A complete guide to papillon dogs

Drawing its name from its signature butterfly-shaped ears, the papillon is cute, active and energetic. Though their demure, elegant and pampered appearance may suggest otherwise, papillon breeders maintain that these dogs are among the best watchdogs on the planet.


Height: Both male and female papillon dogs reach 8 to 11 inches in height when fully grown, which is about the same size as a Yorkshire terrier.

Weight: An adult papillon won't normally weigh more than 10 pounds.

Coat: The topcoat of a papillon dog is silky, soft and flowing. They don't have undercoats. They range from lemon or white to red, rich mahogany or chestnut in color. It's not uncommon for a light-colored papillon to have patches of darker fur.

Ears and Eyes: As "papillon" means "butterfly" in French, this breed is aptly named given the unique shape of its ears. Its eyes are bright and usually take a round or ovular shape.

Tail: This breed displays a long, plumed tail with bushy fur, set relatively high on its back.


Despite their small stature, papillon dogs are brave and protective of their owners. Their guarding abilities rival that of the bulldog, yet they're playful and adapt easily to new situations, making it easy for them to travel or change homes during their adulthoods. These dogs thrive on attention but are best with older rather than younger children. In fact, some papillon breeders won't sell papillon puppies to families with children younger than six years of age.

AKC Group: Toy

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Training: Of all the toy breeds, these dogs are among the most obedient. However, they are difficult to housebreak and tend to make a lot of noise, since it's in their nature to guard their homes fiercely. This is particularly problematic if the dog dwells in an apartment or other confined space.

Ideal Environment: The papillon is best placed in a home with mature children or no children at all. They are also popular with the elderly since they're very affectionate, small, light and easy to care for. Their relatively thin fur and delicate nature makes them best suited for warmer climates where they won't have to brave the elements.

Health and Care

Feeding: Take care not to overfeed papillon puppies and adults, since they're often kept as indoor pets and are therefore prone to weight gain.

Grooming: While this breed requires only occasional bathing, it's necessary to trim the pads of their paws regularly and brush their hair weekly. Many papillon breeders also recommend having their glossy fur professionally cared for.

Exercise: While lively, papillon puppies and adults don't need a huge amount of exercise. That said, it's still important to ensure the dog gets a daily walk. It's best to play it by ear, giving the dog an extra workout if it seems restless and moderating its activity if it seems content to lay about.

Health Problems: While this is generally a very healthy breed, all dogs are subject to health problems, including heartworms and canine diabetes, and the papillon is no exception. Recurrent problems include a knee and joint disorder known as luxating patella, as well as retina and tear-duct issues.

Average Lifespan: This breed enjoys a relatively long lifespan, living an average of 13 to 16 years.

Find a Papillon to Take Home

Papillon rescue centers are relatively rare, given the exclusivity of these dogs. Dog breeders often have lengthy waiting lists for papillon puppies and pre-screen owners for suitability. Given this breed's relatively low abuse and stray rates, inquiries are best directed to reputable papillon breeders.

Don't give business to puppy farms, as these establishments treat their animals poorly and don't focus on raising healthy puppies of reputable parentage. It's worth paying the extra money to a good breeder, since this will help curb vet expenses down the road. Papillon puppies tend to be expensive, ranging from roughly $800 to $1,500 when purchased through a breeder.