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Papillon walking in grass.

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Toy group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 8-11 inches
  • Weight — 5-10 pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Long, silky, flowy
  • Coat color — Parti-colors, where the coat is over 50% with a combination of colors like black, brown, red, or fawn.
  • Exercise needs — Average
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Not excessive
  • Life span — 14-16 years
  • Temperament — Happy,  social, and playful
  • Hypoallergenic — No
  • Origin — South Africa

Papillon fun facts 

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Papillons Gizmo; Charlie is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Papillons love Bella, then Lola.

  • “Papillon” is the French word for “butterfly”, which the breed’s fluttery ears resemble.
  • Papillons were popular among French royalty, including Marie Antoinette.
  • Papillons are considered one of the oldest toy breeds still in existence today.
Black and white Papillon laying in leaves

Papillon temperament and characteristics 

The papillon is a toy dog with a temperament that might surprise you. This small but mighty breed is known for its quickness and curiosity. Despite their refined appearance, these energetic little dogs love to play and explore. They are happy, alert, and friendly dogs who are rarely ever shy or aggressive. Papillons are also intelligent and easy to train with the right guidance.

Papillons thrive on human companionship and have gentle, amiable personalities that make them great companions in any setting. They love adventure and are confident, outgoing dogs who usually get along well with everyone they meet— including children. Although they may be standoffish with strangers at first, socialization is key to building their confidence around new people.

Though small dogs, papillons will still get along with larger animals. Overall, the papillon is an excellent companion for those looking for a high energy yet affectionate pup!


The Papillon is a small, lively, and cheerful toy breed. The breed is known for its large, fringed ears that look like butterfly wings, which gives them their name. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standards, acceptable coat colors include parti-color or white with patches of any color(s). We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, common coat colors for the Papillon are (53%) black and (36%) white.

Common papillon health problems

Papillons are generally a healthy breed, but these little dogs may be prone to a few specific health issues.

  • Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease. This is a hip joint disorder. Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease often leads to arthritis in the affected joint and can cause severe pain or even lameness.
  • Patellar luxation.   This condition causes the kneecaps to slip out of place. While the two conditions are not related, patellar luxation can cause severe pain and lameness like Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease, so it’s important to get your dog to the vet should they exhibit symptoms.
  • Tracheal collapse.   Tracheal collapse is when the cartilage rings compress and lose their flexibility. The condition can lead to coughing fits and difficulty breathing
  • Congenital heart defects. A congenital heart defect is an abnormality that exists in your dog’s heart from the time of birth. These defects may range from mild to severe. In all cases, regular monitoring by a vet is required.
  • Infantile neuroaxonal dystrophy (NAD). NAD impacts a papillon’s nervous system. This may cause problems with mental development, loss of vision, or even muscular issues.
  • Eye disorders. Papillons can be prone to different eye issues, such as progressive retinal atrophy or juvenile cataracts, which can cause vision problems or even complete blindness.  Always make sure to monitor your pup’s eye health to get an early gauge of potential eye disorders.

While these conditions can be managed with appropriate medical attention and care, it’s important for new owners to become familiar with their pup’s potential genetic predispositions. Regular veterinarian visits are key to catching any potential issues early so that the dog can get the treatment it needs.

Cost of caring for papillons

Caring for a papillon can come with certain costs that owners should be aware of. The initial cost for purchasing or adopting your pup will vary greatly depending on the breeder or rescue organization.

Afterward, there are additional expenses associated with owning a papillon such as preventative health care, optional spaying and neutering, food and treats, toys, grooming supplies, training classes and/or private lessons.

It’s also important to factor in potential medical costs in case of emergency or illnesses. Vet visits range in price depending on where you live and what services are included. This doesn’t factor in options like pet insurance or pet savings accounts, both of which help pet parents save money.

Papillon dogs playing

History of the papillon

The papillon is a breed of toy dog that has been around since the 16th century. It was originally called a dwarf spaniel and was favored by Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of Louis XV, the king of France. It is believed that the breed was developed from a mix of other breeds such as the King Charles Spaniel and the Italian Greyhound. The breed originated in France, where the name papillon means “butterfly” due to its signature ears. Throughout history, these dogs have been prized for their intelligence and loyalty.

Today, the papillon is still popular as a companion dog due to its friendly personality and intelligence.

Caring for your papillon

Caring for the tiny papillon dog breed can be a rewarding experience if you know what to expect. As with any new pup, you’ll want to puppy-proof your home before your pet arrives. Next, plan for your first vet visit where your furry friend will likely get vaccinations. If you purchased your papillon from responsible breeders, chances are you’ve already made a decision about microchipping before this point. Still, you may also want to research products like FidoAlert, which is free and supplies you with a dog tag that comes with a QR code a stranger can snap to let you know they’ve found your missing pet should the unthinkable happen. Here are some other care tips to keep in mind with papillons.


Though tiny, it is important to make sure your papillon gets enough exercise to stay healthy and active. You’ll want to give them at least 30-45 minutes of exercise per day.  These dogs are very energetic, so if you don’t let them burn off some steam, they may become a bit rambunctious. If you are looking for a toy breed that lounges around all day, try looking into low-energy dog breeds.

Some beneficial types of exercises for papillons include daily walks or runs.  This not only keeps them fit, but the breed enjoys pleasing their owners, so spending time together will make pups happy has well.

One of the best things about a papillon is its small stature. The good news is that dogs can get exercise in both small and larger home settings. So as long as your papillon is able to get out their zoomies, you should be in good shape.

Papillon running on grass


Grooming is an important part of caring for your papillon as well, though it’s not as high-maintenance as you might initially think. With papillons, their single-coats either shed an average amount or below average. This comes down to genetics. Your pet may shed only twice a year, or you may notice light, consistent shedding that fluctuates with the seasons.

In either case, brushing their long hair regularly (two or three times a week) will help keep it clean and free of tangles or mats. Make sure to use dog grooming tools that are specifically for single-coats and not double-coats.

You should also trim their nails regularly to prevent them from becoming too long or uncomfortable for your pup. Don’t forget about cleaning your pup’s butterfly-like ears. And teeth brushing should always be a finishing touch to prevent dental problems!

Diet and nutrition

Feeding your papillon is an important part of ensuring their health and well-being. It is important to keep their small size in mind and provide a balanced diet that includes all the essential nutrients they need. Since papillons are only 5-10 pounds on average, you want to make sure to not overfeed as this can cause obesity. Puppies usually eat three to four small meals a day. With adult papillons, you might feed morning and night, dividing from ¼-½ cup of dry food for the day. Of course, you should talk to your vet about what type of food and feeding schedule would be best for your pup.

When it comes to treats, there are plenty of healthy snacks available on the market— especially useful if your dog has a sensitive stomach.

Training your papillon

Training your papillon is an important part of keeping them happy and healthy. These tiny dogs can quickly learn basic commands such as sit, stay, come, and leave it. However, this is a highly intelligent dog breed that could also learn show tricks. Papillon pups also like to be active and could benefit from agility ring training or dog sports that play toward their athleticism. Many do not realize that the toy breed enjoys competition.

Papillons can also benefit from obedience training and socialization at a young age to prevent any negative behaviors. It is important to be consistent when teaching them new commands and practice positive reinforcement; reward them for positive behaviors with treats or praise.

It is also important to pay attention to your papillon’s mental health needs as well. Providing them with plenty of love and affection, as well as stimulating activities such as playing fetch or going on walks, will help keep them mentally stimulated and content.

Papillon barking

Breeds similar to the papillon

Not quite sure that a papillon is the right dog for you? There are several breeds similar to the papillon that share some of its characteristics.

  • Cavalier King Charles spaniel. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a similar look to the papillon, with long silky fur and large ears. The papillon has also been called the “Continental Toy Spaniel”, so it is also no surprise that the two breeds both have similar colorings as well. Cavalier’s also love being active like paps, but will also lounge around and don’t bark quite as much.
  • Pomeranian. Pomeranians have erect ears and a face that some describe as fox-like or “baby-doll”. They are similar (though slightly smaller) in size to papillons, weighing up to 7 pounds. They are alert, intelligent, confident, and love to be the center of attention, making them great show dogs, just like the intelligent papillon.
  • West Highland white terrier. Westies are smart and confident dogs who love to play and entertain their owners, so their temperament is just as lively as a papillon’s. They are friendlier towards strangers than paps, but both breeds get along well with other pets in the house.

Frequently asked questions

Are papillons good with children?

Yes! Papillons are excellent with children and make wonderful family pets. They love being around people and will bond quickly with their human companions— whether adults or older children. However, it’s always a good idea to supervise young children when they interact with any dog breed.

Do papillons shed?

Yes, papillons do shed year-round but not heavily as they do not have an undercoat. Regular brushing can help keep shedding under control and maintain the health of their coat.

How much does a papillon cost from a breeder?

The cost of papillon puppies (or any breed for that matter) depends on pedigree,  your locality, demand, and other factors. Potential pet parents should always do their due diligence and make sure that breeders provide health certificates from OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals). If you are interested in an AKC (American Kennel Club) dog, you can learn more about registration.