Papillion means “butterfly” in French and points directly to the ears of this toy dog, which are fringed in the shape of a butterfly. This breed is said to be a dwarf spaniel and dates to the 15th and 16th centuries when their portraits were painted while nestled on the laps of French and Spanish noblewomen.

Common Characteristics

  • Size: 1 to 20 pounds
  • Lifespan: 6 to 15 years
  • Pet purchase cost: $1000 to $1000
  • Allergies: Moderate
  • Shedding: Severe
  • Primarily suited for indoors


Common Reasons for Surrender

The Papillon is a toy breed that has earned a reputation for being difficult to house-train. Housetraining may take anywhere from several months to upwards of a year. Once the Papillon is trained, he is typically trained until he’s quite elderly. Still, many people either don’t realize the difficulty of house-training a Papillon or simply do not have the patience it takes, and the Papillon is surrendered to a shelter or a rescue.

Papillons also hold the title of a yappy breed. Some bark a lot while others don’t. The barking can be curbed with training, but many people prefer to surrender their Papillon instead.


An incredibly intelligent and affectionate breed, Papillons love being with their humans. They always want to be busy, which can be a pro or a con depending on your lifestyle. Papillons are like people—each has his own personality, likes, and dislikes. Your Pap may love to lie in your lap while taking a nap or he may prefer snoozing on the couch. Papillons generally love taking walks, playing with their toys, and do quite well entertaining themselves. If you’re too busy to throw the ball, don’t be surprised if your Papillon finds a way to toss it across the room and play with it all by herself.


While Papillons are extremely intelligent, they are also notoriously stubborn. Housetraining can take upwards of a year, which requires consistency and patience on your part. If you’re not prepared to deal with a long training process—and to remain positive throughout—a Papillon may not be the breed for you. A yappy breed, some Papillons bark a lot, which can be a nuisance, especially if you live in an apartment or a condo.


The Papillon needs a high quality dog food to stay lean and healthy. Some rescuers recommend feeding a combination of a dry kibble and the raw frozen diet. With the raw frozen diet, you mix meat, vegetables, and vitamins, freeze it, and defrost it as needed for meals. However, a raw diet is not for everyone as it requires handling of raw meat.

Avoid giving your Papillon any treats from China, due to recent product recalls and deaths of pets in the United States. If your Papillon likes vegetables, you may want to give him carrots or green beans. Papillons sometimes like freeze dried liver as a treat. If you opt to buy a treat for your Papillon, make sure it is made in the United States and is high quality that you buy in a pet store, not a grocery store.


While not necessarily considered hyper, Papillons have a lot of energy. If you live in a home with a fenced-in backyard, allow your Papillon ample time to run around and play outside. But, also make sure to take her for walks each day. Apartment and condo dwellers will need to take their Pap for two solid walks daily. Papillons also love to do “zoomies,” where they get a burst of energy and run furiously around the house before settling down for a rest.

Possible Health Issues

An overall healthy breed, some Papillons may deal with Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and teeth loss as they grow older. Toy breeds typically have dental problems, and Papillons are no exception. Plaque builds easily on the Papillon’s teeth, so they must be cleaned regularly. Still, some teeth must be pulled out while others simply fall out on their own.


Although they are a small breed, Papillons have boundless energy. A Papillon can thrive in an apartment provided you are willing to take him for two substantial walks each day. Ideally, a Papillon will enjoy having a backyard in which to run around and expend energy, which can be combined with daily walks.


Even though the Papillon is often considered a “wash and wear” dog, you will need to brush your Papillon daily to protect against matting. Many Papillons do not like to be brushed, so try to make brushing a positive experience for your dog.


Papillons are extremely intelligent and generally enjoy training. They can learn basic commands and tricks quickly, provided you use positive reinforcement. Offer your Papillon a treat and praise when he obeys a command. Again, you’ll have a more difficult time house-training your Papillon, due in part to his stubborn nature and his small bladder than you will teaching him basic commands and tricks. Remain patient and positive throughout to ensure eventual success.


Papillons love to play with toys and, if given the opportunity, will play fetch with you all day. They also enjoy long walks with their humans and romping in a fenced-in yard.

We want to thank Papillons and Playmates (PAPS) and Papillon Haven Rescue for help with this profile.

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