Wonderful Traits of the Do-it-all Papillon Dog

2 Papillon dogs standing sitting outside


Papillon people like to say that the Papillon is a do-it-all dog. Papillons are gregarious, elegant, smart, and athletic dogs. They are happy in the show ring, performance ring, and in the homes and hearts of their owners. Papillons can be trained to do all kinds of things. They will go with you on a five mile walk, play fetch or they will cuddle on the couch for many hours and snuggle in bed at night. They love their comfort. As a companion dog, they certainly excel.

When judges come to this breed in the Toy Group and are learning about it, they will get various opinions on the “essence” of the breed. Hopefully, the list they get will be long and detailed but will also indicate that this is a breed that is a whole dog—beautifully typey, sound in all ways, and temperamentally exceptional. The goal is the whole dog, but the pieces and parts need to be correct as well.


Papillon Breed Traits – Type Points

Papillons have a number of distinctive type points. These are the lovely details that distinguish the breed, and when appearing in one dog, tell the world it is a Papillon.

Papillons are dainty and fine-boned. You will not find a lot of breeds asking for these traits. They are dainty and fine-boned, but not fragile. This is the ballet dancer of dogdom. The daintiness and fineness contribute to the breed’s elegance. Papillons have hare feet, another part of being dainty and fine. The majority of breeds have round or oval feet. The hare foot is a bit longer with the center
toes advanced.



The Papillon skull is somewhat small for the size of the dog and somewhat rounded on top. The muzzle is fine and tapered, and the muzzle is one-third the length of the skull, with a well-defined stop. The nose is black. The bite is scissored.

Papillon head photo



Papillons are distinguished by their large, butterfly-like, fringed ears. Papillon ears are large, broad at the base, round at the tips, and set at a 45-degree angle like the spread wings of a butterfly. The ears may be erect or dropped, but they are still set at 45 degrees to the head.

In Europe, the breed is called Epagneul Nain Continental or Continental Toy Spaniel. The erect ear is the Papillon (butterfly) and the drop ear is the phalene (drop-winged night moth.) In the US, our butterflies and moths are all Papillons and judged together as one breed.

Papillon ears are also fringed with silky coat. The ears are well-fringed, so with ears we want size, shape, set, and also fringe.



Another type point is the tail, which should be long, set high, and well-arched over the back. The tail is an indicator of the degree of happiness. Papillons tend to register high on the
happiness scale.



Papillon coat is single, something not all that common in dog breeds. The coat should be silky, fine, and resilient, somewhat long without covering the dog’s outline. Tails are well-plumed with long, silky hair. Hair can grow over the toes and be trimmed to a point to exaggerate the longer hare feet.


Breed Colors (AKC)

Black Brown & White NO
Black Red & White NO
Brown & White NO
Fawn & White NO
Red NO
Red White & Sable NO
Sable NO
White NO
White & Black YES
White & Lemon YES
White & Liver NO
White & Red YES
White & Sable YES
White & Silver NO
White Black & Tan YES


Breed Markings (AKC)

  • Tan Markings
  • Black Markings
  • Black Mask
  • Sable
  • Red Markings



Temperament is very much a part of type. Papillons tend to think a lot of themselves. They like showing off and they like people. They are lovely dogs to live with and they like other Papillons. One is nice… several are better. We say they are like potato chips—hard to have just one.


Soundness and Balance

Every breed has a distinctive outline. The Papillon outline is slightly longer than tall, never square or cobby, but also not long or low. The standard calls for a neck of medium length. It does not say “short.”

The Papillon, as an elegant, fine-boned dog, needs enough neck, properly set, to in fact be elegant. It should not be stuffy-necked or ewe-necked. Front and rear are well-angulated, topline is level, and legs are straight.

The Papillon is a sound, well-made little dog. Straight legs front and rear means not East-West, not out at the elbows, and not cowhocked or spraddle-hocked. Sound is sound. Papillons are great stars in Agility because of their basic soundness and trainability.

Papillon gait is free. Remembering that, in Europe, this is a Continental Toy Spaniel, the movement is light, free, and not restricted.

Now we have considered the long list of traits we want in our lovely Papillon. Please realize that we are quite greedy here. We want a beautiful, well-balanced, sound, graceful, elegant, and fine-boned dog with all the lovey type points of head, ears, coat, tail, and feet, and we insist on the wonderful temperament, character, intelligence, and the ability to be a superb companion. We want the whole dog. Dear judges, do your best to pick the best whole dog.

dog on white background


Featured photo courtesy of the American Kennel Club.


Are you looking for a Papillon puppy?

The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.


Want to help rescue and re-home a Papillon dog?

Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.


Papillon Dog Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

Read and learn more about the playful Papillon dog breed with articles and information in our Papillon Dog Breed Magazine.


Papillon Breed Magazine - Showsight


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