Breed Group: Toy Group
Shoulder Height: 8-11 in.
Weight: 7-10 lb.
Life Span: 17 years
Colors: Predominantly white with markings in black, lemon, red and sable. White with black and tan is also acceptable.
- The name Papillon is derived from the French word for butterfly, due to the breed's distinctive ears and facial markings
- They were once known as the Dwarf Spaniel and as the Squirrel Dog (because of their full tail that’s carried arched over their back)
- The Papillon has erect ears, but there is a drop-eared variety called the Phalène that is similar in all regards except for ear position
The Papillon is a charming and dainty breed with a big personality. The AKC standard states that Papillons are supposed to be "happy, alert, and friendly" and this is very much the case.
They enjoy being the center of attention but aren’t demanding or yappy as other Toy breeds may be. They're rarely aggressive, and are happy to say hello to strangers they meet. These small dogs get along well with other dogs as well as children, although their owners need to take care; their small size can put them at risk of being knocked over or stepped on. The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1915 and is now the 49th most popular breed in the United States.
Papillons train very easily. They’re an intelligent dog and learn quickly, and have performed well in a number of dog sports including agility and tracking. They enjoy being in the water and are good swimmers, though when it comes to athleticism, you will not find a more agile dog in the world. They also do not yap very much.
The Papillon is a suitable breed for a range of climates and living conditions. Their coat is light enough for warmer climates but heavy enough that a coat isn’t necessary in all but the coldest climates. They are an ideal dog for both homes with big back yards and small apartments, but if they’re going to live in an apartment, they will still need regular exercise to keep them happy.
The only real maintenance requirement is with their coat. It is quite long and flowing, so regular grooming is necessary to prevent knots and mats from forming.
Papillons are generally healthy dogs, but there are a few conditions that prospective owners need to be aware of.
- They may suffer from luxating patellas, which can cause hindleg lameness.
- Other possible health concerns include retinal atrophy, allergies, inherited liver disease and seizures.
- Good dental care is recommended as Papillons, like most small dogs, are prone to dental disease.
- The Papillon has been a popular breed with royalty for hundreds of years, especially in France. Kings Henry II and Henry III both kept Papillons, as did King Louis XV.
- Marie Antoinette is rumored to have gone to the guillotine with her Papillon in her arms. The dog was not executed and reportedly lived until 22 years of age. His gravestone can be seen in the gardens of a Paris hotel.
- The late Lauren Bacall kept Papillons her whole life.
- Singer Christina Aguilera also keeps a pair of Papillons.
- One of the most successful show dogs in history, Kirby, was a Papillon who became the only dog to win three major international dog shows in the same year – he won at Westminster, the World Dog Show and the Royal Canadian Show in 1998. He was the first of his breed to win Best in Show at Westminster and, at eight years old, was at the time the oldest dog to win the competition. Kirby's pedigree name was Loteki Supernatural Being.
Photo ©iStock.com/cynoclub, ©iStock.com/SergeyLavrentev