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The Papillon Information Center       
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Papillon Grooming


This long coat breed has a single coat of hair and the hair type is silky. This makes grooming the coat easier than its double-layered rough-textured counterparts, however upkeep the to coat is an important part of grooming.   In this section we are going to discuss all of these grooming elements so that you can have a Papillon that is the beautiful, elegant toy dog that the standard calls out for.

Here we will discuss:
•    Proper bathing that will help keep both skin and coat healthy

•    Coat care, including brushing which will greatly affect how the coat falls

•    Trimmings, which are needed to for shaping and for snipping excess hairs from certain areas of the body.

•    Dental care, which is very important for the Papillon. This breed is susceptible to tooth decay and infections. Plague and tater can build up quickly, therefore we recommend regular brushings.

•    Nail care, an important part of Papillon grooming.  Owners can be surprised just how fast the nails can grow.  If allowed to grow long, they can break, which is painful for the dog and can lead to infection. In addition, if long, a Papillon can walk with an irregular gait. Over time, walking in this way can put excessive pressure on joints in the leg, even to the point of causing sprains.


Baths can be an enjoyable time for owners and Pappy, especially puppies do not have a bad experience that can cause them to become shy or nervous around running water.  A bath should be given 1 time every 3 weeks and additionally any time that calls out for it (i.e. having run through a muddy puddle, etc.) 

Too many baths can dry hair which can then interfere with hair growth.   Young puppies should be bathed in a clean kitchen sink. Adults can do well in a bathtub once accustomed to the water, however some smaller Pappies are happy to continue to have baths in a smaller sink.  Deep sinks work best, therefore kitchen sinks work best.

It can help to place a washcloth or a piece of cabinet liner on the bottom surface, which will allow a Papillon to have firm footing and decrease chances of sliding around due to soaps and conditioners.

Most do best if ½ of the water is already in the sink, with the 2nd half slowly introduced.  Please be sure to test water temperature on the inside of your wrist, as this will give you the most accurate test for whether it is too hot or too cold.  

Have all supplies readily at hand so that you do not need to leave your Papillon during this grooming time.  Also, you will want to have a soft towel directly to the side of the sink, spread open so that as soon as all rinsing is complete, the Papillon can be placed on the towel and then wrapped up to avoid catching a chill.

There are 4 products that will work together toward the end result of having a healthy, shiny coat:

1.  A Pre-shampoo. This prepares the coat for the next step of shampooing.  Why use this? Shampoo, by its very definition, washes away dirt, pollen, debris and any other element that are in the coat (or on the skin).

Even the mildest of products are meant to clean, therefore all have cleansing solutions…and these can be drying to the skin and to the coat.

A quality canine pre-shampoo will protect the Papillon’s hairs from becoming overly cleansed, which can lead to breakage, particularly to the fringes.  In addition, it helps to detangle hairs before any scrubbing, which decreases the chances of tangles.

2. The shampoo. It is critically important to never use human products on a Papillon. The Ph balance is completely different for dogs. When looking at a hair under a microscope,  each strand is actually comprised of overlapping layers. It can help to think of this as fish scales in a way.

If the Ph balance is too high, those miniature scale textures on each strand stand up.   This happens to each hair on the entire coat of a dog, and therefore, the wrong shampoo can cause the entire coat to develop a courser texture and to have a dull appearance.

A quality canine shampoo will smooth over the cuticles and the entire shaft of each follicle, (essentially keeping those scales flat against the strand)…  And this gives the Papillon a soft, silky and shiny coat and allows fringes to fall nicely.

3. The conditioner.
Another important element to Papillon grooming is a quality conditioner. It really is a must for keeping the coat beautiful, tangle free, breakage free and shiny.  We talked about scales above, well a good conditioner will work to keep those scales flat, it will also lock moisture into each strand and it will offer protection again the elements (wind, sun, etc.).

4. A leave-in conditioner.  Over the course of a day, the film of rinse-out conditioner that offered a nice, thin sheet of protection to the coat will wear down, leaving the Papillon’s coat vulnerable to outdoor elements, and as it wears down, more dirty particles, dust and debris can stick to individual hairs.  A leave-in conditioner will help protect the Papillon’s coat from this.

In addition, you will not want to brush or comb a dry coat, as doing so can lead to split ends and a leave-in conditioner is essential for the brushing and combing elements of grooming. Do be sure to only use a light misting, as not a lot is needed and too much will weigh down the coat.

The order that grooming should be done is as following:

1.  Comb through the coat, separating hairs and checking for any tangles. While this breed is not known for excessive matting, tangles can certainly present themselves.

2.  Apply the pre-shampoo to the coat and allow it to set while the bathing area is being prepared.

3. Bathe the Papillon in warm water, making sure to thoroughly rinse out each product. If you think that you have successfully rinsed out soap bubbles, rinse one more time.  Any left-over residue will build up on the skin, blocking air circulation. This can cause itching and blocked follicles can impede hair growth. In addition, conditioner not rinsed out well will weigh down the coat.  Not only will the Papillon’s coat appear to be heavy and flat, it can develop a greasy look if not rinsed well.  Leaving any residue of either shampoo or conditioner can cause fringes to clump together.

4. Pat the coat, do not rub it. Rubbing can cause breakage.  It is not recommended to hot-air blow dry unless you are preparing for show, as the heat can dry out the skin, causing flaking, itching and discomfort.

5. This should be followed by a comb and then a brushing, with a cool blow dry done if desired.

Blow Drying

Begin by lifting up sections and drying the roots, then, move with one motion to brush and blow-dry down, in the direction of the hair growth.  Drying at the root first prevents the coat from developing a wavy appearance. 

Always brush and dry downward.  Never go against the growth of hair, as this would only cause it to fluff up and out, which is not the desired look of the breed.

The coat should be groomed into a long, downward flowing blanket of silky hairs.. When you are drying the Papillon’s ear fringe, you will want to begin by directing the air on the back of the ear and brushing the inner side (near the base) and work toward the outside of the ear. Again, going in the direction of the hair growth.

Once the back of the ear is dry, move on to the front.  Dispersed air may have already dried the front quite well, however you can do a quick touch-up to any damp areas, again brushing with the grain of the hair.  

If you see any clumping of the ear fringe, it is only then that using your fingers, you can separate the hairs, going now against the grain of hair growth as you use a low setting on the dryer.

Coat Care and Brushing

A rubber tipped pin brush works best for this breed, as slicker brushes can be damaging to the hairs.  Be sure to go slow, as you do not want to scrap the skin. 

Some double coated breeds need a deep brushing to gather shedded hairs from the inner layer, however the Papillon has approximately 300 hairs per square inch as opposed to 600 that double coated breeds have.  For this reason, one should be sure to brush to the root, but not have a heavy hand.

Go section by section, brushing down, and then pulling up and out.  Allow that section to fall down and then go onto the next. Be sure to cover all areas of the body, including legs, neck and tail.  And again, never brush a dry coat.   If grooming without giving a bath, spritz the coat just enough to make it damp, but not wet.


Unlike some other breeds, having a long or short coat is not an option; the Papillon is not meant to ever be clipped or trimmed down.  However, there are some areas on the body in which hairs tend to grow out much too far and some tidying up is necessary.

The Paws –
Hairs on the paws tend to grow very quickly.  Unless you are planning on showing your Papillon or unless you desire to keep him or her at show-level appearance, there is only one area that needs to be focused on: The paw pad area.

Any hairs growing out passed the pads should be trimmed back.  Having long growth here can cause discomfort as it catches under the paw while walking. In addition, the silky hairs here can cause a Papillon to slip on hardwood or laminate floors unless groomed short.   One should not trim in-between the pads, digging and cutting into hairs there, however any stray hairs on the bottom of the foot should be level with the paw pads. While scissors can be used, an electric trimmer is often easier and better tolerated, as it can be done a lot faster.

The Anus Area – For the sake of a Papillon’s hygiene, very long hairs on either side of the anus can be snipped shorter. If left long, feces often stick to this area, which of course is undesired. For show, do not trim close. For the pet owner, trimming closer is just fine, as the more that is removed, the less feces will become clung to the area.


Your choices here are to do this at home or to have a professional groomer take on this task. With clippers, you may opt for the scissor type or the guillotine type.   Personally, we like to use a grinder, as it takes the stress out of this grooming task for a small dog such as the Papillon.  While it is possible to grind down too far, the Papillon has such little nails that a quick “zip zip” is all it takes to trim the excess nail.
Some dogs can be skittish of the noise and vibration, however puppies and even older dogs can become used to this if it is introduced gradually and when praise and treats are given at the end of the grooming task.

Paps can have light nails, dark nails or a combination of both. Therefore, the nail quick (the vein that runs down the center of the nail and can bleed quite a bit it if is cut) is not always noticeable on a Papillon.  For this reason, trimming nails gets easier the more it is done.  Owners who perform this grooming at home will eventually get a feel for where the quick is and be able to avoid cutting it. Just in case, do always have septic powder close at hand, which would be sprinkled on the nail, should the quick be clipped by accident.

Care of the Teeth

You have 42 good reason to perform dental care as part of your Papillon’s grooming schedule (dogs have 42 teeth- and you’ll want your dog to keep each and every one of them).  Chews can loosen plague, however nothing will remove plague and tater other than brushing and scraping. Dogs do not develop cavities in the way that humans can, however a buildup of tarter and plague and lead to infections, rotted teeth and/or loose teeth.  Infection can spread, causing bone decay and even spread throughout the body.

Since dogs swallow the paste that is used, please be sure to use a canine toothpaste.  Since the Papillon is small, a toothbrush specifically for toy/small breeds works best. Alternatively, a finger brush can do a good job as well and some Papillons prefer this over the standard brush.  It consists of a textured rubber piece that slips over your finger, and the paste is applied to that. 

As you rub your finger over each tooth, be sure to get the back and sides as well as the front surfaces.  It is recommended to make this grooming task part of your everyday routine, it only takes 2 to 3 minutes and is certainly worth the time to ensure that your Papillon’s teeth remain clean, disease free and intact.

A dental checkup with a professional veterinarian is recommended once every year or every two years. After your Papillon’s first visit, you will be given a recommendation as to how often your dog should be scheduled for care.   Please do not pass of this grooming element as unnecessary, as 80% of dogs that do not receive dental care have some level of oral disease by the age of 3 years old.