Papillon Overview

Dog Breed:
Breed Group:
Toy group
Happy, athletic, curious, alert, and intelligent.
8-11 inches
5-10 pounds
Life Span:
14-16 years
Coat Colors:
Parti-color or white with patches of any color.
Area of Origin:
Western Europe
Best For:
All sizes of home/ Families with older children/Owners with a keen interest in training.
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Papillons
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Papillons

Papillon Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Papillon

  • Distinctive wing shaped ears

  • High energy

  • Friendly and happy


The tiny Papillon, measuring just 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder, is instantly recognizable thanks to their large, wing-shaped ears. Their dainty and elegant appearance is deceiving because underneath that silky coat is a high energy little dog who loves to run, play, and join in all the family fun. 

Highly adaptable, the Papillon will be happy in all sizes of home as long as they get the chance for a good run each day. These are friendly, happy, and eager to please dogs with excellent problem-solving skills, so it should no surprise that they rank as the number one Toy Dog in obedience competitions. 

This can be quite a dependent dog who may want to follow you around the house and be close to you at night. They can adapt to being left for short periods, but it’s important to slowly build up the duration over several weeks and ideally while as a puppy.

Papillon Breed History

  • Seen in portraits back to the 16th century

  • Developed in Italy and Spain

  • First registered by the AKC in 1915

Right back to the 16th century, the Papillon could be seen in portraits of their doting accompanying mistresses, the court ladies of Europe. It’s though that the Papillon descended from toy spaniels who all had drop ears, but in the early 17th century, a small spaniel was developed with upright ears. The ears similarity to the shape of a butterfly earned them the Papillon name, coming from the French translation. There is also a rarer variety of the Papillon, which is drop-eared, and these are known as Phalenes. 

With admirers like Madame de Pompadour, Louis XIV, and Marie Antoinette, the breed has a strong French connection. However, it was in Italy and Spain that Papillons were refined and developed their popularity. The American Kennel Club registered its first Papillon in 1915.

Papillon Size & Weight

  • Toy breed

  • 8-11 inches tall

  • Weigh 5-10 pounds


The Papillon is just eight to eleven inches at the withers. With the American Kennel Club disqualifying any show dog, which is over 12 inches, breeders take great care to ensure the Papillon remains within the required height range.

In keeping with their height, Papillons should weigh between 5 and 10 pounds. Great care is needed when living with any small dog that other family pets and children are gentle in their interactions. 


Papillon Personality & Temperament

  • Alert and friendly

  • Suited to apartment living

  • Need exercise for brain and body


The Papillon is happy, alert, and friendly. More robust than they look, Paps are dogs who are up for days out no matter the weather and are always keen to take part in any family fun.

The Papillon’s small size means that they can happily live in an apartment as long as they have several opportunities to go outside during the day.

This is a breed that can happily get along with other family pets, including cats, as long as there are planned and careful introductions. Do be aware that the Papillon can have a high level of confidence in their own abilities, and it’s not unusual for them to attempt to boss around dogs, which are much bigger than they are. While this may not cause any problems, it would be sensible to consider the personalities and likely reactions of any dogs who already residents in the home. 

Paps can be a wonderful lifelong friend for your children; however, the combination of a tiny dog and young children can be a recipe for disaster. No matter the breed, dogs, and children should always be supervised when together.

The spaniel heritage shouldn’t be forgotten when deciding if this is the right breed for you because the Papillon is a busy little dog who needs activities to exercise their brains as well as their bodies. With a high energy level, they have excelled in the sport of agility, where they are consistent winners at the highest levels of competition. Their keen minds need something to do, and the Papillon will enjoy any training which is fun to take part in. 

Papillon Health & Grooming

  • Healthy and long lived

  • Some genetic testing needed before breeding

  • Minimal shedding


Papillons tend to be a healthy and long-lived breed; however, all responsible breeders test and assess dogs before being bred to ensure the ongoing well-being of the breed. In Papillons, breeders should test or evaluate to ensure they are free from the following conditions:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of genetically inherited diseases that causes progressive damage to the retina, and this then results in a loss of vision and culminates in blindness.
  • Von Willebrand’s Factor. This test allows breeders to see if their dogs have a deficiency in the amount of the von Willebrand Factor protein present in the blood. This protein is needed to help platelets in the blood stick together and form clots if the dog has a wound or cut.
  • Patellar Luxation. This condition is caused when the muscles and ligaments of the knee are not able to hold the kneecap in place properly, meaning that it slips and dislocates as the dog moves.

Due to their lack of undercoat, Papillons need relatively little grooming. A quick brush after walks to remove any debris collected along the way and a full groom, each week, is likely to be enough to keep the coat in coat condition. Do regularly check the hair behind the ears and inside the hind legs as these tend to be key places for mats to form.

The Papillon does shed its coat but not to excess. Keeping up with the grooming will help to prevent lots of hair falling around the home. 

Papillon Training

  • Intelligent and trainable

  • High prey drive

  • Not known for being noisy


The Papillon is one of those rare dogs which combines high intelligence and high levels of trainability. They love to learn new behaviors, whether that’s for competition in sports such as agility or obedience or mastering new tricks just for fun. 

Harsh, punishment techniques are not going to be successful nor appropriate for such a small dog. Positive, reward-based training combined with patience will get you great results.

True to their spaniel background, some Papillons can have a high prey drive. Care is needed when off lead both for the safety of wildlife and for their own wellbeing.

This breed isn’t known for barking excessively, so if this does happen, owners may need to investigate the environment to work out what’s triggering the noise. Closing the curtains to prevent your Papillon from seeing people walking past the window or leaving the radio on to mask background noise can both be successful strategies.

Papillon Exercise Requirements

  • Intelligent and trainable

  • High prey drive

  • Not known for being noisy


The Papillon is a high energy breed, but because of their size, they don’t need to go on long hikes every day to tire them out. Two thirty-minute walks a day are likely to be enough for most adult dogs. 

Papillons are very playful dogs, and they’ll love the opportunity to play retrieving and scent detection games with you. Do remember, though, that exercise is not just about tiring out the body, they also need to give their brains a work out to then settle quietly in the home. Training, problem-solving games, and treat dispensing toys can all be perfect ways of meeting your Papillons needs.

Papillon Diet & Feeding

  • Seek veterinary advice for personalized recommendations

  • Select a food suitable for age and exercise level

  • Look for formulations designed for small dogs


For professional advice on your dog’s individual needs, we recommend speaking to your veterinarian or pet nutritionist. As a general guideline, most dogs stay on a specially formulated puppy food until they are around 6 months of age. After this, they can slowly be moved across to a food designed for adult dogs. 

Many pet food manufacturers offer complete foods designed for small dogs. These ensure that all the necessary nutrients are provided within a small-sized portion and so help to reduce the risk of obesity. 

You may also be interested in:

Papillon Rescue Groups

Sadly, there are times when Papillons find themselves in need of a new home. Thankfully many rescue groups throughout the US work hard to find them new loving families and these include:

PapAdopters & Placement Service –

Papillon Haven Rescue –

Pap911 Rescue and Adoption –

For more information on the Papillon, take a look at the website for the Papillon Club of America at