Choosing a Papillon – Finding the Perfect Dog for Your Home and Lifestyle

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Papillons" by Tarah Schwartz. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Tarah Schwartz

Buying vs. Adopting

After making the decision to bring a Papillon into your household it’s time to decide whether to buy your puppy from a reputable breeder or adopt from a shelter or rescue. Picturing your ideal dog can help you decide whether to buy or adopt. Are you looking for a future show dog or simply a loving companion? Karen Lawrence of MCK Papillons says, “Know what you want first. Some are very active, and some are happy to just sit in your lap.” Narrowing down your goals for your new dog will help you to determine where to find your perfect Papillon.

Before you begin your search, decide whether you want a puppy or an adult. Adopting a puppy involves a lot of training and supervision. Raising a puppy can be an exciting experience for the whole family, but it is a lot of work. Puppies are not house-trained and explore the world with their mouth, often chewing on your furniture and belongings. However, a puppy is also a clean slate. You won’t be inheriting any bad behavior from previous homes and you can train the dog as you like. Adult dogs, on the other hand, are past their chewing stage, are often already house-trained, and often require less work to integrate them into your household. Shelters or rescues are likely to have more adults to choose from, but breeders occasionally have retired show or breeding dogs available as well. If you decide on a puppy instead of an adult, be sure to check out your local Papillon rescue, as they may have puppies available for adoption.

Papillon Standard
Photo Courtesy – Lacy Gillen

After you’ve decided on the ideal age for your new dog, you need to consider what gender you’d prefer. If you have other dogs, they may have a preference for their new companion. It’s not uncommon for two female dogs to have a difficult time getting along, so if you already have a female dog with a strong personality, you might consider getting a male Papillon. Likewise, if you have a male dog with a dominant personality, he may get along better with a female than a male. However, many dogs are happy to play with dogs of either gender, so it may be up to you to decide. Male and female dogs can differ in personality, so knowing what gender you prefer will help narrow down your search.

If you have a clear idea of what your new dog will look like, you may already know what color and coat pattern you’re looking for. Unless you are dead set on having a dog of a certain color, keeping an open mind will allow you to find the perfect dog based on more important qualities such as age, gender, or temperament. Phalènes and Papillons are both great dogs, but now is the time to decide whether you prefer the drop ears of the Phalène or the erect ears of the Papillon.

Once you decide on your ideal dog, you’ll have a better idea of where to find it. If you’re looking for a competition dog with the perfect conformation or incredible athletic ability, a breeder will probably be your best choice. If you want a loving companion and you don’t need a pedigree of champions, consider adopting from a shelter or breed rescue. You may want to look into both rescues and breeders to ensure that you have considered all options in your search for the perfect Papillon.

How to Find a Reputable Breeder

If you choose to buy your puppy from a breeder, it’s important to carefully consider the breeder and not impulsively buy the first puppy you see for sale. Buying a puppy from a breeder who is passionate about improving the breed will give you a better chance of raising a healthy dog with no genetic diseases. Breeders will also have a thorough understanding of the parents’ temperaments, personalities, and physical abilities.

A great way to find a reputable breeder is to attend a local dog show, especially if you intend to compete with your new Papillon. At the show, you’ll be able to meet competitors and find out where they got their dogs. Most dog show contestants will be more than happy to talk about their dogs, and they may have breeders that they recommend, both locally and nationwide. Seeing the types of dogs that these breeders produce will also give you an idea of whether their dogs will suit your lifestyle.

Papillon PhaleneIf you’re unable to attend a dog show, a simple internet search is a great way to find a reputable Papillon breeder. Many breeders keep their websites updated with their dogs’ performance records, photographs, and health tests. They may also have available puppies listed or the dates of litters planned for the future. You’ll be able to find their email address or phone number, so you can contact them to ask questions or set up a time to meet in person.

A reputable Papillon breeder should be happy to discuss their dogs and answer any questions you may have. They should have proof of all health tests and certifications as well as any show or performance records for their dogs. If a breeder seems hesitant to show you any documentation, it might suggest that they have something to hide. Breeders who are passionate about their breed will always be open and willing to talk in order to find the perfect home for their dogs. Be wary of any breeders who discourage you from visiting their home or kennel, or those who don’t want you to meet the puppies’ parents. Some breeders are cautious about bringing strangers into their homes with unvaccinated young puppies around, but they’re likely more concerned about the health of their puppies rather than keeping secrets. Use your best judgment to determine whether you should trust this person. If you find the breeder to be open and trustworthy, make an appointment to meet them and their dogs to discuss what you’re looking for.

If you’re looking to raise a contender in conformation, agility, obedience, or any other sport, a breeder can help you choose the right puppy to meet your goals. You’ll be able to see the parents themselves and examine both their health and competition records, as well as those of your future puppy’s siblings. Cherish Dewitt of Playtyme Papillons says, “Breeders should be showing dogs in conformation and performance events and have titles on dogs in both areas. What this tells a buyer is that trainability, as well as structure, is important to a breeder. Even if they don’t show their own dogs, someone should be.”

Health Tests and Certifications

Reputable breeders regularly test their dogs for common genetic disorders to improve the health of the breed and reduce the frequency of genetic diseases and disorders known to affect their breed. If a dog does not pass health testing with a satisfactory rating, the breeder should have the dog spayed or neutered to prevent the disorder from being passed on to future generations. This also applies to dogs who are carriers of any disease, regardless of whether they show symptoms. A good breeder works hard to improve the breed with every generation, and health testing and certifications are an excellent way to keep track of these improvements.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is one of the leaders in canine genetic research. Their database contains the results of thousands of individual dogs of nearly every breed. Breeders and owners can have their dogs tested by their local veterinarian and submit the results to the OFA for examination for a nominal fee. For most tests, the OFA recommends the dog be fully grown, usually over the age of 12 months, though some tests are required to be done after the age of two years. Each breed has a list of recommended tests and the ages at which they should be performed.

The OFA Canine Health Information Center requires Papillons over the age of 12 months to receive a patellar luxation test and an eye examination, with a retest every two years by a board-certified ophthalmologist. Papillons must also undergo a third test of the owner or breeder’s choosing. Options for the third test include congenital or advanced cardiac screening, a PRA1 DNA test, or an NAD DNA test. The DNA tests are for progressive retinal atrophy and neuroaxonal dystrophy, respectively. Once the dog has the required data on file, they are issued a Canine Health Information (CHIC) number and the results of those tests are made publicly available on the OFA  website.

Breeder Contracts and Guarantees

According to Nicholas Forbes of DreamPaps Papillons, “Papillons are a healthy breed with very few health concerns when purchased from a reputable breeder that does health testing, provides a health guarantee, as well as offers a happiness warranty time period.” Breeder contracts and guarantees are an essential part of purchasing a purebred puppy. These contracts will protect you and the breeder financially while keeping the puppy’s well-being a priority. The contract will state the specific puppy you’re adopting and the price you’ve agreed to pay, as well as any conditions of the adoption.

Typically, by signing a breeder’s contract you’re agreeing to take on the responsibility of the puppy’s health and well-being. Many contracts include statements about required regular immunizations and health checks, as well as spaying or neutering at an appropriate age. Most breeders will require dogs adopted into pet homes to be spayed or neutered, typically at around six months of age. If you’re planning to show or compete with your new Papillon, you may have a different agreement with your breeder as show dogs must remain intact. Sometimes, breeders will return a portion of the purchase price upon proof of spaying or neutering.

Papillon puppy
Photo Courtesy – Terryl Johnson

Certain breeders will also include clauses requiring you to feed a certain type of food. Breeders who are avid fans of raw diets will often only allow their dogs to go to families who intend to continue feeding raw food. Most breeders have been working with their breed for a long time and have found, through trial and error, what food works best for their dogs, and they frequently encourage their adopters to continue this diet to ensure the success and well-being of dogs no longer in their care.

Contracts should also contain a clause guaranteeing that the puppy is free from any significant genetic diseases or disorders. If a breeder has properly health tested their dogs, this risk is low, but it’s still important to include this in the adoption agreement. Should a puppy test positive or show signs of a genetic abnormality, the contract should state what actions are to be taken by the breeder and adopter. Some adopters choose to keep their puppy regardless of any special needs, but others may choose to return the dog to the breeder. In the case of a puppy’s death due to a disease originating from the breeder’s care, the contract should guarantee either a refund or a replacement puppy from a future litter.

Most reputable breeders will also state that they are willing to take the dog back at any time and for any reason should you no longer be able to care for it. This is to prevent the dog from ending up in a shelter or an inappropriate home where it may face less than ideal conditions or even euthanasia. This portion of the contract may also include a ‘happiness clause.’ If you are not happy with your new Papillon for any reason, you may return it to breeder. Breeders who are passionate about their dogs would rather take the puppy back with no questions asked than risk the dog ending up in a shelter or an abusive or neglectful home.

Be sure to read the contract thoroughly and discuss any questions you may have with the breeder. Both parties need to agree before any legally binding paperwork is signed. Remember, these contracts protect both you and the breeder, as well as the puppy.

Choosing the Perfect Puppy

Choosing the perfect puppy can be a daunting task, but a knowledgeable breeder can help you make the right decision. If you’ve already discussed your goals for your new puppy, you and your breeder can work together to find the right fit.

Papillon puppies
Photo Courtesy – Judith Sattler

Cynthia Springer of Rocyn Papillons believes that a puppy’s appearance should be the least of a potential adopter’s concerns. She advises, “Do not get wrapped up with color or markings but look at temperament, especially of the parents if possible.” While you may have a vision of the perfect puppy, your ideal match may not be exactly what you envisioned. Being open-minded about a dog’s appearance will allow you to choose a puppy based on more important qualities, such as temperament and performance abilities.

If you’re torn between two or more puppies in a litter, carefully examine each puppy. Even young puppies will display personality traits that will continue into adulthood. If you want a dog with a gregarious, sociable personality, pay attention to which puppy approaches you first. If you’d prefer a more laidback dog, look for one that would rather sit quietly on your lap than wrestle with her siblings but which does not show signs of fearfulness. Confidence and activity level are evident from just a few weeks of age, so knowing what you want from your ideal dog will help you to determine which puppy to take home. Again, seeking the breeder’s opinion can help with your decision. The breeder has spent a lot of time with the puppies since they were born and has seen their personalities grow and develop, so he or she will know which puppy will best match your lifestyle.

Tips for Adopting a Papillon

If you’ve chosen to adopt a Papillon from a shelter or rescue organization rather than from a breeder, you should still have an idea of what you’re looking for in a companion. Most shelters and rescues put their dogs through a variety of tests to determine their personalities, ideal lifestyles, and any challenges potential adopters may face. However, some shelter environments can be stressful, and dogs may act differently than they would in a home. Many organizations place their dogs in foster homes, so their foster family will have a better idea of how the dog behaves in a home setting. Discuss your lifestyle and personality with the volunteers or foster families to determine which dog will suit you best.

Papillon on grass
Photo Courtesy – Tara Donel

Before adopting, you need to decide if you’re willing to take on challenging behaviors. Many shelter dogs have developed bad habits or have simply never been taught manners, so they may need significant training. Make a list of which behaviors you’re willing to work with and which behaviors are deal-breakers. Some habits, such as shyness and marking in the house, are relatively easy to correct, while more aggressive behaviors will require more serious training and dedication.

If you have children in your home, you’ll need to discuss this with the rescue staff. Some Papillons are fearful or aggressive with children and it’s important to make sure your new dog is comfortable around kids to prevent injuries or a return to the shelter.

If you have other pets, many organizations will require you to introduce your current pets to your potential new family member. Introducing pets on neutral territory, in a supervised environment, is an excellent way to make sure everyone gets along before you bring your new Papillon home. This can make the introduction at home less stressful and lessen the likelihood of any serious fights and subsequent injuries.

Some rescues will also require a home check by one of their volunteers. This is not something to worry about; they are simply making sure your home is a safe environment for a Papillon. If you’ve done your homework and properly puppy-proofed your home, you should have no problems. If the rescue volunteer does find something unacceptable about your home, they will likely give you a chance to fix the problem before you’re approved for adoption.

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