Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Papillon
Average Cost to keep/care for a Papillon
Breed Specific Buying Advice
Papillons are popular little dogs with a very spaniel type look about them and they are often referred to as being "continental toy spaniels". Over time have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world and for good reason. Not only is the Papillon adorable looking, but they rank number 8 out of 79 other breeds when it comes to intelligence.
Interestingly, both France and Belgium claim these little dogs as being native to their countries and indeed both are listed as being the breed’s home whether it’s the drop-eared dog known as the Phalene or the Papillon with their upright ears. The breed's name "Papillon" translated from French means butterfly which describes well their delicate appearance and lovely feathering around a dog's ears whereas “Phalene” is French for moth.
There are records of the Papillon that date back 700 years, but the exact origins and where the breed first appeared remains a bit of mystery with both France and Belgium claiming that the breed belongs to them. There are some breed enthusiasts who believe that the Papillon may be a descendant of toy breeds from Asia, namely the Japanese Chin, but other people think they are smaller versions of spaniels found in Europe and that the Papillon was created by breeding small specimens of spaniels without having to introduce any other breed from Asia or the Far East into the mix. What is known is that their origins belong to the European Toy Spaniel and that during the 16th century these little dogs were a firm favourite with royals and the nobility alike.
Dwarf Spaniels with long, folded ears were around during Louis the Great's reign and they were known as "Phalene" which as previously mentioned is French for "moth". As time passed, some puppies were born with erect ears that were set further down on a dog's head and which were nicely feathered with silky, long hair. It is not known why these puppies had different ears, but there are some people who think that the Phalene was crossed with miniature spitz-type dogs with "pricked ears" and this led to some puppies being born with feathered erect ears.
It is worth noting that even today, puppies from the same litter can have either type ears whether they are drop or erect. Another interesting fact about the breed is in their colouring which again was further developed over time. Originally, Dwarf Spaniels had solid coloured coats, whereas the modern day Papillon typically has a predominantly white coat with patches of colour in it.
Although small in stature and delicate in appearance, the Papillon has always been highly prized for being an excellent ratter as well as tracking dog. Today, they do extremely well when competing in all sorts of canine sports which includes agility and obedience. The Papillon is also a popular breed in the showring thanks to their adorable looks.
Throughout time, the breed has been hugely popular throughout Europe, but the Papillon was only introduced to the UK in 1901 and was not recognised by the Kennel Club until 1923. From then onwards, these little dogs found their way into the hearts and homes of people both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world including the States thanks to their charming looks, their intelligence and their affectionate, loyal natures. The breed was recognised by the American Kennel Club in 1935.
Height at the withers: Males 20 - 28 cm, Females 20 - 28 cm
Average weight: Males 3.6 - 4.5 kg, Females 3.2 - 4.1 kg
The Papillon is a dainty little dog that seems to always have an intelligent and alert look about them. They have slightly rounded heads between their ears and their muzzles are neatly pointed being a lot more refined than their skulls. They have very well-defined stops and nice black noses that contrast beautifully with their coat colours. Eyes are medium in size and nicely rounded being dark in colour with dark rims.
Their ears are large and very mobile being rounded at the tips and heavily fringed. They are set towards the back of a dog's head, yet wide enough apart so as not to hide a dog's slightly rounded head. The leathers are fine, yet nicely firm to the touch. The Papillon has a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones with their lips being thin, tight and dark in colour.
Their necks are moderately long with dogs having well developed, sloping shoulders. Chests are deep and front legs nice and straight, delicate yet boasting strong, fine bone. Their bodies are quite long with a nice level topline and well sprung ribs. Loins are strong and long with dogs having slightly arched bellies. Their hindquarters are well developed with neat, strong back legs. Their feet are very hare-like being fine and quite long with long tufts of hair growing between a dog's toes. Their tails are long and well feathered being set high and which dogs carry arched over their backs so the fringes fall to one side which forms a plume.
When it comes to their coat, the Papillon boasts an abundant single coat that's long, fine and very silky to the touch. Their coat lies flat on a dog's back and on their sides but it forms a profuse frill on the chest. The hair is short and close on a dog's head, muzzle and on the front parts of their legs. The backs of their front legs, on their tails and thighs are covered with much longer hair. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
When a Papillon moves, they do so with a light, flowing gait and when seen from the front or from behind, their legs and feet move parallel to each other. A dog's feet should neither turn in or out when they move and when seen from the side, Papillons cover a lot of ground without showing any sign of a hackneyed action.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.
The Papillion may be small in stature, but they are highly confident and outgoing characters. They are also extremely smart and therefore capable of twisting their owners around their little paws which they are very adept at doing. It cannot be stressed enough the importance of early socialisation for these little dogs to prevent any unwanted and often aggressive behaviours developing. If their socialisation is left until a dog is older, Paps are known to show a more dominant side to their natures which can often mean they become wilful and unruly.
With this said, the Papillon is an affectionate, friendly albeit very alert little dog that's always prepared to let their owners know when there are any strangers about, but rarely would a Pap show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards people they don't know, preferring to just keep their distance and bark. These dogs thrive on being around people and love nothing more than to be involved in everything that goes on in a household.
Paps are a very good choice for first time owners because they are always so willing and eager to please. This paired to the fact, they are among the most intelligent dogs on the planet makes them extremely easy to train. However, they need to be trained with a firm yet gentle hand so they understand their place in the "pack" and who is alpha dog in a household for them to be truly well-rounded dogs around the home.
Papillons are a good choice for first time dog owners because they are so adaptable and amenable by nature. They thrive on human contact and love nothing more than to please and entertain the people they love. With this said, they are not the best choice for families with very young children because of their small size.
The Papillon has always been highly prized for their "ratting" abilities and are therefore always quick to give chase to anything that moves. As such care should always be taken when they are around any animals and pets they don't already know. Care should also be taken as to where and when a Papillon can run off the lead.
Papillons are known to have a very playful side to their natures and enjoy being involved in all sorts of canine sports which includes mini agility and obedience. They are known to be a little mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever, a Papillion quickly learns what pleases their owners and will test the limits and boundaries to see how much they can get away with just for the fun of it.
Papillons are highly adaptable dogs and providing they are given enough daily physical exercise combined with as much mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in, they are just as happy living in an apartment in town as they are living in a house in the country.
Papillons form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home and barking incessantly which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.
Some Papillons like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them, bearing in mind that these small dogs like many spaniels, are sensitive by nature and can easily be upset when treated unfairly.
Most Papillons are not that keen on getting their feet wet and given their small size, care should always be taken when walking them anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they can't get out of the water on their own.
Papillons may be small in stature, but they are remarkably good watchdogs because they are always so alert as to what goes on in their environment. With this said, they are more likely to keep their distance and bark incessantly rather than show any sort of aggression towards people who approach their territory.
The Papillon is a highly intelligent little dog and one that is always eager and willing to please their owners which makes them very easy to train. However, the key to successfully training them is to always be consistent and to start their education as early as possible. This would involve introducing a Pap to as many new situations, noises, people, animals and other dogs once they have been fully vaccinated as possible.
Puppies can be a bit of a challenge to housetrain, but with perseverance and understanding, they can be taught to do their "business" outside. Paps are known to be very good therapy dogs and some even excel at being Hearing Dogs for the Deaf whereas other Papillons are extremely good at agility and obedience.
Papillon puppies are extremely cute and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in the home. However, owners should always start out as they mean to go on which means setting out rules and boundaries so that a Papillon puppy understands what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Like many other small and toy breeds, if they get away with too much they can develop something called "small dog syndrome" which sees dogs being wilful and unruly making them harder to live with. The first commands a Papillon puppy should be taught as early as possible are as follows:
The Papillon is not the best choice for people with young families thanks to their small stature and the fact these little dogs can be a little snappy if they feel threatened in any way. With this said, any interaction between children and a Pap should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure things stay nice and calm.
Paps can also be a little snappy and aggressive around other dogs and care needs to be taken whenever they meet any other small animals and pets because they would think nothing of chasing them and this includes cats because they do have a high prey drive.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Papillon is between 13 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Papillon is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good-looking dogs although it is worth noting that the Papillon is thought of as a healthy and robust little dog. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Papillon puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Some Papillons gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which can prove fatal.
Papillons are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Papillon breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Breeders have the option to choose to register their dogs and puppies as "Phalene" with the Kennel Club which they can do online or by standard mail.
The Kennel Club strongly recommends that all breeders use the following tests and schemes on their stud dogs:
As with any other breed, Papillon need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Like all puppies, Papillons are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be considered. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a Pap puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Papillon puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Papillon puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be
Older Papillons need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Papillon in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Papillons need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Papillons don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
Paps have a single coat that consists of long, silky and straight hair with lots of featherings around their ears which adds to their overall charming appeal. However, when it comes to keeping their coats looking tidy it involves quite a bit of work, making the Papillon high maintenance on the grooming front. Their coats need brushing every day to keep it tangle-free and to prevent any knots or matts from forming.
A Pap's coat also needs to be professionally groomed and trimmed twice a year which makes it easier to manage things in between visits to a grooming parlour. These little dogs shed all year round, but it's worth noting that females moult when their season has finished and males only shed more than usual once a year when more frequent brushing would be necessary to keep on top of things. It's also worth noting that puppies tend to go through an "ugly" stage when they are around 14 weeks old when their coats look very raggedy.
It's only when a Pap is 5 months old that their adult coats grow through. However, the feathering around their ears only really grows to its full length when a Pap is 3 years old. Their nails should be checked regularly too because if these little dogs don't get to go out as much as they should to wear them down, their nails need to be trimmed paying attention to their dewclaws if a dog has them.
It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections.
Although small in stature, the Papillon needs to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They are highly intelligent and if left to their own devices for any length of time, a Pap would quickly find some way to amuse themselves which could result in some unwanted and rather destructive behaviours around the home. As such these little dogs need at minimum of 20 minutes exercise a day and more if possible. With this said, they are a great choice for people who lead quieter, more sedentary lives.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these feisty little dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Papillon puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later in their lives. They should not be allowed to jump up or off furniture nor should they be allowed to run up and down the stairs because this puts too much pressure on their still growing joints and limbs. Paps also have very fragile bones which can break all too easily if these little dogs are manhandled too roughly.
If you get a Papillon puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature Papillon twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Papillon puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 11 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Papillon must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Papillon can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Papillion, you would need to pay anything from £600 to over £800 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Papillon in northern England would be £21.45 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £43.61 a month (quote as of January 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Papillon and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £600 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Papillon would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, healthy, Kennel Club registered pedigree Papillon puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Papillons have consistently remained a popular breed both in the UK and elsewhere in the world which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with Papillons there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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