"The Butterfly Dog"

Photo of Papillon


One of the oldest of the toy breeds, the Papillon (French for “butterfly”) used to be called the Continental Toy Spaniel, Royal Toy Spaniel, Dwarf Spaniel, Little Squirrel Dog, Belgian Toy Spaniel, or Epagneuls Nains. Almost always solid colored and with lightly dropped ears – a variety that still exists, called the Phalene, for a French moth with drooping wings – the Papillon charmed the aristocracies of many countries around Europe, including France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium, since at least the 13th century. Famous painters, most notably Titian, often painted Toy Spaniels in the arms of ladies, or playing with children. In the late 19th century, the erect ears became the fashionand the Continental Toy Spaniel became known as the Papillon. The Papillon didn't become popular in England or in the United States until the early 20th century. In 1999, however, a Papillon named Champion Loteki Supernatural Being won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and suddenly, everybody wanted a Pap. Today, the Papillon is the 35th most popular breed.


One of the best, brightest, and most animated of the toy breeds, Papillons love training and make superior athletes. Many have achieved numerous obedience and agility titles. However, some Papillons tend to be shy, so exposing puppies to many different people, pets, and places is important for building self-confidence. Both sophisticated and mischievous, Papillons love to play, but because they are so small and fine-boned, they can easily be injured, and might nip to defend themselves if they feel overwhelmed. Adults should always supervise play with children or larger dogs. Many Papillons get along well with cats. The smallest Paps make great pets for seniors or people who can't get outside much, and larger Paps make sturdier playmates for kids. Because they have been bred for centuries to be companions, Papillons must be allowed to devote their lives to you. They travel well and don't want to be without you, so take them along whenever you can.


Small and elegant with a light, agile, refined look and a pretty face, the Papillon is most known for its big fringed ears outspread like the wings of a butterfly. Many Papillons also have a white blaze or strip down the middle of their foreheads, with symmetrical markings on either side, which adds to the butterfly effect. Papillons should always be parti-colored (white with patches of any color). Show dogs would be disqualified if they were all white or had no white, but a solid-colored Papillon would be a fine pet. The coat is long and silky but because it is a single coat with no downy undercoat, it doesn't mat as easily as long coats on many other breeds. The tail should be plumed and carried high over the back, with the plume hanging on either side of the body. There is no such thing as a “Teacup” or “Miniature” Papillon. Already very small, some Papillons naturally come out to just 3 or 4 pounds, but these delicate dogs are more prone to injury and health problems.


One of the easiest toy breeds to train, Papillons are highly motivated to move, learn, take on challenges, and especially, make you happy. Many Papillons achieve Best in Show at dog shows and quite a few have achieved the very highest titles in competitive obedience and the obstacle course race called agility. Many do it all! Papillons have a lot of energy and intelligence, so training is the perfect way to channel these traits. Just be sure to keep things interesting, challenging, andmoving. Otherwise, this little smarty-pants will get bored and think of new ways to challengeyou. Like many toy breeds, Papillons can be challenging to housetrain if they don't learn what you want. However, taking them out on a regular schedule, supervising them, and letting them rest in a comfy crate for short periods when you can't supervise, will quickly teach the Papillon the rules.

Grooming & Care

Although the Papillon has a long coat, it is one of the easiest long coats to groom. Just brush a few times a week with a natural bristle brush and run through the coat with a steel comb. Clip nails, brush teeth, clean out those big ears, and you're done.

Health Concerns

Like many small dogs, Papillons can suffer from luxating patellas (kneecaps that slip out of place) and dental problems. Some may also develop progressive retinal atrophy, a degenerative eye disease resulting in blindness. Ask your breeder about these issues. Papillons are also sensitive to anesthesia. Ask your veterinarian about using isoflurane, a safer alternative, if your Papillon ever needs anesthesia for surgery or a dental procedure.

Famous Papillon

Marie Antoinette, King Henry III, Queen Sophia Dorothea of Germany, and Queen Ann of Austria all had Papillons.

Ideal Owner
Activity Level 3
Schedule 34
Home 44
Children 49
Experience 11
Quick Facts
Grooming 110
Exercise 61
Challenges These sensitive souls need special socialization efforts.
Height 8 to 12 inches
Weight 3 to 9 pounds
Life 12 to 15 years
Home Alone 82
With Kids 21
With Strangers 94
Availability 95

This client information sheet is based on material written by: LifeLearn

© Copyright 2014 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.

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