Friendly and adventurous Papillon is an intelligent, easy-to-train small breed dog who gets along well with adults, children, and other pets if socialized from puppyhood. The breed is named for its large, butterfly-like ears—the Papillon's most recognizable feature. Royalty had an affinity for the small spaniel-type canine from whom the Papillon is descended, and the dog's presence in the court was depicted in many works of art from as early as the 1500s. Now, the energetic and robust Papillon is a star in the conformation ring, on the agility course, and in homes across the world.
The Papillon is also known as the Continental Toy Spaniel and Butterfly Dog, while the drop-eared Papillon type is called Phalène. Fanicers use the nickname Pap to refer to a Papillon.
The long, silky single coat, plumed tail, and fringed legs of the Papillon are lovely to behold, but the most recognizable feature of the breed is likely the dog's namesake, the butterfly-like fringed ears. The coat is always parti-color or white with color, but is never all white or absent of white.
Average Height: 8-11 inches
Average Weight: 5-10 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The dainty, elegant Papillon is a lively and friendly small size companion. The butterfly-like ears are the distinguishing feature of the breed—they may be erect or dropped with flowing hair, creating the butterfly shape. Both the erect and drop-ear Papillon may be born in the same litter and shown with equal consideration if ears are fully up or down. The coat is long and fringe is present at the skirt, backs of legs, and plumed tail. The Papillon should be alert and friendly, never shy or aggressive. – AKC Breed Standards
Though the name is French, the Papillon hails from Spain. The Papillon's ancestors, dwarf spaniels, were used as ratting dogs, as well as for companionship. Dogs who resemble Papillons are included in Italian paintings as early as the 1500s, and later members of royalty, including King Louis XIV, posed with Papillon-type dogs in their portraits. Some say Marie Antoinette carried her drop-eared Papillon as she walked to the guillotine, though the veracity of this claim is unproven. The dainty drop-eared dog known as Phalène was more common throughout Europe, but the erect-eared Papillon became more popular in the 19th century.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Papillon in 1935.
AKC Breed Category
Papillon are lively, friendly, and entertaining little dogs with energy to spare. They're clever and enjoy showing off for anyone in the room. Papillon are intelligent, quick to learn, and eager to perform. They aren't often shy. They may present what is referred to as "small dog syndrome," a combination of dominant behaviors that would be discouraged in a larger dog but are often overlooked in small-breed dogs. Without appropriate correction, these behaviors can lead to undesirable jumping, barking, growling, destructiveness, shyness, or aggression.
Are Papillon Good with Kids? Papillon may be good with children, after some training for both the dog and the children. Because of their small size, Papillon should not be handled in a rough manner. Serious injury or even death can occur if the dog is stepped on, squeezed, or dropped. They can be sensitive to loud noises and quick movement, so they may not be an ideal choice in homes with young children.
Are Papillon Good with Other Pets? Papillon may attempt to assert dominance over other animals, dogs included, whatever the size of the other animal. They're not often aggressive with other animals, but may get injured if they try to start an argument with a big dog. They were used to catch rats and don't make the best choice in homes with small animals such as rats or hamsters.
Papillon will bark to alert you if someone—person or animal—approaches the home. They aren't often aggressive with newcomers, but socialization with people should begin from an early age to help a Papillon determine friend from foe.
Papillon have a high level of energy. They require a few walks per day and play time to stay healthy.
- Like other toy breeds, the Papillon is fragile.
- They are difficult to house train.
- They are high-energy dogs.
- They need early socialization to prevent shyness.
- Lightning-quick, the Papillon may bolt through doors and get lost, so make sure they're wearing their personalized collar with your contact info on it at all times.
- They bark frequently.
Papillon make an exceptional choice for houses and apartments. They are lively and energetic, but can burn most of their energy through indoor play. With a few walks throughout the day and playtime indoors, Papillon may adjust to a variety of living conditions.
Outdoor play is necessary for a Papillon, but they must be supervised at all times. They are incredibly fast, so leash walking or free play in fenced areas is recommended. Papillon may attempt to assert dominance over other dogs at the park, so proper introductions and good manners should be taught early and consistently.
Several short walks a day and indoor fun and games will keep Papillon happy and healthy. They do best with at least a half hour of daily exercise through walks and play, but more is better.
Energetic Papillon have plenty of stamina for playtime and romps outdoors.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Papillon don't possess the endurance for distance running, but may be able to jog up to a mile if well conditioned.
- Hiking Miles: An athletic, motivated Papillon may be able to join you on an easy trail for a walk, but she's not suitable for more strenuous hikes. Though the Papillon is sturdier than many toy breeds, a fall could seriously injure or kill this small dog.
Based on average weight and activity, the Papillon requires a fourth to a half cup of food per day, given in two meals.
Papillon are not more likely to guard their food than other breeds, but children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.
Papillon prefer to spend time with their people—it's what they were bred for. They do not appreciate being left alone for long periods of time. They will follow you through every room of the house—privacy is not a word in the Papillon's vocabulary.
Health and Grooming
The Papillon's long, single coat isn't prone to matting, but weekly brushing is required to keep the coat in good condition. Regular bathing isn't necessary—bathe only as needed. Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting and cracking, or a broken nail. Regular dental care is especially important in small dogs.
Common Health Issues
Papillon may be prone to some breed-specific health conditions and sensitivities, including:
- Sensitive to anesthesia
- Patellar luxation
- Tracheal collapse
- Progressive retinal atrophy
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Papillon by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
The intelligent, eager-to-please Papillon learns basic obedience with ease. But like many small breeds, they can be difficult to housetrain; consistency and routine are important.
Papillon are competitive little dogs—they enjoy advanced tricks, obedience, and agility. They get bored with the basics, so broaden the Papillon's horizons with advanced training and competition. It's a wonderful way to tire out this energetic breed.
Sporting Dog Training
Though their ancestry includes hunting spaniels, Papillon are not ideal sporting dogs. They retain their prey drive and may do well in Earthdog training, but are not eligible to compete.
Here are a few commonly asked questions about Papillon.
No. But while no dog breed is completely hypoallergenic, Papillon tend to shed less than other breeds.
While Papillon are known for their gorgeous butterfly-like ears, all Papillon are born with their ears down. The ears may begin to stand up as early as a few weeks old, and can take up to four months to pop, though some ears never stand up. The original Papillon did not have raised ears, and those genes are still present today. Both erect- and drop-eared Papillon may be born in the same litter. The drop-eared variety is referred to as 'Phalène,' which means night moth.
Avoid shaving, taping, or otherwise attempting to influence the ears of a Papillon if they do not stand.