The Ultimate Papillon Puppy Ownership Guide

11 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
March 21, 2024

3 Papillon dogs

“Butterfly in the sky, I can fly twice as high!”

When you see a Papillon puppy, you may be reminded of the theme song on the “Reading Rainbow” TV show. But what does a dog have to do with a butterfly? 

If you see a Papillon among Shih Tzus and Pomeranians, they will stand out thanks to their unmistakable looks. Fringed ears displayed like butterfly wings are the most distinguishing feature of a Papillon puppy. Papillons also have long, flowing hair that forms a luxurious "frill" around their necks resembling butterfly wings, hence their name ("Papillon" is French for butterfly). These giant ears are attached to a contrasting delicate, small body.

However, this breed is not just known for its good looks. Papillons are delightful tiny canine companions known for their beauty, intelligence, and affectionate nature. They have no concept of their small size and will fill up a room with their big, friendly personality.

If the idea of a Papillon makes your heart flutter, this breed may be the right choice for you. Discover what it’s like to live with a Papillon puppy with our ultimate puppy ownership guide. 

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“Vendramin Family” 1547 by Titian (a.k.a. Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio)

The History and Origin of Papillon Puppies

Small spaniel-like toy breeds have existed since Silk Road times, traveling trade routes as companions. Modern Papillons hail from France and were bred from various small Spaniels and other toy dogs specifically to be companions for noblewomen among the court and aristocracy. They remained in fashion for hundreds of years, withstanding canine fads as favorites of nobility, including Madame de Pompadour, Louis XIV, and Marie Antoinette.

The royal nobility was not the only group of people fascinated with Papillons, then called Continental Toy Spaniels or dwarf Spaniels. Several famous painters like Goya, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Toulouse-Lautrec painted Papillons in famous works of art accompanying their aristocratic subjects. 

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Kirby the famous Papillon,1999 Best in Show

Over time, the breed's popularity spread beyond the aristocracy, and Papillons became beloved companions among the general population. By the early 1900s, Papillons were popular show dogs making their way around European dog show circuits. One famous Papillon named Kirby (CH. Loteki Supernatural Being) won over 30 Best in Show titles, holds the record for the only dog to win all three major international dog shows in the same year, and was the oldest winner of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show when he was eight years old. Several Papillons, including two named Purchase and Lark, have clinched the 8” WKC Masters Agility competition.  

Papillons joined the AKC in 1915. Today, Papillons are cherished worldwide for their affectionate nature, intelligence, and elegant appearance. They are listed at #51 on the AKC’s list of Most Popular Dog Breeds between Bloodhounds and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Famous Papillon owners include Christina Aguilera, George Takei, Autumn Reeser, and TV character Edna Birch from Emmerdale. Several social media accounts document what it’s like to live with these adorable, energetic buddies. 

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What Do Papillon Puppies Look Like? 

Papillon puppies grow 8-11 inches tall and 5-10 pounds as adults and are members of the Toy Spaniel family. Fringe on their large ears and collar are the most distinguishing features of a Papillon. Not all Papillons’ ears stand up, as some flop over, called "Phalene," which is the French word for a moth. They have dainty paws, tiny legs, and a short, athletic frame that ends in an upright plumed tail. 

Grooming a Papillon puppy

A Papillon’s silky hair comes in various beautiful colors, combinations, and markings on a white base featuring lemon, sable, black, fawn, silver, brown, red, and tan points. They grow a distinctive, single-layered coat that's both elegant and easy to maintain. Their coats are fine and silky, with a straight texture that lies close to the body.

Brushing a few times a week helps to prevent tangles and mats, particularly in the areas with longer hair such as the ears, chest, and tail. Pay special attention to the feathering around the ears and legs, as these areas can easily become tangled. Additionally, occasional baths using mild dog shampoo can help keep their coat clean and shiny.

@girlwithedogs This might be the cutest dog in the world #pet #viral #fyp #foryou #papillon #dog #dogs #pet #pets #cutedog #adorable ♬ original sound - Girl With The Dogs

While Papillons don't shed excessively, they do shed seasonally, so more frequent brushing may be necessary during these times to remove loose hair and prevent it from accumulating around the house. For this reason, Papillons are not hypoallergenic and are not great choices for people with allergies because their dander could easily spread around the home during shedding. 

Routine grooming should also include nail trimming, dental care, and regular checks for signs of ear infections or other skin issues.

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Facts Papillon Puppy Owners Want You to Know 

Here are fascinating facts and unique quirks about Papillon puppies that prospective owners should be aware of when considering adding one to their family. See what owners want you to understand about what makes a Papillon one paw above the rest. 

Friendly companions 

Papillons are known for their friendly and affectionate nature. They form strong bonds with their owners and enjoy being part of the family. They thrive on attention and affection, often seeking out cuddles and lap time when they’re not being playful.

Vigilant, tiny watchdogs

Papillons are naturally alert and watchful dogs, making them excellent watchdogs. They tend to bark to alert their owners to potential intruders or unusual activities, making them effective alarm systems despite their tiny size.

What type of home environment is best for a Papillon puppy? 

A Papillon puppy is an excellent choice for novice dog owners. They are playful, portable, and don’t take up too much space. Papillon puppies do best in a home with owners who can devote time to meet their needs since they love being with people. Be prepared to constantly play with your Papillon, as these small dogs have a surprising amount of energy. They make great indoor companions from small apartments to large homes.

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Are they good with pets and children? 

While they’re fond of children, a small dog can get hurt playing with boisterous young children who haven’t learned how to be a dog yet. Older, calmer children and household members who know how to be gentle and provide stability to a Papillon create an ideal home environment. For these reasons, Papillons do better in a home with older children. Likewise, larger pets may play too rough with such a tiny dog. Always supervise any interactions with children and other pets.

Energy Levels and Training Your Papillon Puppy

How can something so tiny have so much energy? Papillons are often described as "perpetual puppies" due to their youthful exuberance, even as they age into senior dogs. Learn more about their activity and training needs. 

How much activity and exercise does a Papillon puppy need?

Although small in size, Papillons need lots of interaction and exercise to thrive, both physically and mentally. They are not the typical small lap dog and may surprise you with their high energy levels. Papillons are constantly looking to play and also enjoy walks, going on adventures, playing games, solving puzzles, and romping around the section of the dog park just for small dogs to let them chase squirrels. 

Regular exercise is one key to keeping your Papillon healthy and focused, preventing unwanted behaviors. Insufficient mental enrichment can show up in behaviors such as excessive barking or wariness towards unfamiliar people and situations, making them fearful and anxious. A Papillon puppy may resort to its own activities to keep itself busy, and you may not like what was chosen! 

Training a Papillon 

Training a Papillon puppy can be rewarding if you have patience and consistency. Papillons are highly intelligent dogs with the ability to learn and adapt. They excel in obedience training because they are eager to please their owners. In addition to basic commands starting on Day One, teach your Papillon to respect you by forming a strong bond with your puppy. Because they are self-assured and smart, they have an easy time learning new tricks and commands. 

However, because they are so intelligent, Papillons may have a stubborn streak. Housebreaking can be challenging, but keep being consistent and offering lots of treats. Do your best to socialize your Papillon, especially if you are going on adventures in public with them. A yappy, uncontrolled small dog is not cute, but a well-behaved one is a delight to have around. The more your Papillon puppy is exposed to sights, sounds, and experiences, the less they will bark and act out.

Special jobs for Papillons

Papillons aren’t just companion dogs, as some hold special jobs thanks to their outgoing, athletic nature. While most people think of breeds like Border Collies to excel in dog sports, a Papillon can hold its own. Their obedient, eager-to-please nature combined with their fantastic athleticism puts them as one of the best toy dogs in the world in obedience and agility trials.

Because of their size and personality, Papillons make excellent emotional support dogs and comfort therapy dogs. They’re small enough to fit on laps and lively enough to bring a smile to faces that need one. 

Caring For Your Papillon Puppy

Papillons can live to be 14-16 years old, so be prepared to maintain their needs for this long. That means keeping them current on visits to the veterinarian, meeting their exercise needs, and being financially prepared to fund their care. 

While they are a relatively healthy breed, common health concerns of Papillons should be noted so you are aware of what you may encounter. 

Don’t give them the cold shoulder

Papillons do fine in hotter climates with shade and water. However, the cold can be too much for their thin skins and single coats. You’ll need to bundle them up in cute winter accessories for dogs to ensure they can handle cold weather and regulate their temperatures. Never leave them unattended in frigid temperatures.

Dental issues

Because their jaws are so tiny and they have the same amount of teeth as other dogs, their teeth can suffer. Overcrowding, broken teeth, abscesses, and periodontal disease can affect more than just the mouth, spreading to other parts of the body. Get regular dental cleanings and checkups to prevent painful dental issues.

Other health concerns

Papillons can experience a variety of health conditions, including: 

  • Fontanel Closure: Papillon puppies have a soft spot on the top of their skulls called a fontanel, which may take longer than usual to close. While this is typically not a cause for concern, it may require monitoring by a veterinarian.
  • Patellar Luxation: This condition involves the dislocation of the kneecap, which can cause lameness and discomfort. Regular veterinary check-ups can help detect and manage this condition early.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is a degenerative eye disorder that can lead to vision loss over time. Regular eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist can help monitor and manage this condition.
  • Heart Conditions: Some Papillons may be predisposed to heart conditions such as mitral valve disease or patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). Regular cardiac evaluations can help detect and manage these conditions early.

Papillon puppy owners need to be proactive about their dog's health by providing regular veterinary care, maintaining a healthy diet, and watching for any signs of illness or discomfort. Early detection and treatment can help ensure a long and happy life for your Papillon companion. 

Pawrade Papillon Puppies Await

When considering adopting a Papillon puppy, it's important to note that availability may be limited in the United States due to the breed's relative rarity. If you can find a breeder near you, you may encounter long waiting lines. If you decide it’s the right breed for you, shelters most likely will not have a dog this uncommon. 

Puppy scammers and dishonest people want to capitalize on the exclusivity of Papillon puppies. This unfortunate reality prompts some to engage in unethical practices such as backyard breeding or operating puppy mills solely for profit. Such practices often involve breeding without consideration for the health of the parent breeds and neglecting to provide essential documentation. The deplorable and unsanitary conditions typical of puppy mills can lead to severe illnesses, psychological damage, and lifelong issues. 

You may wonder how you can avoid supporting scammers and puppy mills. That’s where Pawrade comes to the rescue to help you find your happy Papillon. 

We partner with reputable Papillon breeders who provide happy Papillon puppies for adoption. A reliable breeder commits to ensuring your puppy thrives and enjoys a fulfilling life as your devoted companion. Each breeder must pass a rigorous selection process and promise to follow a puppy-first approach, putting the well-being of your Papillon puppy above all else. 

Pawrade offers a 3-year health guarantee, current veterinary paperwork with up-to-date vaccinations, 30 days of MetLife insurance, and so much more for a safe, secure puppy adoption process. 

Check out the cute ears on our Papillon puppies for sale. We can’t wait to assist you in becoming a Papillon puppy owner!


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Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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