The Papillon is classified in the Toy Group in the A.K.C. Groups. The breed historically has some Terrier and Spaniel in the background, consequently it has an independent and industrious nature and makes a good ratter, whereas many dogs of the Toy Group were bred to be lap dogs and nothing more. Spain contributed much to the beginnings of the breed but eventually it gained in popularity in France. In fact, the Papillon was a favorite of Marie Antoinette and is pictured in many of the royal portraits of the ladies of that day.
Originally this little dog was called the “dwarf spaniel” but gradually the name changed to Papillon. This is a French word meaning “butterfly” and denotes the erect ear of the breed, with the long hairs flying off the ear when the dog is moving, the whole picture is that of a butterfly in the wind. The Papillon can also be found with drop ears, this variety is treated as a separate breed in the show rings of Europe and is called the Phalene.
They are naturally clean and the coat is easy to brush. The long silky hairs lie flat along the sides of the dog, there is a lot of long fringing at the ears, which give the dog its name, there is also a large “ruff” on the chest. The entire picture of the Papillon is one of balance, being neither too long of leg nor too cobby in body, they appear delicate and graceful and make a lovely sight when moving. The standard requires that they not be over 11 inches tall. Color standards require that they must always be parti-color or white with patches of color and if there is color on the head a mask which extends over the ears is preferred.
The Papillon is considered to be a quiet and dignified little dog. However when there are a group of them, they never quit “talking” amongst themselves or when company comes calling and they can be very noisy. They are delightful household pets and also good watchdogs because of the uproar they will set up when strangers arrive. Energetic and agile, they have become popular as Obedience dogs and Agility dogs and they also excel in the sport of Flyball. Of course they are always popular in the conformation classes. Their size makes them adaptable as Therapy dogs, as they can sit on the laps of the elderly or disabled.
When Papillons are puppies they can be delicate of bone and it is important that if children play with them they are taught to play with them carefully. A tiny dog such as this is can be badly injured if dropped or allowed to jump from too great a height. There are no particular health problems noted in the breed and it often lives a long life of 15 years or more. Easy to care for and willing to please, the Papillon is steadily gaining in popularity. As with any of the small breeds, they are often the choice for breeding dogs in puppy mills, since the size of the dog allows for less food and lower vet bills. Thus it is important that a person purchasing a Papillon find a reputable breeder rather than purchasing from a pet store.
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