Breed At A Glance


Happy, friendly and tireless, loves to bark

Life Expectancy
13-15 years, sometimes longer

Average Height
8-11 inches

Average Weight
7-10 lbs

Coat Color
White with patches of any color (except liver)

Coat Length/Texture
Long, fine and lustrous (no undercoat)

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

Also known as Continental Toy Spaniel, Epagneul Nain Continental, Phal�ne, Butterfly Dog, Squirrel Dog, Pap

General Temperament

The Papillon may appear delicate, but this breed is much tougher than they look. Additionally, they are not “yappy” like some other toy breeds, although they will bark vigorously to announce danger or visitors. This breed is calm and patient, yet athletic and quite energetic during playtimes. Papillons love to accompany their masters everywhere, whether walking, traveling, or even just resting on the couch.

Their level of socialization from puppyhood largely determines how extroverted they will be as adults. With adequate exposure from an early age, most are people-friendly and enjoy meeting new human friends, but they can sometimes become possessive of their owner. This breed does not like to be roughhoused or teased, and as such will likely do best with older, well-behaved children. Papillons are not cognizant of their size and may incite much larger dogs to play or fight, the results of which can be disastrous. Individuals may get along with cats if raised with them from puppyhood.

The Papillon is easy to train, both in obedience and housetraining, and it’s recently discovered tracking and agility abilities are easy to hone. This breed follows it’s handler with intense focus and is quite a showman, and has even been known to intentionally attract the attention of judges.

The long-lived Papillon can be happy living in an apartment, although they are considered one of the more active toy breeds and as such require a good daily walk. They are great problem solvers and may attempt to escape from fenced enclosures if left alone for long periods.

Breed History

A European breed termed the “dwarf spaniel” was the progenitor of the modern Papillon. This dog, both the erect and drop ear versions, were depicted in many 16th century paintings, although some sources suggest the breed was around for as long as two hundred years prior. The Papillon owes much of it’s development to the French, although it was Italy and Spain that spread the breed’s popularity.

The Papillon was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1935.

Body Structure and Composition

The word “Papillon” is French for “butterfly,” and describes the ears of this breed, which are fringed with fur and set wide on the skull, and carried fully erect, giving the appearance of butterfly wings (except on the “Phalene” or drop-eared version of the breed, in which the ears lay close to the head). The fine muzzle is short – approximately one third of the length of the skull – and tapers to the nose. The tiny Papillon has a level topline and a moderately deep chest, which provides the dog with plenty of lung capacity during long walks or vigorous exercise. The fine-boned legs end in thin, elongated feet. The plumed tail is long and carried curled over the back.

Medical Information

This breed is generally healthy, not particularly prone to genetic diseases, although increased popularity has led to irresponsible “puppy mill” breeding, the effects of which are still to be determined.

Patellar Luxation is present in some Papillon lines, although the incidence is relatively low for a toy breed. Also known as “slipped stifle” or “trick knee,” this condition occurs when the kneelike joint above the hock slips out of place, sometimes requiring surgery to correct. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) provides certification of breeding stock to help prevent the spread of this disease, among others.

Another disease that affects this breed is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), which causes a degeneration of the retina resulting eventually in blindness, usually beginning with night vision. In Papillons, this is generally a late-onset disease, and as such does not usually have time to progress to total blindness. PRA can either be inherited or brought on by old age. Annual examinations for this disease (and others) are available from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) and can be performed by a veterinary opthamologist.

Liver shunts are also present in this breed, although with less frequency than PRA or Patellar Luxation. Liver shunts are the result of a failure of the fetal circulatory system to change once a puppy is born, resulting in a bypass of the filtering capacity of the liver. Symptoms include failure to gain weight, vomiting, and signs of hepatic encephalopathy (toxins that are normally removed by the liver accumulate in the blood and impair the function of brain cells) such as seizures, depression, tremors, and drooling. This condition usually strikes during puppyhood, and although it can be corrected through surgery, dogs with this problem should not be bred.

Some Papillons are predisposed to Hypoglycemia (a sudden drop in blood sugar), although this is not an inherited trait. Small breed puppies tend to burn energy quicker than larger breeds, and since they don’t have the fat storage that larger breed do, they can go from high energy to total collapse quite quickly. Symptoms of a Hypoglycemic attack include weakness, confusion, a wobbly gait, grayish-blue gums and tongue, low body temperature, shivering/shaking, drooling or frothing at the mouth, or even a full seizure. The condition can be brought on by stress or sudden growth spurts, and is easily controlled with immediate veterinary treatment. It’s important to feed the puppy high-quality and high-calorie meals several times per day to help prevent this situation from developing.

The coat of the Papillon requires ample brushing to keep it clean and free of debris, tangles, and matting.

Anecdotal Information

With their intense speed and drive and tiny turning radius, the Papillon has become a rising star in the world of agility sports in recent years.

The pint-sized and easy-traveling Papillon has been a popular companion pet for royalty for hundreds of years, as well as celebrities in recent years.

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