Tiny in size but large in personality, the Papillon is a fun, friendly breed of toy dog. Known for their signature large ears, the Papillon (French for “butterfly”) is the 54th ranked breed of 193 according to the American Kennel Club. If you want a dog that has the brains, the beauty, and versatility, all in a tiny package, then the Papillon is perfect for you.
Often referred to as “Paps,” Papillons are a descendant of the toy breeds of spaniels often found in paintings as old as the 16th century. Despite their diminutive size, Paps are considered one of the original “big dogs in a small dog’s body.” They have big personalities and make a fan of everyone who meets them. Thanks to their wonderful personalities and their desire to please, they make amazing companions.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PAPILLON
Let’s take a look at some additional information about the Papillon’s appearance and temperament.
The Papillon is classified by the AKC as a toy breed, standing around 10 inches tall and weighing up to 10 lbs. They are light, dainty, and striking. Their large ears certainly add a bit of height, though. Some Papillons have erect ears, while the “phalene” type of Papillon (phalene, meaning moth, so named because the moth folds its wings at rest) droop down. They have a long, silky, flowing coat that comes in a variety of colors (though always with a white base) that surprisingly requires very little work to maintain (since they have no undercoat). They have a frill of hair along their chest. Their nose, eyes, and lips are always black.
Brushing once or twice a week is a good idea, though not an absolute necessity, as their fur is not prone to matting. The Papillon is considered a “wash-and-go” breed of dog. Grooming once a month is plenty. Despite the large coat, Papillons don’t shed a lot. Small dogs need their nails trimmed more often, and they are also more prone to periodontal disease, so be sure to brush their teeth as often as possible.
Despite being a purse-sized toy dog, the Papillon is not a lazy little lapdog. They require mental and physical exercise. That isn’t to say they won’t crawl into your lap, though – after sufficiently tiring himself out while hunting your home for small rodent intruders, you may find your Papillon napping calmly in your lap. They are curious, friendly, alert, and cheerful. They are very affectionate and love to give kisses. Due to their alertness and big-dog personalities, they can make for excellent watchdogs as well.
They are extraordinarily versatile, excelling in just about everything they do. They are among the best toy breeds at obedience training, but also do great in agility training; they are also great at retrieving, so don’t throw away your frisbee just yet; they are very popular at dog shows for their intelligence and good looks; teaching tricks to Papillons should be both easy and fun.
Their temperament is affected by several different things, but primarily training, socialization, and heredity. Pay close attention to their temperament as a puppy – they should be playful and curious, willing to meet new people and be picked up by them. Be sure to socialize them at an early age to help prevent any temperamental issues later on in life and to ensure you’ll have a bright, busy, engaged dog. Due to their attachment to the family, they can sometimes develop separation issues, so make sure to acclimatize them to the comings and goings of the family at a young age. Luckily, due to their love of socialization, they can bond just as well with other pets as they can with humans, so giving them a friend is always a good option.
Papillons love children, but small dogs around small kids can often be problematic. Small dogs are prone to jumping out of small kids’ hands when being held if the holder is not careful. Be sure to keep an eye on any small children when they’re handling your Papillon. If introduced and properly socialized at a young age, Papillons get along well with other pets in the family, including cats. Since they have such large personalities, though, they will often boss around the other pets, even if it’s a bigger, older dog.
CARING FOR A PAPILLON
Papillons are easy to care for, but having a basic understanding of their nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs will make for a smoother transition when your new puppy moves into your home. Papillons routinely live for 15 to 16 years, so here is some additional information to help ensure your companion is with you for a long time.
It’s easy to overfeed a Papillon, so stay consistent and diligent. Papillons, like any other breed, should be fed a high-quality dry dog food, broken up into two daily meals. How much your dog eats will, as always, depend on their age, breed, and activity level, so adjust food accordingly. Make sure to feed age-appropriate foods (puppy, adult, senior). Be careful with over-treating, as Papillons can be prone to obesity. Obesity can be particularly affecting in Papillons due to knee issues, so be very careful. A simple, effective way to ensure you never overfeed your Papillon is to use an automatic dog feeder.
People often think small dogs are perfect for apartments because they require less exercise, but that isn’t the case with the Papillon. They are great in apartments, but daily walks and play are still a requirement. They love playing with people, so take them in the yard for fetch or to practice tricks. Since they are spaniels, they love to chase after squirrels, lizards, and any other critter outside; keep in mind, though, that these are tiny dogs. They often seem to forget, and you don’t want to see your Papillon get hurt if it goes after something bigger, like a cat or skunk.
Papillons are highly intelligent and very adept learners who flourish with adequate mental stimulation. They love pleasing everyone in their family, so give them the opportunity to do so by teaching tricks. As previously mentioned, they are excellent in obedience and agility training, and also make for excellent show dogs. Small breeds can often take longer to house train, so remain diligent and composed. Be sure to start your Papillon in puppy classes at a young age to help socialize and train them. Also, remember to always be careful with treating, as this breed can be very prone to obesity.
Papillons think they’re bigger than they really are, so they can be easily injured if they jump from something high, or if a small child gets too rough with them, etc. Patellar luxation is a common knee problem in small dogs that is noticeable from birth; be sure to select a reputable breeder who checks for these and other issues, like hip dysplasia. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is also common among toy breeds, so be sure you to learn to recognize the symptoms early on because if left untreated it can prove to be fatal. Another condition that toy dogs can be more prone to is a collapsed trachea, so be aware of the signs and symptoms.