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How to Groom a Papillon Characteristics and Grooming Needs

Papillon Characteristics and Grooming Needs

The Papillon, French for butterfly, is easily recognized by its butterfly wing-like ears. The small toy dog is generally low maintenance and easy to groom. Its fun and playful disposition, along with its long strands of hair, may cause it to get small tangles, but these are usually easy to comb out.

The typical Papillon is usually described by her owner as having a cheery disposition. And I would add to that description the word ‘robust’.

Owners usually find that their Papillon puppy is relatively easy to train. It should be mentioned, however, that their lively nature would be in contrast to the placid nature of many lap dog breeds. What else is similar or different?

How Does the Papillon Compare to Other Breeds

So how does the Papillon compare to other dog breeds?

Click on the graphic below to access a unique interactive app that can show you how the Papillon is related to other breeds.

We are used to seeing those distinctive butterfly-like ears standing straight up. However, we occasionally see the ears tending to point downwards in some Papillon types.

The Papillon Coat Type and Colors

The Papillon’s coat is long and silky. When properly groomed, its coat will bounce when it walks or runs.

This breed does not have an undercoat like huskies or Pomeranians, a fact that can make grooming more manageable.

Coat colors can vary but the black, brown and white combination is a readily recognized standard. Some throw more to black and white while others a reddish brown and white. You can read in detail the color standards that are required in show Papillons.

How to Groom a Papillon with a YouTube Video

Grooming Tools for Papillon

Dog Brushes

When it comes to grooming a Papillon, a slicker brush works great on its coat. You will need to avoid pressing down too hard with the brush to prevent scratching the dog’s skin. After brushing, a metal comb can be used to remove any fine knots you may have missed with the brush. (Affiliate links)

Dog Shampoo

For bath time, use a mild shampoo. If possible, use a shampoo containing mostly natural ingredients to prevent skin irritation.

In between bath time, a waterless shampoo is useful for keeping the Papillon’s paws clean. The white, long fur is prone to picking up dirt when the Papillon goes outside.

Scissors for Clipping Dogs

Sharp scissors, such as professional hair cutting shears for dogs, and thinning shears will also be necessary for keeping the Papillon’s coat in shape.

Grooming Schedule for a Papillon

Brushing – How Often

Papillon’s do not require as much grooming as some of the other toy dog breeds. The Papillon should be brushed about once a week to keep the coat healthy and free of tangles. Special focus should be given to the ears, tail, inside the hind legs, and the back of the thighs where tangles easily form.

During the spring, when shedding is at its worst, it may be necessary to brush the Papillon every other day to prevent shedding and tangles.

A Dog Bathing Routine

As a low-odor dog, the Papillon should be bathed anywhere from once a week to once a month, depending on the dog’s activities and lifestyle.

For a thorough cleaning, first bath the Papillon with a mild soap. Make sure to get down to the skin to remove dirt and oil buildup. If necessary, use a conditioner to hydrate the fur and prevent tangles. For the final rinse, use cool water to avoid drying out the skin, and make sure to get all of the shampoo and conditioner out to avoid irritated skin.

Towel dry and, if the Papillon does not mind, blow-dry on a warm setting.

Which Parts of a Papillon to Trim

Because the ears are the Papillon’s main feature, they should not be trimmed. Also, avoid trimming the hair around the face unless there are a few stragglers. All other trimmings should be kept to the feet, back of the legs, and pads.

The feet should be trimmed to a taper, with the longer strip at the toes. Trim the hair under the tail and around the anus to help keep the area clean when she needs to do her business. Hair around the genitals can also be trimmed to keep the area clean.

Stray, scraggly hairs can be trimmed, but keep the Papillon looking as natural as possible.

Thinning shears are used after a trim to give the trimmed coat a more natural appearance.

The Low Maintenance Papillon Coat

One of the biggest grooming benefits of the Papillon is that it keeps the shape of its coat just the way it is. While an owner might want to trim the coat a little shorter, groomers do not recommend shaving a Papillon because its skin is sensitive to the sun.

For most Papillons, a weekly brush and a monthly bath is all that it needs to maintain that beautiful, healthy appearance.


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