What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Papillon Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
The Papillon shares top billing with the Toy Poodle as the brightest and most trainable of the toy breeds. Indeed, the spirited, athletic Papillon is commonly chosen by obedience or agility exhibitors who want a top-notch competition dog in a very small package.
Indoors and out, Papillons are lively and playful, yet light-footed and graceful, not likely to topple lamps.
But that doesn't mean everyone who is looking for a toy breed should acquire a Papillon! They're not the best choice, for example, if you want a calm, cuddly lapdog. Many Papillons are extremely active, especially when they're young, and don't like to sit still for very long. My own Papillon (that's Jenna in the photo above) is like a tiny Border Collie -- frequently in motion and obsessed with retrieving squeaky balls -- for hours. She is also clever and creative and will entertain herself by making up her own games.
The Papillon learns very quickly and responds well to positive training methods (praise and food). However, obedience may not be instantaneous -- some Papillons are a bit manipulative and will try to charm you out of making them do things they don't want to do. These alert dogs have keen senses, so barking needs to be controlled.
Most Papillons are polite with strangers, though often a bit standoffish. As with all sweet-natured breeds, socialization is very important to build a confident attitude toward people. Papillons can be touch-sensitive and can be overwhelmed by the roughhousing and mischief of small children.
With other animals, surprisingly, the Papillon is not as submissive as you might think. In fact, some Papillons are possessive and bossy, especially with larger dogs. This can be dangerous, as the quick-moving Papillon may be viewed as prey.
Quick-moving, I said. Please note that well, as Papillons move very, very fast. They can zip through a cracked door and be gone in an instant. Our petsitter calls our Papillon a "spirit", because "First she's here, then she's there, but we never actually see her move....she's just a blur!"
Along the same lines, Papillons have lightning-quick reflexes and retain sporting instincts from their spaniel heritage. They will stalk and pursue birds, squirrels, mice, even flying insects. This is not a breed to let off-leash at the park.
You do have to watch your lines: some Papillons are dainty, even high-strung, while others are more confident and outgoing. Much depends on genetics (parents' and grandparents' temperament) and the rest on socialization and training.
If you want a dog who...
- Is easy to carry and doesn't take up much space
- Is fine-boned and elegant, light-footed and graceful
- Has a lovely feathered coat with striking colors
- Is lively and playful
- Is one of the brightest and most trainable of the toy breeds
- Is polite (albeit standoffish) with strangers
A Papillon may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The fragility of toy breeds (see below)
- Excessive timidity, suspiciousness, or highstrung temperaments in some lines, or when not socialized enough
- High energy level
- Tendency toward independent standoffishness rather than cuddling
- Regular combing to avoid matting around the heavily fringed ears
- Shedding (average)
A Papillon may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Papillon
If I was considering a Papillon, I would be most concerned about...
- Fragility. Too many people acquire a toy breed puppy without understanding how incredibly fragile a toy breed is. You can seriously injure or kill a Papillon by stepping on him or by sitting on him when he's curled under a blanket or pillow, where he frequently likes to sleep. And Papillons can seriously injure or kill THEMSELVES by leaping from your arms or off the back of your sofa. A larger dog can grab a Papillon and break his neck with one quick shake. Owning a toy breed means constant supervision and surveillance of what's going on around your small dog.
- The high energy level. In general, this breed is not a calm lapdog. Lively, spirited, agile, athletic, spunky . . . this may not be what you were thinking of. Papillons need to be securely confined and should always be kept on-leash -- they are just too quick, too fast, and too prone to taking off in pursuit of anything that moves.
- Providing enough socialization. Standoffish by nature, Papillons need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution could become shyness or fearfulness.
- Grooming. The long ear fringes that are the breed's trademark are prone to matting and must be kept combed.
- Barking. Papillons are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them.
To learn more about training Papillon to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book, Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Papillon the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
- Finding a healthy one. Papillons can suffer from knee joint problems, eye diseases, and epilepsy.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Papillon puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether a Papillon might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Papillon home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need. Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Papillons are NOT suited to young children, no matter how well-meaning the child. Children cannot help being clumsy, and that a child meant well is little solace to a Papillon who has been accidentally stepped on, sat on, rolled on, squeezed, or dropped onto the patio. Most Papillons feel overwhelmed by the loud voices and quick movements that children can't help making -- and stress and fearfulness (even defensive biting) may be the result.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Papillon...
When you're acquiring a Papillon PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Papillons who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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Copyright © 2000-2015 by Michele Welton. All rights reserved.
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