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The Papillon: A Complete Dog Breed Information - PawSafe

The Papillon: A Complete Dog Breed Information

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

the Papillon

If you’re captivated by the charm and elegance of the Papillon and are considering bringing a puppy into your life, you’re in for a delightful journey. Known for their expressive eyes and beautiful, butterfly-like ears, Papillons have a way of stealing hearts in just one glance. These dogs are not only a joy to behold but also make loving, affectionate companions that fit perfectly into various lifestyles, whether you live in a bustling city apartment or a quiet suburban home.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about owning a Papillon, from their unique personality traits and care needs to the important health considerations to keep in mind. 

For those of you looking to find a Papillon puppy for sale, we’ll discuss how to find a responsible breeder and what to expect when you bring your new puppy home by referring to expert sources like the Papillon Dog Club of Northern California.

Papillon Key Points

  • Papillons are known for their intelligent and energetic personalities.
  • Just as happy in an apartment as a house, Papillons are known for being adaptable and adjusting well to their living situation.
  • While they enjoy playtime and mental stimulation, Papillons don’t require extensive exercise, making them a good fit for moderate activity levels.
  • Their signature butterfly-like ears and expressive eyes contribute to their irresistible charm.
  • Papillons can have health issues like patellar luxation and dental problems. Responsible breeding practices can help reduce these risks.
  • Their silky fur requires regular brushing to maintain its beauty and prevent matting.

The Papillon Profile: Physical and Personality Traits

three sitting Papillons sitting showing physical traits

The Papillon embodies an air of elegance with its graceful appearance and lively demeanor, making it a favorite among dog lovers worldwide. Standing at about 8 to 11 inches (approximately 20 to 28 centimeters) at the withers and typically weighing between 5 and 10 pounds (about 2.3 to 4.5 kilograms), the Papillon is the perfect size for a lap dog, yet sturdy enough for an active family lifestyle.

According to the AKC Breed Standard, the ideal Papillon is well-proportioned and slightly longer than tall, with a fine bone structure. The breed’s expressive, large, dark brown eyes and high-set ears with abundant feathering contribute to its distinctive, alert expression that is known to melt hearts.

Coat and Colors

Papillons boast a silky, single-layer coat that lies flat on their body and is well feathered on the ears, chest, legs, and tail. They require regular grooming to maintain their beautiful appearance and prevent mats, especially in the feathering on their ears, chest, legs, and tail. The breed standard recognizes a variety of colors:

  • White with patches of any color (commonly black, brown, or sable).


Papillons are famed for their lively, friendly, and outgoing temperament. They show no tendency towards nervousness or shyness, making them excellent companions for families with children or other pets.

Owners often describe Papillons as intelligent and eager to please; one owner shared, “Our Papillon, Bella, is truly a joy in our household. She’s gentle with the kids and loves to be part of whatever we’re doing, whether it’s a quiet evening at home or a trip to the park.”

Another owner remarked, “What I love most is their energy; they’re just as happy playing fetch in the yard as they are snuggling on the couch.”

This combination of elegant appearance, lively temperament, and adaptability makes the Papillon an ideal companion for many, embodying a balance of playful activity and calm, affectionate companionship. Whether nestled in a city apartment or a country house, Papillons thrive in the love and company of their human families.

The Papillon is also one of the breeds that created the extra-cute Mi-ki dog.

Is a Papillon Right for Me? Pros and Cons

tricolor Papillon dog pros and cons Papillons dogs

Here’s an extensive table that outlines the specific pros and cons of Papillon ownership, capturing the key aspects you might consider before bringing one into your home.

Pros of Papillon OwnershipCons of Papillon Ownership
Adaptable to Various Living SituationsProne to Specific Health Issues
Papillons adjust well to different living environments, including apartments and houses with yards, due to their small size and adaptable nature.Papillons are prone to health issues like patellar luxation, dental problems, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), requiring vigilant care and regular veterinary visits.
Intelligent and Eager to LearnHigh Grooming Needs
Known for their intelligence, Papillons excel in obedience training and agility sports. Their eagerness to please makes them quick learners.Their long, silky coats require regular brushing and occasional professional grooming to prevent mats and maintain their appearance.
Affectionate and CompanionableCan Suffer from Separation Anxiety
Papillons form strong bonds with their families, making them excellent lap dogs and companions who thrive on human interaction.Due to their strong attachment to their owners, Papillons can develop separation anxiety if left alone for extended periods.
Good for Novice Dog OwnersSensitive to Extreme Temperatures
Their friendly and forgiving nature makes Papillons a good choice for first-time dog owners.Papillons are sensitive to extreme heat and cold, which requires careful management of their environment to keep them comfortable.
Moderate Exercise NeedsBarking Tendency
Papillons have moderate exercise needs that can be met with daily walks and playtime, making them suitable for less active owners.Papillons are alert and can be prone to excessive barking, especially if not properly trained or socialized.
Excellent with Children and Other PetsFragility Due to Small Size
Papillons are generally friendly and gentle with children and other pets, making them a good choice for families.Due to their small size, Papillons can be easily injured, so they require careful handling, especially around young children.
Long LifespanPotential for Dental Issues
With proper care, Papillons can live between 12 to 16 years, providing many years of companionship.Papillons are prone to dental problems, requiring regular brushing and professional dental cleanings to maintain oral health.
Playful and EnergeticPotential for Timidness and Fearfulness
Papillons are lively and enjoy interactive play, making them a fun and entertaining addition to the household.Without proper socialization, Papillons can become timid or fearful of new experiences and environments.
Minimal SheddingHigh Maintenance for Ears and Eyes
Papillons shed minimally, which can be an advantage for those who prefer a cleaner home environment.Their long ears and expressive eyes require regular cleaning to prevent infections and tear staining.

This detailed table provides a comprehensive overview of the specific pros and cons of owning a Papillon, helping you make an informed decision about whether this breed is the right fit for your lifestyle and household.

Papillon Health and Longevity

Healthy Papillon dog running on grass; health concerns of Papillon dogs

Papillons are cherished for their lively and affectionate nature, but they come with a predisposition to several genetic health issues. Understanding these conditions can help you provide the best care for your Papillon.

Joint Conditions

One of the most significant concerns in Papillons is patellar luxation. This condition involves the dislocation of the kneecap, which can lead to pain and mobility issues. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor joint health, especially as the dog ages.

Dental Conditions

Papillons are prone to dental problems, including periodontal disease and tooth decay. Regular dental care is crucial to prevent these issues, and treatments can range from regular brushing to professional dental cleanings.

Ocular Conditions

Papillons can suffer from various eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cataracts. Regular eye examinations can help catch these conditions early, and treatments can vary from eye drops to surgery.

Lifespan and Quality of Life

The lifespan of Papillons averages around 12 to 16 years, but with proper care, some can live longer. 

Best Dog Foods for the Papillon

The dietary needs of Papillons vary with their age, health conditions, and lifestyle. Given their predisposition to certain health issues like joint problems and dental disease, it’s crucial to choose dog food that supports their overall health and specific requirements.

Below, we’ve outlined some of the best food options tailored to the different life stages and needs of Papillons:

Royal Canin Small Puppy Dry Dog Food

This breed-specific formula is designed to meet the nutritional needs of small breed puppies up to 10 months old. It supports their growing bodies with appropriate levels of protein and fat, and the kibble size is tailored for their smaller jaws.

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Small Breed

Ideal for adult Papillons, this food offers a balanced diet that’s gentle on the stomach and supports skin health. The high-quality ingredients ensure optimal nutrient absorption, which is essential for maintaining energy levels and overall health.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Small Breed Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

Specially formulated for older dogs, this food offers a careful balance of proteins and carbohydrates to help maintain muscle mass and manage weight in senior years. It also includes glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health, which is important for aging Papillons.

Orijen Senior Dog Food 

While targeted at seniors, this high-protein, low-carbohydrate formula is excellent for Papillons at all stages who require stringent weight control to reduce stress on the joints. It’s loaded with naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin, which also support joint health — a boon for Papillons prone to musculoskeletal issues.

When choosing food for your Papillon, consider their specific health needs, life stage, and any advice given by your veterinarian. Always ensure that any diet change is gradual to avoid digestive upset.

Routine Care and Management

Papillon dog grooming

Proper daily care is essential to maintaining the health and happiness of a Papillon. Their unique physical characteristics, including their beautiful but maintenance-intensive coat, require consistent attention.

Coat Care

Papillons have a long, silky coat that requires regular grooming to prevent matting and to keep it looking its best.

  • Daily brushing is recommended to remove tangles and prevent mats, particularly in the feathering on their ears, chest, legs, and tail.
  • Bathe your Papillon about once a month or as needed. Use a gentle dog shampoo to protect their skin and enhance the natural sheen of their coat.
  • Trim the hair around their paws and anal area to maintain hygiene and prevent debris from clinging. Papillons do not require extensive trimming, but keeping these areas neat can prevent health issues.

Dental Care

Regular dental care is crucial to prevent gum disease and maintain overall health.

  • Brush your Papillon’s teeth several times a week with a toothpaste formulated for dogs. Daily brushing is ideal.

Ear and Eye Care

Papillons are prone to ear and eye issues, so regular checks are important.

  • Check their ears weekly for signs of infection or irritation. Clean them using a vet-recommended ear cleaner. The long ears of Papillons can trap moisture and debris, leading to infections if not cleaned regularly.
  • Wipe around your Papillon’s eyes daily with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge and prevent tear staining.

Nail Clipping

Regularly clip your Papillon’s nails to prevent discomfort while walking. If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor, they’re too long.

Exercise Needs

Papillons have moderate energy levels and do not require extensive exercise, but regular activity is important to keep them healthy and prevent obesity, which can exacerbate health issues.

  • Aim for at least one or two walks per day. These don’t need to be overly long or strenuous—about 20 to 30 minutes each should suffice.
  • Engage in play sessions that stimulate both their mind and body. Papillons enjoy fetching games and gentle tug-of-war. Ensure playtime is supervised, especially outdoors, to avoid overexertion.
  • Use puzzle toys and training games to keep their minds active. Papillons are intelligent dogs and appreciate challenges that keep them mentally engaged.

Combining these grooming and exercise routines will help ensure that your Papillon remains a healthy, happy, and integral part of your family for many years to come. Always tailor the intensity and duration of exercise to your dog’s age, health status, and energy level, and consult your vet if you have any concerns about their health or care regimen.

Papillon Training and Behavior

Training a Papillon effectively takes a gentle hand and an understanding of their specific behavioral tendencies. While Papillons are highly intelligent, their high energy levels and sensitivity can make training both rewarding and challenging.

Training Techniques

Papillons respond exceptionally well to positive reinforcement. Due to their desire to please and sensitive nature, harsh corrections should be avoided. Use treats, praise, and petting to reward good behavior, which will encourage them to repeat those actions.

Like any dog, Papillons benefit from consistent commands and routines. Regular short training sessions will help them learn and retain new behaviors and commands.

Managing Behavioral Issues

Papillons often form strong bonds with their owners, making them prone to separation anxiety. To manage this:

  • Gradually acclimate them to being alone by starting with short periods of separation and slowly increasing the duration.
  • Create a safe, comforting space for them when you’re not home, such as a crate with familiar blankets and toys.
  • Consider leaving a piece of clothing that smells like you with your dog when you leave the house.

Timidness and Fear

Some Papillons may show fear or timidness, particularly as puppies.

  • Socialize them early by exposing them to a variety of people, sounds, and experiences in a controlled, positive manner.
  • Encourage and reward bravery with treats and affection.
  • Avoid forcing them into situations where they feel overwhelmed, as this can exacerbate fearful behaviors.

Importance of Early Socialization

Papillons are naturally sociable but can develop fearfulness if not properly socialized. Introduce your Papillon to a range of environments, animals, and people from a young age to build confidence and reduce anxiety.

  • Enroll them in puppy classes where they can interact with other dogs and people in a structured setting.

Ongoing Engagement

Keep their minds engaged with interactive toys, puzzles, and games that challenge their intelligence. Papillons enjoy activities that allow them to solve problems, especially those that end with a reward.

By understanding and addressing the Papillon’s specific needs and tendencies, you can foster a nurturing environment that enhances their natural qualities. This approach not only helps in managing potential issues like anxiety and fear but also enriches the training experience, making it enjoyable and rewarding for both you and your dog.

Purchasing and Adoption

Cute Papillon puppy for sale

Bringing a Papillon into your home is a significant decision. Whether you decide to buy from a breeder or adopt from a rescue, it’s crucial to go through reputable channels to ensure the health and well-being of your future pet.

Finding Reputable Breeders

When looking to purchase a Papillon puppy, selecting a reputable breeder is paramount. A responsible breeder will prioritize the health and temperament of their puppies and will be transparent about their breeding practices.

  • Breeders should conduct comprehensive health screenings on all breeding stock to check for common genetic conditions in Papillons, such as patellar luxation and dental issues.
  • The Papillon Club of America is an excellent resource for finding reputable breeders committed to the highest breeding standards.

Adoption and Rescue Options

Adopting a Papillon can be a rewarding way to give a dog a second chance at a loving home. Here are some reputable Papillon rescue organizations where you can find Papillons looking for new homes:

These organizations often have dogs from various backgrounds, including those who have been surrendered by owners unable to care for them or rescued from less ideal situations.

Cost Overview

The cost of a Papillon can vary widely depending on whether you choose to adopt or buy from a breeder. Purchasing a Papillon from a reputable breeder might cost anywhere from $1,000 to over $2,500, whereas adoption fees generally range from $150 to $600.

Initial costs also include expenditures for vaccinations, initial veterinary visits, spaying or neutering, and necessary supplies like a bed, crate, and grooming tools.

Ongoing Costs

  • Regular check-ups are vital given the breed’s health predispositions. Budget for annual health screenings and potential treatments for common conditions.
  • High-quality dog food tailored to the Papillon’s nutritional needs will typically cost between $20 and $50 per month.
  • Professional grooming sessions are recommended every 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the dog’s coat condition, and can cost approximately $50 to $70 per visit.
  • Pet insurance is highly recommended to help mitigate the costs of unforeseen health issues and can range from $30 to $50 per month, depending on the coverage.


Bringing a Papillon into your life is a decision filled with the promise of joy, companionship, and affection. These charming dogs are well-known for their lively and friendly nature, making them an excellent choice for families, individuals, and seniors alike. While Papillons do require diligent care, particularly regarding their health and grooming needs, the rewards of owning one are immense.

Whether you choose to purchase a Papillon from a reputable breeder or adopt from a rescue, it’s important to prepare for the responsibility of dog ownership. Understanding the breed’s specific needs and potential costs will help ensure that you can provide a loving and stable environment for your new pet.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.