The Papillon dog is a member of the Toy group of dogs, weighing from five to ten pounds and standing no taller than eleven inches.
Papillons are well known for their flowing “butterfly” ears and gorgeously silky coat. The Papillon dog breed is prized by many dog owners for its elegance, dainty appearance, and pleasant temperament.
So let’s find out more if the Papillon dog is a good family breed, and if it is right for you.
What’s In This Guide
- Papillon At A Glance
- In-depth Breed Review
- Papillon Training And Care
- Pros And Cons Of Getting A Papillon
Our readers’ most popular and frequently asked questions about the Papillon.
- How much do Papillon dogs cost?
- Do Papillon dogs shed a lot?
- Are Papillons good family dogs?
- What health problems do Papillon dogs have?
Breed At A Glance
- Popularity: 54 out of 193 according to the AKC
- Purpose: companion animal
- Weight: 5-10 pounds
- Temperament: friendly, cheerful, playful
Papillon Breed Review: Contents
- History and original purpose of the Papillon dog breed
- Fun facts about Papillons
- Papillon appearance
- Papillon temperament
- Training and exercising your Papillon
- Papillon health and care
- Do Papillons make good family pets
- Rescuing a Papillon
- Finding a Papillon puppy
- Raising a Papillon puppy
- Popular Papillon breed mixes
- Papillon products and accessories
History And Original Purpose Of The Papillon
The Papillon dog is thought to have descended from the Dwarf Spaniel. It’s even possible that the Papillon dog breed of today is nearly identical to the Dwarf Spaniel of the past. Only the name and a few small characteristics have changed over the years.
In the 16th century, the Dwarf Spaniel was prized by many royal families, and was even depicted in many paintings by master painters of that age.
The Papillon we know and love today was bred in France, and given a French name (meaning “butterfly”).
The breed’s popularity spread quickly. The Papillon became a popular pet among the wealthy in Italy and Spain. The Papillon dog breed was officially recognized as an AKC breed in 1915, and is a popular show dog breed in the Toy category.
Fun Facts About Papillons
“Papillon” means “butterfly” in French, and the Papillon dog’s name originates from their signature butterfly-like ears. It is pronounced “papiyon.”
The Papillon breed made history in 1999 when it took home “Best in Show” at the Westminster Dog Show, further boosting its popularity.
The Papillon is a small, dainty breed with unique, large ears. From the front, the Papillon’s head and ears take the shape of a butterfly.
The Papillon’s overall appearance is prized by owners and judges alike. It strikes a good balance between daintiness and elegance, with the beautiful signature ears bringing it all together.
Standard Papillon dog size is small, with height running from 8 to 11 inches and weight from 5 to 10 pounds.
Coat and Colors
The Papillon has a long, flowing coat of straight hair. A long plume of hair decorates its tail, which tends to arch proudly across its body.
A Papillon’s fine, silky coat is white with patches of various colors. Black and chocolate are the most common, but many colors are possible.
The ears and parts of the face typically take on these colors, which further highlights the Papillon’s signature butterfly ears. The ears are adorned with long wisps of hair that further accentuate the butterfly appearance.
The Papillon is a friendly, lively breed that loves to play. They are typically not shy or aggressive and tend to be medium to high energy.
Papillons are typically happy, alert dogs. They tend to bark a lot, and will alert their owners to any odd noises. If yapping bothers you, the Papillon might not be the best choice.
In general, Papillons are fairly dependent. They are happiest when surrounded by their humans, and will not do well if left alone for extended periods of time. This breed can be a bit intense. They have high-energy personalities and a tendency to be on the move almost constantly.
Although they may look like lap dogs, Papillons are not a breed that will be content lying about for hours. They are more likely to be roaming the house, looking for something to do!
Are They Friendly?
Papillons are okay with kids, but they shouldn’t be left unsupervised around small children. For one, the Papillon dog is a delicate, small breed, so the child could accidentally injure the dog.
The dog, while typically friendly, will not hesitate to defend itself if treated improperly, so caution is advised for all parties.
Training And Exercising Your Papillon
Papillons are intelligent dogs that generally respond well to training. They are eager to please and highly intelligent.
This breed can be trained to be a show dog or even a service animal. They can be taught regular obedience with relative ease (particularly if trained from a young age), and enjoy learning advanced tricks.
Early socialization is important, as it is with most breeds.
Though Papillon dogs are small and don’t have the extensive exercise requirement of a large dog, they are also athletic dogs that enjoy running and jumping. They thrive with regular exercise, and should be walked at least twice per day.
Papillon Health And Care
Papillons are typically healthy dogs, although the breed is prone to certain health issues.
Some of the most common and concerning include dental issues, tracheal collapse, and patellar luxation.
Poor dentition is particularly problematic with Papillons, as they have small jawbones and small teeth. This makes them more susceptible than larger dogs to losing teeth, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Brushing your Papillon’s teeth regularly is an important part of caring for the dog.
Health Issues to Remember
Tracheal collapse can cause a serious airway obstruction in your Papillon. It is a condition most commonly seen in small dog breeds.
The Papillon dog breed is also susceptible to knee problems, such as torn ligaments and patellar luxation. Patellar luxation is a misalignment of leg bones that can lead to lameness in the leg, limping, or an unnatural gait.
This condition may be present from birth, but typically does not cause issues until later in the dog’s life. It is reportedly the most common orthopedic problem in the Papillon dog breed.
Good breeders will test their dogs for risk factors, often via the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
Other Health Issues For Papillons
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic eye disorder that can cause eye damage and eventual blindness. This is common in Papillons, but most reputable breeders will have their dogs tested for the condition and will not breed dogs that show signs of PRA.
While relatively common, the disorder does not typically take effect until the later years of the dog’s life, and canines are usually good at using other senses to accommodate for a loss of vision.
Papillons are born with a soft spot in their skull, much like humans.
This spot should strengthen in the early stages of growth, but some Papillons may never develop in this area. This can leave the dog prone to serious injury or even death if an accidental blow occurs in the wrong location.
Minimizing Health Issues
In addition, there are special precautions and health concerns to be aware of that are specific to Papillon puppies. We will discuss those in detail a little further down.
Other health problems are always possible, but these are the most common in the Papillon.
To minimize the risk of health concerns, be sure to purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder. Good breeders will conduct health tests on their breeding stock to minimize the likelihood of health problems in the puppies.
Papillon Life Expectancy And Grooming Needs
The Papillon dog tends to live a fairly long life. They often thrive well into their teens, with an average life expectancy of 13-16 years.
Papillons are low to moderate shedders, with seasonal shedding ramping up in the summer.
They are long haired dogs, so shedding will be obvious when it occurs. But, given their small size and relatively low hair loss, this isn’t a breed that will keep your vacuum running seven days a week.
The coat should be brushed once to twice per week to help distribute the natural skin oils. Matting is possible if the coat isn’t brushed often enough, although it’s not a prevalent problem in this breed. And you shouldn’t need to cut or clip your dog’s coat if you groom them regularly.
Nails should be trimmed regularly, about 2-3 times per month. Teeth should also be brushed at least a few times per week, as the Papillon can be prone to periodontal disease.
The Papillon dog usually does not smell, and will require only occasional bathing. Once a month to once every couple months should suffice, depending on your dog’s coat and the environment it spends time in.
Do Papillons Make Good Family Pets?
The Papillon can make a great pet, but it’s certainly not a breed for everyone. The ideal owner of a Papillon is someone who enjoys small breeds, doesn’t mind yapping, and has plenty of time to spend with their pup.
Families with young children should be mindful of their choice of dog breeds. While the Papillon is friendly, it’s not the best choice for very young kids.
If you work a full-time job and will need to leave your dog alone for extended periods of time, the Papillon is not a good choice. This is a highly dependent breed that needs regular human interaction.
And remember that the Papillon is a noisy dog. They tend to bark regularly at any sign of movement or unusual noise. While this is good for alerting the owner to potential dangers, it can quickly become annoying.
Things to Remember
The Papillon dog is a happy, curious, alert breed with a medium to high energy level. They are best described as a “doer, not a cuddler.”
So, while the Pap may look like a lap dog, you will usually find that they are more interested in playing or roaming about than cuddling up on the couch. They will do best with an active family.
Rescuing A Papillon
Since Papillons have such a generous expected lifespan, it might make sense for your circumstances to open your home to an adult dog in need.
Adopting a dog has several benefits. For one thing, it’s usually much cheaper than buying from a breeder. For another, rescue dogs are usually given a thorough check-up, and are often spayed or neutered and chipped before they’re placed.
And finally, there’s the satisfaction and joy of giving a home to a dog who just wants to be loved!
For more specific information about where to find Papillons to adopt, take a look at our list here.
Finding A Papillon Puppy
The Papillon dog price will vary significantly based on a variety of factors including geographical location, breed characteristics and bloodline, and more.
At a minimum, expect to spend between $500 and $800, with certain breeders charging upwards of $1,500.
If you are looking to buy a Papillon puppy, it’s important to locate a reputable breeder. It is vitally important to pick a breeder that conducts adequate health testing.
This means that you should absolutely steer clear of backyard breeders, pet stores, and puppy mills. Ask to see any health certifications the breeder has before purchasing a puppy.
Breeders can now test for risk factors for many of the most common health problems that can affect Papillons. And with mixed breed dogs becoming increasingly popular, you may be more likely to find a Papillon that has been crossed with another breed.
This is actually likely to make the resulting mix stronger and healthier.
It’s also a good idea to meet the parents of your potential puppy, if possible. By observing the parent’s temperament and behavior traits, you can get a better idea of what traits your puppy might grow up to have.
Raising A Papillon Puppy
There are a few issues to be especially aware of when it comes to raising a Papillon puppy.
Papillon puppies can be very fragile, and can easily break bones or become injured. Papillon dog puppies tend to get a little overzealous at times, and may be prone to leaping off couches or other furniture, causing injury.
Be sure to get doggie steps and teach your pup to use them when getting on and off furniture.
Hypoglycemia is also a concern. Young puppies may weigh as little as a few pounds, and can easily over-exert themselves. In some situations, this can lead to hypoglycemia, or dangerously low blood sugar.
Signs of hypoglycemia include fatigue, shaking, shivering, and glassy eyes. If you notice these symptoms, give your pup a high-sugar treat such as a spoonful of honey or sugar water, followed by a full meal.
If the dog does not eat, seek veterinary care immediately.
Caring for a vulnerable Papillon puppy is a big responsibility. There are some great guides to help you with all aspects of puppy care and training. You’ll find them listed on our Papillon puppy page.
Popular Papillon Breed Mixes
As we mentioned above, mixed parentage can often increase the health and strength of a dog. And there’s no denying that sometimes mixed dogs are the cutest!
Here are some popular mixed breeds that include the Papillon.
- Chion, a Papillon Chihuahua mix
- Papimo, a Papillon American Eskimo mix
- Cavalon, the Papillon Cavalier Spaniel mix
- Papillon Pomeranian mix
Comparing The Papillon With Other Breeds
On the other hand, Papillons have some similarities with other small dog breeds that may make these breeds contenders for your next pet.
Pros And Cons of Getting A Papillon
- Very active and needs regular exercise
- Tends to bark a lot
- Can be stubborn
- Some serious health issues that require testing and care
Papillon Products And Accessories
Are you ready to trick your Papillon out?
Papillon Breed Rescues
If you’re looking to adopt Papillon mix puppies or a purebred Pap, there are some online Papillon rescue resources that may be of use:
Beyond these online tools, you may find success with local resources.
Do you know of any other Papillon or Papillon mix rescues? Let us know about them in the comments!
References And Resources
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. 2018 Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats. Wiley Blackwell
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England. The Veterinary Journal
- Schalamon et al. 2006. Analysis of Dog Bites In Children Who Are Younger Than 17 Years. Pediatrics
- Duffy D et al. Breed differences in canine aggression. Applied Animal Behavior Science 2008
- Strain G. Deafness prevalence and pigmentation and gender associations in dog breeds at risk. The Veterinary Journal 2004
- Packer et al. 2015. Impact of Facial Conformation On Canine Health. PlosOne
- Adams VJ, et al. 2010. Results of a Survey of UK Purebred Dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
- Tracheal Collapse, American College of Veterinary Surgeons
- Papillon, Calvert Animal Hospital
- Beuchat, C, 2014, “The Myth Of Hybrid Vigor In Dogs…Is A Myth,” Institute of Canine Biology
- Bellumori, T., et al. Prevalence of inherited disorders among mixed-breed and purebred dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2013.
- Vidoni, B, et al.Diagnostic and genetic aspects of patellar luxation in small and miniature breed dogs in Austria. The European Journal of Companion Animal Practice. 2006.
- Narfström, W. Clinical, electrophysiological and morphological changes in a case of hereditary retinal degeneration in the Papillon dog. Veterinary Ophthalmology. 1999.
This article has been extensively revised and updated for 2019.