How to Groom a Papillon

Papillons are easy to groom if you establish a routine.
papillon run image by muro from

Papillons, toy dogs with distinctive "butterfly" ears, have been referred to as a "wash-and-go" breed despite their long hair. A papillon's hair is silky rather than coarse, and isn't prone to matting. Even so, a few grooming tasks must be performed routinely to keep your papillon looking his best. These can be done by a professional groomer, but they are basic enough to do at home, saving you some money and giving your papillon a little extra one-on-one time with you.

Weekly Brushing

Step 1

Fill a spray bottle with water and mist your dog’s coat. It needs to be slightly damp, not drenched.

Step 2

Start brushing at the head and progress toward the tail. The hair on top of the head isn’t long and won’t require much attention, but papillons have a long fringe on their ears and the sides of their heads behind the ear. Gently draw the brush through the hair to clear any tangles. If the hair has mats, take extra care not to tug the mats out, which would cause pain to the dog. Rather, work them gently with the brush until they are free.

Step 3

Continue down the dog’s body, brushing out the long hair on his legs, back, stomach and tail. Take care whenever you encounter a mat to avoid causing your dog pain as you work the mat free.

Biweekly Bathing

Step 1

Place your dog in the sink or a tub.

Step 2

Wet the papillon’s coat with lukewarm water, either from a spray nozzle or by pouring the water from a pitcher over the dog. Be careful not to get water in his ears or eyes, and make sure that his entire body is soaked.

Step 3

Apply a pea-size portion of shampoo to your hands, and rub them together to form a lather before rubbing it into your dog’s coat. Choose a shampoo formulated for long-haired dogs. Gently work the lather into all of the dog’s hair, taking care not to get soap in his eyes and ears.

Step 4

Rinse your dog’s coat thoroughly with the spray nozzle or pitcher. Work the water through the papillon’s coat with your hands, making sure it runs clear before moving on.

Step 5

Apply a pea-size portion of conditioner to your hands, and rub them together before applying the conditioner to your dog’s coat. Work the conditioner through your dog’s hair.

Step 6

Allow the conditioner to sit for up to five minutes. Thoroughly rinse it out of your dog's coat with the spray nozzle or water poured from your pitcher before moving on.

Step 7

Soak the washcloth in clean water, and wring it out. Use it to wash your papillon’s face, carefully wiping away any residue from around his eyes.

Step 8

Remove your dog from the sink or tub, and place him on a towel on a sturdy surface such as the floor or a counter. Use another towel to gently rub excess water from his hair.

Step 9

Use a wide-bristle brush to smooth your dog’s hair so that it doesn’t mat as it dries.

Trim Hair As Desired

Step 1

Sit in a chair, holding your papillon upright in your lap, his back against your stomach.Hold one of the dog’s hind feet in one of your hands while working the scissors with your other hand. Gently clip the hair from the bottom of your dog’s foot. Cut it even with the bottom of the foot. Take care not to nick or poke your dog with the scissors as you work.

Step 2

Repeat Step 1 for the other three feet.

Step 3

Trim the hair on the top of each foot so that it doesn’t extend beyond the toes.


  • You can blow-dry your papillon after a bath. Blow-drying is recommended over air-drying if the weather is cold. Keep a moderate setting on the hair dryer such as medium or warm, rather than hot, and brush his hair while it dries. Keep the dryer moving. Don't allow the air to blow on one spot for long, to avoid burning your dog’s delicate skin.

  • Trimming the hair on your papillon’s feet isn’t always necessary. If the hair on your dog’s feet mats easily or if you frequently must remove debris that gets caught in it, you may want to keep it trimmed for his comfort. Some dogs may allow you to trim their feet while they stand and you hold one foot up at a time.

  • Your papillon will need a nail trim from time to time. If you hear clicking when he walks on a hard surface, his nails should be trimmed. Because trimming can cause bleeding and pain if done incorrectly, have a groomer trim the nails and show you how to do it before you attempt it yourself.

Items You Will Need

  • Spray bottle
  • Wire bristle dog grooming brush
  • Barber's shears or scissors
  • Sink or plastic tub
  • Pitcher
  • 2 or 3 towels
  • Washcloth
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Nail trimmers
  • Metal nail file


  • Pam Curtis; Petco Dog Grooming Center; Chubbuck, Idaho

About the Author

Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.

Photo Credits