Papillon Grooming 101

By Susie Gleffe

Papillons are fondly called a “wash and wear” breed, but there are elements of coat care that can give the Papillon a neater appearance and help its hair to grow luxuriously.

In order to have a beautiful coat, a dog must first be healthy. Internal and external parasites, poor diet or illness all affect hair quality. Experienced breeders know that different lines are genetically predisposed to differing coat length. Dogs may have the genes for a long coat and flowing ear fringes; others will have a short coat. Still others have inherited an incorrect double coat from their ancestors. Some breeders believe that color also affects the length and quality of the coat, and especially the fringes, but excellent specimens in all colors have exhibited that desired long, flowing coat.

Dogs can also “trim” each other’s coats and fringes, especially puppies, who often tug on these during play. Spayed females often grow a more lush coat than their unspayed kennel mates. These and other factors play a role in the character and condition of a Papillon’s coat.

Cleanliness is the most important factor in having a beautifully conditioned and presented dog. Frequent bathing promotes hair growth and prevents hair breakage. Frequent brushing is also essential, especially in those areas that tend to mat: behind the ears, inside the rear legs, and the culottes. Long, luxurious fringes draping from huge ears are a Papillon trademark. However, these require dedicated care and protection of the delicate ear hair.

Hair should be slightly damp when brushed or combed to prevent breakage. Small mats should never be pulled out, but rather broken apart carefully with the fingers while one brushes out small sections. Corn starch rubbed into a mat and left to stand for 10 minutes or so assists in this task. Some show breeders believe in conditioning the coat with oil to provide moisture and protection to the hair shaft. Others believe that oil can smother the hair and skin as well as attract dirt, thereby causing damage. If a dog is put in oil, it should be bathed frequently (at least every five to seven days).

Nails should be kept short, not only for appearance’s sake, but also to maintain the proper shape of the foot. Overly long nails both change the shape of the foot and cause the dog discomfort. Special attention should be paid to unremoved dewclaws, which can grow in a circle, right back into a dog’s leg.

Trimming the hair between the pads of the foot not only creates a neat appearance, but also prevents the dog from tracking in debris from the outside. On a Papillon, the hair around the foot should be shaped to a point in the front to accentuate the desired “hare foot.”

Another part of grooming often overlooked is the care of the teeth. Dogs should learn at a young age to tolerate having their teeth brushed. There are many products on the market to help keep the teeth clean and prevent periodontal disease. Care of the teeth is not only important in preserving the teeth, but also for important health reasons. Infections in the mouth can spread through the bloodstream and damage a dog’s internal organs, especially the heart and kidneys. Teeth with a heavy build up of calculus may require a veterinary cleaning. It is important to note that dental health can also be affected by diet.

Anal glands should be checked–and expressed, if necessary–every time the dog is bathed. Impacted anal glands can become infected and, in extreme cases, can rupture, necessitating veterinary care. Expressing anal glands is a quick, simple procedure that can save your dog from unnecessary discomfort.

The correct Papillon coat should be single and silky, and should radiate good health. Good care and proper grooming can assure that your Papillon looks and feels its best.