Originally bred as companions for noblewomen: Papillons originated in Europe and were produced as early as the 1300s by crossing toy breeds with spaniels. You can even spot them in classic paintings by renowned artists like Rembrandt.
Initially known as dwarf spaniels, they were named Papillon in the 1800s — meaning butterfly in French — after their signature alert ears that resemble wings. However, they weren't always this way: Papillons before this time had dropped ears, but both varieties can be seen today.
In today's world, the breed is renowned for its loving nature and is a popular choice among first-time owners. Despite being lap dogs, they have a lot of energy and love to explore, making great pets for many types of households.
Find out everything you need to know about this breed with our in-depth guide.
How much does Papillon insurance cost?
In 2022, the average cost to insure a Papillon with ManyPets was £414.42. Our average dog insurance cost for all our breeds was £412.25, so Papillons are very close to our overall average.
Papillons are smart dogs that are eager to please their owners, which makes training relatively easy. Thanks to their intelligence, they love to learn new tricks and can even be trained to participate in obedience competitions.
Similar to other toy breeds, they do have a stubborn streak. However, with a little patience and consistency, they’ll soon learn to follow instructions.
Breed bad habits
Papillons are companion dogs, so they can develop separation anxiety when not given the attention they crave or when left alone for long periods. Because of this, they can resort to destructive behavior like excessive barking or chewing things around the home.
Although they're small dogs, they often believe themselves the alpha, so they may attempt to assert dominance with other dogs outdoors if they feel threatened. This can put them at risk of injury — especially if the dog is bigger than them.
As alert dogs, they're also quick to bark at strangers approaching the house or unfamiliar noises outdoors. Although this isn't usually aggressive, it can be a problem with neighbours, so socialising them with other dogs and people early on can help reduce this.
“Since Papillons love to please their owners, I find positive reinforcement training works best, rewarding good behaviour with treats and praise,” says professional dog trainer.
“Like many toy dogs, Papillons have small bladders so house training can be difficult. The trick is to let them out often and reward them when they go to the toilet outside to reinforce good behaviour. Although they still need to go outside to be exercised, they also do great with potty pad training, making them the perfect breed for apartment living.
Papillons like to be the leader of the park, which can result in barking at other dogs in the household — or even their owner — to assert dominance. This shouldn’t be an issue, though, if your pup is trained well and socialised from a young age.”
Papillon gender differences
Although gender does have an impact on temperament, how they have been trained and socialised as a pup will be more of a determining factor.
You’ll also be able to tell the sexes apart by size, with males being slightly bigger and heavier.
Female Papillons tend to be more independent compared to their male counterparts. This means they’re often less eager to please their owner and can have more of a stubborn streak, which can make training trickier.
Female size information
Height: 20-25 cm
Weight: 2-5 kg
Male Papillons are generally considered more affectionate than females: they tend to follow their owners and love to be carried like a baby.
Overall, they tend to be more of a people pleaser, making training easier. For this reason, they’re often chosen over females for obedience competitions.
Male size information
Height: 23-28 cm
Weight: 3-5 kg
Papillon breed health
Healthy Papillons live for an average of 14 to 16 years.
Common health problems
The most common health problems that Papillons are prone to include:
Patellar luxation — This condition is usually genetic and involves the dislocating of the knee cap. Small or toy dogs — like Papillons — are particularly prone to a luxating patella, as they often have shallow knee grooves that don’t hold the kneecap firmly in place. Symptoms usually develop before one year of age, and if you notice your pup limping or running on three legs at times, it may be time for a trip to the vet. Treatment will depend on your dog’s condition: mild cases can be managed with exercises to build up the muscle, while severe cases may require surgery. Most dogs with the condition develop arthritis later in life, so it's important to schedule regular check-ups with your vet.
Collapsing trachea — Like many small breeds, Papillons are prone to a collapsed trachea due to their small windpipe. The condition can cause respiratory issues, resulting in wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. Breathing will be more difficult for overweight pups, as they tend to have excessive fat around their neck. Collapsed trachea is also hereditary, so getting your dog from an experienced breeder will limit the risk of it being passed on. Weight loss, treatment, and walking in a harness will alleviate the problem. However, surgery may be required in severe cases to manage the symptoms.
Von Willebrand’s disease — Von Willebrand’s disease is an inherited disorder that affects Papillons. It’s caused by the lack of a protein (Von Willebrand’s factor) which assists the critical process of blot clotting. Symptoms include nosebleeds, excessive bleeding after injury, and bruising easily. Sadly, the condition is incurable, but life-long treatment can increase the protein in the blood to lessen symptoms. It shouldn’t affect your dog’s life expectancy, but you must keep an eye on bleeding; this could result in death if not given immediate attention.
Cataracts — Toy breeds like Papillons are prone to developing cataracts: a disease which causes the eye to become cloudy, impairing vision. It can be genetic or caused by old age or diabetes, and the only way to solve the issue is to remove cataracts with surgery.
Periodontal disease (dental disease) — Toy breeds like Papillons are prone to dental disease, as their small mouths can cause teeth overcrowding. This can lead to food getting lodged in the teeth and bacteria forming in the mouth that causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). If the problem is not dealt with, tartar can form, which will eventually require surgical removal.
“Papillons are generally a healthy breed that live a long life,” says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.
“There are a few health conditions to be aware of, including periodontal disease and patellar luxation. Taking your Papillon to the vet for a general health exam at least once a year, even if there aren’t any problems you’re aware of, is an easy way to catch teeth or knee problems.
Weight gain in Papillons is also something to take seriously, as obesity can worsen conditions like collapsing trachea or joint disease. To reduce this risk, limit treats and make sure not to leave food around. Your vet can also help with dietary advice to keep track of calories, including snacks in moderation!”
Papillon colours and variants
There are currently two variations of Papillons: the Papillon and the Phalene. The Papillon, meaning butterfly in French, has alert ears resembling the wings and the Phalene, meaning moth, has dropped ears that look similar to a moth's folding wings at rest.
The breed originally had dropped ears, though Papillons with upright ears are more common today.
The standard colours for Papillons include:
Black and white
White and chocolate
Fawn and white
Red and white
Papillons are particoloured dogs with patches of colour on their mainly white body.
Caring for Papillons
Like any dog, Papillons need regular exercise and a healthy, balanced diet to help them thrive.
Typical of lap dogs, Paps love companionship, so they are best suited to owners with plenty of time on their hands to care for them. Lack of attention can result in separation anxiety, often leading to bad behaviour.
Although Papillons are a small breed, they are more active than the average toy dog. They need a few walks daily, lasting around 20 to 30 minutes each. Shorter walks multiple times a day is best for this toy breed, as too much exercise can affect their joints, especially when they’re young.
As energetic and lively dogs, they’ll also enjoy playtime to stimulate them both mentally and physically. They also like to run outside, often reaching up to 18mph when sprinting, so a park near your home would be ideal.
You may need to put your pup in a jumper or jacket during the winter months to keep them warm. They have a single-layer coat, so they don’t tolerate the cold too well.
How much food your Papillon needs will depend on their size, weight, and activity level throughout the day. However, high-quality, protein-rich foods, healthy fats, and vegetables will provide them with the best nutrients.
Papillons can quickly become overweight, and it’s easy to overfeed, so try not to leave food out that they may graze on all day. Limiting treats can also prevent weight gain.
Building a balanced diet on your own can be tricky, so consult your vet to ensure your pooch’s nutritional needs are being met.
Adult Papillons need 12 to 16 hours of sleep daily to keep them happy and healthy. However, puppies will sleep around 18-20 hours as they develop and grow.
Papillons tend to stick to a similar sleeping schedule as their owners. If their sleeping pattern changes significantly, it may be a good idea to take them to the vet, as this could indicate something is wrong.
“The correct balance of exercise, nutrition, and sleep is critical to ensure your Papillon lives a healthy life,” says Dr. Kirsten.
“Making sure you’re not overwalking your pup is also essential. Although Papillons have a lot of energy, walking too much can quickly put stress on their joints.”
Papillons are generally confident, happy dogs with a lot of love to give. As well as being great lap dogs, they also love to play and run around.
How good are Papillons with kids?
Papillons are lively dogs, making them great companions for kids.
However, they are relatively delicate dogs, so they should be watched around children, as picking them up and dropping them could easily break their small bones.
How affectionate are Papillons?
Papillons are notoriously known as great companions who love affection. Once they've finished playing and running around, you'll often find them asleep in their owner's arms.
How territorial are Papillons?
Despite their size, Papillons make excellent watchdogs, alerting owners to anything going on outside. They are usually territorial of their home and owners, often barking at strangers or other dogs approaching.
How friendly are Papillons with other dogs?
Although they may bark initially, Papillons can be friendly towards other dogs, especially if they’ve been socialised well from a young age.
How much will Papillons tolerate other pets?
Papillons are a friendly breed that can live with other pets — even cats! In fact, getting another friend for your pup may help with their separation anxiety when you’re not home.
How much attention do Papillons need?
Papillons were originally bred to be lapdogs and love human companionship, so they need lots of attention. Therefore, they may not be suited to people who don’t have the time for them.
Papillon coat and grooming
The Papillon has a straight, long, single-layer coat that is silky in appearance.
Papillons are a low-shedding breed, and brushing them regularly should keep this at bay.
How often do I need to groom Papillons?
Unlike other long-haired breeds, your Papillon's coat doesn't matt easily, making grooming simple. Brushing a couple of times a week should be enough to keep it intact.
Papillons are clean dogs that don't usually smell, so bathing will only be required if they get muddy. If you need to bathe them, blow dry their hair afterwards for a silky finish.
You'll need to trim their nails every two weeks as they tend to grow fast and can pierce into the skin if not taken care of. Nails that make a tapping noise on the hard floor will let you know they’re too long and need to be trimmed.
Toy breeds are also susceptible to dental disease, so regularly brushing their teeth will prevent plaque buildup.
Papillons have a lot of hair around their ears, so you'll need to check them at least once a week for debris and wax to reduce the risk of infection.
These tasks can be done at home with the right tools, or you can take your furry friend to the vet to get everything done at once.
Are Papillons hypoallergenic?
No — Papillons are not hypoallergenic. Dander in the hair can spread around the house, causing a reaction in people who are allergic. That being said, they don’t shed much, so they may be a good option for people who are mildly allergic.
Papillon bark sound
Like most toy breeds, Papillons are vocal dogs that use barking to communicate with their owners and other dogs. Although small, their bark is considerably loud: something to be aware of if you have neighbours nearby.
A Papillon's bark is usually short and high-pitched, but they can also use growling to warn people or other dogs.
They are an alert breed that often barks as someone approaches their home, making them excellent watchdogs. This isn't usually in an aggressive manner; they're just letting you know that something is going on.
Papillons have strong senses and can let you know of any movement outside — even people walking along the street. Although this is in their nature, excessive barking can be a problem, so training from a young age and rewarding your dog when they don't bark will reduce this.
Frequently asked questions about Papillons
Are Papillons high-maintenance dogs?
Papillons are relatively easy to care for: they require little exercise and are low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Training should also be easy, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please. Therefore, they’re a popular choice for first-time owners.
However, lap dogs love spending time with their owners and can develop separation anxiety if left alone for too long. Therefore, they won’t be suitable for owners with little time to give them.
When do Papillons stop growing?
On average, Papillons will reach their adult size between 9 and 12 months.
Do Papillons like to cuddle?
Papillons make excellent lap dogs and love to cuddle — especially when tired after a day of playing and exercise.