Papillon – Small Dog Breed

Papillon - Dog Breed

The Papillon dog breed, also called the Continental Toy Spaniel, is considered one of the oldest ones in Spain and Belgium. It has a pleasant appearance, a harmoniously built body that is especially highlighted by its beautiful coat and large ears, which are shaped like the wings of a butterfly.

It is one of the most playful and frisky dog breeds in the world. Active and energetic, it is calm and gentle at the same time. Obedient dogs, the Papillons are patient and smart. They know how to behave around children and they learn new tricks fast. This delicate dog breed’s standard was approved in 1990.

Papillon - Breed Characteristics

Dog Breed Group: Companion Dogs
Height: Generally 8 inches to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight: Generally 4 to 9 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 16 years


This dog breed has 2 varieties, namely the Papillon with straight ears and the Phalene with dropped ears. They both have the same origins and morphological characters. In fact, the Phalene used to be this dog breed’s standard until the early twentieth century.

However, when the dogs with ears like a butterfly wings appeared, they won the sympathy of everybody and were called Papillons. The Phalene or the Spanish Night Moth was the primary indicator of this dog breed, which was most likely developed in Spain. The Dwarf Spaniel is supposed to be its ancestor.


As soon as this dog breed was brought to the Pyrenees in France, it became even more popular. Among its other names, this dog breed was called the Spanish Squirrel because of the way dogs kept their tails.

Adored by the aristocrats, the Papillon appeared in numerous works of art. King Louis XIV appears along with his family with a copy of the Papillon in a painting. Also, King Henri III carried such a dog with him in a basket.

Mary Antoinette’s Papillon accompanied her up to the stairs of the guillotine. Between the fifteenth and twentieth century, this dog type was preferred, pampered, and adored by people part of the major European aristocracy.

Main Highlights
  • It is also called the Butterfly dog or the Continental Toy Spaniel.
  • The Papillon dog is very small, rigid, and always alert, active, and friendly.
  • Although it was named so because its erect ears resemble the wings of a butterfly, there are also copies with dropped ears.
  • Like almost all small dogs, the Papillon is stubborn, which is why obedience training is a must in its education.
  • It is an active and energetic dog that needs a daily routine of exercise.
  • The Papillon can be a great companion dog for most people and adapt to any type of house.
  • Suitable for living in an apartment, this dog type loves walks, agility exercises, and flyball competitions where it can obtain notable performances.
  • It gets along with kids just fine, but some more agitated ones might hurt it, considering its really small size.
  • The Papillon is the type of dog that can spend hours on one’s lap and not get bored.
Breed History

The Papillon can be considered a toy dog that was first mentioned in a historical record back in the early 1500s. Its origins are believed to be in Spain and its ancestor the Dwarf Spaniel. Over time, it has become one of the most loved and renowned lap dogs, appearing in numerous paintings and stories. This breed’s first places of development were European countries like Italy, Poland, and France up until the sixteen hundreds.

The American Kennel Club officially accepted this dog breed in 1915. Interestingly, both types of Papillon dogs are approved to compete in organized contests. The Phalene and the Papillon are considered very distinct by individual dog owners, regardless of this dog breed’s standard.


The breed Papillon features small-sized dogs, and it is included in the toy dog category. There aren’t noticeable differences in height and weight between female copies and male copies. On average, the Papillon stands between 8 to 11 inches tall and weighs between 4 to 9 pounds.

Personality and Character

Both the Papillon and the Phalene are alert, lively, playful, and eager to learn. Despite their fragile and delicate aspect, they are athletic dogs with huge resources when it comes to making effort.

Experts characterize these dog breeds as big dogs with small bodies. They can walk considerable distances when they are in the company of their owners. Moreover, they are capable of impressive jumps and they can compete in medium-speed races, a fact which tells a lot about their personality. All these shows how ambitious and devoted to their purpose these dogs are.

The Papillon loves to meet people and hand around them. It is beloved for its fun and lively nature. Generally, this type of dog does not bark excessively. It can be characterized as stable and quiet. The Papillon likes to be spoiled and embraced, but it also loves to freely play outdoors. While it’s outdoors, it might become quite territorial and possessive, including with people it doesn’t know.

The Papillon is gentle, affectionate, lively, agile, and charming. It is playful and funny, but it can also be calm, patient, and courteous. Unofficially, but mentioned in the general description of this dog breed, the Papillon has psychological skills. More specifically, many owners admit that it has the special ability to sense the mood of its owner and it acts in order to improve it using various means. Therefore, it is inventive and smart as well.

Health and Potential Problems

The specific health problems of the Papillon are usually related to their hind legs, as well as to their small size because they are prone to injury. Agglomerations and dangerous situations should be avoided at all costs. The diseases with the highest incidence for this dog breed are:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy. The most serious eye disease reported in the case of the Papillon is progressive retinal atrophy, which usually occurs at the age of 3 to 4 years.
  • Cataract. This is also an eye disease, which can occur much earlier in the case of puppies aged between 6 to 8 months.
  • Eyelash growth abnormalities. Some Papillon dogs might need their lacrimal ducts operated on during their lives. They might suffer from the phenomenon called a persistent pupillary membrane.
  • Heart diseases. The heart disease that occurs most frequently in the case of Papillon dogs is mitral valve disease. This disease may take over during this dog type’s transition from junior to adult, usually between 1 and 2 years of life.
  • Digestive diseases. Among the most common digestive diseases in Papillons are pancreatitis and colitis, which manifests by the inflammation of the bowel.
  • Hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, allergies, infections of the skin such as pyoderma and follicular dysplasia in extreme forms, deafness especially in specimens with a preponderantly white coat, hydrocephalus, hypoglycemia, liver diseases, hernia, kidney stones, and various dental problems.
Care Features

The Papillon is intelligent and skillful, built for movement and exercise. Its abilities are often rewarded with prizes in international competitions for obedience and agility. Also, it has so much energy, joy, and desire to play that it is able to be active all day. It may also climb into a bed and sleep with its owner for a long time, but, at the same time, it can play without getting tired. It is glad and grateful for the smallest gesture of affection when it is loved and accepted.

The Papillon can be trained easily even if it is stubborn. Obedience training is highly important in the case of this dog breed. When it is left home alone it has the tendency to bark a lot, so it must be trained in order to abstain even if its instincts dictate it not to. Moreover, it can easily learn various tricks if given constant attention and is not allowed to turn into an irritable and aggressive dog. The Papillon should not feel like it is in charge.

The style of training based on treats might not be very effective in the case of a Papillon. In order to gain this dog type’s attention and cooperation treats might work, but only when it feels hungry or craving for the particular treat it can get. It might not be receptive every time when it is not hungry or it doesn’t really like what its owner offers. Even so, the tasty rewards have an important role and they might prove to be useful sometimes.

What really works in the case of training a Papillon are the verbal rewards. Words of appreciation and an encouraging attitude are very rewarding for this dog breed. The first command that should be taught to the Papillon is how to obey when its owner says NO. The next command should be STOP. These are basic for the Papillon, as it tends to get stubborn and there is only one way to verbally stop it.

Feeding Schedule

Considering the small size of a Papillon, it should only be fed 1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality dry food a day, divided into 2 meals. The dry food most suited for it is that which contains meat as the first ingredient. One can know that the meat is listed among the first 5 ingredients on the label. Normally, dry food should be made out of dehydrated meat with small additions of vegetables and some essential vitamins.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Papillon’s coat is long and thin and it only consists of a single layer. Straight and silky, it is usually longer in the chest area, where it forms a frill. As for color, it is white with stains of different colors, mostly in shades of brown, red, and black.

The Papillon dog is quite easy to take care of. However, owners must pay attention to its coat as it can become dull if it is not brushed following a specific schedule. For example, if you brush a couple of times per week for about 10 — 15 minutes, your dog and his fantastic hair will definitely be happy. Pay close attention to the longer hairs behind the ears and the one on the belly. Washing the Papillon should also be easy enough considering its size. The usage of special shampoos for their coat type is mandatory.

Dental and nail care are also important and should be part of the grooming routine of the Papillon. Dental care should be performed several times per week, while nail care just once every month.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Papillon dog breed is a great lover of children and a true friend with other pets around it. It gets along well with cats and is willing to spend time in the company of small kittens. It adapts very easily to the presence of a child or a new pet as long as they don’t get all the attention. Conversely, children might hurt it because it is so small, but not the other way around.

Because of their territorial instincts, the only problem these dogs have is with other dogs. Aggressiveness is present in this small-sized dog when it comes to other dogs approaching its territory. Early socialization works just fine in the case of dog friendship.

Although the size of the Papillon and the level of care recommended for it makes it an ideal apartment dog, it can sometimes be difficult for it to learn not to bark when it is left alone. Its strong territorial instincts determine it to bark when it hears any noise, being unable to distinguish between them.

Papillon Breed

Firm training or permanent presence is required. In addition, because of its high level of energy, it is not recommended for older people who cannot offer it the exercise it needs. Long walks daily are mandatory for the Papillon.

If it is pleased, it behaves gently, tenderly, and very charming. Almost the perfect lap dog, the Papillon can be carried anywhere thanks to its friendly nature, but it should not be taken to crowded places.