Canine Breed Spotlight: Papillon

Here’s a quick look at the Papillon!

Dog breed group: Toy breed

Average life expectancy: 12-15 years


The Papillon derives its name from the characteristic butterfly look of the long fringed fur on the ears and the symmetrical pattern on their face. The French word for butterfly is papillon. This dog is also known as the Continental Toy Spaniel. This is a very old breed of dog, it has been portrayed in portraits dating all the way back to the 16th century.



The Papillon is a happy, gentle and affectionate dog. They are easy to train, enjoy learning simple tricks and will even do well in sports like agility. They tend to not be aggressive, but be aware of small dog syndrome. If you allow your Papillon to become the pack leader above the humans you may come across some behavior problems such as nipping or becoming possessive of their owners. They can be an adventurous dog, they like to play outside and go for walks, but due to their small size they don’t have a large exercise requirement (however keeping them exercised will help keep their mind stimulated, stop them from getting bored and keep them calm).

Is this breed right for you?


  • They need regular grooming/brushing to keep the fur in good shape. They don’t shed too much.
  • They are not a very yappy or barky breed, however they will alert you if there is someone at the door or someone new is in the house.
  • Papillons are good for new pet owners or families with children.
  • They are very adaptable to their surroundings- they do well in apartments, they are kind and playful around children and do not require a large amount of exercise.

Health concerns

Both pure-bred and mixed-breed dogs have varying kinds of health problems that may be either influenced by genetics or environmental factors. Here is a look at some health concerns that are commonly seen in the Papillon.

  • A Luxating Patella occurs when the dog’s kneecap is dislocated from its normal position in the groove of the thigh bone. This may require corrective surgery, depending on the severity and frequency of the luxation.
  • Papillon’s have a very small mouth, making Dental Disease a concern for this breed of dog. Crowding and mis-alignment of the teeth is common in these dogs. They are also prone to tartar buildup, making home dental care is very important. The crowding and alignment of your Papillon’s teeth may lead to tartar buildup that may not be able to be managed with brushing alone- dental cleanings and dental surgery under anesthetic may be necessary throughout your Papillon’s lifetime.
  • Eye concerns such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) can be a concern in this breed. This is a genetic disease that causes the retina to degenerate in both eyes, leading to progressive vision loss and ultimately blindness.
  • Since Papillon’s are a small breed dog, they are prone to injury from jumping, getting stepped on, sneaking out of the yard and getting lost or hit by a car. Please keep a close eye on your Papillon.