Is a Papillon Right for You?

By Lori Bovee

Our pure breeds of dogs were all developed for various purposes. You may love the appearance of the Siberian Husky, but you need to realize that a dog purposely developed for hard physical labor in arctic conditions may not be ideally suited to hang out with you on your veranda in southern Florida throughout your retirement. Similarly, the intense intelligence of the Border Collie, developed to be a working partner to the livestock owner, might appeal to you in theory – but another breed might be a better choice if you live in an apartment and work outside the home ten hours a day.

While every dog is an individual, Papillons in general have been genetically fine-tuned for hundreds of years to be companions to humans. They do not thrive in environments where there is little time for the dog, or with people who prefer a moderately demanding companion. Most Papillons will choose to NEVER be separated from their humans if possible. We have a joke about it – “Having a Papillon means never going to the bathroom by yourself again!”

Papillons thrive on stimulation – obedience work, agility, therapy, anything that gives them an opportunity to use their brains and shine for humans. With good care they often live into their late teens, and rarely outgrow their playful, puppyish ways. If you’re looking for a more “ornamental” dog or one that will turn into a throw rug at some point in its life, you will likely find owning a Papillon more of a chore than a delight.

Typically, the Papillon is gregarious in nature, and especially males can be very lap-doggyish (females are usually a bit more aloof). Although this is a single-coated breed, Papillons DO SHED and are NOT HYPO-ALLERGENIC. And please don’t confuse intelligence and trainability! Consistent, dedicated trainers delight in the aptitude this breed has for just about anything. But this is a breed that learns from every single experience, and an inconsistent trainer will not produce consistent results – even with very basic skills like housebreaking. Papillons never respond well to “forced” methods of training or punishment.

The ideal Papillon home is committed to having a new family member, has a well-crafted plan for all aspects of the dog’s care, is sensitive to the special issues associated with owning a very small dog, and is realistic about the investment of time and affection necessary for a mutually satisfying relationship. If you’re unsure about any aspect of this, please do some more research before deciding this is the breed for you.

Papillons and Kids

Small dog and small child, what could be cuter, right? Except the reality is that it rarely works out. Papillons are typically not a good choice for a household with very small children, or older children who want to be able to “roughhouse” with a dog, because of their small size. This breed also tends to have pretty high self-esteem; a Papillon will protect itself if it feels threatened or mistreated. While your kids are definitely angels and would never mistreat any animal, any home with a dog and children requires lots of extra commitment and constant supervision by the adults in the household to ensure that everyone treats each other responsibly. We find that when people add a Papillon to a household with children, the parents usually have a dog and have kids, but the kids don’t have a dog. Please consider this if you’ve found our page while searching for a child’s pet or a family pet.

Papillons and Other Pets

Papillons generally do well with other pets, especially other small dogs. Because they are small and fine-boned, Papillons can easily be injured or even killed by a large dog that views them as prey, is active and energetic, or just unintentionally steps on or stumbles over a Pap. If you have other larger dogs in your household now, please assess the situation realistically when considering adding a 5- to 12-lb member to your canine pack. Experience and commitment to close supervision and/or segregation is required when managing a multiple-dog household with any size disparity, to ensure everyone’s safety and longevity.

Papillons and cats generally share households quite well and can even become fast friends and playmates. However, cat’s claws may represent a danger to Papillon eyes, so initial contact should always be supervised.

Copyright 2003, Papillon Club Of America