Before I finally succumbed—after two decades of parenting—to the pleadings of Child #4 for a puppy, I searched for information about small dog breeds that might be a good fit for our family. My final three choices came down to poodles, Pomeranians, and Papillons. Poodles were out pretty quickly due to their cost. Of the remaining breeds, we found a Papillon first, and after meeting his charming parents and older brother, brought little Oliver home at nine weeks of age. That was three months ago. Because I had a hard time finding information about Papilons from someone who didn’t make money selling them, I’d like to offer my own unbiased review here.
Five stars. Just go get one now! I really wasn’t a fan of dogs before, so that’s saying something. Here’s a rundown of our experience with our Papillon so far.
Size: Papillons can vary a bit in size, but usually weigh about ten pounds and are 8-12” high. Ours is on the bigger side, but we can easily carry or control him if necessary. At five months, he’s a little bigger than a large cat. He loves to be held, stroked, and snuggled, and will sit on the back of your chair and act as a warm scarf, or put his paws or chin on your shoulder and sleep this way. My neighbor’s loving, ninety-pound bloodhound also wants to do some of these things, and I prefer having a Papillon do them. From observation, I’d say her dog is also about eighty pounds harder to control on a walk than mine. You’ll have to do that math, because just thinking about the effort required to exercise a ninety pound dog exhausts me. So, Papillons are a marvelous size.
Temperament: Papillons are generally happy, active, friendly dogs. Ours is true to type. Oliver has never yet met a person, animal, or ball he doesn’t want to play with. He loves walks and playtime, but he makes it clear that his real love is his family. Absolutely don’t get a Papillon if you’re gone all day and want to leave it to its own devices in the yard. (For one thing, Papillons and red jeeps have something in common: both are targets for thieves.) Do get one if you want a companion dog who may love you to a ridiculous degree. Before we got Oliver, I read warnings that some Papillons like to be near people but aren’t always cuddly. That worried me a bit until I met Oliver’s relatives. They seemed to be a highly affectionate lot, and the puppies had had well-supervised socialization with kids almost since birth. Whether due to nature or nurture, we could not be more satisfied with his sweetness and devotion to his family.
If you’re a cat lover, a Papillon may be the ideal breed for you. Having a Papillon is a lot like having a cat, except it will go walking and on road trips with you, and you can tell it to come and sit. The fur on a Papillon’s head is impossibly soft, like a cat. In fact, this dog may be the best cat we’ve ever had.
Annoyance factor: I can’t speak for all Papillons, but ours gives a small bark when he hears someone at the door (he’s very alert to any new arrivals, which I appreciate) while not being a yapper. He does want to embrace everyone he meets, and is overwhelmed with joy when he has the opportunity to lick a new face or untie new shoelaces. We’re working on that, and you’d likely need to do the same.
Appearance: All.the.stars! Full grown Papillons are lovely, and even our leggy little adolescent is adorable. I could be biased, but if I am, Marie Antoinette was on my side. You can find little butterfly dogs tucked into countless old portraits of royal households. The best part of their good looks? Maintenance takes little effort on your part. Papillons have single layer coats, so except for the fur around the ears and tail you aren’t likely to have much in the way of tangling, and you won’t spend lots of hours or dollars grooming. We do have to wash Oliver’s face daily, since like many Papillons, he tends to get tear staining.
Intelligence: One of the first things you read about Papillons is how intelligent they are, rivaling the poodle in agility training. The downside to this is you will be dealing with a smart dog who isn’t content to sit on the couch, mindlessly watching the soaps while eating potato chips all day. He needs interaction, and he loves to train. He will also be watching you to see how much he can get away with. Some Papillons have trouble house training (apparently Oliver’s father is named Bad Boy for this reason), but we’ve found that as long as he gets outside at regular intervals, we don’t have much trouble. He has had fewer than ten accidents total since we brought him home, and most of those were our fault for ignoring his cues. Now that he can ring the bells attached to the door, I think we’re in good shape.
All that to say, this dog has won my heart, and so has the breed. Here’s to Oliver, Companion Dog!
Do you have a Papillon? Comment below!