If you own a Papillon, then one of your primary roles and responsibilities is keeping them clean, hygienic, and comfortable. Grooming is therefore necessary, and while it may feel overwhelming at first, thankfully it is not too challenging to do when you know-how.
In this guide today, we will be providing you with a step-by-step overview of the process, some advice, suggestions, recommendations, and best practices for you to be able to groom this spaniel breed.
We will first be looking at the coat of the breed, before turning to some of the most commonly asked and similarly related questions. These being, how often does a papillon need to be groomed and can you shave a papillon.
So, be sure to read all the way through to ensure you get all the information that you need!
The Papillon Coat
The Papillon possesses a long and straight single-layered coat. They do not possess an undercoat, but their hair is fine and silky to touch.
Papillons are distinctive in appearance; known primarily for their butterfly ears which stand upright and spread out just like this beautiful insect. Their ears are fringed with hair, making them even more prominent.
The back of the forelegs are typically feathered, whereas the hind legs are common
A Papillons coat can grow out to be quite long, however, this is not a high shedding breed. Equally, their coat is not prone to matting and only requires a brush 1-2x per week in order to keep the coat healthy.
By doing so, natural oils that develop on the coat can be spread which promotes healthy growth, the natural shine and acts as a defensive barrier to dirt and bacteria.
Another benefit of this breed is that they do not typically have or acquire a doggy odor. Bathing is not a regular requirement, and only as and when the situation arises will this need to be considered.
Papillons can most often be found particolored, white being the most prominent color and mixed with another across the body. On the head, their other color will be displayed around the back of their ears down to their eyes.
More confident owners will generally keep on top of trimming their Papillon.
The ears and fur around the face are generally kept more full and do not require much if any trimming, whereas the rest of the coat is taken back further. Other owners will others visit the groomer to do this on their behalf.
How Often Should A Papillon Be Groomed?
Despite their long hair and unique appearance, this breed is not known for having overly high grooming requirements. This is due to not having an undercoat, shedding minimally, and also just the way the signature look is acquired.
Nonetheless, a few grooming tasks will be required to keep a papillon looking at its best.
While you may consider taking them to a professional groomer, thankfully each task is relatively easy to do yourself at home, where you can save some time and money and give some extra attention to your dog.
The coat will need to be brushed a couple of times per week to keep it in optimal condition.
Consider that as these dogs walk quite low to the ground they have a tendency to pick up dirt and debris relatively easily. By brushing you can help minimize and remove it quickly.
A slicker brush is the tool of choice my most Papillon owners. It works excellently on this breeds coat, being comfortable and not causing any irritation.
Plus, they are easy to use and very easy to clean. This is the best product to get on Amazon.
When it comes to bathing, these dogs do not need it very often. Every 2-3 months is a good schedule to shoot for.
They are naturally quite clean and do not develop any strong odors.
Over-bathing is more of an issue, as it can strip back the naturally occurring and good oils that protect the coat.
So, when bathing your papillon, ensure you use a shampoo designed for dogs and supports their shiny coat. This is a great all-natural brand on Amazon. This will prevent any irritation and is soft and comforting on a dog’s skin.
Due to their size, owners will commonly bathe their papillon in a sink or small bowl. This generally makes the process easier and there is less chance of mess.
Regarding the length of the coat, it generally requires trimming every 2-3 months.
Where and how much of the coat to be taken off, does come down to preference along with how you want your papillon to look.
We will be discussing how to trim a papillon in the sections that follow so be sure to keep on reading if you want to learn how to do so yourself!
Nevertheless, there is a lot more to grooming than just brushing and/or reducing the coat length.
It’s important that you consider your dog’s dental health and hygiene and proactively take measures to keep it clean.
Brushing your dog’s teeth with a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for dogs is one approach, although this energetic and lively breed can be a challenge to settle down. If you can manage it 1-2 times per week tooth brushing is advised.
Another and somewhat better alternative is to provide your dog with dental sticks, chews, or toys that help them to naturally clean themselves.
Either way, you want to ensure that any plaque/tartar is removed from their teeth and that bacteria do not develop in their mouths.
Both can cause bad breath and this is one sign they need some dental intervention.
The nails of a papillon will also need to be trimmed fairly frequently. Usually, you will notice when your dog needs its nails trimmed.
Either the clicking of nails on the floor, walking uncomfortably, signs of pain in your dog, or sharp nails that hurt as your dog jumps up are all indicators.
Trimming the nails should be done every couple of months.
Just be sure to use nail trimmers designed for dogs to ensure that you do not accidentally over-cut and hit their paws.
Better yet is to use a nail grinder, which is generally much safer and more comfortable for your dog.
Another thing to consider is that the more that you groom your dog while they are still young, the better they will take to the process.
In doing so, you should find it easier when they are an adult as they will know what to expect and are less likely to become stressed.
Nonetheless, be sure to be patient, calm, and gentle at all times.
If you can make the experience more enjoyable for your dog, the higher chance of success you will have. Offering treats and praise is a great approach.
Can You Shave A Papillon?
It is strongly advised not to shave a Papillon. Instead, these dogs do much better with trimming to reduce the length of their coat.
Shaving a dog can cause a number of issues, and this breed being smaller in stature, does not take well to a fully shaven coat.
Here is why.
One of the primary reasons a dog is shaved, is for the false and misunderstanding that it helps keep them cool.
But, without their coat, dogs do not do well regulating their body temperature.
This is because they do not have any sweat glands, and their skin does not hold any blood vessels – both of which commonly helped to hold a steady temperature and reduce it if required in warm conditions.
By taking off and shaving the coat, you are exposing your dog to the elements. They have an increased risk of burning, suffering from heat exhaustion, or even getting heatstroke!
Instead, by keeping their coat longer and well brushed, the hair can help naturally cool them down and protect them from any external heat.
Some owners report that they may shave a small area of their papillon, but this is usually only in specific areas of the body like around the legs.
Generally, shaving a papillon is not a good idea. Providing more access to shade, water and not letting them overexert are better approaches to keeping them cool.
Trimming is the best way to take off some of that long coat!
How To Groom A Papillon (Step By Step)
With the previous grooming practices in mind, let us now take a look at the process of grooming in further detail.
Before you even begin to groom, always inspect your dog.
Thoroughly look over the bodies, heads, legs, and coat. Rub them and feel out for any lumps, bumps, dry patches, or areas of hair loss. If you do notice any of these, you may need to consult your vet.
This often helps your dog calm down, plus it can help you to be aware of areas to avoid.
Brushing is required 1-3x per week for a papillon to keep the coat in optimal condition and disseminate its natural oils across it. This will help the coat glisten while also supporting further hair growth.
Begin by brushing your dog’s head and continue downward toward its tail. The hair on a papillons head does not grow out very long and will not need much.
However, they do have a long fringe over the ears and the sides of their heads. Use your brush softly here to remove any tangles that have developed.
If you do notice mats, be extra cautious and do not cause your dog any distress by tugging at them. Be gentle at all times.
Move down to your dog’s body, ensuring you brush out the legs, back, belly, and long tail. Always be careful if you do encounter any mats.
This is why a Slicker brush comes so strongly recommended. This is the one to get on Amazon.
Papillons are commonly referred to as “wash and go” breeds. They do not require bathing too frequently. The only exception is when they get dirty, muddy or lie in something smelly.
Too frequent bathing can damage the skin and coat, as can using inappropriate products.
Here is the proper way to bathe this breed:
- Start by placing your dog in a sufficiently sized tub, or sink. Enough space but not too much where they can move about too much.
- Wet the entire coat with lukewarm water. You can do this either from a shower head or even jug that has been pre-filled.
- Apply a small amount of dog shampoo, and lather it in your hands. Rub and massage it into your dogs coat, being sure to work through the hair.
- Re-rinse your dog with lukewarm water. Ensure all of the shampoo is effectively removed.
- Apply a small amount of dog coat conditioner in your hands, before again, applying it to your papillons coat and running through all of the hair.
- Let the conditioner sit for a while (5-10 minutes) to ensure it has a chance to moisturize the coat.
- Rinse out the conditioner with some more lukewarm water, be sure that it runs completely through.
- Get a separate cloth/towel, and wash your papillons face gently. Be especially careful of the ears and eyes.
Dry The Coat
When your dog is wet following a bath, you will need to dry them appropriately.
You cannot leave them to dry naturally as this can cause a sudden change in temperature, cause a chill, and stress out your dog.
So, to effectively dry your dog’s coat:
- Take your dog out of the tub/sink and place them on the ground. Use a clean and dry towel to dry off your dog thoroughly from head to do. Be careful but sure to get all areas, especially under their belly and at the back of their legs which can be easily forgotten.
- You can use a handheld dryer, but be sure it is safe for dogs. Equally make sure you keep it on a low setting that is not too hot or loud. You will also want to keep it at a fair distance from your dog at all times. Be careful not to place it on any one area for too long.
- As you dry your dog be sure to continue brushing them to ensure the coat dries out straight and comfortably. Follow the natural path of the hair growth.
Clean The Eyes
It’s important that you clean the area around your dog’s eyes. Look for any discharge, sleep, or any other signs of irritation.
If you do suspect something is wrong with your dog’s eyes or vision, be sure to contact your vet.
Clean The Ears
Next, move on to the ears. You want to prevent ant dirt, bacteria and wax does not develop inside the ear which can be painful and cause inflammation.
Any scratching of your dog at their ears is usually an indicator a clean is required.
You’ll need to be extra careful when cleaning your dog’s ears.
Do not place anything too invasive inside them, even cotton earbuds can be too much.
Dog ear solutions work well and are typically advised to keep this area clean and free from infection.
Clean The Teeth
As previously mentioned, cleaning the teeth should be done regularly. Either by yourself or by your dog.
It’s important not to let plaque build in the mouth as it can be difficult to remove and can cause a number of health conditions such as tooth decay and in extreme cases, heart disease.
Some owners like to brush their dog’s teeth with a dog-friendly toothbrush/toothpaste but this can be a challenge with papillons as they are quite lively.
Providing dental toys or chews is also another, more practical option and they have the added benefit of helping to keep your dog entertained.
Nail clipping can be done as and when required, just ensure you use the right tools.
If you are not confident of doing this yourself you can always get your vet/groomer to do it for you.
Nevertheless, it is important that your papillon’s nails do not grow too long as this can be very uncomfortable for them and even lead to issues walking.
When cutting, work through each nail, being sure not to go too far.
Dog nail trimmers are designed with a safety mechanism to stop this from happening which is why they are advised.
Be careful not to nip the quick (this is a separate part of the nail that actually living tissue and contains blood vessels and nerves).
If it is cut, it will bleed, cause pain and an infection can develop if it is not cleaned.
How To Trim Your Papillon
Papillons only require a light trim every now and again in order for them to look at their best.
For the most part, the face needs minimal touching up whereas the rest of the coat can be taken back a little shorter with a pair of scissors.
This best-selling grooming kit on Amazon includes all that you will need to trim your papillon.
Follow the steps below in order to effectively trim your dog back from the comfort of your own home:
Step One – Trim The Feet
Start with your papillon’s feet. Begin by crouching down and holding your dog firmly against your lap (with its back against you).
You may even want to sit in a chair to do this if you find it more comfortable.
Hold one of your dog’s hind feet in one hand, and with the other take a pair of scissors and trim the hair on the bottom of their foot around the pads.
Cut evenly and reduce this hair in length.
Then, trim back the hair that is on the top of the feet, being sure to leave a long strip of hair toward the end of the toes. But, making sure the hair does not extend beyond them.
Repeat this for all of the three remaining feet, being sure to hold your dog close at all times.
A papillon’s feet, when trimmed to the breed standard, will look like the feet of a rabbit.
Step Two – Trim The Backside
Not the most pleasurable of steps, but one required nonetheless. Lift your dog’s bushy tail and trim back the hair around the anus.
Some groomers may even shave this area, but due to the delicacy of this area, it is not advised to do it yourself at home.
Step Three – Trim The Legs
Move onto the legs and trim back the hairs that are growing longer on the backs of them. Trim towards the direction that the hair grows.
Hair here should be 0.5″ in length after they have been properly trimmed.
Remove the ends of the hairs on your furry friend’s hocks or the backsides of his legs. Trim from the top down toward the ground in the direction the hair grows. The hair should be about 1/2 inch long after trimming.
Step Four – Thin The Coat
It’s now time to move on to the coat of the body. You will want to pull the hair out so that it is straight.
From there, take a pair of thinning shears and trim away from your dogs body. A good rule of thumb is to start 1-2 inches away from the body and trim outwards.
Trim slowly and blend the coat to remove any trimming lines.
It’s always a good idea to trim a minimal amount of first before going back later if more is required.
Step Five – Final Trim
Brush your dog’s coat to see if you have missed any extra long hairs that stand out.
It is generally advised to leave the hair around the ears and face, although you can take a small amount off here if you wanted.
Papillons are easily recognizable with their distinctive butterfly ears. Keeping them well-groomed is the best way to ensure they look at their best.
But, it goes beyond just how they look. Grooming is essential to keep your dog healthy, clean, comfortable, and hygienic.
While a lot of the grooming can be done yourself at home, you may want to consider taking them to a professional groomer from time to time for a trim, especially if they have any experience with this breed and your time is limited.
That being said, certain aspects of grooming are your responsibility and should be done on an ongoing and frequent basis.
Weekly coat brushing, cleaning of the ears, eyes, and teeth are the main ones to stay on top of.
Beyond that, infrequent bathing and nail clipping are also going to need to be considered.
At the end of the day, learning how to groom your papillon yourself will save you a lot of time, money, and effort. You’ll also be able to spend quality time with your dog – giving them the attention they desire.
Looking to learn more about the Papillon breed? Check out my guides below!
- Can Papillons Swim? [What You Absolutely Must Consider]
- How Big Do Papillons Get? [Average Height, Weight & Size]
- Are Papillons Hypoallergenic? [Does This Breed Shed A Lot?]
- Do Papillons Shed? [Are They A Hypoallergenic Breed?]
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.