Papillon Dog Ultimate Guide: Pictures, Characteristics, & Facts

Whether its appearance or personality, the Papillon Dog is favored by painters during the 16th century. Somehow, this dog’s appearance gradually changed over the years, yet it retained its beauty and personality to be an excellent companion.


If you love old portraits, especially those from the 16th century, then Papillon Dogs must be familiar to you. Some famous artists included them in their artworks, including Rubens, Watteau, Boucher, Van Dyke, Rembrandt, and Fragonard.

The Papillon Dog descended from toy spaniels, which are favorite companions of court ladies and nobles in Europe. Usually, these toy spaniels have drop ears, but in the 17th century, the court of Louis XIV had a small spaniel with upright ears. This dog was then given the name Papillon due to its ears resembling a butterfly.

Not only their ears changed, but also their coat’s colors. Usually, they have a solid color, but now, they come in white with patches of various shades.

Among the 155 dog breeds that are registered by the American Kennel Club, the Papillon ranked 35th.


The Papillon Dog has a distinct fringed upright ear which resembles a butterfly’s outspread wings, hence their name papillon which means “butterfly.” Interestingly, this breed also has another variation called the Phalene which means “moth.” Closely related to the butterfly, a moth folds its wings when at rest, just like the phalene’s drop ears. Comparing the two varieties, the Papillon Dog is more famous than the latter.

The Papillon has a single coat with long, flowing hair that is straight, delicate, and shiny. Down its chest, you can see a thicker coat. This breed’s butterfly ears are also covered with hair.

Papillon’s color is always white with patches of any color. Their ear color, which extends over their eyes, is covered with any color except white. Their nose, eye rims, and lips are black.


Papillons are small dogs. On average, they stand at 8 to 11 inches (20 to 28 cm) at the shoulder, while their weight varies from 4 to 9 pounds (2 to 4 kg). Some may be larger or smaller than the average size.

Despite their small size, Papillons are not aware of how small they are compared to other breeds, so it is important to supervise any interaction with other dogs.

Life Span

If you are looking for a lifelong companion, then you might want to consider Papillons. They are a long-lived breed, having a life span of 14 to 16 years on average. Expect a very healthy Papillon to stay with you and your family for a long time.


Despite their long coats, Papillons only shed from light to average. Shedding depends on various factors, such as weather, diet, and health. Some Papillons may shed lightly, while some may shed more.

A Papillon sheds moderately twice a year, and lightly on the rest of the year. In fact, you may not even notice them shedding on some season.

Their silky hair isn’t prone to matting and tangling. Weekly brushing would be enough to properly distribute their natural skin oils, thus keeping their coats healthy and shiny.

Bath Papillons only when they get really dirty since they don’t develop much doggie odor.


It is important to know that Papillon Dogs are not cuddlers, but doers. Because of their small size and elegant appearance, you may think of this breed as excellent lap dogs.

However, Papillons are highly active and energetic and would enjoy playing outdoors or participating in canine sports.

They would love to spend time with you, of course, but they would not be content to just snuggle with you all day. Rather, they would roam inside your house and look for insects and rodents that may be sneaking around.

Outdoors, this breed is always jolly, vigilant, and friendly. A properly socialized Papillon is not shy, or aggressive. They would actually enjoy giving free kisses to everyone they meet!


Papillon Dogs are very intelligent and are eager to please their owners, thus making them a highly trainable breed. Compared to other breeds of their size, Papillons are actually a lot easier to house train. They are fast learners and will be able to learn all commands in no time!


Papillons are highly active and athletic dogs. They don’t only make excellent competitors, but they also consistently win in canine sports, such as agility, obedience, and rally. In fact, they are the number one toy breed in obedience competition!

However, if you’re not the owner who enjoys participating in dog sports, the Papillon would still be eager to learn tricks with you.


Because they have high energy levels, Papillons need moderate to intense activities. Puppies should start with two to three 10 to 15 minutes of walks and play sessions. As they grow into adults, increase their time to 20 to 30 minutes of physical activities.

A great way to release their energies is by teaching them commands. If they get tired, however, you may notice them sitting or suddenly stopping.


If not trained early, Papillons can learn to be stubborn. Let them know that this action is not favorable and should not be tolerated.

On the other hand, their intelligence and desire to please their owners make them easily learn tricks and commands that are being taught to them. Just ensure to end every training session with motivating techniques, such as food rewards, praises, and lots of playtimes.

Good With Family

Being an energetic dog, the Papillon makes a great playmate for children. However, all interactions between children and dogs must be supervised. Papillon will not tolerate being mistreated, so it is important that children know how to treat them well.

This breed is always alert, thus making him an excellent guardian, though he has no idea how small he is compared to other dog breeds. Make sure he doesn’t overdo his role as a family guardian.

When it comes to other animals in the house, Papillons easily get along well with them when they are raised together. However, this dog has a tendency to boss around other canines, even those larger than him. In some cases, this causes trouble.

Apartment Living

Because of their small size, Papillons do well indoors. But, they are also athletic and would need a yard where they can run around and play with their family. If not, they may be too active inside the house and jump on your furniture to release their energies – their owners often describe them as mountain goats since they love to stay on the high spots of your house.

They are house dogs, and should not live outdoors or at the kennels. Papillons need to be close to their family.

Separation Anxiety

Papillon Dogs need to be with their human family, always. If you’re the type of person who’s always away from home, then do not consider owning one. They won’t want to leave your side, so make sure that they stay with you most of the day, or else they may suffer from separation anxiety and be destructive inside your house.

Health Issues

While Papillons are considered a healthy breed, they may still suffer from health issues, such as Patellar Luxation, Hypoglycemia, Collapsed Trachea, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), and Open Fontanel.

Also, keep in mind that they are sensitive to anesthesia. You may want to remind your vet about this before letting them undergo the surgical procedure.


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