What makes papillons popular?
It may not be entirely accurate to say that I own Papillon. Probably more correctly called “partnership” with an equal position. I know for a fact that I am not fully responsible. Catherine the Great, known to her friends as “K8 the Gr8”, is very much her own dog.
If you’ve never been lucky enough to know Papillon in person, but have seen photos or videos of them, you may dismiss them as cheeky, cute, good-natured dogs – but light weights. If you have been blessed with a bow tie in your life, you will laugh at the easy part. The people of the papillons know that under these tangible ears and that Minnie Mouse is smiling, they are enchanting, brave, demanding – and scary, terribly smart.
When K8 joins the package
The K8 will soon be 13 and training me for all eight weeks of that time. I knew from the beginning that she was a force to be reckoned with. She was four pounds when I took her, if that; as a larger Papillon, it is now 15 pounds of fierce sweetness.,, or sweet fierceness.
I had just lost half my Chihuahua, and I knew my life would not be complete without Papillon’s presence. I told the colleague I was meeting when I went to see the Patillo stretcher, and he said, “You don’t get it, do you?” At that moment, I knew we would never have a future. I looked at him with a thin veil of contempt and said, “If you think for a moment that I’m looking at a Patillon stretcher and coming home empty-handed, you don’t know me at all.”
K8 was the last one left from a carrier of eight. He was clearly waiting for me. How else can I explain that the little ball of fluffy attitude might be left behind? She quickly took control of the household. She told the much older Dalmatians what exactly to do. She bothered to walk to a big dog and just take a toy, a bone, or whatever she wanted out of her mouth, and backed away proudly. Was it the charm or the look in her eyes that said, “I’m small, but I’m enchanting and I can take you!” When my two Dahl sisters surrendered to old age, I brought home my older brother and sister Labradors.
K8 immediately determined the law for them. When Count McNab joined us a few years ago, K8 immediately told him, “What is mine is mine.” She continues to snatch toys from the jaws of her older friends. No one touches the K8 dinner, but she will skip and share theirs. K8 reigns with an iron paw.
Papillons are good shepherds, mice and renders
If people recognize one thing about Papillon, it’s the ears; and if they know just a bit of trivia about them, that’s the meaning of their name. Papillon, of course, is French for “butterfly.” Refers to the beautiful silhouette of a butterfly on their flowing hairy ears. There are also “Falen” papillons, which have the same ears with long hair, but are not straight; if you prefer dogs with spaniels, you may want to sign up for bankruptcy.
Papillons are an old French breed of spaniel. The spaniel line is what gives them resilience and spirit; they have a genetic memory that they are a sport dog. Long guarded by royalties, with many Louis here and there, they shared the royal bedrooms and protected the kings they possessed from rodents. They still retain that instinctive ability to hunt and kill mice and rats.
I have always had farm animals around and I live in a rural area; Field mice, packs, kangaroo rats and other rodents are never far away. K8 is a brave hunter. I’m not exaggerating: I once dug out the mouse nests that were located at the bottom of my outdoor aviary and drained water to remove them. K8 killed 13 mice in a row and neatly arranged them.
I have kept chickens for most of my life. For a while, I had a few lighter chickens that could easily fly over the 8-foot fence and into my backyard. K8 was an amazing chicken shepherd. She will compete in action when I say to myself, “K8! Chicken!” and flew to the door. I would let her do her job. She would go around the hen, hold her by the fence, and I would take her and put her back on the right side of the fence.
As such a hard-working hen, she felt justified in the eggs, which she will find on “her” side of the fence. She will take them, carry them carefully without disturbing them, and hide them in the corners of the house.
K8 is probably not the only Papillon to “bury the air” of his treasures. Eggs were no exception. She placed them gently on the ground and blew air at them as if burying them. Of course, when she buries a lot of treasure in the soft dirt outside – but what to do with tiles? Obviously, an air burial was the smart option.
They are smart dogs
Papillons are incredibly intelligent. As such, they are not for everyone. They are more like tiny human geniuses in fluffy little bodies than dogs. The K8 has such a reputation for brains that whenever I couldn’t find something, we would suspect that the K8 sold it on Ebay. Although at the age of 12 her hearing is significantly reduced, I have always felt that she understands every word spoken – and who knows what she can read? It was extremely easy to learn and reacted as quickly to the tilt of my head or fine expression as to the words.
I always enjoy teaching my dogs weird little tricks. For example, I teach them all to sneeze on command – just for fun. K8 will sneeze as he waits for his treats. Since K8 sleeps close to me in bed, I also taught her that if I rub my hands, it means “scattering”. When I have to turn around or get up, I just rub my hands and she quickly jumps. Usually the K8 predicts what it needs to do, and reacts before I can warn it – it’s not the type of dog that will go down under your feet. For a small dog, it’s a matter of survival.
The reason I originally chose Papillons was to rank them on dog reconnaissance lists. They are usually quoted in the top ten and I don’t think that makes them fair. They are smarter than many people I know. They communicate clearly, express themselves creatively, have an incredible sense of humor (obviously a sign of intelligence!) And have an in-depth look at “family dynamics” – they understand other dogs as well as the human mind.
One interesting feature I noticed in the K8 that is not so common in my other dogs is its ability to understand delayed gratification. She shows up in many cases, but the best example is probably her dinner habit. While the boys, Count McNab and the Argos Lab, are waiting for dinner, K8 is the decent lady. She sits with one paw delicately raised in the air and waits for dinner to be properly prepared. She’s all impatient, but she knows she’s coming.
My husband, the master dog feeder, likes to add little surprises to meals. From time to time it will stick to the biscuit, standing it upright in the mixture of canned and dry dog food. K8 will carefully move it aside and eat the whole meal, licking the bowl clean – and then she will remove the treat and the tube to her leather pillow with it, where she ceremoniously lies down and slowly enjoys. She understands the concept of “dessert”. The boys, of course, immediately go for the biscuit and drag it before finishing the rest of their meal. They can’t even conjure up delayed gratification, much less practice it.
Even when the K8 insists on a medium-day breakfast (several times a day, truth be told), it is elegant and reserved when it is received. This is a dog that probably had an official taster in his days at the royal court. Although it’s probably the same treat from the same batch of favorite treats she took ten minutes before, she always pauses, sniffs it carefully, and then slowly reaches for it. Her eyes always roll up and rest briefly, as if to say, “Thank you.”
My husband gets impatient and sometimes slides the treat forward toward her, as if trying to put a coin in a slot machine – or he’ll pull the treat a few times until she finally grabs it, giving it an irritated look. Empresses do not like to suffer.
Papillons are vocal and great communicators
Some dog owners take great care when their dog growls. I don’t do it unless there is a clear aggressive growl. But not all growls are equal. Dogs don’t just growl with aggression; they also growl to convey many other thoughts.
K8 growled to let us know, “Hey! I’m here, don’t step on me!” She will growl to invite us (or her dogmas) to play, or to clarify that her toy is HER toy. She will growl at her toys as she spins in quick circles, just before she lets them into the room. It will growl at snakes and frogs. She will make a low, nervous growl when I do something that makes her nervous – by sticking my fingernails. This is not a threat; this is communication.
The K8 is not a dog – certainly not. It would be under her. But she is a very verbal dog. Constantly communicates. She doesn’t like it when I sit at the computer at night and write; she wants me to sleep with everyone else. She is lying in the hallway, right on the doorstep of my office door, growling. She will growl like that for half an hour if necessary.
If she needs to show me something, she’ll growl – I can tell when she says, “Follow me!” He used this technique when he had to tell me that my yellow lab was locked in the bathroom and when something was wrong with some part of the house. The K8 has everything under control.
My husband likes to play a certain game with K8, which is great fun thanks to her innate courage and scandalous nature. When she stared at him and growled, demanding attention, he would take on a medium expression, roll up his sleeves, and make a fist. He hugs her like a boxer. K8 jumps into action, jumps forward and jumps against it, growls and barks. She loves their mock battles. There is no fear in this dog’s body.
This morning I took her to the barn with me and kept her to greet a few horses. The newest, large half-naked gallop of a man pulled his nose out amicably to smell it and bite his fur. Without thinking, K8 snapped and bit him on the nose. No one approaches the Empress without better manners than that!
In addition to its growls and occasional barking (never for no reason), the K8 has a wide variety of noises that can only be described as “lizard noises”. She whistles, whistles, mutters and thunders. Sometimes it sounds like talking. She snores – even while awake. Her eyes are wide open, she will lie on the bed and look at you – snore. She is vocal, all the time, awake or asleep. Every noise means something different; sometimes I’m just not smart enough to keep up with her huge vocabulary.
Is the right breed for you?
Maybe you are thinking of adding Papillon to your family. First, find out their unique temperaments: that’s why I described the personality of the K8 as I have it. They need to have owners who respect them and understand that they are not in a bad mood – they are just verbal.
In fact, they are some of the happiest, most spirited dogs you will ever hope to meet. They’re just damn smart. They expect to have a voice in the decision-making process and are reasonable enough that you can be best served by listening to that voice. Papillons do everything for a reason, even if we don’t always understand that reason. Trust Papillon.
They train easily, but you have to train them – or they will play the show, and the next show too. They are characterized by obedience, agility and chess. They are healthy, athletic dogs that make great running partners. However, you must protect them from other, aggressive dogs – I know that K8 will not retreat from battle and she does not realize that it is a cliché.
Papillons have long, soft fur. As such, it will be dull if you do not grow them regularly. They do not need to be shaved, only with a brush. They are just the right size to bathe in the sink (and the K8 really loves its bathrooms). Get ready for the “rocket dog” fabrications after you take them off and put them on the floor. You may want the camcorder to be ready.
Along with this beautiful fur comes shedding. They shed a little throughout the year, which is minimized if you regularly feed good salmon oil or olive oil, but twice a year K8 swells its fur. In a few weeks, it will look like someone will open a pillow – the fluff spreads in the air with each movement. It is easy to take – on the shirt, pants and bed linen. A little K8 fur accompanied me to my office at work, where it would attach to my office chair 20 miles away. Invest in a good roll of fiber – or just use the groove folded over your arm, the sticky side.
Papillons, being smart and active dogs, are very interactive. They are not the breed for the person who wants a dog to lie in the other room and stay away from the person (seriously, take a cat). Low maintenance, they are not. They want to be with you, engaging you in conversation. They want to be pressed against you at night to ensure that you will not be attacked by monsters. This is for your own good. They want to go on all your road trips.
If you take one from a suitable breeder properly, you will find that they are extremely well-adjusted, energetic, resilient and not prone to skin problems, musculoskeletal disorders, eye problems or difficulty breathing. Fortunately, the breed is not so bred as a “type” to create freaks from nature. As with many small breeds, however, staying at home can be a challenge. Crate workouts are very helpful, and providing them in a playroom while you’re out is a good way to remind them not to use this far corner of the house as their camera.
They are naturally clean dogs, but that doesn’t stop them from enjoying a good dig in the mud when there is a rodent that needs to be harassed. Stick with their paws a lot when they are puppies, so you will have easy work with it when you have to cut their nails. I use a Dremel tool on the K8; as long as my husband holds her close to him, she is the perfect lady for her pedicure.
Papillons are nothing but amazing personalities. They will make you laugh at their constant fabrications. K8, even at an age when her snout and eyebrows have turned blue, continues to invent new actions. Every time I give up on her, and she gently takes my hand in her teeth and puts it back in the place she wants to be scratched, I admire her ability to convey her desires. Every time she greets me with her favorite toy (Mr. Bill) and I hear her say, “Ohhh, nooooo!” while she grips him madly, he laughs. And in her sweeter moments, when she and Count McNab gently stretch their noses and kiss lovingly, I marvel at the deep love between them.
If you’re lucky enough to own a Papillon, you’re in for a regal good time.