Originally bred in Europe by crossing toy breeds with spaniels, Papillons date back as far as the 1300s. For centuries, their main purpose was to keep noblewomen company. You can even spot them serving as dedicated lap-warmers in classic paintings by Rembrandt and other renowned artists.
They were initially known as dwarf spaniels. But thanks to their signature alert ears that resemble wings, they were renamed Papillon — the French word for “butterfly” — in the 1800s. They weren’t always this way: Earlier in their history, all Papillons had dropped ears. Both varieties can be seen today.
Today, the breed is celebrated for its loving nature and joyful temperament. Not surprisingly, Papillons are a popular choice among first-time dog owners. Despite their well-earned reputation as lap dogs, they have a lot of energy and love to explore, making them great pets for many types of households. The American Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1915.
Find out everything you need to know about Papillons with our in-depth guide.
How Much Does Papillon Insurance Cost?
In 2022, the average cost to insure a Papillon with ManyPets was $30 per month. This was less expensive than the average cost across all breeds and ages, which was $37 per month. This price is a powerful indicator that Papillons are a very healthy breed.
Papillons were treasured by French royalty for centuries. Historical figures such as Marie Antoinette and King Henry II kept them as companions. Papillons are still beloved lap dogs today, and not just amongst French royals. According to the AKC’s most recent ranking, they’re currently the 54th-most popular dog breed in the US out of 197 total breeds.
They’re also a favorite of a newer kind of royalty: Multiple celebs, ranging from actress Lauren Bacall to singer Christina Aguilera, have called themselves proud Papi owners. (In fact, when Bacall passed away in 2014, she left behind a $10,000 fund to help care for her beloved Papillon, Sophie.)
Papillons’ small size and ability to use a litter box (yes, really!) make them an ideal choice for apartment living. At the same time, Papillons are quite active for dogs their size; it’s important that owners have enough time to take them outside for energetic walks.
As dogs who benefit from a healthy combination of laying around the home and trotting briskly around the neighborhood, Papillons will thrive in locations where cozy indoor living coexists with lots of parks and walking spaces. Among ManyPets customers, the two most popular states for Papillon-ownership are New York and Texas.
Papillons are intelligent dogs who are eager to please their owners, which makes puppy 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. But with a bit of patience and consistency, they’ll soon learn to follow instructions.
Breed Bad Habits
Papillons are companion dogs, so they can develop separation anxiety when they’re not given the attention they crave or when they’re left alone for long periods. When their needs aren’t met, they can resort to destructive behavior like excessive barking or chewing things around the home.
Although they're small dogs, they often believe themselves to be the alpha! 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 other dog is bigger than them.
As alert dogs, they're also quick to bark at strangers approaching the home, or at unfamiliar noises outdoors. Although this barking isn't usually aggressive, it can certainly irritate your neighbors. Socializing your Papillon with other dogs and people — starting when they’re still puppies — can be a huge help.
Regardless of breed, positive reinforcement — i.e., rewarding good behavior with treats and praise instead of punishing bad behavior — is always the best training method. And positive reinforcement methods are particularly effective with this breed, because papillons love to please their owners.
But like many toy dogs, Papillons have small bladders, which can make house training difficult. To reinforce good behavior, take them out often and reward them when they go potty outside.
Or you could combine outdoor potty breaks with litter box training, at which Papillons excel. (Though regardless of how good your Papillon gets at indoor pottying, you’ll always need to take them outside for exercise.)
Papillons like to assert dominance, which can cause them to bark at other dogs in the household, or even at their owner. But this shouldn’t be too much of an issue if your pup is well trained from a young age.
Papillon Gender Differences
Although gender impacts temperament, the way your Papillon has been trained and socialized starting from puppyhood 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 are usually 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 more difficult.
Female Size Information
Height: 8-10 inches
Weight: 4-11 pounds
Male Papillons are generally considered more affectionate than females. They often follow their owners and love to be carried like a baby.
Overall, they’re considered more of a people-pleaser, which makes training easier. For this reason, they’re usually chosen over females for obedience competitions.
Male Size Information
Height: 9-11 inches
Weight: 7-11 pounds
Papillon Breed Health
There are a few health conditions that Papillons are prone to, like patellar luxation and collapsing trachea.
Viral diseases like rabies, transmitted through contact, are also a significant threat, as they can be fatal for dogs. Getting the required vaccinations for your Pap will help protect them.
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 (AKA Luxating Patella): This condition is usually genetic and involves the dislocation of the kneecap. 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; 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. This surgery can cost quite a lot — anywhere from $1,500 - $5,000 per knee.
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 particularly difficult for overweight pups, as they usually have excessive fat around their necks. Collapsed trachea is also a hereditary condition; buying from a responsible breeder will limit the chance that it’s been passed on to your dog. Weight loss, walking in a harness, and certain veterinary treatments can all help alleviate the problem. However, in severe cases your dog may need surgery to address their 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 factor) that assists in the critical process of blood 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: Without immediate attention, a serious injury could result in death.
Cataracts: Toy breeds like Papillons are prone to developing cataracts, a disease that impairs vision by causing the eye to become cloudy. Cataracts can be genetic or caused by old age or diabetes. Your vet may recommend eye drops, but the only way to truly solve the issue is to remove the cataracts with surgery.
“Papillons are generally a healthy breed that live a long life,” says veterinarian 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 Colors and Variants
There are currently two variations of Papillons: the Papillon and the Phalène. The Papillon has alert ears resembling the wings of a butterfly, and the phalène has dropped ears that look similar to a moth's folding wings at rest. (“Papillon” and “phalène” are the French words for “butterfly” and “moth,” respectively.)
In the distant past, only the dropped-ear variety existed. But Papillons with upright ears are more common today.
The standard colors for Papillons include:
Black and white
White and chocolate
Fawn and white
Red and white
Papillons are particolored dogs with patches of color 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’re best suited to owners with plenty of time to care for them. Lack of attention can result in separation anxiety, often leading to destructive behavior.
Although Papillons are a small breed, they are more active than the average toy dog. They need two to three walks daily, lasting around 20 to 30 minutes each. Opting for shorter walks multiple times per day is the best choice 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 18 miles per hour when sprinting, so it’s great to take them to a park near your home.
Similar to other toy breeds like Pomeranians and Shih Tzus, you'll need to be careful walking your Pap in temperatures under 44 degrees Fahrenheit. They have a single-layer coat, so they don't tolerate cold weather well. You’ll likely need to put your pup in a dog sweater or jacket during winter to keep them warm.
Once the temperature dips below freezing, your Pap could experience hypothermia or frostbite. They may not be well suited to living in areas where temperatures regularly drop to extremely low temperatures.
Although they struggle with freezing climates, Papillons do well in moderate heat thanks to their single-coated fur. If you live in a warm climate, your Pap will do just fine as long as they have access to fresh water and shade.
Still, like any dog, Papillons will be prone to heat stroke if you walk them too long in high temperatures. In hot weather, it's best to head out early in the morning, or during the evening once temperatures have cooled.
How much food your Papillon needs will depend on their size, weight, and activity level throughout the day. High-quality, protein-rich foods, healthy fats, and vegetables will provide your pup with the best nutrients.
Papillons are prone to being overweight, and it’s easy to overfeed them, 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 difficult, so consult your veterinarian to ensure your pooch’s nutritional needs are met.
Adult Papillons need 12 to 16 hours of sleep daily to stay 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. Ronngren.
“Making sure you’re not over-walking your pup is also essential. Although Papillons have a lot of energy, walking too much can quickly put stress on their joints.”
Papillons, in general, are confident, happy dogs with a lot of love to give. They’re great lap dogs, but 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 fairly 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 widely 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’re 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 are usually friendly towards other dogs, especially if they’ve been socialized well from a young age.
Will Papillons Tolerate Other Pets?
Papillons are a friendly breed that can live with other pets — even cats! 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 initially bred to be lap dogs and love human companionship, so they need lots of attention. They therefore won't be suited to owners who don’t have enough time for them.
Papillon Coat and Grooming
The Papillon has a straight, long, single-layer coat that’s silky in appearance.
Papillons are a low-shedding breed, and brushing them regularly should help maintain their fur.
How Often Do I Need to Groom a Papillon?
Unlike other long-haired breeds, your Papillon's coat doesn't become matted easily, which makes grooming fairly simple. Brushing a couple of times a week should be enough to keep their coat in good shape.
Paps are clean dogs that don't usually smell, so bathing will often 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 your dog's 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 need to be trimmed.
Toy breeds are also susceptible to dental disease, so regularly brushing your Pap's 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 performed at home with the right tools, or you can take your furry friend to the groomer to get everything done at once.
Are Papillons Hypoallergenic?
No dog is entirely hypoallergenic. Dander in the hair can spread around the house, causing a reaction in people who are allergic. However, Papillons 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 neighbors 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. Training your pup from a young age and rewarding them when they don't bark will help.
Frequently asked questions about Papillons
Are Papillons High-Maintenance Dogs?
Papillons are relatively easy to care for: They don’t require multiple hours of exercise per day and they’re low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. Training should also be easy, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to please. They’re a great choice for first-time dog owners.
However, lap dogs love spending time with their owners and can develop separation anxiety if they’re left alone for too long. Paps 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 out after a day of play and exercise.