The Papillon!

Often called the "Butterfly Dog" because of its fringed ears that resemble a butterfly's outspread wings, the Papillon ("Pappy-Yon") is one of the oldest purebred Toys. It appears in paintings in Italy as far back as the 15th century. In France the court ladies and royal children were frequently painted with a Toy Spaniel pet, as the breed was then known. These Toy Spaniels had drooping ears, but otherwise the prettiest of them were unmistakably the same breed we have today. It is often said that the Papillon is a big dog in a little dog's body. They can do virtually all that a larger dog can do, but with less effort, upkeep, and space requirements. Truly, their unique beauty goes far beyond their glorious ears!

Some Quick Facts:

Life Expectancy:
12-15 years

Energy Level:

Living Conditions:
Great apartment dog. Great traveler.


Exercise Needs:
Minimal, though they enjoy being outside.

Breed Group:


8 to 12 inches

5-9 pounds

Standard Hair Colors:
Color and markings are very nearly unlimited

National breed club:
The Papillon Club of America

Papillon Skills

Although the breed's origins are subject to debate, the little spaniels were well-established as continental court favorites by the Renaissance. They appear in European art as early as the 1300's, and portraits by many of the Grand Masters often include a Papillon or two. Madame Pompadour and Marie Antoinette of France, Queen Sophia Dorothea of Germany, and Queen Ann of Austria are among the aristocratic ladies that allegedly owned Papillons. Today, it is one of five top breeds in obedience competition when all its scores and titles are factored in with its registration figures. It has been discovered that the Papillon has exceptional abilities in tracking (following a human scent) and agility (maneuvering a canine obstacle course). The breed also is ideal for service as Hearing Ear Dogs for the deaf and hearing impaired and therapy dogs (visiting hospitals and nursing homes).

Papillon Personality

Most Papillons are outgoing happy dogs who love to meet people, sit in laps, and give "kisses". They do not have a reputation for being high-strung, nervous or fearful. They generally show great enthusiasm for children, cats, and other dogs, if they are raised with them. However, Paps may be possessive and bossy with other (sometimes larger) dogs, and a Pap in motion may even appear as prey to some dogs. They are great jumpers, and puppies particularly must be prevented from trying to leap tall buildings.

Exercise Needs

While they are indoors dogs without substantial exercise requirements, Paps enjoy the outdoors, and fancy themselves great hunters of birds, squirrels, spiders, even butterflies.

Living Conditions

Papillons are active, lively dogs, although generally not nervous or yappy. They travel well (car-sickness is rare), and enjoy the attention they draw wherever they go. A Papillon can change homes at any age and if suitably placed, will adjust happily. Because of their size, they are easily managed. They adapt equally well to close quarters and country life. Paps usually travel well, and because their crates fit neatly under airplane seats, they are often spared the trials of the cargo hold.

Grooming Requirements

With its unusual ears, waving tail plume, and flowing coat, the Papillon is a standout. It possesses what has been termed "sensible glamour" because the owner does not have to become a slave to preserve its beauty. The Papillon has no doggy odor and its silky coat is not prone to matting. However, Papillons love to be clean and bathing is easy. They have no undercoat to shed out twice a year as with most long-haired breeds and the resilient coat texture sheds dirt and dry grass with the touch of a brush. The pet Papillon requires no trimming of the coat, although the bottoms and sides of the feet can be trimmed for a more tidy appearance (this is usually done for the show ring).

Health Issues

This is a relatively healthy breed. They are seldom finicky eaters but are not prone to obesity. Most remain active and youthful well into their teens. Although they have few hereditary/congenital diseases, problems common to small dogs (such as patellar luxation, "open" fontanels, and bite or palate defects) do occur. PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), a hereditary eye disease that affects many breeds, has recently been found in Paps.

If you liked this dog…

Papillons are fondly called a "wash and wear" breed, and are easy to maintain. They are ideal companion dogs and because of their size, they are ideal travel companions. You may also want to consider a Brussels Griffon or the Affenpinscher. These toy dogs belong to a cluster of owners, exhibitors and breeders who have been captivated by this breed's undeniable charm.


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