By Macy Gen Veterinary AssistantMacy Gen Last updated: 22nd July 2023

Papillon Dog


Macy Gen Veterinary Assistant Macy Gen
Last updated: 22nd July 2023

Papillon or the Continental Spaniel Dog, as it is alternately called, is one of the oldest toy spaniel breeds, highly famed for its cute and cuddly appearance. The large, wing-like ears of these adorable dogs, earn them the name Papillon, which in French means butterfly. Besides their pleasing outlook and disposition, these are agile dogs, excelling in dog sports and also serving as faithful companions.

Papillon Dog Pictures

Quick Information

Other namesContinental Toy Spaniel, Butterfly Dog, Phalene, Squirrel dog
CoatLong, abundant, fine, silky, straight and flowing
ColorWhite and black; white and red; white and lemon; white and sable; brown and white; fawn and white; red; sable; white; white and liver; white and silver; black, brown and white; black, red and white
Breed typePurebred
GroupCompanion, Spaniel, Toy
Average life expectancy (How long do they live)12 to 15 years
Size (How big do they get)Small
Height of a full grown Papillon8 to 11 inches
Weight of a full grown Papillon Male: 8 to 10 pounds
Female: 9 to 10 pounds
Litter sizeApproximately 2 to 4 puppies
Behavioral characteristicsHappy, friendly, shy, alert, smart
Good with childrenYes
Barking tendencyModerately low
Climate compatibility Adapts well to warm and cool climates
Shedding (Do they shed)Moderately low
Competitive Registration Qualification/ InformationFCI, ANKC, AKC, NZKC, UKC, KC (UK)
CountryBelgium, France

What does a Papillon look like

This small-sized elegant toy breed has been characterized by the following physical features.

Head: Small and slightly rounded

Muzzle: Short and thin, tapered to its nose

Eyes: Medium-sized, dark, round, with an alert expression

Ears: Large sized with rounded tips which can be erect or drop. Those with erect ears are carried in an oblique manner, moving just like a butterfly’s wings when spread. Papillions having drop ears known as phalene (the French word for moth) are carried completely low.

Tail: Long, high set, plumed, arched over its body.

Video of 6 Weeks Old Papillon Puppies Playing

History and Origin

The Papillion regarded as a dog of the royal and noble class has been popularly projected in the works of eminent painters like Goya, Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Ruben. Their development happened during the Renaissance period by breeding the spaniels with the existing toy varieties since the nobles of that time possessed an infinite liking for miniature versions of their choicest canines. A drop eared spaniel, named Epagneul Nain, existing in the 13th century, often appearing on the frescos in churches during that time, is considered a direct ancestor of this breed.

Serving as great lap dogs, they were the priciest companions of noblewomen who took them wherever they went. Marie Antoinette, the last French queen prior to the revolution, was said to own a Papillion, whom she clutched onto while heading for the guillotine. However, the Pap was spared and even looked after well post its mistress’ death. The building where it was kept was named as the Papillon House.

Besides all over Europe, its fame also spread to America gradually, and it gained AKC’s recognition in 1935. The Papillion Club of America developed around that time but became nonfunctional by the time the Second World War ended and again revived in 1948. Presently it has attained the 35th rank of all the AKC registered breeds.

Temperament and Personality

Because of their happy, friendly, and energetic nature, they excel as wonderful family dogs.

They would be shy at the onset when encountering strangers for the first time, though once taught to socialize with visitors it gets friendly with guests, a trait that does not make them adept watchdogs.

Though fond of kids, their interaction with young children should be supervised as the little ones might not be able to handle the small dog well often resulting in accidents.

They also share a great rapport with other dogs and cats, however, because of the small dog syndrome, often seen in canines of its size, it could try bossing around with dogs bigger than it in size, which could, therefore, result in problems at times.

The Papillon has been crossed with a whole lit of purebreds to create cute designer breeds that would inherit some of its physical traits and temperamental features.



Though they do well indoors, these active breeds still need a sufficient amount of exercise to stay healthy and happy. Besides brisk walks, you can also arrange for sufficient playtime in a leashed yard. When at home, arrange for a ball or other retrieving games, in which they interact enthusiastically. Since they are intelligent and have a high level of activity, they are often recommended to be participating in dog sports like rally obedience and dog agility.


Since they have a long, silky coat, these dogs need minimal grooming, sufficing with brushing at least two or three times in a week using a comb made of stainless steel or a soft slicker brush. Take special care in brushing the hair within its hind legs, behind its ears and on the areas around its thigh, as mats and tangles mostly tend to develop in these regions.

Health Problems

Though a healthy breed some of the conditions they may suffer from include, patellar luxation, collapsed trachea, progressive retinal atrophy, hypoglycemia open fontanel, allergies and intervertebral disk disease.


They are intelligent dogs and would take training well, especially when it comes from an experienced taskmaster who can handle them efficiently with a firm and tactful approach.

  • Socialization is a must to help them understand the difference between a friend and a foe so that they may welcome a guest happily but display alertness and intimate his owner on sensing anything suspicious. Like most other small dogs they too are known to have small dog syndrome which is needed to be rectified when they are young. Acquaint it with big dogs since its puppy days though from a considerable distance. Whenever it is observing a dog bigger than its size, give it its favorite toy or treat and start praising it, once the other dog is no more visible, stop the praises and foods. Doing this anytime he encounters a big dog will make him understand that big dogs are equivalent to good things. Repeating this regularly could help your pet to get over its habit of being bossy at the sight of a canine bigger than itself.
  • It has an inherent chasing instinct and may often get after smaller pets, hence leash training is a mandate.
  • Being a small-sized breed, they consider their homes big enough to eliminate, hence housetraining them could be a challenge and needs to be started since the time it is a puppy. Fix a regular time and a particular spot to avoid any confusion.


The National Research Council of the National Academies mentions that an adult Papillion weighting 10 pounds needs about 392 kcal on a regular basis. A good quality dry dog food high in protein and fats and devoid of grains like wheat and corn as well as artificial colorings would suit your pet the best. While including a homemade diet alongside dry dog food, consult your vet once to know what would suit it the best.

Interesting Facts

  • Loteki Supernatural Being, nicknamed as Kirby, was the only Papillon dog to win all three dog shows of 1999. It is also the oldest canine to emerge victorious at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at the age of eight. The record was however broken in 2009.

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