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Last updated date: 29th May 2024
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Papillon Dog Breed

The Papillon (French for "butterfly-eared"), commonly known as the Continental Toy Spaniel, is a spaniel-type dog breed. One of the oldest toy spaniels, it gets its name from the long, fringed hair on its ears, which has a butterfly-like appearance. A Papillon with lowered ears is known as a Phalene, which is French for "moth."

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Appearance and Behaviour 

Papillons are highly clever and self-assured animals who pick up new skills quickly. These dogs are social with children and strangers, yet they are often afraid of strangers. They can also be socialised to get along with other pets, however hyperactive pets or cats with claws should be avoided because they may damage them. Papillons can be suspicious and aggressive toward other dogs and people if they are not properly socialised. Papillons can also be quite affectionate and lively. 

They are widely regarded as excellent companion dogs since they have the spirit and ability to keep up with active families while being calm enough to sleep in the arms of an equally adoring owner. In comparison to the ordinary companion breed, they require a more vigorous exercise schedule due to their high activity level. Papillons are regarded for being great watchdogs, alerting their owners to changes in their surroundings. They, like many other toy dogs, can be described as communicative. They can resist heat, but because of their single-coated fur, they are more susceptible to cold temperatures and should not be left outside unsupervised in cold weather.

The most recognisable feature of Papillons is their enormous, well-fringed ears, which give them a butterfly wing appearance. Papillons are either particoloured or white with coloured patches. The conformation show ring disqualifies an all-white papillon dog or a papillon with no white colour, such as a black Papillon dog. Over a solid-coloured head, a blaze (area of white extending down between the eyes) and noseband are preferable, but not needed. Black should be used for the nose, eye rims, and lips. The colour of the paw pads varies from black to pink, depending on the dog's colouring.

Failure of the non-white colour to cover the front and rear of both ears, as well as to extend from the ears over both eyes, is a conforming fault that may be penalised, according to the American Kennel Club breed standard. A tiny white-collar extension to the base of the ears, or a few white hairs dispersed in the colour, are not penalised as long as "the butterfly appearance is not sacrificed."

The papillon's name comes from its wide, butterfly-like ears and symmetrical face.

The Papillon, which has totally upright ears, and the Phalène, which has drooping spaniel-like ears, are two ear variations of this breed. The Phalène are most likely a reincarnation of its spaniel forefathers. The Phalène and the Papillon are considered the same breed by the American Kennel Club and the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI).

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Papillons have a cheerful, amiable, and adventurous nature. They are neither shy nor aggressive in general. Papillons can be wonderful family dogs, but they should be kept away from small children, as should any dog, due to a little child's lack of understanding of a dog's behaviour and the likelihood of them doing something to upset the dog. Because of their intellect, Papillons require extensive training and mental engagement to avoid boredom-related difficulties. Papillons are among the top ten smartest dogs, according to Dr Stanley Coren, an animal intelligence researcher, placing 8th out of 138 breeds examined.


According to a poll conducted by the Papillon Club of America in 2002, the average lifespan of their members' Papillons was 11.45 years. Papillons have a long lifespan of up to 17 years. According to Pet Plus, several have survived far longer, such as Chanel, who lived to be 21 years old, and Scolly, who lived to be 20 years old.


Papillons have only minimal health problems, such as patellar luxation, convulsions, and dental disorders. They may also be susceptible to progressive retinal atrophy, intervertebral disc disease, and allergies.


Play will provide a large portion of their exercise requirements; however, like with all breeds, play alone will not suffice. A Papillon can benefit greatly from daily walks or runs. Off-leash play in a safe open environment, such as a large, gated yard, is also something they like. Papillons are a high-energy breed that thrives on having a job to complete. Because of their intellect and energy level, Papillon breeders advocate dog agility, rally obedience, or obedience training for Papillons.


Papillon's history may be tracked through works of art. Italy is home to the first toy spaniels that resemble the papillon. Beginning approximately 1500, Tiziano Vicelli painted these little dogs in a number of notable works, including the Venus of Urbino (1542). Watteau, Gonzales Coques, Fragonard, Paolo Veronese, and Mignard are just a few of the well-known artists who used them in their paintings. A Papillon is plainly visible in a family portrait of Louis XIV in a painting by Largillierre at the Wallace Collection in London. Papillons can also be found in artworks by royal families and merchant-class families all over Europe. The breed was popular in England, France, and Belgium, which are considered countries of origin by the FCI.

The "Titian spaniels," as well as those depicted by later artists like Mignard and his contemporaries, had drooping ears that are distinctive of today's Phalène; the erect-eared form did not become fashionable until the late nineteenth century. In contrast to the various recognised colourations of today's Papillon, Titian spaniels were purely red and white in colouration.

The Papillon's lengthy relationship with royalty has resulted in a plethora of legends about the breed. Marie Antoinette is claimed to have walked to the guillotine with her tiny puppy under her arm, though this is most likely fictitious. However, legend has it that Marie Antoinette's dog was a little spaniel brought to the French court on the backs of pack mules from Spain. According to the account, her puppy was saved and cared for in the Papillon House, which is still standing in Paris. Marie Antoinette's dog was supposed to be a descendant of the Epagneul Nain, or Continental Dwarf/Toy Spaniel, a very old drop-eared breed that first appeared in church frescoes and paintings in the 13th century.

In non-English-speaking nations, the Papillon is still referred to as the Epagneul Nain (ENC). The term Squirrel Spaniel has also been used, most likely in reference to an earlier standard that characterised the tail set as "curling over the back like a squirrel's." Breed fanciers produced a variant of the spaniel whose ears stood up near the end of the 19th century, according to one version of the history of the two kinds of ear shape in the ENC ("papillon" to signify the erect ear and "phalène" to signify the drooping ear). The amazingly enormous, upright ears that resembled butterfly wings were reported to have earned this canine the moniker papillon. The Phalène was the name given to the breed's drop-eared variant (which means "night moth"). Both breeds are still being bred today, and they might be found in the same litter. Although the papillon type is far more popular, the Phalène has recently experienced a return in favour.

The AKC officially recognised the Papillon in 1935, when the Papillon Club of America was formed. The club had ceased to exist after the end of the war, but it was reconstituted in 1948, with its first postwar Specialty held in September 1954. In 1999, John Oulton of Norwalk, Connecticut, owned and managed Ch. Loteki Supernatural Being (call name "Kirby"), the first Papillon to win the prestigious "Best in Show" at the annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show. Kirby also brought the breed international recognition by winning the World Dog Show in Helsinki, Finland, as well as the Royal Invitational in Canada in 1998. Papillons have also found success in categories other than conformation, like obedience and agility.

Planet Waves Forever Young Daydream Believers (call name "Dylan") won Best in Show at Crufts for the first time in 2019.

Facts About the Papillon

  • Classic Companions: Though the term is French, it is uncertain where papillons came from. In Europe, smaller spaniels that resemble the papillon date back to the 1200s. Some people believe the breed came from China or Japan, while others feel it has nothing to do with an Asian influence. While papillons are frequently depicted as loving companions for the wealthy today, they make excellent family dogs. They enjoy playing with kids and get along with other pets in the house, including cats and even larger dogs.

  • Butterfly Beauties: The term Papillon means "butterfly," therefore it's no surprise that the breed is named after a butterfly. The fringed upright ears of the breed bear a striking likeness to the outspread wings of a butterfly. They have a long flowing coat that adds to their beauty and grace, in addition to their distinctive ears.

  • Papillons are more than just ornamental lap dogs! They're intelligent and trainable! Of course, their agility and natural retrieving abilities come in handy, but they're also famed for their ability to be trained to do practically anything, including dog sports and ring tricks. In 1999, a papillon took first place in the famous Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. They are the most popular toy breed in terms of obedience, and they rank eighth in terms of intellect among all breeds.

  • Papillons have lively personalities and are affectionate, outgoing, and energetic. They're fluffy little love bugs who are equally as home sitting on your lap as they are dashing about furiously. Papillons are curious and like being in the company of others. Papillons are known for showering their friends with love and kisses, and they have no qualms about guarding them with their big-dog mentality.  

  • Therapy and Service Dogs: Papillons make excellent therapy and service dogs due to their affection and intelligence. They are always vigilant and fast to feel their companion's mood, whether they are trained for hearing assistance or therapy.

  • Papillons are a fairly low-maintenance breed of dog. Their hair isn't prone to matting if combed once or twice a week. They require less food than larger dogs due to their size, and the best thing is that they do not have a lasting canine odour.

  • Long, Healthy Lifespan: While this breed is generally healthy, it, like most purebred dogs, is prone to its own set of health issues. Floating kneecaps (patellar luxation), low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), collapsing trachea, and progressive retinal atrophy are some of the more typical health concerns for this breed (PRA). Despite this, the average lifespan of a papillon is between 12 and 17 years.


Papillons are a perfect balance between playfulness and grace. If you like to take your dog on adventures, spend a lot of time outdoors and socialize, a Papillon will be a perfect companion for you. In this article, we come across papillon dog breed, appearance, behaviour, lifespan, history and different facts about papillon dogs.

FAQs on Papillon

1. Do Papillon Dogs Like to Cuddle?

Answer. Papillons are adorable and friendly dogs, but if you're searching for a dog that loves to cuddle, you've come to the wrong place. Cuddles are out of the question for papillons. The Papillon is a dog that does not sit still for long periods of time. He likes to be on the move all of the time.

2. Are Papillon Dogs Aggressive?

Answer. Papillons are intelligent dogs who enjoy learning new things, making training them simple. They are not generally violent, however, as puppies, they may exhibit aggressive behaviour such as biting and nipping. Those behaviours, while harmless, must be curtailed before they become adults.

3. How Often Should I Bathe My Papillon Dog?

Answer. Brushing them out on a regular basis will help remove debris and prevent matting. It is, however, time for a bath every couple of months! Because papillons are so small (weighing no more than 5-10 pounds), it's best to bathe them in a sink or shallow water basin rather than a larger tub.

4. Can Papillons Be Left Alone?

Answer. Papillons are known to be social with both humans and other dogs. When left alone for long periods of time, these dogs are prone to separation anxiety. If they are left alone for an extended period of time, they may begin to bark or chew on your belongings. This breed is not suitable for owners who are not at home for the majority of the day.