The Friendly Papillon: Tips on Proper Socialization for your Papillon Puppy

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

The Importance of Good Socialization

A Papillon who has been properly socialized is an excellent companion that can confidently accompany his owner anywhere. This means your dog can go to the vet, groomer, or pet sitter without unnecessary stress. He can accompany you on your errands, on vacation, and even to work if your employer allows it. A properly socialized dog is a pleasure to be around and will be welcomed anywhere dogs are allowed. Many businesses are happy to have well-behaved dogs visit them, even if they aren’t typically dog-friendly.

Polite dogs are ambassadors not only for their breed, but their species as well, so socialization is an opportunity for positive representation as well. A Papillon who is insecure or aggressive in public, barking and snapping at other people or dogs, leaves a lasting impression on people, so the next time they see a Papillon, they may expect the same type of behavior. This may cause businesses to no longer allow dogs, or even give the breed a bad reputation. Although the breed is on the rise, Papillons are not an especially common breed, so socialization is essential in allowing them to develop the friendly, bubbly temperament they are known for.

Papillon playing in grassGood socialization is also important to your Papillon’s overall happiness and wellbeing. Your dog will be able to accompany you wherever you go and meet new friends without experiencing unhealthy amounts of stress. Socialization allows your dog to make more friends and have more opportunities to play. Not only is this good for your dog’s mental health, but the physical activity involved in play will keep him fit. The physical and mental stimulation means your dog will be calmer and more well-behaved at home. When out in public, he’ll focus more on you and less on the environment, allowing you to focus more on training. Simply put, good socialization allows your dog to be the best dog he can be.

Proper socialization means exposing your dog to a variety of positive experiences with other animals and humans. Beware of any situation in which your Papillon may become overwhelmed. Even a single negative experience can leave a lasting mark on your dog’s mind and it may take a significant amount of training to overcome. Dog parks may seem like a great place to socialize your dog, but they are one of the worst. Besides the obvious physical danger to a petite Papillon, other dog owners often pay little attention to their dogs’ behavior and body language. Veterinary professionals see injuries resulting from dog park fights on a regular basis. Even if your dog isn’t physically harmed, the high energy and emotions of a dog park can be overwhelming and could cause your Papillon to develop anxiety around other dogs. Instead, consider setting up playdates with friends, family, or other dog owners in your community. Many owners are happy to give their dog a chance to play and socialize outside of the wild and unrestrained atmosphere of the dog park.

Behavior Around Other Dogs

Papillons typically get along well with other dogs of any size. Their happy, playful demeanor usually results in instant friendship. Occasionally, you may find your Papillon getting jealous of other dogs or being a bully. It’s essential to put a stop to this behavior the instant you notice it. Papillons can easily develop what is known as “small dog syndrome.” Small dogs are often allowed to get away with behaviors that would not be tolerated in a larger dog. Behaviors such as growling, bullying other dogs, or dominance-related behavior would be inappropriate and potentially dangerous in a big dog. These behaviors are often overlooked in smaller dogs because they aren’t seen as a threat. However, if your Papillon displays any aggressive or dominant behavior, he may find himself in trouble, especially if he gets in a fight with a larger dog. Papillons may be small and cute, but they must be responsible citizens just like their larger counterparts.

Papillon outdoor
Photo Courtesy – Middy Mentzer

Understanding your Papillon’s body language and how he interacts with other dogs can prevent problems and possibly even save his life. When dogs greet each other in a friendly manner, they will approach each other with a relaxed posture and wagging tail. Their ears may be perked up in interest, but not with intensity. They may sniff each other for a moment before engaging in play or going their separate ways. If either dog demonstrates a stiff posture with their head in the air and their ears back, this greeting may not go well. They may growl or bare their teeth as well. Dogs who display this tense body language may be wagging their tails, but this is not a friendly wag. Likewise, be cautious around dogs who show fearful postures. Fear can quickly turn into aggression with little provocation. Fearful dogs will cower and tuck their tail between their legs. They may lick their lips or show their teeth in submission. Some dogs will even urinate submissively when greeting other dogs. If either your Papillon or his friend display anything but relaxed, cheerful body language, be cautious and use your best judgment whether to continue the introduction.

Your body language can easily influence your Papillon’s, so it’s important that you remain relaxed and calm during any greeting or interaction with another dog. Avoid tensing your body or gripping the leash too tightly. Your dog can sense your tension and will believe that there is a reason to be worried. Most of the time, your Papillon will handle interactions with the friendly demeanor his breed is known for, so there’s no need for you to be tense.

However, always keep a close eye on your Papillon while he interacts with other dogs. It takes only a moment for a fight to break out if you aren’t watching for inappropriate body language. Just because your Papillon has good social skills doesn’t mean every other dog does. Papillons are small dogs, and it doesn’t take much of a fight to seriously injure or kill them. If you have doubts about another dog, stay on the safe side and avoid interacting with them.

Ways to Socialize Your Dog with Other Pets

Safely exposing your Papillon to a variety of different pets will make him a more confident dog overall. You’ll have a self-assured companion who can accompany you anywhere, no matter what type of pets he may encounter. If you have no other pets at home, ask your friends or family if you can introduce your Papillon to their pets. Well-socialized Papillons can safely interact with a variety of animals, large and small, but it does take time and commitment to training. Many Papillons live comfortably on farms or with exotic pets, but this depends entirely on the individual dog’s socialization and training. Some dogs need more time to adjust to different types of animals, while others adapt more quickly.

Papillon pair
Photo Courtesy – Lisa Nawrock

The most important aspect of socializing your dog with other pets is making sure he isn’t overwhelmed by the experience. As with meeting other dogs, stay calm and keep an eye on everyone’s body language. If your dog exhibits signs of anxiety, fear, or aggression, remove him from the situation immediately. Although they are small, overly enthusiastic Papillons can be intimidating to some animals, so watch the other pet’s body language, too. Cats can be especially sensitive to energetic little dogs in their personal space and can react quickly and aggressively, so be prepared to intervene if necessary. Introductions can be a positive or negative socialization experience, depending on how they go, so slow introductions are best when socializing your dog with other pets.

When introducing your dog to other types of pets, it’s best to keep him on a leash. Remember, Papillons are small enough that they can find themselves in big trouble in the blink of an eye. Some Papillons also have high prey drives and they may try to chase other animals. Depending on the type of animal you’re introducing to your Papillon, it may be wise to have the other animal restrained as well to prevent any accidents. If the other animals, or your Papillon, are particularly territorial, try to introduce them on neutral ground if possible. This will prevent either animal from feeling the need to defend their territory and will set the tone for a positive experience.

Never leave your Papillon unsupervised around other pets until you are sure that they have spent enough supervised time around each other to be trusted. Papillons are small enough that being scratched by a cat or stepped on by a larger animal can cause serious damage. This may mean several weeks or months of supervision before allowing the animals to be left alone together. In the case of larger animals, such as horses or cows, it may not be a good idea to ever allow them to be alone unsupervised.

Properly Greeting New People

Papillons are typically confident little dogs who boldly approach strangers. They are usually happy to make new friends everywhere they go. However, some dogs may need a little help with introductions. Whether your dog is naturally bold or timid, proper greetings are key to a well-socialized Papillon.

Depending on your dog’s past, he may be wary of certain types of people. Dogs who haven’t been socialized around men, for instance, may be completely comfortable around most women, but could show fear or anxiety when in the presence of men. When socializing your dog, try to introduce him to as many different types of people as you can. The more people he meets, the more confident he will be when he accompanies you in public.

Papillon in beach
Photo Courtesy – Susanne Hudler

Allow your dog to approach new people on their own. Shoving your dog into the arms of a stranger can be overwhelming to an insecure dog and can result in fear-based aggression. Instead, have the person offer your Papillon a few of his favorite treats. Don’t let them try to pet him right away if he’s uncomfortable. Allow the Papillon time to realize that the stranger is not a threat. If your Papillon is more confident, he may try to jump on new people or lick them. Many people do not enjoy being greeted this way, so it’s best to encourage your dog to greet strangers in a calm and polite manner. Having your dog on a leash when meeting people will keep him under your control and prevent him from jumping up. Encourage your dog to sit and wait for the person to pet him. Ask the person not to pet or talk to the dog until he’s sitting calmly. It may take a few repetitions for an excitable puppy before he understands what is being asked of him, but Papillons are intelligent dogs and once he understands, he’s sure to repeat the behavior.

Do not allow your dog to display any fearful or aggressive behavior. If your Papillon seems unsure around new people, do not comfort the dog with cooing and petting. This will only encourage the behavior. Instead, distract the dog by asking him to sit and offering treats. Having other people offer your dog treats will also encourage him to be friendlier toward strangers. If your dog is acting fearful or aggressive, make sure you haven’t asked more of him than he’s comfortable with at this stage in his socialization. Pushing a dog too fast can overwhelm him and leave a negative impression on him.

As always, encourage polite behavior with positive reinforcement. When your dog properly greets someone, praise him. If your dog is particularly timid around strangers, you may want to give the stranger a few treats to encourage your Papillon to approach. Once he realizes that strangers are a source of treats and affection, he’ll be able to approach them more confidently.

Papillons and Children

Kids and Papillons can be perfect companions, but only if both the children and the dog are taught to interact responsibly. Small children can be too rambunctious for a tiny puppy and could scare or hurt him accidentally. Likewise, a frightened or injured Papillon may lash out at a child and bite them. With proper supervision and a little training, Papillons and children can become the best of friends. Just be prepared to invest some time into preparing them both for the responsibility of being in each other’s company.

When preparing to introduce your Papillon to children, have a conversation with the kids and make sure they are responsible enough to interact with such a small dog. Young children, and especially toddlers, often treat dogs the way they treat their stuffed animals, not realizing they can hurt a real dog. This often results in the dog defending itself by biting the child. So, to prevent any injuries, it’s important to talk to the children and explain how to properly interact with a dog. Explain to them that they must be gentle with the dog and discourage them from attempting to pick the dog up. If they are used to playing with larger dogs, it must be made clear that they can’t roughhouse with a Papillon the way they would with a larger breed. Once you are sure that they understand, then you can introduce them to your new Papillon.

Papillon in stroller
Photo Courtesy – Sue Dempster

Go slowly when introducing your Papillon to children. Both kids and puppies are easily excited, and things can escalate quickly without intervention, so only allow them to interact when everyone can remain calm and under control. Be ready to correct inappropriate behavior and encourage gentle play. You may only be able to have the puppy and children together for a few minutes at a time at first, but you can slowly increase the amount of time as they get used to each other. Excited children can be loud and scary to a tiny Papillon, so it may take time and encouragement to get your Papillon comfortable in their presence. Use positive reinforcement and praise both the children and Papillon when they interact in a calm and gentle manner. If your Papillon is particularly hesitant about approaching the children, have them offer a few treats. Feeding the dog out of their hands, without attempting to touch him right away, will show him that children are friendly and nothing to be afraid of. With enough patience and encouragement, your Papillon and children will become the best of friends.

Do not leave your children unattended with your new Papillon under any circumstances. Accidents can happen quickly and can only be prevented with proper supervision. It’s unlikely that either the dog or the children would want to hurt the other intentionally, but it’s easy for an overly enthusiastic child to scare or accidentally injure such a delicate dog. To prevent anyone from getting injured or worse, it’s best to keep an eye on everyone.

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