The Papillon dog breed descends from the toy spaniels that are frequently portrayed in paintings by the Old Masters, from as far back as the 16th century. He’s highly active and is a wonderful competitor in agility and obedience. His sparkling personality makes him a favorite of all who meet him.
The Papillon is one of the oldest breeds of dog, with a recorded history in Europe going back nearly 700 years. The breed originally only had dropped ears and was called the “epagneul nain” or “dwarf spaniel.” Much of the breed’s development is known because of its depiction in paintings. This tiny breed is recognizable in 13th through 15th century Italian paintings in the Renaissance period. They were often painted on the laps of French and Spanish noblewomen. The dog was later known as the Continental Toy Spaniel, which is the official name the FCI standard goes by. They were sometimes referred to as simply a Toy Spaniel. Over time, an erect-eared type, fringed as to resemble the ears of a butterfly, developed. Papillon means “butterfly” in French. The AKC calls the breed a Papillon, with Phalene being the name for the drop-eared variety, whereas the FCI calls the breed a Continental Toy Spaniel with two varieties: Papillon for the erect-eared dogs and Phalene for the drop-eared dogs.
While he might be categorized by size as a lap dog, the bright, busy, and curious Papillon is no shrinking butterfly. If you want a dog to sit on your lap while you watch television, he’s probably not the best choice. He’s more likely to be flitting around looking for something to do and will happily rid your home and yard of any small rodents that might be lurking there. And this small dog in a sturdy package takes seriously his duties as family companion and guardian. He has a big-dog attitude and a level of alertness that makes him a super watchdog, but when it comes to protecting you it’s important to make sure he doesn’t bite off more than he can chew. He has no idea that he weighs only 4 to 9 pounds.
The Papillon is outgoing and energetic. He loves to be with people and is a happy dog who gives kisses freely to all. The Papillon’s small size makes him easy to handle, and his coat, while profuse, is easy to care for and doesn’t shed excessively.
His energy level ranges from moderate to intense, and being highly trainable he’s a great choice if you want to participate in dog sports such as agility or rally. Papillons are also excellent competitors in the obedience ring and are the number-one toy breed in obedience competition.
Papillons get along well with other pets in the family, including cats, if introduced at a young age. The fearless Papillon will often boss around dogs much bigger than he is, and this may or may not cause problems. It’s not unusual for the smallest dog to be the one in charge.
Papillons love children, but the combination of a tiny dog and a young child can be a recipe for disaster. A Papillon may leap from a child’s hands and injure himself if he’s not being held correctly, and he won’t hesitate to defend himself if he’s being mistreated. No matter what the breed, dogs and children must always be supervised when they’re together.