Pippa Elliott
Dr Pippa Elliott (BVMS MRCVS, University of Glasgow)
Photo of adult Papichon
Photo thanks to Mollie Durey

The Papichon is a hybrid dog breed; a mix between the Bichon Frise and the Papillon. Both parent breeds are appealing in their own right: the Papillon with their silky fur and big, butterfly shaped ears, whilst the Bichon is a white, woolly bear of a canine companion. So, will the combination add or subtract to their parents’ appeal? Let’s find out.

The Papichon is a relatively rare hybrid breed, but their sweet personality makes them worth tracking down. A small to medium-sized dog, they have abundant fluffy fur and often have the eye patches and colour-point ears of the Papillon. They love to be adored and their number one aim in life is to be with their owner. This has its pros – making for an adored and adoring pet, but also its minuses, as they tend to get stressed when left alone and may start barking. On the whole, however, a well-adjusted Papichon makes a great apartment pet and invaluable member of the family.

About & History

The Papichon is one of many hybrid dog breeds to appear on the scene in the past couple of decades Whilst they are a relative newcomer, their parent breeds are have long, venerable histories.

The Papillon

The Papillon started out as a small spaniel breed with more typical floppy spaniel ears. They were popular with the nobility, and appeared in paintings from the 16th century. Their big break came in the 17th century when a particular spaniel at Louis XIV’s court had upright ears that reminded courtiers of a butterfly. Hence the new breed already had a name and successive generations of selective breeding established their place in hearts and homes.

The Bichon Frise

The Bichon Frise has an even longer history, dating back to the 14th century. It’s thought that French sailors first adopted these dogs when they saw them on the Canary Islands. They must have been good sailors, as they also travelled on ships with Spanish traders. As with so many popular dog breeds, they found their way to the French royal court to become another favourite.

However, in the late 1800s, their fortunes took a tumble as the breed became regarded as ‘common’ and numbers declined. A little over a century later, French breeders rediscovered the delights of the Bichon Frise and its popularity revived.


Papichon Large Photo
Photo thanks to Mollie Durey

The Papichon’s looks can lean to either side of the family tree or be a blend of both parents. Generalisations that can be made include having a small stature, whilst not being overly delicate. They are nicely proportioned with a body that’s slightly longer than they are tall. Hair is ‘big’ in the Papichon with a typical coat of long loose curls. Although, of course, they can also lean towards the Papillon’s soft smooth hair or the Bichon’s luxurious curls. Their tail is carried high in a graceful sweep, generously adorned with feathering.

The Bichon Frise is always white, so this colour predominates in the Papichon, with a concession on the face to the Papichon. The latter tends to have a tan coloured mask over the eyes, which carry through to those magnificent ears. Thus, the Papichon often has a contrasting coat colour – usually tan or red – on this part of the face. Lastly, in terms of its ears, Papichons can have floppy Bichon ears, upright Papillon ears, or something in between.

Character & Temperament

The Papichon has a lovely, sunny nature. Their biggest pleasure in life is to be with their owner, whom they absolutely adore. They are characterful, and generally know how to endear themselves to everybody. Indeed, when socialised well from puppyhood, they are also friendly with strangers, who they view as yet more potential sources of love.

But therein also lays their weak point. Papichons don’t like being left alone, and can easily suffer from separation anxiety. This can manifest as destructive behaviour, such as chewing, or more commonly in barking. In an apartment, this noise can quickly make you unpopular with neighbours.


Photo of Papichon puppy
Photo thanks to Mollie Durey

The Papichon is an intelligent dog and their aptitude for obedience training and agility should not be underestimated. They will thrive with the opportunity for one-to-one training with their owner.

As with all dogs, reward-based training methods work best with a Papichon. This method uses encouragement (in the form of praise, games, or treats) to reward the dog when they do well. This makes them eager to please in order to win those delicious treats.


Both the Papillon and Bichon Frise have certain genetic predispositions to disease. One of the arguments often used to promote hybrid dogs is that their mixed genetics reduces these risks. However, this argument is flawed. The laws of genetics mean there is also a possibility of a problem being amplified rather than diminished. Prospective pet parents should therefore go into ownership with realistic health expectations.

There is no official data about the health problems to which Papichon’s are prone. The conditions outlined below tend to be common to both parent breeds, so it’s a reasonable assumption that Papichons may also be at risk

Patellar Luxation

The layman’s term for patellar luxation is ‘wobbly kneecaps’. The patella or kneecap provides a fulcrum on which the thigh muscles pull to straighten the leg. When the patella is not firmly anchored, muscular contraction pulls the kneecap out of line, causing the leg to physically lock. A typical sign of this is a dog that skips a step on a back leg from time to time.

Patellar luxation can vary in severity from mild (needing occasional pain relief) to severe (requiring corrective surgery).


When a dog is allergic to pollen or other environmental allergens, this shows up as itching and scratching. Known as ‘atopy’ this is a common problem for many dogs, the Papichon included.

The trouble with allergies is that scratching damages the skin, leading to secondary infections. Untreated, the skin becomes markedly thickened, hair falls out, and the dog is in constant discomfort. Whilst allergies cannot be cured, they can be controlled. Now more than at any other time, there are good options for effective medications with minimal side effects.

Bladder Stones

Bladder stones develop because of how the body’s biochemistry processes certain minerals in the diet. Papichon physiology makes the development of these stones more likely. This can cause a dangerous blockage in the urethra that needs emergency surgery in order to relieve.

Dental Disease

Small breed dogs are particular prone to dental disease. This starts with plaque building up on the teeth, which then hardens to bacteria-rich tartar. This pushes on the gums causing recession and infection that loosens the teeth.

Dental disease can be dramatically reduced by the simple act of daily tooth brushing. Key to success is using pet toothpaste (which tastes great to a dog) and starting as you mean to go on with a puppy.

Exercise and Activity Levels

The Papichon is no slouch and is a busy fellow for their size. They need both mental and physical stimulation, so the ideal is to combine both with games of fetch or hide-and-seek. They need regular daily exercise, and a good guide is half an hour, twice a day, spent playing with other dogs in the park.

A Papichon that doesn’t get enough exercise may become bored, which can lead to bad behaviours and even grumpiness. Also, you ought to consider that the Papichon is also prone to weight gain should they eat more treats than what they burn off in play.


Those cute curls do require a moderate amount of maintenance to keep the coat in good shape. Whilst coat textures and lengths will vary, the Bichon-gene means it may way grow continuously, making parlour trips a necessity, every couple of months.

Regular grooming at home is also necessary, to prevent knots and tangles. Get the puppy used to being combed and brushed from an early age. Spend time walking the adult dog on pavements, which will help wear their nails down.

The Papichon’s pale coat is prone to tear staining. This is the rust-coloured discolouration beneath the eyes that is common on white or pale-coated dogs. To avoid this, wipe the eyes regularly, so that any tears are wiped away before the fluid stains the fur.

Try to get into the habit of daily tooth brushing. This keeps plaque and tartar at bay, and promotes good oral hygiene. With both parent breeds prone to gum disease, tooth brushing is a wise investment in time and effort.

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