The word “papillon” is French for “butterfly,” and these dogs are known for their erect, butterfly-like ears. The other variety of Papillon has folded ears and is called “phalene,” which is named for a moth with drooped wings. The most common color combinations of the Papillon are black and white, red and white, sable and white, and tri-color Papillons.
The color covers the head and extends back behind the ears, except for a white blaze and a white noseband. The tail is curved toward the head, the long coat spilling down like a fountain. The legs are adorned with “feathers,” and in the rear, the coat hangs down giving the illusion of pantaloons.
Papillons are thin-boned and are anywhere from 8-11 inches tall. Their weight is in proportion to their height. They are active dogs with a lively and carefree gait.
Papillons certainly don’t act their size. They are confident creatures and are just as comfortable romping around with larger dogs as with dogs their own size. However, play should be supervised at all times; Papillons have a fragile bone structure.
If you’re looking for a highly active dog, Papillons fit the bill nicely. Give them a place to run and they will; they tend to exercise themselves. They are very territorial and may announce each visitor and unidentified sound with lively barking. They seem to sleep with one eye open; so don’t be surprised if they can go from sleeping to barking in mere seconds.
Papillons are quite light on their feet; their speed and intelligence make them excellent agility dogs. They are eager to please and quick to catch on to new tricks. Alert eyes and a happy disposition are trademarks of this breed.
As descendents from the continental toy spaniel, their hunting instincts are innate. They can often be seen chasing small animals such as birds, squirrels, rabbits, and even insects.
Papillons have long, silky coats that require little maintenance and don’t emit the typical “dog” smell. The hair directly behind the ears is prone to matting. There is no undercoat, so there is no significant seasonal shedding. But they do moderately shed year-round. To cut down on the hair on your floor and furniture, brush your Papillion every other day outside of regular grooming appointments. As an added measure, ask your groomer if they offer a treatment that reduces shedding.
As a breed, Papillons have relatively few health risks. Of course, as with humans and animals alike, health is not guaranteed. Since Papillons are an active breed, they may develop problems in their knees. Periodontal conditions are common, since their mouths are small. Your Papillon may require a yearly dental procedure under anesthesia to eliminate plaque. To help reduce build up, brushing the teeth at least three times per week is recommended. Hard food and bones will help also.
As with any breed, the characteristics of individual dogs will vary based on many factors. Purchasing your Papillon from a reputable breeder is the best way to ensure that your pet has had the best quality of life from birth. It may be difficult to find a Papillon at a humane society, but there are many rescue groups that specialize in specific breeds. Opinions vary on buying Papillons, or any dog, from pet shops. Whichever way you choose, doing your research before you buy will help you bring a healthy, happy Papillon into your life.