few factors that have probably reduced the popularity of this breed. The first is that they are high energy dogs that require a lot of attention. This may not appeal to many owners in today’s society. Secondly, for a small-sized companion dog, Papillons require some work to be fully housebroken and well behaved.  While they are exceptionally trainable, some owners may not have the patience or time to really invest in their Papillon. Lastly, the popularity of the Papillon has surely been impacted in recent years by the increased popularity of designer breeds such as the Cockapoo and Maltipoo, which fill the same niche as the Papillon but do so in a more laid back and easygoing manner.

Feeding Requirements for Papillons

The Papillon should be fed between ¼ and ¾ of dry food a day, split into two meals. Papillon’s vary in size between 5-12lbs, so take this into consideration when deciding meal portions. Also, if your Papillon exhibits any signs of allergies to certain foods, be sure to consult a veterinarian to determine the best course to take.

As with any breed, the quality of the food is the most important aspect of feeding. Be sure to feed your Papillon only foods where the two most common ingredients are high-quality proteins and vegetables. Avoid foods with grain fillers such as corn or soy, as these are not easily digestible and can lead to health problems and allergies.

How to Groom a Papillon

The Papillon is relatively easy to groom. It has no undercoat, so its long hair is much easier to care of. The Papillon should be brushed at least twice a week. Additionally, ensure checking their ears for wax buildup or signs of an infection, and trim their fast growing nails regularly. Lastly, be sure to brush your their teeth regularly to maintain optimal Papillion health by preventing the development of periodontal disease.

Are Papillon’s Good with Kids?

Although Papillons are friendly with humans of all sizes, they are recommended only for households that have older kids. The reason behind this is simple; the Papillon is a small dog that can be easily injured. They will be fine around younger kids, but be sure to supervise their play time so your Papillon doesn’t end up hurt.

Papillon Health Issues

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a hereditary disease that manifests as a deterioration of the photoreceptor cells, or cells responsible for perceiving light, in your dog’s eyes. PRA usually begins gradually, and you may only notice that your Papillon has a diminished capacity to discern objects in low or dim light. However, as PRA progresses it can lead to a complete loss of vision.

Cataracts: Cataracts affect Papillions more than any other breed. This is a condition where the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy or occluded. This condition typically affects older dogs, but can also develop in very young dogs. Cataracts can be treated surgically in some cases.

Patellar Luxation: Patella luxation is a painful condition that occurs when the kneecap dislocates from its normal place on the femur. Teacup and miniature breeds are particularly prone towards developing patella luxation, so Papillon’s are at an elevated risk of having this condition. If you notice your dog developing a sudden limp following exercise, or avoiding putting pressure on one leg, it may be because they have dislocated their kneecap. Pay close attention to your Papillon during their daily exercise, and be sure to bring them to a veterinarian if you suspect they may have suffered a dislocation. Patella luxation can be detected during routine physical examinations by your veterinarian and may present at any time during your dog’s growth.

Seizures: Seizures in dogs are usually the result of epilepsy. In cases where your animal suffers seizures with no known underlying medical issue, it is diagnosed as idiopathic epilepsy. If the seizures are a symptom of an underlying medical issue, it is referred to as symptomatic epilepsy. Seizures in dogs usually take the form of a tonic-clonic seizure or a seizure that is outwardly apparent through an uncontrollable motor function in the limbs. This will usually be accompanied by a loss of consciousness, and be followed by a period of decreased mental activity and exhaustion. While there is no definite treatment for idiopathic epilepsy, symptomatic epilepsy can be treated by addressing the underlying medical condition. For this reason, it is very important that if you believe your animal has had a seizure, be sure to consult a veterinarian so they can conduct an examination.

Periodontal: Periodontal disease is an inflammation in the structures that support the teeth, with accompanying bone loss in those structures. This disease is essentially a buildup of bacteria on the structures supporting the tooth, which leads to decay. Toy dog breeds, Papillon included, are particularly predisposed towards developing this condition. Your Papillon will need regular teeth brushing at home, and most owners should consider an annual teeth cleaning with their veterinarian.

Other Resources

national breed websites: Papillon Club 
rescues: Papillon Haven Rescue

Health Issues Associated with this Breed: