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Home > Dogs > Dog Breeds > Papillon Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Facts, & Traits

Papillon Dog Breed Guide: Info, Pictures, Facts, & Traits

papillon in the autumn

The Papillon is a beautiful dog most known for its butterfly-like ears. However, there’s more to this dog than just its looks. These loving toy breed dogs have captured the hearts of many people and have been the perfect companion dogs for centuries.

Despite their popularity, the origins of these dogs remain a mystery. All we know is that these intelligent and playful dogs have been a fan favorite and have even been immortalized through portraits painted by famous artists.

Breed Overview


8 – 11 inches


5 – 10 pounds


14 – 16 years


White and black, white and lemon, white and red, white and sable, white black and tan

Suitable for:

Families with children, first-time owners, apartments


Affectionate, companions, confident, intelligent, eager to please

If you’re interested in bringing home a Papillon, make sure to read this guide to learn more about this dog’s unique traits and why so many people have fallen in love with them over the years.

Papillon Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

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Papillon Puppies

Papillon puppies
Image by: Malivan_luliia, Shutterstock

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Papillon in 1915, and since then, both professional breeders and hobby breeders have bred these dogs. If you’re looking for a companion pet, then a Papillon with a show dog pedigree isn’t necessary. Many hobby breeders sell healthy purebred Papillons. Just be wary of Papillon puppies that sell for low prices. This can be a sign that they’re unethical breeders or puppy mills. Unfortunately, people may sell puppies without providing them with adequate health care. So, these puppies may end up costing you more if they have any health issues due to inadequate living conditions.

When you bring a Papillon puppy home, be prepared for an energetic pup asking for playtime with their owners. They are great dogs for first-time owners and make amazing companions for children.


Temperament & Intelligence of the Papillon

There’s a reason why so many people adore the Papillon. This dog breed has a wonderful temperament and can get along with pretty much anyone and any pet. They’re fun and energetic, and they love being around people. Since they’re also very intelligent and eager to please, they make great students of obedience.

These tiny dogs can do well living in apartments. However, they tend to be pretty vocal. So, if your apartment has strict noise rules and restrictions, be prepared to work on training them not to bark.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪

Papillons will prefer to be in families because they’re companion dogs. They’ll do best in settings where there will be at least one person always present with them at home. These dogs don’t like being by themselves and will feel stressed out and depressed if they’re home alone for too long.

In general, dogs benefit greatly from early socialization, and the Papillon is no exception. Papillons typically do very well with children. Since they’re small, it’s unlikely they’ll engage in any roughhousing with small children that can cause injury.

However, these dogs are very active, especially when they’re young puppies. Therefore, always supervise Papillons and children when they’re playing and interacting with each other. Young children may accidentally fall over as they try to keep up with an energetic Papillon zooming around a room.

Image by: sterou70, Pixabay

Does This Breed Get Along with Other Pets?

Papillons prefer human companionship. However, they’re good-natured dogs that typically get along with other dogs and pets in the house. As with young children, early socialization will greatly increase the likelihood of Papillons successfully living with other pets.

Slowly introduce Papillon puppies to other animals to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed or stressed out. Since Papillons are so small, they can easily get bulldozed by a larger dog. Also, this dog breed has a spaniel background, so some may have a strong prey drive. Therefore, Papillon puppies shouldn’t be left unsupervised until a bond has formed between them and the other pet.


Things to Know When Owning a Papillon:

Getting to know a Papillon’s specific care needs will help them thrive and bring out their fun personalities. Papillons are relatively healthy and low-maintenance compared to other purebred dog breeds, but they still have breed-specific needs that require their owners’ awareness.

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Papillons have a lot of energy, so they’ll benefit from a high-protein diet. Papillons can also have a chicken allergy, so they will do well with eating limited-ingredient dog food to decrease the risk of them accidentally ingesting chicken. If you decide to feed your Papillon dog kibble, make sure to choose a recipe with smaller kibble sizes for toy breeds.

It’s essential to give proper portions to a Papillon because this dog breed is prone to obesity. Depending on how much daily exercise Papillons get, they can eat between ¼ cup to ½ cup of food a day. Avoid foods that are carb-heavy because extra carbs make it easier for Papillons to gain weight.

You can work with your veterinarian to come up with the best meal plan for your Papillon.

Exercise 🐕

Compared to other toy dog breeds, Papillons have a lot of energy. They’ll do best with at least 40 minutes of exercise a day. They will benefit from daily walks where they can roam around the neighborhood and indulge their curiosity. Since these dogs are also speedy, they’ll enjoy playing fetch or letting loose by running around a fenced yard.

Papillon jump
Image by: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock

Training 🎾

Compared to other toy dog breeds, Papillons have a lot of energy. They’ll do best with at least 40 minutes of exercise a day. They will benefit from daily walks where they can roam around the neighborhood and indulge their curiosity. Since these dogs are also speedy, they’ll enjoy playing fetch or letting loose by running around a fenced yard.

Papillons are easy to train and eager to please, so they’re great for first-time dog owners. Although they have a high level of trainability, owners shouldn’t slack off on training. Papillons will benefit from developing a solid foundation in basic obedience training. These dogs naturally love to learn, so training can be an excellent way for owners to bond with them.

After Papillons successfully graduate from basic obedience training class, they’ll learn new tricks quickly. These dogs need mental stimulation, so they may enjoy playing with puzzle toys and treat-dispensing toys. This breed is also a good candidate for agility and obedience competitions.

Grooming ✂️

Papillons have a long and silky single coat that requires minimal care. The coat doesn’t tangle easily, but it does shed minimally. So, it’s best to brush the coat at least once a week with a slicker brush and a steel comb.

If you experience shedding issues with a Papillon, you can try using a deshedding tool. If you notice that the Papillon’s coat is dry and dull, you can try adding skin and coat supplements to the dog’s diet to see if it affects the amount of shedding.

Papillons don’t really have any strong natural odors, so they don’t require a lot of baths. If your Papillon doesn’t get into anything dirty, a monthly bath should suffice. You don’t want to overdo it with baths because it can dry out the skin. When you give a Papillon a bath, make sure to use a gentle shampoo formula because some Papillons are susceptible to atopy.

a little dog in the bathroom with shampoo foam on his head
Image by: Aleksandr Finch, Shutterstock

Health and Conditions 🏥

The Papillon is a relatively healthy purebred dog. Most of these dogs may develop minor health conditions later in their lives. These conditions are usually treatable, and Papillons can adapt and live without a significant drop in their quality of life.

However, many of these conditions can cause severe detriments to a Papillon’s health if they’re untreated. Therefore, make sure to be consistent with annual visits to the vet so that you can regularly monitor a Papillon’s health conditions.

Serious Conditions

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Male vs Female

There isn’t proven research that backs the popular idea that male Papillons have stronger companionship qualities than female Papillon dogs. However, many Papillon owners have stated that male papillons are more relational and need to be around people. Sometimes, they can be too clingy for dog owners.

On the other hand, female Papillons can be more independent and confident. However, they may be a little more difficult to train at first because they can be a little more standoffish.

Another difference between male and female Papillons is size. Males tend to be a couple of inches bigger than females.

Overall, every Papillon is unique. Therefore, it’s better to get to know their individual personalities and pedigrees rather than relying solely on their sex.

3 Little-Known Facts About the Papillon

The Papillon’s ears aren’t the only fun thing about these dogs. They have unique personalities and traits that make them an all-around interesting dog breed.

1. Papillons rank number one within the toy breed group as the best performers in obedience competitions.

Papillons are highly intelligent dogs that are eager to please their humans. They’re also very confident and often forget about their small size. Unlike other toy dog breeds, Papillons usually dive headfirst into a challenge or new situation without any hesitation. Timidness isn’t naturally in their DNA.

This combination of traits makes the Papillon an excellent candidate for agility and obedience training competitions. They learn quickly and tend to respond very well to praise and treats. In fact, in 2019, a Papillon named Gabby won first in her class at the Westminster Kennel Club’s agility competition.

2. French Queen and icon, Marie Antoinette, owned a Papillon named Coco.

Marie Antoinette owned many dogs while she was Queen of France, but her favorite pet was Coco the Papillon. Coco outlived Marie Antoinette and survived the French Revolution. This dog also lived through the entire Napoleonic era and lived past Napoleon’s defeat.

Coco lived a full life of 22 years, and the dog’s final resting place is in the gardens of the Hôtel de Seignelay. Guests of Hôtel de Seignelay can visit this dog’s gravestone, which isn’t too far from the spot where Marie Antoinette was beheaded.

3. Papillons have appeared in many paintings and portraits since the late 15th century.

Both Papillon owners and painters loved featuring this dog breed in paintings. Along with being included in family portraits, the Papillon also appeared in religious scene paintings. Famous painters, such as Titian, Goya, and Rembrandt, have all painted these dogs multiple times.

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Final Thoughts

Papillons are family-oriented dogs that thrive on companionship. They’re great for first-time dog owners because they’re intelligent, have simple grooming needs, and have relatively healthy genetics.

With all we know about these good-natured and friendly dogs, it’s no surprise that they’ve remained so popular for so long. These dogs have brought a smile to so many faces with their fun personalities, and we’re sure that they’ll continue to be a beloved dog breed for many more years to come.

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Featured Image Credit: AndyBir, Shutterstock

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