Papillon Breed Information

Papillon Information
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The Papillon: What Is It?
(The following information was complied by Tracy H. Burdick from various sources)

Often called the “Butterfly Dog” because of its fringed ears that resemble a butterfly’s outspread wings, the Papillon (“Pap-ee-YAWN”) is one of the oldest purebred Toys. It appears in paintings in Italy as far back as the 15th century. In France the court ladies and royal children were frequently painted with a Toy Spaniel pet, as the breed was then known. As the merchant class in the Low Countries (modern Belgium and Holland) became wealthy, the little dwarf spaniel appeared in many family scenes. Gradually painters all over Europe were portraying them. These Toy Spaniels had drooping ears, but otherwise the prettiest of them were unmistakably the same breed we have today. The dropped ear still survives in the variety known as the Phalene (“FAY-leen”), named for a moth that droops its wings, to distinguish it from the erect-eared modern variety: the Papillon or Butterfly dog.

With its unusual ears, waving tail plume, and flowing coat, the Papillon is a standout. It possesses what has been termed “sensible glamour” because the owner does not have to become a slave to preserve its beauty. The Papillon has no doggy odor and its silky coat is not prone to matting. However, Papillons love to be clean and bathing is easy; they wash like an orlon sweater! They have no dense undercoat to shed out twice a year as with most long-haired breeds and the resilient coat texture sheds dirt and dry grass with the touch of a brush. The pet Papillon requires no trimming of the coat, although the bottoms and sides of the feet can be trimmed for a more tidy appearance (this is usually done for the show ring).

The possibilities for color and markings are very nearly unlimited so you will find no two Papillons are exactly alike. For the show ring, the white color should predominate, with color covering both ears and extending over both eyes. Patches of color on the body may be of any size or shape, and of any color including black, tricolor, red, orange, tan, and sable. A symmetrical white blaze and noseband are preferred on the face but not essential for prize winning.

Their height at the top of the shoulder blade averages 8″ to 12″, with a corresponding weight of 4 to 10 pounds. This is the size range allowed in dog show competition, but smaller and larger individuals do occur infrequently. The delicate tinies can serve as exquisite companions for senior citizens, while the oversized ones with larger, stronger bones make delightful additions to active families with well-behaved children.

The Papillon is generally outgoing and friendly, although how extroverted it will be with strangers varies with how it was raised. Both males and females make equally suitable pets, and of course, should always be neutered or spayed if not destined for the dog show ring. Papillons are generally very social with other animals, and make wonderful companions to other dogs & and cats too. A word of warning though: they ignore all size differential and will entice much larger dogs to play, often with disastrous results. Their preference is to be with people, not only to be cuddled in a lap, but to accompany walks, car trips, TV watching, etc.

Papillons are active, lively dogs, although generally not nervous or yappy. They might alert you when someone is at the door but should quiet down immediately when that person has been admitted as a friend. Most Papillons retain their puppy playfulness to some degree throughout their lives. They travel well (carsickness is rare), and enjoy the attention they draw wherever they go. A Papillon can change homes at any age and if suitably placed, will adjust happily.

This is a relatively healthy breed. Although it cannot claim absolutely no genetic problems (no breed and no species of animal is entirely free of harmful genes) but in comparison with many breeds, the Papillon seems to have no serious problems widespread throughout the population. They are seldom finicky eaters but are not prone to obesity. Contrary to popular belief, they should not grow fat or change their personality after being spayed or neutered.

The Papillon is not considered to be a rare breed, although it is far from common. For 1988 it ranked 67th (among 129 breeds) with 1,209 new registrations with the American Kennel Club. With growing popularity, regrettably, increased numbers are being produced in “puppy mills” for distribution to pet shops. These puppies are raised in deplorable conditions, as cheaply as possible, and often from lines containing serious inheritable defects and questionable pedigree. Luckily, it is still mostly bred by knowledgeable fanciers devoted to protecting its interests and producing stock that is sound of mind and body.

The Papillon’s popularity also has grown at the dog shows because they are easy for novice exhibitors to groom and handle. They also are known to “show themselves” and will catch the judge’s eyes by dancing happily on the lead with ears held erect at attention and tail plume waving. Their “trainability” ranks extraordinarily high, enhanced by a strong desire to please; thus, they are rapidly becoming sought after as obedience competition dogs. In comparison to the more common large breeds found in the obedience trials, the Papillon’s small size, lively action, and intense attention to their handler always draw a crowd of spectators to ringside. It is one of five top breeds in obedience competition when all its scores and titles are factored in with its registration figures. It has been discovered that the Papillon has exceptional abilities in tracking (following a human scent) and agility (maneuvering a canine obstacle course). The breed also is ideal for service as Hearing Ear Dogs for the deaf and hearing impaired and therapy dogs (visiting hospitals and nursing homes).

It is often said that the Papillon is a big dog in a little dog’s body. They can do virtually all that a larger dog can do, but with less effort, upkeep, and space requirements. Truly, their unique beauty goes far beyond their glorious “butterfly” ears.


Papillons and Kids
By Lori Bovee
Reprinted with permission

Small dog and small child, what could be cuter, right? Except the reality is that it rarely works out. Papillons are typically not a good choice for a household with very small children, or older children who want to be able to “roughhouse” with a dog, because of their small size. This breed also tends to have pretty high self-esteem; a Papillon will protect itself if it feels threatened or mistreated. While your kids are definitely angels and would never mistreat any animal, any home with a dog and children requires lots of extra commitment and constant supervision by the adults in the household to ensure that everyone treats each other responsibly. We find that when people add a Papillon to a household with children, the parents usually have a dog and have kids, but the kids don’t have a dog. Please consider this if you’re searching for a child’s pet or a family pet.


Papillons and Other Pets
By Lori Bovee
Reprinted with permission

Papillons generally do well with other pets, especially other small dogs. Because they are small and fine-boned, Papillons can easily be injured or even killed by a large dog that views them as prey, is active and energetic, or just unintentionally steps on or stumbles over a Pap. If you have other larger dogs in your household now, please assess the situation realistically when considering adding a 5- to 12-lb member to your canine pack. Experience and commitment to close supervision and/or segregation is required when managing a multiple-dog household with any size disparity, to ensure everyone’s safety and longevity.

Papillons and cats generally share households quite well and can even become fast friends and playmates. However, cat’s claws may represent a danger to Papillon eyes, so initial contact should always be supervised.


Sources for More Papillon Information

The New Owner’s Guide to Papillons, by Deborah Wood
Filled with color photos and sound, breed-specific advice, this inexpensive book is the ideal resource for new Papillon owners or any person considering this breed.  This book acknowledges some characteristics that may make the prospective pet owner think twice, while discussing variations in physical attributes and temperament, health, grooming, nutrition, housetraining, and how to manage with different personality types.  Available at book stores or purchase online.

Popular Dogs Magazine Series – Papillon issue (January 2005), featuring Denzel in article on America’s top Papillon breeders
Available at book stores, pet supply stores, or purchase online.

Papillon Club of America (including Breeders Directory, Rescue, Events Calendar, and Publications for Sale):

Papillon Organizations

  • Papillon Club of America (PCA) (Parent Club for the breed in the United States)
    Includes Online Breeders Directory, Publications For Sale, History, Health & Genetics, Events Calendar, Rescue
  • Local / Independent U.S. Papillon Clubs 
    Currently there are clubs in northern and southern California, Colorado, District of Columbia (Virginia/Maryland), Florida, Hawaii, Illinois (Chicago), Massachusetts, Nevada (Carson City), New Jersey, Oklahoma (Tulsa), Pennsylvania, Texas (San Antonio), and Washington (Puget Sound). These smaller clubs are a great place to meet other Papillon owners and breeders.
  • Papillon Rescue – U.S. (National Rescue of the Papillon Club of America)
    Includes Online Adoption Application, Rescue FAQ, Pics & Bios of Adoptable Papillons
  • Phalene Fanciers (Drop-ear Variety)
  • Papillon Canada (Parent Club for the breed in Canada)
  • Papillon (Butterfly Dog) Club – U.K. (Parent Club for the breed in the UK)