Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)

Other names: Papillon, Phalene

Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)

The Papillon is a gentle, docile companion dog who can be a little 'invasive' sometimes in his constant search for attention and hugs. The quietest subjects can be suitable for the elderly, while the most active ones will get along beautifully with children they can play with. There are two varieties of Continental Toy Spaniel which are distinguished by the ears: one variety has straight ears (called "Papillon/butterfly") and the other has hanging ears (called "Phalène/moth").

Key facts about the Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)

Life expectancy :





Temperament :

Affectionate Playful Calm Intelligent

Size :

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Origins and history

The Papillon is an ancient dog represented on many paintings of the Renaissance, next to the great ladies of the time. It is therefore believed that his origin is European (Western Europe). His most recent history is recorded in France and Belgium where, in the last century, the Continental Toy Spaniel was divided into the two current varieties, depending on the shape of their ears (butterfly or moth). The official recognition of the breed is fairly recent since the CFI approved the standard in 1937.

FCI breed nomenclature

FCI Group

Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs


Section 9 : Continental Toy Spaniel and Russian Toy

Physical characteristics of the Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)

  • Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)
    Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)

    Adult size

    Female : Between 10 and 12 in

    Male : Between 10 and 12 in


    Female : Between 2 and 11 lb

    Male : Between 2 and 9 lb

    Coat colour

    Type of coat

    Eye colour



    The Continental Toy Spaniel is a small dog with a great structure and a lively appearance. Its head is light, and the nose is small and black, but slightly flattened. The eyes are wide, almond-shaped and expressive. The ears are thin: in the Papillon, they are straight, adorned with fringes (they resemble the wings of a butterfly) and the pinna (ear flap) well open. In the Phalène, they are hanging and mobile, garnished with long wavy hair (their layout recalls the wings of a moth which are not raised but extended). The tail is curved on the back and forms a graceful plume.

    Good to know

    You should never cross a Papillon with a Phalène because it can lead to the birth of puppies with mixed ears meaning semi-upright and this constitutes a very serious defect and does not correspond to the standard of the breed.


    The Papillon (with straight ears)

    the Phalène (with floppy ears)


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      Very close to his social group, the Continental Toy Spaniel is a dog that constantly needs affection and can therefore be somewhat intrusive when he demands caresses and attention from his masters.

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      Very dynamic and playful in nature, this dog is always up for a playing session and, thanks to this, he is a perfect companion for children.

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      Although he is active, some subjects are calmer than others. In general, the Papillon or Moth adapts remarkably to different situations and moods. Thus, if his masters are dynamic, he will follow them, but if they are calm, he shall be as well.

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      He has a great ability to adapt, so he acclimates without difficulty to all situations. In addition, he quickly understands what is expected of him and cooperates enthusiastically. This puppy of this breed is clever and expresses his potential with joy.

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      He is a poor hunter, but he can eventually catch mice.

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      Fearful / wary of strangers

      He is not aggressive towards strangers but he is not very friendly. Unless proper introductions are made, he tends to stay distant.

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      Like many companion dogs, the Papillon is dependent on his master and constantly works to please him or gain his attention.

      Behaviour of the Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)

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        Tolerates solitude

        What is important to him is to stay with his master, therefore he does not like to be alone. However, he can accept it if he is accustomed to it from an early age and if the absences are not too long.

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        Easy to train / obedience

        The Continental Toy Spaniel is very easy to educate because he cooperates with his master if the latter has a consistent and gentle attitude. Brutality is not suitable for this dog as he tends to be quite sensitive.

        Since he is keen, he quickly understands what is expected of him and so he learns enthusiastically if the relationship with his master is based on trust and respect.

        Pay attention all the same because his beautiful natural abilities should not imply a relaxed education. It must be started as soon as the Papillon puppy arrives at home so that he does not learn any bad habits.

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        Unlike many of his peers, this pet dog is not the loudest but he will be able to make everyone aware of the presence of someone behind the door.

        This characteristic needs to be controlled, especially for those who live in apartments.

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        Tendency to run away

        He presents very little predatory instinct and he is especially "glued" to his master.

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        Although loneliness can cause anxiety, it is very rare to see any nonsense and destruction from this dog. He may trash his toys but will not destroy the furniture or other objects.

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        Greedy / Gluttony

        This little dog is not a big eater. In fact, small treats can motivate him during training sessions but the joy of play can be just as motivating.

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        Guard dog

        Although he may be a good warning dog at times, the Papillon is not a good watchdog, since his modest size is unlikely to strike fear into the heart of an intruder.

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        First dog

        Lively, gentle, social, and docile, this doggie is the perfect companion for a family who wants to embark on the big and beautiful adventure of having a dog. He adapts to many different living environments so can either accompany a family with children or a single person.

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          Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel) in a flat

          This dog adapts to all environments: whether he lives in town or in the countryside, everything suits him as long as he is with his master .

          Living in an apartment works for him, even though he also likes a house with a garden.

          However, it is not advisable to make him sleep outside because this dog does not tolerate the weather, isolation and exclusion very well.

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          Need for exercise / Sporty

          Despite his fragile appearance, the Papillon is always eager for an excursion, even if it is cold. Indeed, even if this dog is small, he is lively.

          Likewise, he is very docile, so plenty of fun and educational activities can be offered to him: dog dancing, tracking, learning tricks, agility, etc.

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          Travelling / easy to transport

          This small dog can easily fit into a carrying bag, especially if he is accustomed to it. In fact, travel in public transport is very easy.


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            Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel) and cats

            Very sociable in nature, this dog can get along very well with cats if the introductions are made in the proper manner. It is generally better if the animals have grown up together.

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            Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel) and dogs

            If the Papillon puppy learns proper socialisation early on, he will get along very well with his peers. Not so fragile as his size suggests, he can interact without problem with larger dogs.

            Be careful not to limit his interaction with other dogs. This is often what the owners of small dogs do but it is a serious mistake that leads to serious communication problems between peers.

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            Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel) and children

            Mischievous, playful, and very jovial, this dog is perfect for children because he loves to spend time and play with them.

            However, be careful that the children do not consider the dog a toy. Ground rules must be put in place to respect these small dogs.

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            Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel) and the elderly

            The Continental Toy Spaniel is the ideal companion for older people because he is small in size and his affectionate personality is an excellent "antidepressant", as well as a very good antidote to loneliness.



            The price of a Papillon varies according to his origins, age and gender. An average of £690 is asked for a dog registered with the Kennel Club. 

            Around £20 /month will be necessary to support a dog of this size.


            The maintenance of this toy dog is not complicated despite his abundance of fur. You just have to untangle the coat regularly to avoid the forming of knots.

            Otherwise, it is not necessary to groom him, except if he is really dirty. But generally speaking, this dog is clean.

            His ears are to be monitored and cleaned regularly, especially the drooping ears of the Phalène.


            The Continental Toy Spaniel only moults once a year, but he still requires daily brushing to remove dead hair.

            Nutrition of the Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)

            Even if high-quality industrial food is suitable for this small dog, he prefers traditional food based on raw meat, fish, fresh vegetables and starches.

            A veterinary follow-up is advisable to confirm the suitability of his menu, especially during puppyhood.

            One meal a day is enough and should be offered in a quiet place, preferably in the evening.

            Health of the Papillon (Continental Toy Spaniel)

            Life expectancy

            Life expectancy is estimated at 14 years.

            Strong / robust

            Despite his fragile appearance, this dog is quite robust relative to his size so he enjoys a very good longevity.

            Withstand heat

            It is necessary to avoid the exposure of this dog to the sun when it is too hot because a heat stroke can quickly affect him. It is necessary to take walks early in the morning and late in the evening and to give him fresh water regularly.

            Withstand cold

            It is not uncommon to see these little dogs clad in coats when it starts to get cold. In reality, they do not necessarily need it because, despite the fact that they don’t have an undercoat, they are much more robust than people would think.

            Tendency to put on weight

            Only when one neglects his needs for expending energy does he begins to gain weight. Otherwise, he is not greedy or gluttonous, so there is no reason for this dog to become overweight.

            Common illnesses

            • Atrial disorder 
            • Retinal progressive atrophy
            • Follicular dysplasia of black hair
            • Progressive hereditary ataxia
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