All The Things You Need To Know About The Papillon Dog

It's not every day you see a dog with butterfly ears.

So when the French took one look at the Papillon, all they could think of was "The Little Butterfly" — papillon being the French word for butterfly.

As cute as the Papillon is, he's more than his unique ears. His looks may give you the impression that he's a sweet, docile pooch, but we can assure you he's anything but.

A Basic Overview of the Papillon

You wouldn't know it from his looks, but the Papillon is actually a type of spaniel. In fact, one of his other names includes "Epagneul Nain Continental" ("Continental Toy Spaniel").

The Papillon breed has two varieties. One has the butterfly-shaped ears we normally associate with the dog, while the other is drop-eared and is called the Phalène ("moth-eared").

Both varieties have long, flowing coats that make them look like tiny pom-poms. They're also both particolored; that is, mostly white with patches of other colors around their face, back and tail.

At only 11 inches tall, the Papillon seems like the ideal size to be a lap dog. However, he has a level of energy that belies his small size, and may not take too well to sitting on your lap for hours on end while you're binging Netflix.

The Papillon is a healthy breed, with a lifespan between 12 to 15 years. If you're looking for a cute family dog who's feistier than he looks and can stay with you for a while, look no further than the Papillon.  

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What is the Personality of the Papillon?

The Papillon's personality can be summed up in three Ss: Smart, spunky and sociable.

Papillons learn new tricks very quickly, and are eager to show off whenever they can. These dogs are always on the lookout for adventure, so don't be surprised if you have to chase after them every now and then.

Also, despite their size, they're not the sort of dogs to back down easily. They possess the alertness and protectiveness of a guard dog, and if you're not careful, your Papillon could end up in situations that are way over his head.

Guarding instincts aside, the Papillon is an outgoing, energetic pooch who spreads love and happiness wherever he goes. A well-socialized Papillon can get along with visitors, animals and practically everyone he meets.

However, he's not recommended for families with very young children. Since babies and toddlers tend to tug and pull at anything that catches their curiosity (i.e. a dog's fur), your Papillon could get irritated and bite back in anger.

For the most part though, and if he's been socialized from a young age, Papillons are pretty easy to deal with. Given the choice to bring you sparkles and sunshine or not, it's obvious which one he'll choose every time.

History and Background of the Papillon

The earliest portrayals of the Papillon date back to the 1500s, when artists like Tiziano Vecelli (a.k.a. Titian) captured their likeness in works like "Venus of Urbino." Other artists who have used the Papillon as a model include Fragonard, Gonzales Coques, Mignard, Paolo Veronese and Watteau.

With the Papillon's combination of silky looks and steely personality, it's probably no surprise that these dogs were a hit with European royal families. They were also popular with merchants, who brought them to countries like France, England, Belgium, Italy and Spain. It wasn't until 1935, however, when the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed.   

Since the time of King Louis XIV of France, the Papillon hasn't changed much. It currently ranks 35th out of 155 breeds registered with the AKC, and is beloved by celebrities like Christina Aguilera and Lauren Bacall. 

Are Papillons Playful and Fun?

Don't let their 10-pound frame fool you. Papillons are firecrackers.

Once a Papillon picks up a new trick, he'll waste no time trying to show off. He'll gladly let you film him as he rolls over, dances on his hind legs, and does everything to make his audience "ooh" and "aah."

When it comes to Papillons, you need to make sure they're never bored. Otherwise, you'll find yourself having to clean up after your Papillon, as he turns your house into a haven for his "prizes" (e.g. dead rats).

That said, his idea of "fun" may not always be the same as that of his playmates. As mentioned earlier, it's best to keep him away from small children, as there's a good chance that one (or both) parties will get hurt badly.  

How Much Exercise Does a Papillon Need?

It depends. Some Papillons are more energetic than others, so you'll need to pay close attention to tailor an exercise routine specially for your dog.

If you're not sure how active your dog is (or needs to be), start with simple exercises. Take him for a 20- to 30-minute brisk walk around the block. Gradually increase the walking distance over time, and see how he responds.

If he doesn't have any problems keeping up, it should be safe to "graduate" him to more intense exercises, like 6-mile hikes. You can also spice up his routine by having him fetch a ball thrown across the room, or playing "Hide and Seek" in the backyard.

But if he's the rare Papillon who'd rather lie in a couch all day than run across the room, no need to force the issue. Like humans, Papillons work best when they're given the freedom to move at their own pace.

That's not to say you shouldn't exercise him at all. If both of you are up for a short walk, then go for it!      

What are the Grooming Needs of the Papillon?

Unlike other dogs with long hair, Papillons aren't prone to matting. That's because their coat only has a single layer, and is made up of straight, fine and silky hairs. At most, they only need to be brushed twice a week to keep their hair smooth and healthy.

Also, unless your Papillon gets himself completely covered in dirt, you don't need to bathe him too often. He doesn't emit the usual "doggie" odor, so letting him go for weeks without a shower shouldn't be a problem.

If you want a general rule of thumb for bathing a Papillon, give him a wash once a month. That should be enough to keep him clean, but not to the point of stripping his skin and hair of essential oils.

As you bathe or brush your Papillon, take a closer look at his ears, eyes and other parts for signs of swelling and infection. You'll also want to clip his toenails in case they get too long for his comfort.

Overall, Papillons are relatively low-maintenance. If you get him used to grooming at a young age, he shouldn't be too troublesome to clean as an adult.

Are Papillons Easy to Train?

If you're the sort of owner who is patient yet firm, you'll find it very easy to train a Papillon.

The key to training a Papillon (and dogs in general) is to start young. Clue them in on the basics, like "Sit," "Stay" and "Heel." Take them outside every time they need to answer the call of nature, so that they'll learn to associate "soil" with "toilet." Give them treats if they do a good job, and avoid screaming at them if they don't.   

Remember that the Papillon is a pack animal, and therefore responds best to a strong yet kind leader. Be consistent when enforcing the rules (e.g. don't give them a treat despite ripping your curtains in half), but don't punish him for breaking those same rules.

If your Papillon thinks of training as a fun learning experience, he'll always look forward to it. But if he associates training with cruelty and pain, he'll likely lash out and engage in problematic behavior. If you're not sure you're up to the task of training a Papillon, sign him up for an obedience class instead.  

How Much Does a Papillon Puppy Cost?

The price of a Papillon puppy depends on where you get him from.

For example, dogs from rescue groups can cost as little as $100. However, keep in mind that these dogs may have behavioral and health issues, which could make them more expensive in the long run.

On average, prices for Papillons can range from $500 to as high as $6,000. Depending on his pedigree, health, papers, and suitability as a show dog, you may have to pay higher or lower for a Papillon puppy.

Don't forget to account for the annual costs of caring for a Papillon. For food, supplies, training, visits to the veterinarian and the like, it's safe to set aside $1,500 to $2,000 a year.

What's not to love about Papillons? They're beautiful, spunky and relatively low-maintenance. If you agree, or even (and especially!) if you don't agree, let's hear your thoughts in the comments.

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