A smiling toy spaniel with fluffy ears and a reddish-white coat.

Meet Papillon, the Toy Spaniel with a Big Heart


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The Papillon dog may be small but it’s perfectly perky, with a big pawsonality. Unlike many lapdogs that love to lounge this toy spaniel is an energetic go-getter, without being too much of a busy body.

In this article, we unpack how much exercise this pooch needs daily, where it gets its name from, whether you can leave it home alone and much more.

Papillon, the Toy Spaniel dog, standing in sunlight with its tongue out.

What were Papillon dogs bred for?

They say dogs are man’s best friend. But it just so happens the Papillon dog was bred as lapdogs for European noblewomen since the 1500s – way before pet insurance existed!

These elegant dogs with charming personalities have been favourites of the royal courts of Europe for centuries and over time, their look has been adapted.

In days of old, their ears were mainly droopy but over the years, perky ears have become more favoured. You still get litters where some puppies have flared ears and some have droopy. Droopy eared dogs aren’t called Papillons – instead they’re known as Phalene dogs.

What does Papillon mean in French?

Everything about the Papillon dog seems enchanted and its name is no exception to the rule.

Papillon means “butterfly” in French.

This charming toy spaniel gets its name thanks to its wide ears that look like a butterfly’s open wings.

A small Papillon dog with a white and brown coat squinting in the sunlight, with its fur being tousled by the wind.

Are Papillon dogs good pets?

The Papillon dog is a renowned BFF. It’s a lively, upbeat, joyful breed that gets along with people, including children as well as other pets. That said, unless they’re well socialised, they could also become weary and mistrusting of people and pets, just like any most dogs!

  • Dog socialisation. Socialisation is key to dog happiness. It helps them learn to interpret dog body language and know how to interact well with people.
  • Exercise. The Papillon dog will happily laze in your lap and enjoy the downtime but also needs around 20 minutes of active time to burn up their energy supply. These are high energy dogs that love playing in the garden, talking a run and going on daily walks.
  • Talents. The Papillon dog is known for its skill in obedience training and dog agility. These are great activities to keep this breed mentally and physically stimulated.
  • Indoor dogs. Papillons make great indoor dogs because they easily adapt to apartment living provided they get ample exercise. They’re not really suited to sleeping outside or bearing up to colder weather.

It’s important to keep in mind that Papillons are toy spaniels so they’re very little. So, although they’re open to getting along with everyone, take care they don’t get injured by bigger animals or very small children. Just another great reason to have dog insurance as your Papillon’s safety net.

Portrait of a small brown Papillon with long fluffy ears looking to the side.

Can a Papillon be left alone?

Despite not being a nervous dog, your Papillon dog will prefer your company over time spent alone. The same can be said for most dogs (unlike many different cat breeds) and separation anxiety in pets is always something to guard against.

If you’re balancing work-home life and keeping your pooch happy, here are some resources to help you through:

If you’re a cat mum or dad, you might also want to explore how leaving cats home alone as it’s a little different to dogs.

A small Papillon with black and white fur standing in a dry grassy field.

How big do Papillons get?

Being a toy spaniel, the Papillon dog doesn’t get all that big. Think about the size of a hot water bottle that likes sitting on your lap and keeping you comfy and warm.

Here’s a breakdown of how big these little dogs can grow to:

Height20 – 28 cm
Weight3.6 – 4.5 kg 
Litter sizeAround 6 to 10 puppies
Other namesDwarf Spaniel, Continental Toy Spaniel, Butterfly dog, Squirrel dog
Life span14 – 16 years

The expected lifespan of a breed is an interesting point. Firstly, little dogs tend to live longer than big ones. Those that live a healthy life, get a healthy breed specific dose of exercise and eat well often also live longer. Ultimately, the breed lifespan for any dog will depend not only on its genes but on its personal life experience too.

A small toy spaniel with white and brown fur sitting in tall, dry grass, panting lightly with its tongue out.

Do Papillon dogs smell?

Most of us have had our fair share of dog smell in our lives. From wet dog to musty dog, to muddy dog, there’s a whole range – take your pick. Interestingly though, the Papillon dog breaks the norm because it’s known for not really having much of a smell.


If you’re the type that likes sleeping with your dog in your bed (many of us have our hands up) then the sweet-smelling Papillon dog might be your match.

Unpacking health needs for this toy spaniel

This tiny pooch has great overall health but like most breeds can be prone to certain health conditions.

These include:

  • Injuries. Due to its small size it’s easy for even a little child to accidentally hurt a Papillon dog
  • Slippy knee-cap. Luxating patella can happen in varying degrees, sometimes causing limping or hopping
  • Allergies. Learn more about seasonal dog allergies with advice from Dr Cath
  • Seizures. like Beagles that can be prone to seizures, this is a consideration in the Papillon breed
  • Dental problems. The Papillon dog is among dog breeds with dental problems (keep those dog teeth clean)

A small Papillon with fluffy ears and a woman partially visible in the background.

How much is a Papillon puppy?

You won’t find a one size fits all when it comes to the asking price for a pedigree Papillon. Unlike many other purchases one makes, puppies aren’t always available because they’re whelped according to mum dog’s breeding cycles.

Although you might find a Papillon puppy advertised for around $1500, never mail order a puppy online. Your best bet is to buy according to long term health, because that beats any discounted ‘price tag’. Here are some tips for buying a puppy safely:

  • Puppy scams. It’s important not to simply opt for the lowest price you find when buying a puppy. This helps you avoid falling prey to puppy scams or supporting puppy mills in New Zealand.
  • Ethical breeders. Not only will you avoid being scammed but choosing an ethical dog breeder means choosing someone that is more likely to health test parent dogs before breeding. This gives you healthier outcomes for your puppy both immediately and long term.

Find out more about choosing an ethical breeder who is registered with Dogs New Zealand kennel club.

Get award winning insurance for Papillons and other pets

Did you know that pet insurance helps pay up to 100% of costs for unexpected vet bills, less your excess? That can make a huge different to hospitalisation, surgery, medication and more for your dog or cat’s medical expenses.

Given that vets use costly equipment and have similar expertise to human doctors, they have high overheads. When you pay the vet bill, you don’t get government subsidies like you would in human healthcare. That’s why having pet insurance from early in your pet’s life, while they’re still at their optimum health, can provide a soft landing.

Choose from three multi-award winning dog insurance and cat insurance plans. When you join the PD Pet fam, we’ll give you one or more months of FREE pet insurance.

Get a quote today – simply click below.

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