Papillon is the French word for “butterfly,” which is very fitting for this small breed and not just because of their butterfly-shaped ears. Papillons are spunky, intelligent, vibrant balls of fun that hold the reputation for being the original “big dog in a small body.”
Whether you already parent one or are considering it, here’s everything you need to know about the Papillon.
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Meet The Papillon Dog
Weight: 3-12 pounds
Height: 8-11 inches tall at the shoulder
Life Expectancy: 12-17 years
Papillons are not your typical little lap dog. In fact, if a lazy lap dog is what you’re looking for, then a Papillon should not be your top choice. They’ve got big, bright, energetic, take-charge personalities and carry themselves as though they are the largest dog at the dog park. They like to be constantly on the go, taking on any and every challenge and showing off whenever possible.
A bored or cooped up Papillon can become super difficult to handle, especially when it comes to training. Keep your Papillon happy by providing daily exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation and you’ll find that they can become quite cooperative. They are very intelligent and can find joy and amusement in learning tricks and obedience, as long as you make it fun for them.
Expect your Papillon to always want to be a part of your business, no matter what you’re doing: cooking, sleeping, working, exercising, shopping, lounging… They want to be a part of it all. Leave them on their own too long and they may find entertainment on their own, which can sometimes become destructive or disruptive. Papillons are bred specifically to be companion dogs and they can be very adamant about it (what’s not to love about a small, spunky, fluffy companion though?).
Papillons are also pretty social dogs, though it is highly recommended that you socialize them from a young age with other dogs and people so that they don’t develop any sensitivities or standoffish behavior over time.
Papillons are high energy dogs that, as mentioned, require a high amount of playtime and exercise. They don’t need to go on long runs (not recommended for toy breeds), but they thrive on action. Bouncing about at your feet, playing with other canine buddies, goofing around with toys, chasing little critters, darting around the house, running in circles, having fun during training sessions, etc. are all activities your Papillon could potentially enjoy.
Good With Children
Papillons tend to love children but are not actually the best for children. Though they have big mindsets, they are tiny dogs that can become injured much easier than most other breeds. Any rambunctious play with children or other dogs can be dangerous for them.
Good With Other Dogs
Papillons tend to be social dogs and enjoy other canine company. However, it’s important to monitor their play and make sure things don’t get too rambunctious with other dogs. Aside from paying attention to this, Papillons can have a “the more the merrier” type approach with dogs and other pets, which is fine. They have specifically been known to get along very well with cats.
Papillons have long-haired coats that don’t actually shed a significant amount, partly because it’s hair and partly because they don’t actually have an undercoat, which can be a major source of shedding for a lot of breeds.
Papillons definitely require some grooming, but their upkeep is not difficult. A good brushing a couple times a week helps keep their coats smooth and tangle-free. It’s recommended to use a pin brush (smooth tipped wire instead of bristles), a stainless steel comb with fine teeth, and antistatic coat spray. Spraying the antistatic spray when you brush helps protect the hair and give it a nice shine. Go over the coat with the pin brush and then the steel comb and you should be good to go. Be sure to keep their nails properly trimmed and to brush their teeth 2-3 times a week to avoid them developing dental issues over time. Depending on how dirty they get, Papillons can be bathed as often as once or twice a week to as little as 2-3 times a month.
Tips: to make grooming and specifically teeth brushing easier for yourself, start getting them used to it from a young age. Treat the toothbrush like a game until they get used to it then start using vet approved toothpaste. Frequently handle their ears and paws as they grow up to avoid them developing sensitivities or discomfort with being handled or held. Make grooming and bathing a rewarding experience for them.
As you likely assumed with them being a toy breed, Papillons do have a yappy reputation. They like to be very vocal about how they feel and what they think. Some may even feel the need to become little guard dogs. If you begin training them from a young age when and when not to bark, this tendency can be diminished and managed.
Trainability/Tips For Training
As long as you make the experience rewarding and enjoyable for them, Papillons can be very cooperative when it comes to training. They love showing off new tricks they learn and taking on obedience challenges. They have been known to be difficult when it comes to house training, but if you are patient, consistent and keep them on a schedule, then it is definitely doable.
It is recommended to crate train your Papillon, mainly so they can have a place to retreat for naps and also so you can have a place to put them that can help keep them from constantly rampaging the house or having accidents while they are house training.
How To Feed My Papillon
First, it is important to note that Papillons can be easily overfed. Because of their small stature and delicate knees, they need to not be fat. If you’re ever unsure about whether they are gaining too much weight, you can either consult a veterinary professional or do the “hands-on” test: place your hands on your Papillon’s back, thumbs on the spine and fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel, but not see their ribs without pushing too hard. If you can’t feel them, then your Papillon likely needs less food and more exercise.
For your Papillon (and every dog breed really), you want to be sure you are giving them raw, natural food. They are living beings with digestive systems that stem from their “wolf” heritage (hard to believe when they’re so tiny, but it’s true). Processed foods do more harm than good for them over time.
Raw food tastes better to them. Its ingredients are simple, it is good for their health and helps keep their coats nice and shiny, it keeps them satisfied and happy and ultimately it saves you money (a pretty good perk)! For more information on how to provide your dog a good, safe, raw food diet, check out our page here.
For dog food in general (especially if you insist on sticking to bagged, kibble food) you want to be sure healthy meats are the highlight ingredient and that the food is not stuffed with additives and ingredients you cannot even pronounce. You especially want to avoid grains and artificial flavorings. Just as you want to be careful with what foods you are putting in your body, so should you also be for your little furry companion.
In general, when your puppy is 8-12 weeks old, he likely will be needing to eat at least 3-4 times a day. You want to be sure you are feeding your puppy the amount he needs, but also not too much. Again, you should be able to feel, but not see their ribs and they should have a visible waist when you are looking down at them.
Feeding Your Adult
By 6 months you will want to start reducing the amount of food you feed your Papillon to fit an adult Papillon feeding plan (about 2 meals a day). Make it a routine, feeding your Papillon around the same times every day. You should be feeding your Papillon 1/4-1/2 cup of food a day, split between the two meals. It is recommended to avoid giving them table scraps and “people” food, as this can cultivate begging habits and a tendency for weight gain and health problems. This is a rule that should be implemented from the very beginning and be understood by everyone in the family and members of your social circle who spend time around your Papillon.
It should be noted that the amount of food you feed a dog ultimately depends on their size, weight, age, build, metabolism and activity level. Be sure you know your Papillon and his individual needs, especially when it comes to feeding.
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Health Concerns For Papillons
Every breed of dog has its own health concerns and issues to which it is prone. Though generally healthy dogs, Papillons are no different. If you give them the proper attention and care, however, most health problems can be avoided. Some of the most common health concerns Papillons are prone to include:
- Bone fractures and concussions – Papillons can suffer these injuries from rough/rambunctious play, from jumping off high furniture or out of your arms, or from being stepped on.
- Choking – Papillons can choke on the tiniest objects, something to keep in mind when prepping your home for one or buying them toys.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) – an eye disease that can cause cataracts, eyelash abnormalities, tear duct disorders, blindness, etc.
- Mitral valve disease – a heart disease that’s becoming increasingly more common in Papillons.
- Epilepsy – also a condition that’s becoming more common in Papillons.
- Digestive diseases – since they have delicate digestive systems, Papillons can suffer from diseases such as colitis and pancreatitis.
- Hypothyroidism – a hormonal disease.
- Allergies – if a Papillon has allergies, he may develop itchy skin, which can lead to skin infections.
- Deafness – Papillons with a lot of white covering their heads have been known to inherit levels of deafness.
- Patellar luxation – when the kneecaps (or patellas) slip out of place.
- Hypoglycemia – Low blood sugar.
- Collapsed trachea – this can be an inherited condition where the trachea flattens, making breathing difficult.
- Open fontanel – Papillons are naturally born with a little soft spot on their head. This spot typically closes over time, but sometimes they don’t close completely and can become a spot that, if hit too hard, can cause injury or death to Papillons.
If you ever have questions or concerns about your Papillon, be sure to consult a veterinary professional. If you take the proper care of your Papillon and make sure to get him frequent medical examinations though, many of these health issues can be prevented.
Frequently Asked Questions About Papillons
Q. Will Papillon hair grow back?
A. Yes, though if the fringe hair on their ears breaks, it may grow back very slowly or in some cases, not at all.
Q. Can Papillon dogs live outside?
A. No, Papillons are not an outdoor breed. They love to play outdoors on occasion but otherwise do much better remaining indoors.
Q. Can Papillon dogs drink milk?
A. Technically yes, though it is not a common choice to feed dogs milk. If a dog is lactose intolerant, then milk will irritate their digestive system and likely cause discomfort.
Q. Can Papillon dogs live in an apartment?
A. Yes, Papillons are a very good choice for apartment living.
Q. Why does my Papillon lick so much?
A. This can be for a few reasons, sometimes Papillons will lick just to show affection or seek attention, otherwise their licking may be a developmental habit or they may be experiencing some pain or discomfort. If this seems to be the case, it’s suggested that you consult a veterinary professional.
Q. Are Papillon dogs smart?
A. Yes, Papillons are considered a bright, intelligent breed.
Q. Are Papillon dogs hypoallergenic?
A. No, Papillons are not considered hypoallergenic.
Q. Are Papillon dogs rare?
A. Papillons are not rare, though they are not super common either.
Q. What were Papillon dogs bred for?
A. Papillons were primarily bred for companionship.
Q. What is Papillon Lefevre syndrome?
A. Also known as palmoplantar keratoderma with periodontitis, this is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder that’s caused by a deficiency in the gene cathepsin C.
Papillons are probably one of the most fun toy breeds, full of spunk and intelligence and prepared to play and dart around your home at any given time. They’ll bounce around your feet as the magnetic, loyal companions they are and gaze at you with loving adoration for all their days. Joy is a very common side effect of parenting a Papillon.
Just remember that they need you as much as you need them; they may think they are big, but they are quite small and need your supervision and constant love and care. With a Papillon, you definitely have found yourself a constant companion.
Have any additional questions? Feel free to ask, we’d love to hear from you!