Papillon means butterfly in French, which the face and ears of this lively little dog should bear a resemblance to. The Papillon can trace its roots back to the dwarf spaniels that were once popular throughout Europe during the sixteenth century. At one time, this little dog was the favorite of wealthy aristocrats.

papillon looking cute

Spain and Italy became the epicenter of dwarf spaniel breeding as well as trading. For instance, Louis XIV of France loved these dogs and was responsible for importing many of them. For a while, the Papillon went by the name of the Squirrel Spaniel thanks to the way it carried its plumed tail over its back, just like a squirrel.

The early version of this breed had drooping ears; however, some dogs acquired erect ears due to events unknown. Therefore, it is not strange to see both drop and erect ears in a litter. Today, both ear types are OK, but the upright ear dog is more popular.

Papillon Temperament

In the United States, the drop-eared dog is called a Phalene, which translates to moth. However, in Europe, they’re called the Epagneul Nain or Continental Toy Spaniel. The Papillon became a trendy show dog in France by 1900 and, shortly after, took America and England by storm.

Papillon puppy looking alert

The earlier papillons were much larger than the ones we have today. Also, they were mostly solid-colored and occasionally with some shade of red. However, thanks to selective breeding, we have a much smaller dog that is notable by its prominent colors fragmented by white patches. A proportionally marked face with white blaze adds to the butterfly appearance.

The Papillon is one of the most popular toy dog breeds, and it is also a very loving pet, beautiful show dog, and proficient obedience and agility participant.

Papillon Breed Facts

Energy levelWatchdog ability
Exercise requirementsProtection ability
PlayfulnessGrooming requirements
Affection levelCold tolerance
Friendliness toward dogsHeat tolerance
Friendliness toward other petsFriendliness toward strangers
Ease of training

Weight: 4-9 pounds (ca. -4 kg)
Height: 8-11 inches (ca. -28 cm)
Popularity: Popular
Family: Spaniel, Companion
Area of Origin: France
Date of Origin: 1500s
Original Function: Lapdog
Today’s Function: Companion
Other Names: Epagneul Nain, Phalene, Continental Toy Spaniel

Papillon Temperament and Upkeep

Papillon book

The Papillon is arguably the most obedient and responsive of the toy breeds. The spirited Papillon is also kind, friendly, and playful. It is friendly toward strangers, other dogs, and pets. It is exceptionally gentle with children, although rough play can cause injury. Also, some can be timid.

The Papillon loves mental stimulation, and it loves daily walks on a leash and challenging games indoors or out. Its coat needs brushing at least twice weekly.


Major concerns: none
Minor concerns: patellar luxation, seizures, dental problems
Occasionally seen: vWD, PRA, open fontanel, intervertebral disk disease, allergies
Suggested tests: knee, eye, (vWD), cardiac
Life span: 12-15 years

Form and Function

The Papillon is a small, graceful, elegant dog of fine-boned structure, slightly longer than it is tall. Its gait is quick, easy, and agile. Its plentiful coat is long, silky, straight, and flowing. Its trademark characteristics, besides its friendly personality and alert expression, is its butterfly ears.

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