Side profile of Papillon dog looking up in a field of grass

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The Papillon dog is most known for its unique ears and elegant appearance, but its true charm extends beyond its appearance. Originally from Europe, these small dogs are beloved companions around the world. 

With their intelligent and alert demeanor, they’re known for their cleverness and excel in sports and activities like obedience and agility. They’re highly trainable and make great pets for small spaces, making them an ideal pet for first-time owners. Keep reading to learn more about the small yet highly affectionate Papillon dog. 

History & Origin of Papillons

The Papillon, also known as the Continental Toy Spaniel, is originally from Western Europe, with paintings depicting them in the 16th century.1 Titian, a painter from the 1500s, depicted spaniels similar to hunting dogs, and they were eventually called “Titian spaniels.”

The popularity of the Papillon dog only grew from there. Unfortunately, we don’t know where this breed truly came from and who its dog ancestors were. It’s theorized that the toy spaniel was brought from China and mixed with other toy breeds during the Renaissance.1

What we do know is that Papillons were widely popular among the nobility as companion animals in Europe.2 The breed was refined from there, developing the physical attributes we know and love today, with the erect butterfly ears becoming fashionable at the end of the 19th century.1

Papillon height, weight, lifespan information

Physical Attributes of Papillons

  • Weight: 5-10 pounds
  • Height: 8-11 inches
  • Lifespan: 14-16 years2

The Papillon dog is a toy breed most known for its butterfly ears. The word “papillon” directly translates to butterfly in French.3 Apart from their long-furred, erect ears, Papillons are known for their bone structure, which gives them an elegant appearance. 

Papillons have medium-length, silky coats that lie flat. Their coats consist of at least two colors, with white being the base and other colors like black, lemon, red, sable, and tan.2

In addition, they have a plumed tail that’s long and fluffy and arches gracefully over their backs. 

The Papillon’s small and dainty frame, butterfly ears, and plumed tail contribute to their overall charm and popularity. There’s no other dog like them. 

Behavioral Characteristics of Papillons

Don’t let the dainty frame of a Papillon fool you. Beneath their small size lies a robustness and spirited nature ready for adventure and play. They enjoy releasing their energy in sporting and show events, which is why they’re such a popular show breed.3

It’s important to understand that every dog is different, so while there are characteristics many Papillons share, your dog’s temperament will largely depend on their individual personality, early socialization for Papillon puppies, and training. 

In general, Papillons tend to be affectionate with all family members, making them good pets for individuals or families with young children.2 Unfortunately, not all of them do well with other dogs, but early socialization can help them gain confidence around other pets. 

Papillons make great apartment dogs because they’re generally adaptable and open to strangers. However, this isn’t true for every dog. Papillons can be distrustful and even weary of strangers, so it’s a good idea to have a sanctuary space where they can relax and de-stress if you bring someone new into the home. 

In addition, this breed tends to be incredibly playful and have high energy, so they’ll need a more active pet parent, especially if they don’t have a yard of their own to play in.2

Luckily, the Papillon is often easy to train because of their high intelligence, so even though they’re known to be very vocal and protective, training can be beneficial. Training can also provide an outlet for all their energy. These dogs have high physical and mental stimulation needs that must be met on a daily basis, which is why so many Papillons excel at competitions and shows. 

This breed tends to be highly sociable, which is why they’ve been companion animals for hundreds of years.

Papillon health risks

Papillon Health Risks

While the Papillon is relatively sturdy and healthy, like all dogs, they are susceptible to health conditions. 

  • Patellar luxation: Patellar luxation is commonly seen in small dogs and occurs when the knee bone isn’t properly aligned and can dislocate.3
  • Hip dysplasia: While most commonly seen in large dogs, smaller dogs may be susceptible to hip dysplasia, a hereditary condition that can cause arthritis and pain. 
  • Dental problems: Dental problems are another common health concern in all dogs. Unfortunately, Papillons may retain their puppy teeth, which can cause food particles to get trapped inside, leading to plaque, tartar, and bacterial buildup that can lead to oral health issues.3
  • Eye issues: Papillons may experience a condition called progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), in which the cells that help with vision become weaker, eventually causing blindness.3
  • Allergies: Papillons may also suffer from allergies, leading to itchy skin and ear infections.3 Luckily, there are many ways to treat allergies and avoid the associated discomfort. 
  • Collapsing trachea: A collapsed trachea can happen to any dog of any breed, but it’s common in smaller and older dogs.3

Whether you purchase Papillon puppies from a breeder or adopt an adult from a shelter, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible to screen for potential health concerns. 

Caring For a Papillon

Because of their intelligence and trainability, Papillons are generally easy to care for. Since they’re small, they don’t have large space requirements compared to bigger breeds, making them well-suited to all types of homes and environments. However, they have some specific care needs, such as:

Annual Vet Exams

Annual vet exams are crucial for all dogs, regardless of breed. These bi-annual or annual checkups play a vital role in preventive care and early disease detection while allowing pet parents to discuss concerns with a professional. 

During the annual exam, the vet conducts a physical exam to assess vital signs, check overall physical condition and weight, and examine their eyes, ears, teeth, and coat. Your dog will also receive some diagnostic and early detection tests like bloodwork and fecal examinations to screen for underlying health problems like heartworm or worms.

Your dog may also receive vaccinations during these vet visits to protect them against various infectious diseases, such as rabies, distemper, and parvovirus. 

Grooming

Papillons have medium to long silky hair that requires grooming. They don’t have an undercoat, so they’re relatively easy to groom at home, or you can take them to a professional to ensure they maintain their sleek appearance.2

Apart from grooming every month, they’ll need to be combed or brushed regularly to prevent matting. In addition, depending on your Papillon’s lifestyle, they need to be bathed every few months or when they get dirty from playing outside.2

They should also have their nails trimmed regularly. As a general rule of thumb, if you hear your dog’s nails clicking on the floor or concrete outside, it’s time for a trim. 

And finally, since Papillons are prone to dental issues, brushing their teeth regularly with a dog-safe toothbrush and toothpaste can help you remove food particles that can lead to infection and disease. There’s no substitute for brushing your pet’s teeth every day, but you can also support their oral health with a dental diet, supplements, dental chews, and water additives. 

Exercise & nutrition

Papillons are well-suited to indoor living because they’re small, but they still need plenty of exercise. These dogs are high-energy and have significant mental stimulation needs, so they’re by no means couch potatoes. Aim to give your Papillon a good walk every day to help them burn off excess energy. 

You can also play with them indoors with a rope toy or ball. Papillons often love to exercise and play in the yard with supervision. However, if you live in an apartment, you’ll need to take extra steps to ensure they’re getting enough exercise. 

In addition to regular exercise, Papillons need high-quality dog food appropriate for their age and size. Consult your vet if you’re unsure what and how much to feed your dog. 

Training

Papillons are highly intelligent companion animals, making them relatively easy to train. Of course, early socialization is crucial for all dogs, but you may also benefit from obedience classes, especially if you’re a new pet parent. 

FAQs

Are Papillons calm dogs?

Papillons can be calm dogs, but they must be trained and socialized early in life. Since this breed is considered relatively high-energy and playful, they’re best suited for pet parents who can keep up with their active personalities. 

Do Papillons get aggressive?

Any dog can get aggressive. While Papillons are not considered a breed prone to aggressive behavior, every dog is different. If your dog becomes aggressive or their behavior has recently changed, it’s always best to speak to your vet about potential underlying causes and find the best solution based on your dog’s needs. 

Do Papillons like to cuddle?

Papillons are known to be lap dogs who love companionship, so they generally like to cuddle. However, remember, every dog is different, with their own unique personality and temperament. You should never force them to cuddle or forcefully touch them because it can cause any dog to become aggressive to protect themselves. 

Pet owner holding Papillon and cat

Final Notes

The Papillon dog is a small, elegant dog known for its playful demeanor and butterfly ears. They’re wonderful companions that excel in various dog sports and activities and quick learners that are easy to train. 

Unfortunately, like all dogs, Papillons can experience health and behavioral issues. When that happens, Dutch is here for you. Dutch telemedicine for pets can diagnose and treat a wide range of common pet health issues and behavioral problems from the comfort of your home, avoiding the hassle of going to an in-person vet. Sign up to talk to a vet today.
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References

  1. “A Brief History of the Papillon.” Papillon Club of America, papillonclub.org/articles-a-brief-history-of-the-papillon/

  2. “Papillon Dog Breed Information.” American Kennel Club, 6 Nov. 2017, www.akc.org/dog-breeds/papillon/.

  3. “Papillons: What to Know.” WebMD, www.webmd.com/pets/dogs/what-to-know-about-papillons.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

What is a visit with Dutch like?

When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

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In addition to the base membership plan, our veterinarians may also recommend additional medication (Rx and/or OTC) that you will have the option of adding to your plan at an additional cost.