Temperament: Friendly, Alert, Happy

  • Height: 8-11 inches
  • Weight: 5-10 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 14-16 years
  • Group: Toy Group 

The quick, curious Papillon is a toy dog of singular beauty and upbeat athleticism. Despite his refined appearance, the Pap is truly a “doggy dog” blessed with a hardy constitution. Papillon fanciers describe their breed as happy, alert, and friendly.


The Papillon is a small, friendly, elegant toy dog of fine-boned structure, light, dainty and of lively action; distinguished from other breeds by its beautiful butterfly-like ears.

About the Papillon

A tiny dog, measuring 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder, you can still spot a Papillon a block away thanks to the large, wing-shaped ears that give the breed its name (“papillon” is French for “butterfly”). Some Paps have erect ears; in others, known as the Phalene type, the ears are down. Paps are dainty and elegant, with a plumed tail, and a long, silky coat of several color combinations, the base color being white. More robust than they look, Paps are little dogs for all seasons and reasons. They thrive in warm or cool climates, in town or country, and are eager to join family fun. They are excellent agility dogs and are consistent winners at the sport’s highest levels; less ambitious owners can train them to do all kinds of tricks.

NUTRITION The Papillon should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING For a breed with long, silky hair, Papillons needs surprisingly little grooming, mostly because they do not have an undercoat. Grooming every month or so is fine. Between full grooming sessions, you might want to spend a few minutes running a comb or soft slicker brush through the hair inside the hind legs, behind the ears, and on the “culottes,” or thigh hair, as mats tend to form there. A Papillon will need a bath every few months, or when he or she gets especially muddy or dirty. The Papillon’s nails grow quickly and should be trimmed regularly—especially the dewclaw, which can curl around and pierce the leg. Finally, regular tooth brushing is vital for dental health.

EXERCISE Thanks to their small size, Papillons make wonderful indoor pets, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need exercise. They are active, smart dogs, and they will want their people to play with them. Indoors, they enjoy retrieving a small ball or toy—a Papillon will quickly learn to bring it back so you can throw it again. Outdoors, true to their spaniel heritage, Papillons will happily run in the yard to chase after squirrels, chipmunks, and even insects. Papillons tend not to realize how small they actually are, so owners need to watch carefully if they set out after a larger dog, or even a cat.

TRAINING Papillons are intelligent and eager to please the humans they have bonded with. Generally speaking, some small breeds can take a little longer to house-train than large breeds do, but Papillons make the process easier. Early socialization is very important, and obedience classes are a good idea—your Papillon will learn to do what you tell him to, and you will learn not to overindulge your adorable companion. And remember that the Papillon is a companion dog at heart; they may be unhappy and develop undesirable behaviors if left left alone for long periods of time. Fortunately, a Papillon can bond with other pets as well as humans.

HEALTH Papillons are tough and gutsy, but they are very small. Owners need to be careful with them, especially when they are puppies, around stairs, furniture, and other, larger animals. A small child can accidentally hurt his puppy friend very easily. Responsible breeders screen their stock for health conditions such as a fontanel in the top of the skull, similar to a human baby’s soft spot; and patellar luxation, or kneecaps that can “slip” or dislocate, sometimes briefly, sometimes completely.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Cardiac Exam

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