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What is a Papillon Dog?

The Louvre Museum in France has a painting of Louis XIV, his children, and their pet papillon.
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  • Written By: Leigh Mercer
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  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2014
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The papillon is one of the oldest toy dog breeds in existence. Papillons and phalenes, the papillon's sibling, are also one of the friendliest and most energetic of all the toy breeds.

These dogs get their names for the shape of their ears. Papillon means butterfly in French, while phalene means night moth. The papillon has huge butterfly-like ears that stand straight up on top of its head, while the phalene has dropped ears that hang against the side of its head like a moth's wings.

The papillon is a rare breed — a continental toy spaniel — and is also referred to as the Butterfly Dog or Le Chien Ecureuil (Squirrel Dog). Papillons and phalenes are essentially the same dog. Two papillons can have a litter that includes both papillon phalene pups. A papillon can’t be differentiated from its phalene sibling until the dog matures enough for its ears to be erect.

Papillons came after the cross breeding of a bicon and a smaller spaniel some 700 years ago in the Spain and France region. Quickly becoming a beloved dog in the region, papillons were very popular in paintings. The Louvre Museum in France, for example, has a painting of Louis XIV, his children, and their pet papillon. The breed was introduced to the United States around the 1930s.

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While papillons are probably most easily recognized by their ears, they have several other recognizable attributes as well. As adults, these small dogs reach a height of about 8-11 inches (20 - 28 cm) and 3-9 pounds (1.3 - 4 kg). Easily trained, papillon are common show dogs and often a great pick as a pet. While the papillon is wonderful with children and other animals, they typically should be kept from small children and big dogs as the papillon's bone structure is slight and fragile, and is likely to break easily. Papillons are easily cared for because they only have one coat of fur which limits shedding.

The colors on a papillon vary from dog to dog. The most common coloring is sable, a light reddish brown, with a white undercoat. Other colors include white and black, white and red, white and lemon, and tri-colored — black, white, and tan with a white undercoat.

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anon99328
Post 3

I am allergic to most pets, but not my daughter's papillon. She is sable and white, bright as a button, delightful, happy, extremely pretty and always trying to be good.

She does not insist on being exercised, but as a responsible owner I make sure she receives regular exercise, which she

loves. Another thing worth mentioning which does not usually get discussed: her poos are very small and so easy to deal with! Which is always the envy of our large-dog owning friends during group walks.

I would recommend this breed to any loving family that is ready to expand their numbers, so long as the dog will not be left alone for too long each day.

anon93411
Post 2

I just got my very first dog a few months ago and she is a Papillon. She's absolutely perfect for me. Small, isn't yappy and loves to play. But when she plays she gets tired easily and falls right to sleep. She can entertain herself when I need to do something.

She's nine months old and we've had her for almost four months, and she's still not fully potty trained but she's learning. She's very good at learning tricks though! We named her Ali, meaning 'wings' in Italian.

anon22189
Post 1

My mother passed away leaving her 1 year old Papillon without a home. We live on a farm and have had outside dogs but never a dog in the house, much less a small dog. I always felt that small dogs were useless balls of yapping fur. I had promised my mother that the dog would be taken care of after she passed away. Under protest but a feeling of responsibility, we took the dog home with us. As I type this, the little dog is asleep next to me on the couch. She is not a yappy furball. She is an intelligent, lively companion that is comfortable in every situation she has been exposed to since she came to live with us. She is friendly, loyal, quiet and an absolute pleasure to have around. I would recommend this dog to anyone that wants a cat sized dog that thinks the world revolves around her 'family'. The one thing that has to be watched for is their behavior around large dogs. They have no idea of how small they are and will take on any dog (or in our case raccoon, rabbit or deer) that dares to trespass. They are fearless in protecting you or themselves. This is the only small dog I have ever been around that I could possibly live with!

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