Petkeen is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commision. Learn More


Nicole Cosgrove

The Papillon is a small purebred spaniel type dog, one of the oldest toy spaniels there are. Its name is French for Butterfly which comes from the look its ears give it. It is an active small dog and has talents in obedience, watchdog, tricks and agility. It is also a great companion and is a mix of liveliness and lap dog.
Here is the Papillon at a Glance
Name Papillon
Other Names Squirrel Dog, Phalène, Epagneul Nain, Continental Toy Spaniel, Epagneul Nain Continental, Dwarf Spaniel
Nicknames Butterfly Dog, Pap
Origin France
Average size Small (toy)
Average weight 4 to 9 pounds
Average height 8 to 11 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Coat type Silky, long, fine
Hypoallergenic No
Color White, black, brown, red and silver
Popularity Very good – ranked 48th by the AKC
Intelligence Very good – a smart dog
Tolerance to heat Very good – can handle fairly warm climates
Tolerance to cold Moderate – cannot handle cold weather
Shedding Low – does not shed a great deal if any
Drooling Low – not a dog known for its drooling
Obesity Average – food should be measured but dog is not usually prone to obesity
Grooming/brushing Moderate – daily brushing needed
Barking Occasional
Exercise needs Somewhat active
Trainability Easy to train
Friendliness Very good – approachable and social
Good first dog Excellent for new owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good with socialization – has high prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for too long
Health issues Good – but can suffer from certain conditions such as patellar luxation, eye problems and dental problems
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for good dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $460 a year for grooming, toys, license, basic training and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $970 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $800
Biting Statistics None reported

The Papillon’s Beginnings

The Papillon is a European breed that can be traced back in recordings and paintings as much as 700 years. The earliest Papillon like toy spaniels can be found in Italy. Originally it had dropped ears and was called the dwarf spaniel. The paintings dating as far back as the 12 hundreds all through the Renaissance periods show the breed as a lap dog with Spanish, Italian and French noble ladies. It then became known as the Continental Toy Spaniel and was popular also in England, and Belgium.

There have been many famous owners and fans of the breed. Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV, royal families across Europe over many centuries. Over many years the version we see today developed with erect fringed ears that looked like a butterfly. Papillon became the name for the butterfly version and Phalene for the dropped ear versions. By the end of the 1800s the erect ear version was the more popular dog.

New Lease on Life

The Papillon Club of America was formed in 1935 and the breed was then recognized by the AKC. Due to the second world war the club stopped functioning for a period but in 1948 was back up and running again. In the US the AKC standard allows for Phalenes and Papillons to be born together and to be shows as the same breed. While it allows them to mate too, the FCI does not as it usually leads to the ears being in mixed positions. Today it is ranked 48th most popular registered breed by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Papillon is a small dog weighing just 4 to 9 pounds and standing 8 to 11 inches tall. It is a fine boned dog with a small rounded head, erect butterfly like ears that are fringed, a short thin muzzle, dark eyes and a long tail it holds over the body.

Its coat is long, silky and fine and common colors are tan, black, red, white, silver and brown. It is straight and single. Around the ears, tail, back of the legs and chest there is more frill. Inside the ears there is more medium length hair and the tail is a plume of hair too. Its lips are black as are its nose and the rims around its eyes.

The Inner Papillon


The Pap is a very lively, playful, happy little dog who is also intelligent and alert. It can be a good watchdog as it will bark to let you know of an intruder. It is also a good dog for new owners. It is friendly and gentle in nature and while it might seem to be a dainty fragile thing it is a tough thing. It is very charming and loves a mix of being active and having a snuggle on your lap, though when it is young it will not be able to sit still for long!

It is not a very yappy dog but does bark occasionally. It is more reserved around strangers until it is used to them but is otherwise approachable and with its family is affectionate and loving. If it is not well socialized and trained though it can be snappy and aggressive. It can also develop small dog syndrome where because it has been allowed to believe it is in charge it has behavioral problems, is high strung or timid and can develop separation anxiety too.

Living with a Papillon

What will training look like?

This is an easy dog to train, it is smart, listens well and usually will obey with the right approach. It does not need a lot of repetition and with positive training it can go very well. Use treats and praise to reward and encourage it. Avoid snapping or becoming impatient. Be firm so it knows you are the boss and be consistent. Be ready for some manipulation, some Paps will try to use their charm to get out of obeying you sometimes and you must not let that work on you!

House training should also be easy especially if you stick to a schedule at first. Crating is also effective when you are not around. Make sure early socialization takes place so that it is at its best when around new people, children, other dogs and animals and in new places and situations.

How active is the Papillon?

The Papillon is a somewhat active dog, it might be small but it has a lot of energy and will want play time and walk time. It is a great size for apartment living and a yard is not a requirement though it would be a bonus place for it to play and explore. It will need a couple of walks a day of at least 20 minutes each and a safe place to run off leash. Some dog parks have size restrictions but if you can this is a place it could go and socialize too. Do remember that this may be a small dog but it is really quick so always have it on a leash when not in a secure area. It is also quite a good jumper so make sure the yard is fenced properly and do not be shocked to see it hopping across your furniture!

Caring for the Papillon

Grooming needs

Papillons do not shed a lot so there won’t be an awful lot of loose hair around the home or on clothing. But because of its frilly and silky long nature it tangles very easily so needs daily brushing. Its length means it will need regular trimming and a professional groomer may need to strip occasionally. It is a clean dog that does not tend to get too smelly. Give it a bath just when one is really called for to avoid damaging the natural oils in its skin that it needs. You can also dry shampoo in between.

Its nails need to be clipped when they get too long, since they have live vessels and nerves in them care needs to be taken not to go too low down. A professional groomer could take care of this for you at the same time the coat is being done. Brush its teeth two to three times a week at a minimum as it is prone to dental issues. Also check its ears for infection signs and give them a wipe clean once a week with a cleanser. Do not insert anything into its ears.

Feeding Time

How big your Pap is, its age, metabolism, level of activity and health will affect how much food it needs a day. When feeding dry dog food use a good quality one to avoid fillers and to ensure it is more nutritious. About ¼ to ½ a cup a day split into two meals is what it will likely need. Make sure it does not overeat and that it gets enough exercise. Being a fragile dog with delicate knees getting fat can lead to serious and painful health consequences for it.

How do they get on with children and other animals

The Papillon can adjust to kids and be good with them when socialized. It is better with children it has been raised with. Small children especially can be a problem as the Pap is a fragile dog so care needs to be taken with it, something small children are not good at. Therefore supervision is needed. Make sure that children know not to keep picking it up too, as if held incorrectly it can hurt it and it will snap if mishandled.

With other animals it is more accepting of pets in the same home when raised with them, but because of its high prey drive cats, and other small animals will be chased when seen outside. This might be a small dog but with other dogs it can actually get too bossy and some large dogs might view it as a toy so take care when at dog parks. It can be aggressive around other dogs too so socialization and training is important.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

With a life span of 12 to 15 years but some even going as long as 17 years this is a dog you can really spend a long time with. There are health issues it can be prone to such as knee problems, an open fontanel when a puppy and problems with anesthesia. Other issues include seizures, patellar luxation, dental problems, eye problems, collapsed trachea, hypoglycemia, allergies and intervertebral disk disease.

Biting Statistics

There are no reports of serious bodily harm caused by a Papillon over the last 34 years of reports in the US and Canada. However this does not mean it never attacks or snaps – in fact as already stated it does. However as of yet the injuries it has caused have not been as serious as other dogs. In order to have a dog less likely to cause injury or snap you need to ensure you can meet its needs. Can you exercise it as much as it needs, give it some decent basic training, socialization and attention?

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Papillon puppy from a good breeder for pet quality dogs is going to be about $800 though prices can vary from location to location. Something from a show breeder though is a lot more going up to $2000 to $3000. In general you get a better quality dog from a good breeder, and you pay for that.

When you are buying from private sales you do not know anything about its bloodlines and there is the risk of buying from puppy mills. Shelters and rescues are another place you could look for one. It is true that purebreds are less common there, and you are more likely to get an adult dog but you get the pleasure of giving a dog a new chance at a loving home.

You will need some things for your new pet like a crate, carrier, leash, bowls and collar. These will be another $100. The puppy when you have it should have a visit with the vet straight away. It will need a physical, blood tests, deworming, micro chipping, neutering or spying and shots. These will cost around $280.

Annual medical costs will depend on its health but there are some basic costs that need to be covered. You should have some emergency medical savings put aside each year or take out some pet insurance. You will also need to have it vaccinated, have flea and tick prevention and have check ups. These costs will amount to about $435 a year.

Annual non-medical costs will include covering its grooming needs, its license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous costs for $460.

This means each year you can expect to pay $970 or more.


Looking for a Papillon Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

There are a lot of great things about the Papillon. It is attractive, loyal, fun, lively and clever. It is a great option for people living in small spaces or ones that cannot handle larger dogs for whatever reason. However it is fragile so care has to be taken, and in some lines and when not properly socialized it can be high strung, overly timid and snappish. Its coat also needs daily care to keep the tangles at bay. If you are prepared for these things though it could be a great dog for you especially for singles or couples without children.

Popular Papillon Mixes

Chihuahua, Papillon Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height Up to 11 inches
Weight 4 to 10 pounds
Life span 12 to 14 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits




Papillon and Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height Up to 11 inches
Weight 6 to 14 pounds
Life span 10 to 14 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Easy to train
Enjoy water


Can be

Papillon, Shih Tzu Mix
General Information
Size Small sized
Height Small
Weight 9 to 15 pounds
Life span 13 to 15 years
Touchiness Slightly sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Somewhat active
Breed Traits

Joyful and Sweet
Gentle and loving
Quite obedient
Great personality
Good Family Pet



Papillon, Yorkshire Terrier Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 7 to 11 inches
Weight 3 to 9 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Quite sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits

Very loyal
Fairly intelligent
Family Pet


Can be

Featured Image Credit: AndyBir, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.