Behind The Breed Dogs

Behind the Breed: Papillons

These small, happy dogs are known for their big wing-like ears and agility abilities. Papillons are incredibly smart and friendly, making them great companions, especially for those who might live in smaller places or those who want to travel with their dog. They’re always ready to play and love the outdoors. If you’re looking for a happy dog that doesn’t believe in personal space, a papillon may just be for you.

Papillons are descendants of a European Toy Spaniel, a toy dog that was popular among European royalty for centuries. In fact, one court painting from ~1500 CE included several of these tiny dogs and artists like Rubens, Rembrandt, and Goya have all included papillons in some of their paintings. The breed has a strong connection to France, as Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette were just some of the breed’s admirers. Initially, papillons didn’t have their iconic erect ears but by the 17th century, their ears started to resemble the wings of butterflies, giving the breed their name.

These dogs are so smart and have been described as tiny Border Collies. In addition to being smart, some papillons have been known to herd sheep and many thrive in agility courses and obedience competitions. Because of their intelligence and high energy, papillons definitely need plenty of exercise and enrichment to keep them happy and healthy. Daily walks, the occasional hike, and playing in a fenced backyard are all great ways to keep a papillon happy! And puzzle toys can help keep them busy while inside. A bored papillon may not cause the same destruction as a larger dog but they can still cause some issues and can be overly vocal, which may annoy you and your neighbors.

While papillons have a long coat, grooming is an easy task for these dogs. Brushing their coats once or twice a week can help shedding and will prevent matting. Bath them as needed and regularly trim their nails. Health wise, these dogs can stay relatively healthy and could easily live for 15+ years! Many papillons deal with paroxysmal respiration, otherwise known as reverse sneezing. This condition isn’t actually a sneeze but can be caused by adverse reactions to perfumes/strong odors, pollen allergies, or overexertion. While reverse sneezing isn’t something to worry too much about, it might scare an owner because of how strange it sounds!

Papillons are a part of the Toy Group but tend to act much bigger than they actually are. Adult papillons can be quite sturdy but as puppies, these dogs can be fragile and can easily injury themselves by doing something like jumping off the couch. Having a papillon may mean you’re regularly making sure these tiny dogs aren’t getting themselves into trouble! These dogs are also house dogs and aren’t meant to spend significant amounts of time outside by themselves. They like being with their people and may follow you from room to room.

If you’re looking for a smart, loyal, and small dog, a papillon may be the perfect companion for you! These dogs do well in a variety of homes, from apartments to farms. Like any other breed, they’ll need grooming like weekly brushing and regular nail trims but overall, care for papillons is relatively easy. They’re energic and intelligent so make sure to walk/exercise them daily and offer enrichment like puzzle toys or agility training. Papillons may not be able to cause the same damage as a larger dog but they do have the spirit of one and can get overly vocal if bored.

Have you ever had a papillon? If so, you are in the company of royalty! Let me know about your papillon in the comments.

4 comments on “Behind the Breed: Papillons

  1. Dan Levin

    In 2012 after an extensive analysis of breeds, we adopted an adult rescue papillon. How Archie ended up abandoned on the street is utterly nonsensical. He we nothing but a joy from the day we took him home until he dead (prematurely) from cancer three years later.

    Even for a papillon, Archie was exceptional. Not show quality and probably a little bit of mixed breeding, but he was calm, friendly, confident and super smart. We know he was a city dog before he came to us, but when we took hikes in the woods he would follow the trails (off leash with 100% reliability…mostly) it was like he’d been doing it his entire life.

    When he got cancer and we removed the large tumor, he needed to get up to about 9 pounds to qualify for an experimental treatment. He was never a big eater, but needed to gain about 1.2 pounds in two weeks to qualify. He must have heard and understood because he suddenly started eating like crazy and just made it. But the cancer had spread and he only lived another month. Worth every penny.

    Paps don’t get enough attention these days, but they should. For a small dog they are as good as you can get. The three years we had him produced a lifetime of happy memories. He got to experience the suburban dog’s dream by chasing a fox clear out of the neighborhood. He showed up some snooty therapy-dog parents who questioned my assertion that Archie could be a therapy dog when a young girl with Downs Syndrome came over and started petty him, and he sat down at her feet … while they watched it happen. He got to see the beach and ocean, but preferred hanging out with strangers on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

    Archie was royalty, and I just couldn’t believe thatHarry and Meghan named their son ‘Archie’. We were just lucky to add him to our family.

  2. Jean Packard

    I have had Paps for many years. Everything you wrote is true and more.
    Hanky Panky would ring a bell to go out and all would run to be let out. But it was just a ruse to double back, get on my chair and drink my tea.
    Willie once pushed a chair out from under the table so he could get the cat food on top.
    The stories of their intelligence is far too long to recite here but just know, these are uncommon dogs.
    I rescued and rehabilitated them for years and every one was just as bright.
    Just watch them compete in agility, you can’t beat them!
    And the only toy breed to make the top 10 smartest. I call them boarder collies in too small suits.

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