A guide to Papillon dogs
Undeniably adorable, Papillons are a popular choice for owners who like their canine companion on the smaller side. Here’s some information about their temperament, history and characteristics.
Which dog breed group does the Papillion belong to?
Papillons are in the toy dog breed group.
As the name may suggest, toy dogs are small in stature and are usually purpose-bred companion dogs perfect for play and cuddles. Most dogs in this group tend to be your typical ‘lap dog’, however, some have been categorised this way simply due to their size. Some toy dogs are simply miniature versions of larger breeds; in this case for example, the Papillon is of the spaniel type. Toy dogs are the perfect example of the shifting perspectives on pups from being just useful work tools to friendly companions.
Papillon breed history
Translated from French, Papillon literally means “butterfly” - indicating their origins in French and Belgian nobility as early as the 16th century. Papillons are thought to be one of the oldest breeds of toy spaniels on known record with their butterfly-like face being depicted in works of art throughout Italy, France and Belgium around the 1500s.
Painted alongside high-society folk like Louis XIV, Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette, there is no doubting their regal heritage. Pandering to the nobility’s desire for miniatures, Papillon's were developed by crossing toy breeds with spaniels and up until the 19th century, the sister variety Phalene (with dropped ears) was much more common.
Slowly but surely the Papillon with erect ears became the more fanciful choice. The loving breed found its way to the UK in 1901 and was first registered with the UK Kennel Club in 1923 before spreading to America and elsewhere. Their rise in popularity over the last 20 years is owed to a Papillon who made breed history in 1999 who won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club show.
Papillon breed characteristics
Despite their dainty and delicate size, Papillon’s are successful competitors in obedience and agility owing to their athletic spaniel bloodline.
At a glance, Papillon’s are:
● Child & animal-friendly
● Somewhat energetic
What are Papillons bred for?
As part of the toy group, Papillon’s and the Phalene variety, were bred specifically as companion dogs. These charming pooches where originally bred favourably as attentive pets to the noblewomen and royalty all across Europe for hundreds of years. So, it’s no wonder these butterfly-eared pups are very much of the pampered-looking sort. These days this breed continues to delight families all across the UK and Europe - though they are no longer strictly for the upper class!
What sort of owner would Papillons suit?
It’s no secret that these adorable little dogs make great family pets. Their small size, affectionate nature and lively character makes them a great choice for households with primary school-aged children or those looking for their first dog. Though maybe not the best choice for toddlers or infants.
It’s not unheard of for a Papillon to wrap their owners around their teeny paws due to their smarts and confidence, but someone with time to socialise and train their pooch early on will usually curb this behaviour in no time. In spite of their size, they still require some daily exercise, so potential Papillon parents need to have at least half an hour spare a day for walks and playtime to burn off any excess energy their pup may have. Lastly, these dogs are exceptionally people-oriented and would love to be in a home where their human pals are around a lot.