Key Breed Facts
Breed Characteristics
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Papillon
Average Cost to keep/care for a Papillon

Key Breed Facts

Popularity #95 out of 238 Dog Breeds.

The Papillon breed is also commonly known by the names Pap, Butterfly Dog, Squirrel Dog.
13 - 15 years
Pedigree Breed ?
Yes - KC Recognised in the Toy Group
Males 20 - 28 cm
Females 20 - 28 cm at the withers
Males 3.6 - 4.5 kg
Females 3.2 - 4.1 kg
Average Price (More Info)
£637 for KC Registered
£484 for Non KC Registered

Breed Characteristics


Papillons are popular little dogs that 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 and indeed both countries 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.


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. 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.

The breed came about by crossing various toy spaniels and the end product was a small dog that either boasted erect ears or dogs with drop ears. Papillons have upright ears whereas dogs with drop ears are known as Phalenes which translated means "moth". The breed was recognised here in the UK by The Kennel Club in the mid 1920's and 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 are as follows:

  • Black and white
  • Dark red and white
  • Dark red sable and white
  • Dark sable and white
  • Dark shaded sable and white
  • Lemon and white
  • Lemon sable and white
  • Pale red and white
  • Pale red sable and white
  • Red and white
  • Red sable and white
  • Sable and white
  • Silver and white
  • Silver sable and white
  • Tricolour


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.

Intelligence / Trainability

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.

Children and Other Pets

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.

For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.

Papillon Health

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. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:

  • Allergies
  • Dental issues
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) - Test available
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Patellar luxation - Test available
  • Seizures
  • Broken bones

Caring for a Papillon

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.


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 particular 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 is allowed to build 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 exercise and mental stimulation on a daily basis 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 has to 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 on 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.

Average Cost to keep/care for a Papillon

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 £19.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £41.22 a month (quote as of May 2016). 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 or not 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 all 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 a £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 pedigree puppy.

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