The Papillon dog breed is a small spaniel type dog that has been around since ages. Easily recognizable by their distinctive butterfly-like ears that have given them their name, these delightful little dogs make excellent companions and family dogs. They are generally friendly to people and other animals, but are alert and suspicious of something unfamiliar happening, qualities that make them good watchdogs too. These dogs are adaptable to apartment living as long as their exercise needs are met.
The Papillon dog breed originated from small spaniels popular as lap dogs in Italy, Spain and other European countries, especially among the gentry. They were featured in many Italian paintings of the royalty as far back as the 13th century. They were referred to as Continental Toy Spaniels or Epagneul Nain in those days. Later they came to be called Squirrel Spaniels because of the way they hold their tails up.
These dogs became highly favored in the French royal court, particularly by Louis XIV. Many dogs in the early paintings had floppy ears, but the ones with erect ears fringed with long hair came to be called Papillon, the French word for butterfly. Until the early 1900s, these dogs appeared mainly in French dog shows, but when they were eventually shown in England, they became instantly popular. They were soon introduced in the United States, and gained the recognition of the American Kennel Club in 1935.
Papillons are popular in the show circles, doing very well in competitive fields, especially in agility and obedience. The ‘Phalene’ version is also gaining popularity lately.
The Papillon dog breed measures just 8 to 11 inches in height and weighs 4 to 9 pounds. They have a small head that is framed by the trademark ears that look like a butterfly with open wings. The breed also has a drop-eared version that is referred to as ‘Phalene’ which means moth. The same litter may have both types of dogs, but the ‘Papillon’ or butterfly version is more popular. These dogs are delicately built with a long, single coat of silky white hair covering them all over. Patches of other colors such as different shades of tan, brown and black occur, often on and around the ears, back and tail. These dogs carry their profusely plumy tail curled over their back, which earned them their old name, Squirrel Spaniel.’
The Papillon dog breed is known for its playful nature. Even though they are gentle and friendly with all kinds of animals and people, they are not shy or introverted. They like the company of other dogs and people, especially kids. However, being a toy breed, they do need protection from very young children whose rough play might unintentionally hurt the dog.
This breed is easily trained unlike other toy breeds that are generally difficult to train. They can be extremely well-behaved and obedient if proper training is given. Early socialization brings the best out of this dog. These dogs have the capacity to adjust to different situations. While they are full of energy and love playing active games with physically active owners, they are equally content to stay quietly by the side of more sedentary people. But like any other toy dog, they require love, affection and attention from their people.
Grooming and exercise
The Papillon dog breed does not take a lot of grooming despite their long coat. For one thing, it’s a single coat, and for another, the silky hairs that make up the coat are straight and not prone to matting. A light brushing 2 to 3 times a week is all it takes. They are practically odor-free too, so they require only a wash every two weeks to stay clean. However, these dogs need thorough dental care as they are prone to developing periodontal diseases. Brushing the teeth every night is ideal, but a thorough dental cleaning at least once a week is essential.
Papillons are active dogs that need both physical as well as mental stimulation. In addition to a brisk walk on the leash, they can be entertained with games and other activities in the yard or inside the house. These dogs benefit from a free run in the yard, but they are not for living outdoors.
Common health issues of the Papillon dog breed
Since the Papillon dog breed has been around for a very long time they are relatively free of health problems. Patellar luxation, intervertebral disc disease, and progressive retinal atrophy are occasionally seen. Some dogs are known to have seizures, but it is not a common occurrence. However, dental problems are much more common in this breed. Life expectancy of Papillon dogs is around 13 to 14 years, but many healthy dogs live longer.