A small, long-haired, black and white dog with large, erect, triangular ears and a fluffly tail curled up and over it's back, stands on a soft, sandy beach.


With a name that means ‘butterfly’, it’s no surprise that Papillons are fluttery, beautiful little dogs. Like the similarly-sized Pomeranian, Papillons are full of fun and often forget how small they are. The breed is sometimes referred to as the Continental Toy Spaniel and has historic links to the English Toy Spaniel and the European Toy Spaniel. In the UK, Papillons are in the category of toy dog breeds. Interestingly, there exists a ‘drop eared’ variety of the breed, the Phalene, which means ‘moth’. The Phalene looks a little like the Japanese Chin but with longer ears and a less domed head - a bit like a tiny Afghan Hound! Phalenes are less common in the UK, so you’d be lucky to find one flitting around your light bulb.

This article might be of interest to:

  • Owners looking to share their dog care responsibilities;
  • People looking to borrow a dog and keen on dog sitting Papillons;
  • Anyone else looking to learn all about dogs!
Owner (and breeder), Melanie's, Papillon puppy - by the flowers, just like a butterfly

What is a Papillon dog?

Papillons are good natured dogs and usually stand at 20 - 28cm. They usually weigh between 3 - 4.5kg and have an attractive, long, straight, single layered coat. Their coat should be white with any colour patches (except liver/red) and face markings should be symmetrical - giving the true butterfly appearance when ears are alert.

This dainty breed copes quite well in the heat but may need a doggy jumper or to be kept inside in particularly cold weather - don’t be fooled by the long hair, as it’s only a single coat (lots of other dogs have a double coat, which keeps them really warm).

Papillons usually live for 12 - 15 years and usually have relatively few health concerns (although it is advisable to seek information from breeders if you are thinking of becoming a dog owner).

Interested in other small dog breeds? The Chihuahua dog, Bichon Frise and Maltese are similar in size and personality to the Papillon.

Fun Papillon fact

It is thought that Marie Antoinette (the last Queen of France before the French revolution) owned a small dog that was likely to be a Phalene (the drop eared variety of the Papillon breed). The history of the breed (as with many dog breeds) can be traced through art back to the 16th century. The breed was very popular with royalty, particularly in England, France and Belgium.

Smartie the Papillon, with the beautiful butterfly facial markings

Smartie’s owner, Julia, says:

Smartie loves walks in the park, cuddles, company and attention.

How much exercise does a Papillon need?

While 30 minutes of exercise a day is likely enough to keep Papillons healthy and happy, many Papillons will enjoy extra playtime. Some members of our community find their Papillons will often exercise themselves by running around the house or garden...and still love to go for walks to meet other people and doggies.

Clover, owned by Enya

Enya says:

“Clover loves balls! If she has a ball she is happy. She has a lot of energy and easily walks a few miles each day.”

Owners and borrowers should be aware that Papillons are a small fine boned breed and so care should be taken if they are around young children or larger dogs. Papillons tend to be outgoing and playful but may not realise how delicate they are!

What is the Papillon’s temperament?

Papillons are known to be cheerful, outgoing and friendly dogs. They make excellent companion dogs and, reportedly, are very entertaining as they love to have fun.

Papillon doggy member, enjoying himself in the garden and showing he is a tiny dog!

Papillons are intelligent and so will need plenty of interaction (maybe a little doggy friend or a borrower!) to keep them stimulated and avoid any behavioural issues arising (e.g. barking when strangers visit the house).

Due to their good temperament, Papillons get on well with other dogs, children and pets (though again, note the risk of smaller children and larger dogs as Papillons are small and delicate).

Rescue or fostered pups may be slightly different to the usual characteristics of the breed, for example, being more shy or nervous than is usual due to previous experience or bad treatment. That said, there is a lot of information available if you are considering rescuing or fostering a Papillon or another breed and the experience can be incredibly rewarding.

Maestro and Cello - adorable brothers showing the drop eared (Phalene) and erect eared (Papillon) varieties of the breed

“Maestro and Cello are papillon brothers from the same litter (we couldn’t choose between them!) Both love people. Cello is very affectionate and tends to follow us into whatever room we are in; he likes nothing better than to cuddle up next to you on the sofa and sleep with his chin on your lap (so he can be sure you don’t sneak off!) whereas Maestro will curl up at the other end of the sofa or be equally happy on any soft surface in the room.”

Maestro and Cello’s owner, Ruth

Papillon training: are Papillons easy to train?

Papillons are known as an intelligent breed that adapt well to obedience training and learning tricks. Like other toy breeds, Papillons may be rather vocal at times, but with training they are able to learn when it is appropriate to speak! Check out our extensive dog training videos and advice to try out with your borrowed or owned Papillon pal.

Charlie the playful Papillon

Charlie’s owner, Aviv, says:

“Charlie is a typical papillon. He loves to play. Whether it's playing fetch or chasing his imaginary friends around the house, he is always keen for interaction.”

Despite their tiny size, this breed have been known to excel in dog agility - probably due to their combination of playfulness and intelligence. Why not try a local class and see how it goes? It can be just as fun for humans!

Maestro and Cello playing together
Both dogs have good temperaments, are playful and love playing games such as fetch, hide and seek etc. They also enjoy being trained and learning tricks. Both dogs have passed their kennel club good citizen bronze awards.

Thanks to the pawsome Papillons (and owners) from the BorrowMyDoggy community for sharing their wooftastic photos and quotes.

  • Owners - if you’re looking to find your Papillon a new friend or some extra walks, why not get in touch with borrowers from the community who would love to help you out? Why pay extra dog walking charges when a borrower might be able to help you out for free?
  • Borrowers - if you’re looking to learn more about Papillons (or any other breeds) why not reach out to local owners in the community who are looking for a helping hand and to share the love of their dog?

As more owners and borrowers join the community and start messaging, more woofs, walks and waggy tails can be spread to share the love of dogs.

Why not join the BorrowMyDoggy community today?

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