The Papillon is a small, dainty, elegant dog of fine-boned structure, slightly longer than tall. The gait is quick, easy, and graceful. The abundant coat is long, silky, straight, and flowing. The dog’s hallmark characteristic, besides the friendly temperament and alert expression, are the breed’s beautiful butterfly ears.
The name Papillon is French for butterfly, which the face and ears of this spritely little dog resemble. The Papillon has roots in the dwarf spaniels so popular throughout Europe from at least the sixteenth century. These little dogs were extremely popular with the nobility; as time went on, Spain and Italy became the centers of dwarf spaniel breeding and trading. The court of Louis XIV of France was particularly fond of these little dogs and imported many of them. At one time the Papillon was known as the Squirrel Spaniel because the plumed tail was carried over the back in the same way a squirrel does. These early dogs had drooping ears, but through some unknown event, some dogs sported erect ears. Both drop- and erect-eared Papillons could be found in the same litter. Even today both ear types are equally correct, although the erect-eared dog is more well-known. In America, the drop-eared Pap is known as the Phalene, which is French for moth, whereas in Europe it is called the Epagneul Nain or Continental Toy Spaniel. The Papillon has become one of the more popular toy dogs, functioning equally well as a loving pet, beautiful show dog, and adept obedience and agility competitor.
One of the most obedient and responsive of the toy breeds, the vivacious Papillon is also gentle, amiable, and playful. The breed is friendly toward strangers, other dogs, and pets. The dog is very good with children but due to the small size can be injured by rough play. Some can be timid.
The lively Papillon thrives on mental stimulation, and enjoys a daily walk on leash as well as challenging games indoors or out. The coat needs brushing twice weekly.