The Little Papillon
"Butterfly Dog"

Descriptive textDog breed info
Weight: 4 — 9 lbs
Height: 8” — 11”
AKC Rank 2008 #37
Lifespan: 12—15 yrs
Group: Toy
Origin: France

Dog Breed Info - The "Butterfly Dog"

Papillon and child -
a loving combination

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Breed Overview

The dog's origin was in the 1500’s and the original; function was Lap Dog. Today, they serve as lap dogs and house pets. Color—White with patches of any color.

The name “Papillon” is French for "butterfly" which the face and ears of this little dog resembled. At one time the dog was known as the Squirrel Spaniel because it carried it’s plumed tail over it's back in the same way a squirrel does. These dogs had drooping ears, but through some unknown event, some dogs sported erect ears. Both drop and erect-eared versions could be found in the same litter. Even today, both ear types are correct, though the erect-eared dog is much more popular. The symmetrically marked face with white blaze adds to the butterfly appearance. This breed was registered by the AKC in 1915.

Papillon Closeup
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TrainabilityVery easy to train. On a scale, I’d give this dog 10 bars out of 10 for trainability. A most effective way for this little creature is the clicker training and positive reinforcement method. Pick up a clicker for around $3 at a pet store and get started.

jCrate Training

Want to crate train your Papillon? It's easy and if you're interested, take a look and you'll see what to do. Crate training your puppy will save many headaches and problems.

Potty Training

The average Papillon is quick to house train, potty train, toilet train, housebreak or whatever you want to call it. If you have a puppy, decide if you want to crate or paper potty train it. For the best results, we have a page at Crate vs Paper Potty Training which will help you decide and from there you can get all the information you need to get the job done. Always praise the pup profusely when she goes potty in the RIGHT PLACE so she knows she has done a good thing. Either method will work for this breed.

If you have an older dog, take the dog outside every two hours until she gets the idea which door leads to her potty area. Older dogs catch on to the potty or housebreaking pretty fast once they are shown what to do.


One of the most obedient and responsive of the toy breeds, the vivacious "butterfly dog" is also gentle, friendly and playful. He's friendly toward strangers, dogs and most pets. He is good with children though can be easily injured by rough play. Some can be timid.

Happy little Butterfly dog
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Friendly Toward Other Dogs

Yes, gets along with other dogs quite well. May find an enemy not and then, but generally this is a peaceful dog.

Friendly Toward Other Pets

Good idea to raise this dog with the other pets. However, if that can’t be done, introduce them gradually. Dogs behave differently. Generally this breed gets along with other animals pretty well.

Friendly Toward Strangers

Yes, loves people and has no problem with strangers.


Very playful. A little fuzz ball of fun! Loves to run around and act silly.


Very. Possibly the most affectionate of all the toy breeds. He loves to be with people and even other pets.

Good with children?

Yes, but the Papillon is easily injured due to his small size. Older kids are better and can NOT be rambunctious around this dog. This is a happy, tolerant little dog.

Good with Seniors over 65?

Excellent. The Papillon has a low exercise requirement, is easy to handle, affectionate, good watchdog, and is easy to pick up. Perfect for senior citizens. (WATCH THE AGES… THIS DOG CAN LIVE 15 YEARS!) If longevity is an issue, look for a Papillon Rescue group and get a mature dog that is maybe 3 or 4 years old.

Living environment

Apartment, Condo, house with fenced yard, all OK. This dog must not get too hot or cold. A temperate climate is best, or get a coat and air conditioning.

Energy level

Fairly high energy

Exercise needs, daily

Some. Loves to play, romp and walk. Enjoys a challenging game indoors or out. Mostly a house dog and can be entertained indoors and given a walk each day. On a scale, I’d give it 2 bars out of 10 for exercise needs.


Very good. Will bark at anything that seems out of place.

Guard dog

No. Too small. Too friendly.


Not much.


Brush the long hair of the Papillon two to three times a week. The hair is very fine, silky, actually and can mat easily. Brush it out thoroughly, especially around the ears. (I got this from our groomer. She says “if you are not going to show the dog, cut the hair back more like a regular dog and save a lot of headaches.”)


Suggested Reading For The Papillon
Click on the cover photos for more book information and reviews.

3rd book from the left is "101 Dog Tricks" and teaches more things for a dog to do than I ever imagined! Learning some of these tricks is excellent mental exercise for your Papillon.

The book on the right is by the American National Red Cross and deals with dog emergencies, illnesses and injuries. It's a valuable reference manual for all dog owners. Vol 2, 2008, includes a DVD.


Papillon Breeders

In the event you decide to go looking for Papillon puppies, be SURE to find reputable breeders that really know what they are doing. Be sure the puppy has been well socialized and started in obedience training.
Papillon Breeders with puppies for sale.

Papillon Rescue

In the event you are seriously considering the adoption of an older dog and are looking for a Papillon Rescue group or groups in your state, here are several links that might help:
Petfinder - Papillon Rescue - (Nationwide) If you do adopt one, try to locate the dog health papers for possible future use.
Adopt A Pet This is an interesting site but you may need to look hard to find a Papillon rescue in your range.

Dog Health Issues For The Papillon
Below are the dog illness / illnesses or medical problems as listed for the breed by various vets.

This is basically a healthy breed. Don’t let the list below scare you! Your own dog will probably never have ANY of these problems. These are dog illness and medical problems this breed is prone to that have been listed by various veterinarians at different times over the past decade or so and some pertain to puppies and very young dogs that a breeder would deal with.

The information contained herein has been gathered from numerous books by veterinarians and is intended as general information only. Every dog and situation is different. You must see your vet. Our information is for general interest only and not intended to replace the advice provided by your own veterinarian.

  • Patellar luxation—Limping, lameness, Hind Leg Held Up, Can’t straighten back leg. Caused by an unusually shallow spot on the femur, weak ligaments and misalignment of tendons and muscles that align the knee joint and allow the knee cap (patella) to float sideways in and out of position. This can be caused by injury or be present at birth and can affect both rear legs. It’s most common in small and toy dogs like the Papillon. If your dog has trouble straightening the leg, is limping, or is walking on three legs and holding one hind leg up, look for patellar luxation. Several of my dogs have had the problem and all I’ve done is reach down, massage the knee a little until they drop their leg, and we’re good to go for another 3 or 4 months. Severe cases require surgery for a fully lame leg.

  • Corneal Dystrophy—An inherited disease of the eye. A fluid buildup causing the outer part of the cornea to appear white and move inward toward the center. A very painful and difficult to treat ulcer will develop.

  • Seizures - a serious disorder that usually appears at around the age of 2 to 4 or 5 years in the dog.

  • Dental issues. Brush teeth often.

  • Entropion—Eye irritation caused by the eyelids and lashes rolling inward. The problem is usually inherited and found in young, adult dogs like the Papillon. It can come from an eyelid spasm. Affected eyes will be held partially shut and tear excessively. Both eyes will usually be affected the same. Treatment for the condition requires eye surgery.

  • Mitral stenosis (Mitral valve insufficiency)—Hereditary heart problem. A weak mitral valve allows blood to flow backwards and to simplify this, the net result is an enlarged heart and when the heart can no longer compensate, look for a loss of desire for exercise, trouble breathing, coughing at night and liquid in the lungs. As this progresses, the dog may collapse. There is no cure... but if you act quickly, the vet may be able to make the dog more comfortable with medication and diet.

  • von Willebrand"s Disease—A deficiency in clotting factor in the blood. The affected dog does not properly utilize the blood-platelets for blood-clotting. Thus, the dog is prone to excessive bleeding if in an accident or surgery.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy—An inherited, untreatable disease of the retina affecting both eyes causing blindness. It’s in the genes of the dog and is not painful. Starts with night blindness and progresses as the retina gradually deteriorates.

  • Cataracts - Hazy or cloudy vision and if not treated will cause total blindness.

  • Open fontanel—Hereditary. The Skull bones don’t close completely at birth leaving an opening on top of the skull. This condition is often associated with hydrocephalus which is too much liquid around the brain causing pressure and swelling. Increased pressure can prevent brain tissue development and there will always be a “soft spot” on the skull.

  • Intervertebral disc disease—Biochemical changes in a young dog of certain breeds such as the Papillon can cause at least one diseased or mineralized disc in the spine of a dog. A disc that is not functioning properly will cause pain, problems walking, stumbling, severe neck pain and even paralysis. The Dachshund has an 80% chance of having this problem. Treatments can go from non-invasive doses of anti-inflammatory steroids, muscle relaxants and bed-rest to surgery. Pain meds are also given as needed. Mess with the spine and you have a serious situation and it’s tough on the dog!

Other health problems could occur in your Papillon. If you notice any problems with your pet, take it to the vet immediately. This website is for general information only and is not intended to, in any way, be a medical guide.


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