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Papillon (and Phalene)

Quick Facts

  • Weight: 7 - 10 pounds (3.18 - 4.54 kg)
  • Height: 8 - 11 inches (20.32 - 27.94 cm)

Papillons are small dogs with wide, pointy ears and silky, feathered coats. Their small heads have slightly rounded skulls, pointed muzzles, black noses and dark, alert eyes. They have somewhat long necks, well-sprung ribs, straight backs, tucked-up bellies and long, plumed tails that curl over their backs. Their long, feathered coats are normally white with patches of color, including a white noseband. Overall, Papillons have an elegant, poised and alert look.


  • Lively
  • Energetic
  • Loyal
  • Cuddly
  • Intelligent
  • Sturdy

Ideal Human Companion

  • Singles
  • Seniors
  • Families with older children
  • City dwellers

What They Are Like to Live With

Papillons are happy, lively and sprightly pals. Extremely loyal to their masters, they are the perfect cuddle companions, soaking up the affection and giving it right back. They have steady temperaments, clean habits and bright shiny faces. Because of this, and also because they don’t need lots of food or exercise, they make the ideal apartment companion.

But they are far from lazy. Papillons love to romp and play, and they are a lot tougher than they look. Energetic and athletic, most Papillons can be amazingly fast in agility trials. They are also intelligent, easy to train and quick to obey.

While some Papillons form strong attachments to their masters, they are not particularly suspicious of strangers. In fact, when you have guests over your Papillon may even play the role of consummate host, making sure that everyone gets ample amounts of “face time” and entertainment—they have a great sense of humor. Though welcoming and openhearted, Papillons will be sure to raise the alarm if someone approaches the house suspiciously.

Things You Should Know

Even though they don’t need lots of space, Papillons do need daily exercise. A roll on the living room floor will tide them over, but a daily walk is essential, even if it’s just around the block. And don’t forget: Papillons crave human companionship. Shower them with attention regularly (or every hour, if possible). Without it, they will get very peeved.

A healthy Papillon can live as long as 16 years. Common health issues include kneecap and joint problems and difficulty under anesthesia. Fairly low maintenance, Papillons just need regular brushing. They shed twice a year. Also, their nails should be clipped and teeth cleaned now and then to prevent tartar buildup.

Papillon (and Phalene) History

Originally called “dwarf spaniels,” these charming little dogs were faithful companions to European nobles and royals for hundreds of years. As the breed developed erect ears that resembled butterfly wings, they became known as the Papillon, which is the French word for butterfly. The drop-eared version of the Papillon is called a Phalène. Though considered a separate breed, both Papillons and Phalènes are judged by the same standards (and can even appear in the same litter). Registered by the AKC in 1935, Papillons continue to be popular show dogs, beloved companions and effective ratters.

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