Breed Type: Toy, Spitz
Country of Origin: Unknown – most likely France or Belgium
Popular Names: Butterfly Spaniel, Butterfly Dog, Phalène, Continental Toy Spaniel, Epagneul Nain, Squirrel Dog, Dwarf Spaniel, Pap, Epagneul Nain Continental, Chien Ecureuil
Height: (At the withers) 20 – 27.5 cm
Weight: 3.2 – 4.5 kg
Best suited as: Companion
Lifespan: 12-16 years
These small Spaniel-type dogs get their name from the French word for “butterfly.”
The Papillon has a butterfly-look to the long fringed hair on its ears. It has a small head that is slightly rounded between the ears, and a short muzzle that tapers toward the nose. It has large ears that are held erect or dropped; the version of Papillon with dropped ears is called a phalène, for “moth.” Its eyes are round with black rims and the lines often extend out towards the ears. It has an intelligent, alert, and friendly expression.
The single coat is long, silky, and fine. The inside of the ears are covered in hair and the outside of the ears have long fringes of hair, as do the back of the legs, the chest, the ruff, and the tail. These dogs are parti-coloured, which means they are white with patches of any colour. Their faces, ears, and heads have a mask of colour from front to back. This breed is slightly longer than it is tall. Dogs over 30 cm tall are disqualified from the show ring.
The origins of the Papillon are unknown. Starting in 1500 BCE, Italian artists featured dogs resembling Papillons in paintings and tapestries. Some people say that the breed descends from the Japanese Chin and other Asian toy breeds, while others think that Europeans bred smaller dogs down from European spaniels. Small dogs very similar to Papillons were happily ensconced as lapdogs in Europe in the 1200s.
Some famous artists like Velasquez, Van Dyke, Rembrandt, Titian, and Goya featured Paps in their work, most commonly sitting on the laps of nobles and other aristocracy. Marie Antoinette had Papillons.
While Louis the Great was in power, Dwarf Spaniels – also called the Phalène – had long folded ears. Occasionally, pups would be born that would have large, erect ears. Whether this was caused by a mutation or a cross with a spitz-type dog, no one knows. Even today, drop-eared Paps (called Phalène) can be born to erect-ear parents, and vice versa. In Europe, Phalènes and Papillons are considered to be two different breeds, not one breed with two ear varieties.
The Butterfly Spaniel arrived in England in 1901 and their popularity grew slowly from there. They began to be imported to the United States and other parts of the world in the early- to mid-1900s.
These dogs should never be aggressive or shy. They were bred to be companion dogs, and that is what they do best. They are adventurous, happy, and friendly. Do not think, though, that these dogs are happy to let the world pass them by as they sit on someone’s lap – rather, they are excellent hunters and trackers. They kill mice, moths, and butterflies, as well as slightly larger vermin on occasion. They excel at obedience and agility trials.
They make great ratters. They are not strong enough to kill a large rat outright, but play with it much like a cat does to a mouse, until the rat is tired. This is when the dog kills it with ease.
Paps make wonderful therapy assistant dogs as well as hearing ear dogs. They are intelligent and learn quickly. They do need early and continued socialization, because they can be fear biters if mistreated or not socialized as pups. An ideal dog should be curious but not timid, and calm and assertive. They get along well with other animals.
Their small size puts them at risk of injury during rough play with children and other dogs. They need a lot of attention, due to their companion dog personality. They always want to be close to their owners and require activities to keep busy.
Although they don’t need a lot of space inside, they do not tend to make good apartment or shared accommodation dogs, because of their vocal tendencies. They bark at shadows, wind in the trees, and neighbours walking past the door. They also tend to develop bad barking habits if they are bored.
Care and Grooming
Their long silky hair requires special grooming and shampoos. To avoid staining the brilliant white hair, you should use a clear, white, or blue shampoo only – and make sure you rinse it out completely. Whitening shampoos may be used, but beware that they can fade a Papillon’s red hair if used too often.
They never need a conditioner or cream rinse to assist with shine or silkiness, but some red dogs tend to have hair that is a bit drier, so use it according to need with your individual dog. You may have to use a de-greasing agent on the ear area if it looks oily.
To dry a Pap’s hair, you can blow it against the grain if it has perfectly behaved hair, or with the grain if it does not. Never use a slicker brush. Use a comb once the hair is dry.
Brush its teeth and check its ears once a week. Clean out its ears with a cotton ball and approved cleaner as needed. Clip its toenails once a month or as needed – some dogs wear down the nails naturally.
As for exercise, these little dogs need a small to moderate amount of exercise daily. They love to play and romp around in a secured area, but they also enjoy a daily walk. This keeps them fit and suits them perfectly as it gives them more time with their companions. Dogs of this breed that do not get enough exercise tend to act out and develop undesirable behaviours.
There are no major health concerns for this breed, and most live up to 16 years. Some health issues they may suffer include patellar luxation, cataracts, black hair follicular dysplasia, entropion, congenital deafness, and progressive retinal atrophy.
Suitability As A Pet
If you are looking for a companion animal who loves nothing more than to spend all day at your side or on your lap, then the Papillon is the perfect choice, as long as you have the time to devote to it. Unfortunately, due to their tiny size and fragility, these dogs are not perfect for a family with small children or big rowdy dogs, since accidents do happen that could severely hurt or kill a little dog.
Papillon Organisations in Australia
Papillon Club of Victoria Inc
Papillon Organisations in the UK
Papillon (Butterfly Dog) Club
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