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Papillon: Pictures, Traits, Facts, Puppy Info

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

papillon puppy autumn

Height: 8 – 11 inches
Weight: 7 – 9 pounds
Lifespan: 13 – 15 years
Colors: White, black, brown, sable, fawn, red
Suitable for: Attentive owners, apartment dwellers, retirees, families of all sizes, active owners
Temperament: Intelligent, Affectionate, Energetic, Loving, Curious

The Papillon has come to be one of the most adored small dog breeds in the country, and for good reason: these pups have big personalities and a lot of love in one small, portable, package! They are full of energy and are always ready to play, but they also adore human interaction and will happily snuggle up with you on the couch after a day of running errands.

These dogs desire attention from their owners constantly, so they don’t do well in isolation. Luckily, their small size makes them perfect dogs to carry with you in your bag or in your arms.

They make excellent family pets, and with proper training and early socialization, Papillons can get along very well with children and other dogs. They tend to be distrustful of strangers, but they have nothing but love to give for their families! We’ll discuss everything you need to know about these dogs below so you can decide if this is the right breed for you and your family.

Divider 1Papillon Puppies – Before You Get One

papillon dog
Image Credit: gayleenfroese2 ,Pixabay

You will very quickly come to realize that, even as puppies, Papillons require and crave your attention. They are very emotionally needy dogs, so you should be certain before committing to this breed that you and your family members have ample time every day to devote to showering your pup with love and affection.

You also need to be prepared for proper training and socialization early on with Papillon puppies. These dogs can develop what is commonly referred to as “small dog syndrome.” This is characterized by stubbornness, a perception of dominance, and sometimes aggression. If left untrained, your Papillon will happily take a leadership role in your home, which will likely cause them to disregard commands and act out with negative behavior. They are intelligent and easy to train, but you must put the time and effort into training beginning at an early age.

Lastly, many people believe that Papillons don’t need a lot of exercise, in part because of their size, but also because they seem to get a lot of energy out during playtime. It’s important that you give your pup at least 45 minutes of dedicated exercise each day, even if they are playful and exuberant outside of exercise time. They may be happy to lie with you or hang out in your purse while you shop, but they still need a moderate amount of exercise to stay happy and healthy.

3 Little-Known Facts About Papillons

1. They Have Been Around for Hundreds of Years

Papillons are believed to be descendants of Italian Spaniels — commonly referred to as Titian Spaniels — which were popular in the 1500s. The breed was further developed in the 1600s in France by King Louis XIV, who developed two lines of Toy Spaniels. One of these lines was the Papillon.

2. They Have a History with Royalty

Not only were these dogs believed to have been developed by the king of France, but they persisted in royal families there for centuries. Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution, reportedly owned a Papillon that she held on her way to her execution in the late 1700s.

Papillons have been an integral part of royalty throughout history since then, and they have appeared as companion dogs to royal families in many paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries as well.

3. Their Name Means “Butterfly”

“Papillon” means “butterfly” in French, so they are often referred to as “butterfly dogs.” There are two variations of this Toy Spaniel descendant — one with perked up ears (the Papillon), and one with floppy ears (the Phalène). Papillons got their name because their ears resembled the wingtips of butterflies. “Phalène” translates to “moth” in French, and their ears unsurprisingly resemble the floppy, rounded wings of moths.

Image Credit: MusicFox Fx , Unsplash

Divider 2

Temperament & Intelligence of the Papillon 🧠

The Papillon can be the perfect companion dog, given how loving and affectionate they can be toward their owners. They love human interaction and are always ready to play or snuggle in your lap. They are very needy dogs that will always want your attention, and you can trust that they will let you know when they don’t think they’re getting enough!

They can be wary around strangers, but they do warm up quickly even to those they don’t know, especially if they are properly socialized from a young age.

They are spunky, energetic, playful, and inquisitive, and their curiosity and desire to be the center of attention will bring a lot of joy and laughter to just about any home.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Papillons are excellent family dogs as long as they are trained and socialized from a young age. They have a seemingly endless amount of affection, so they do best in families where there is always someone around to play with or get attention from. The more people you have in your home the less likely your Papillon will ever be alone, and the happier they will be! They’ll gladly seek attention from any family member, so they’ll fit in well in just about any household.

Papillons are generally good with children, but again it’s best if they are socialized with kids early on. You shouldn’t have any issues introducing your Papillon pup to your kids, but you should always keep an eye on them during playtime. Papillons are small and can be fragile, so make sure your children don’t play too rough with them. Your pooch will have a lot of energy, so as long as your children know to be delicate, they’ll fit in perfectly. If playtime does get too rough, your dog may snap or growl, so be mindful of play at all times.

Because these dogs are often distrustful of strangers, you’ll want to be extra careful if your kids have friends over. Children playing can often be perceived as a threat, and your Papillon, who often believes they are bigger than they actually are, may step in with some barking, growling, or nipping. This kind of behavior is purely to protect your child and is not malicious, but nonetheless, you should separate your dog from any play dates your kids may have.

Lastly, as we mentioned before, these pups can easily develop “small dog syndrome,” so you will want as many family members as possible to pitch in on training. The more people in your home you have on board with obedience training, the better adjusted your Papillon will be.

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets? 🐶 😽

A Papillon’s love will often extend beyond their human owners to their canine brothers and sisters. Especially if early socialization is adopted, your pup will likely have no issues with other dogs living in your home. This positive attitude toward other pups will also extend toward those they meet on walks or at dog parks.

It’s important to note that, just like with kids, you’ll want to watch your Papillon when they interact with any other dog. Papillons are small and delicate, and larger dogs can unintentionally hurt your pup. Be mindful during playtime with other dogs and know that your pooch may act out a bit with growling or barking if they do get hurt or feel intimidated by larger dogs.

Because the Papillon’s ancestors were originally bred for hunting, they do have a moderate prey drive. While it’s usually not an issue with these dogs, you may find that your pooch takes too much interest in cats, rabbits, hamsters, and other small pets. This can easily result in your dog chasing and pinning down other small animals, which you’ll, of course, want to avoid. With early socialization, you likely won’t have any problems, but you should be on the lookout just in case you do have other small pets.

This prey drive can also be an issue on walks or during outings. Your Papillon at any moment may try to chase a squirrel or other small animal, so always have your pooch on a sturdy harness and leash that they can’t back out of easily.

papillon jump
Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

Divider 4Things to Know When Owning a Papillon:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Papillons are small in size and stature, and their diet will reflect that. Expect to feed your pup about a quarter cup to a half cup of dry dog food each day and split this up into two meals a day to help maintain their energy levels. The food you choose should be formulated for small or toy-sized dogs with a moderate energy level.

As is the case with many small dog breeds, Papillons are prone to weight gain, so overfeeding can be a problem. If you notice uncharacteristic weight gain, reduce the volume of food or consult your vet for proper feeding amounts for your pooch.

Exercise 🐕

The idea that Papillons’ small size means they don’t need a lot of exercise is inaccurate, and you should be prepared to dedicate about 45 minutes every single day to walking or exercising your pup outdoors.

Papillons tend to have a fairly high energy level throughout much of the day, so you’ll likely find that they are willing to run and play even outside of their dedicated exercise time. It’s important to note that indoor play should not replace their daily walks.

You never want to under exercise your dog, especially with this breed. Papillons can exhibit bratty or destructive behavior if they don’t have a positive outlet for their energy, so make sure you and your family can get into a daily exercise routine outside of playtime.

The only exception to the daily 45 minutes of exercise should be when your Papillon is a puppy. This breed is prone to several joint issues including patellar luxation and hip dysplasia, and puppies whose joints are still developing are especially prone to these problems. For the first six to eight months, take your pup for a short, 15-minute walk each day instead of the 45 minutes you’ll adapt to when they’re adults. At all stages, exercise on soft surfaces like grass or dirt is better for your dog’s joints and will help limit the health problems associated with their hips and knees.

Training 🦮

Papillons are intelligent and attentive, and these traits lead to a dog that is easily trained. They will pick up on commands and tricks quickly, and as long as you are consistent with training, you’ll have no problems turning your Papillon into a well-behaved, obedient pup.

As you progress through training, remember that these dogs can be subject to small dog syndrome. They don’t have an abundance of aggression or even a desire to be overly dominant, but they will take the leadership position in your home if no one else does! Be prepared to be firm and persistent in training so you can avoid your dog acquiring stubbornness and willfulness. The more family members you have that can help establish your dog’s place in the home the better.

You also need to remember that these dogs are emotional and can be sensitive. When training, they respond best to positive reinforcement for good behavior. You should refrain from raising your voice, and always keep as calm and positive as possible. Use affection and treats to reward good behavior and be delicate but stern when any bad behavior is exhibited.

As long as you’re prepared to put some time and effort into training and teaching, Papillons are suitable even if you have no experience with owning or training dogs. Just be prepared to maintain a positive leadership position for your pup.

Canidae Dog Food
Image credit: reabythebeach, Pixabay

Grooming ✂️

Papillons have long, straight fur and will need regular grooming. To avoid matting and tangling, you should plan to use a wire brush or comb on your pup about once a day. Any matting you do find can simply be brushed out or separated by hand.

While you do need to spend time each day brushing, bathing won’t be time-consuming at all for this breed. They have fur that resists dirt, and they groom themselves often, so they will very rarely give off any bad odors. You can give your pup a bath if they get dirty while playing outside, but routine bathing isn’t necessary. If you want to bathe your dog, only do so every few months, as frequent bathing can deplete natural skin oils that keep your dog’s skin and fur healthy.

Perhaps because they are often viewed as very prim and proper dogs, many people believe they are groomed to have that perfect, clean look. However, they don’t need grooming or trimming because they shed naturally.

Although Papillons have long fur, shedding won’t be overwhelming because their fur is rather sparse. They shed seasonally, so leading into the summer and winter will be a bit worse in terms of shedding, but weekly vacuuming around your house should be enough to keep loose fur from becoming a problem.

Papillons are prone to ear infections even though they don’t have drop ears, so plan to wipe out any debris or wax build-up from their ears once a week or so. You’ll also want to brush your Papillon’s teeth about once a week, as they are also prone to dental issues and that instantly recognizable dog breath. Providing toys that help maintain dental hygiene will also help avoid bad breath and tooth and gum issues.

Health and Conditions ❤️

Papillons are fairly hearty dogs despite their small size, and they often live long, healthy lives. As with all breeds, there are some issues you should look out for, and you should still schedule regular vet checkups just to ensure your pup stays as healthy as possible.

Minor Conditions
  • Cataracts
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Von Willebrand’s disease
  • Obesity and weight gain
  • Hypoglycemia
Serious Conditions
  • Patellar luxation
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Mitral valve disease
  • Deafness
  • Collapsed trachea

Divider 5Male vs Female

Male Papillons tend to be marginally heavier and can weigh up to about two pounds more than females. You may find that males are a bit more prone to small dog syndrome, and they are often more distrustful of strangers. You may also find that females have a lower prey drive and tend to get along with cats and other small animals more readily.

For the most part, the temperament and behavior from your Papillon won’t depend too much on gender, and both sexes will be loving and friendly.

Divider 3Final Thoughts

It’s no wonder Papillons are such a popular small dog breed as they are full of love, affection, and curiosity. They have big personalities bundled into a small package, and they will bring joy and happiness to any home they are introduced into.

These are sensitive and emotionally needy dogs more than anything else, so while you’ll need to set aside time for daily exercise, grooming, and training, attention from you and your family members is what this dog will seek most. They don’t do well if left alone for too long, and they’ll crave your attention constantly.

The Papillon is a wonderful family pet that generally gets along well with children, adults, and even other animals. As long as you and your family members have the time and patience for training and to offer tons of affection, this could be the perfect breed for you!

Featured Image Credit: Pxfuel

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