Grooming your Papillon

Just the Basics

We have created this page due to the overwhelming requests we get from
companion Pap owners as well as new show exhibitors asking how to
properly brush and trim their Papillon so it looks like a show dog.
You'll notice we have used very layman's terms rather than
technical canine terminology so everyone can understand what we are saying.
Complete with photos, we hope this page helps answer many of your questions
about basic Papillon grooming, but feel free to contact us if you
have further questions regarding grooming.

Papillons are considered to be a
Wash-n-Go breed meaning they are
easy to care for, but minor conditioning
and trimming will help keep your Papillon
looking it's best.


When bathing your Papillon we suggest using
a quality shampoo such as Crown Royal, Vellus or Chris Christenson
to name a few.

Papillons have a silky coat meaning it is not usually
subject to excessive matting, but following up with a quality conditioner
made by the same company as the shampoo you are using is very important.
Extra care should be given to areas that do tend to matt like possibly the
fringing and pants. Do not over condition and ALWAYS be sure to thoroughly
rinse out the shampoo and conditioner unless using a leave-in conditioner.
We are not overly fond of the leave-in conditioners unless you are
trying to moisturize a dry or brittle coat because they tend to
weigh down the hair and leave a residue. Leaving the regular conditioner in
for up to 5 minutes will allow for a little extra conditioning when needed.


Use a brush that works best for your dog's coat.
Many Papillon breeders prefer a wire pin brush because these brushes
can be used with less chance of ripping through the fringes etc...
In many cases (with coat that is in good condition) we prefer to
use a bristle brush or slicker brush (our favorite is made by Chris Christenson).
If you go this route be sure to use one that has softer bristles
and DO NOT brush heavy handed through the coat or you will rip and tear
the hair leaving it damaged and at greater risk of matting and tangling.
NEVER brush a Papillon's coat when it is fully dry. Use a tiny bit of water
and spritz with a spray bottle or use a quality conditioning spray.
Crown Royal and Vellus both make excellent conditioning sprays.
The coat does not need to be wet, just slightly dampened.


In order to make trimming the feet easier it
is best to start by trimming the toenails. If you try to trim
the sides of the feet first your scissors will keep hitting
the toenails making it difficult to trim an even and smooth
line. This will cause the foot to appear uneven. I know nail
trimming is an area that sometimes scares people, but it is
not as difficult as one might think. Having the right tools for
trimming is the first key to success. When trimming nails on a
small dog like a Papillon I prefer the small scissor type trimmers,
which are commonly labeled as "cat claw clippers". I feel these
trimmers make it easier to see what you are doing. A dog's toenails
have a vein that runs in them so the most important thing
is to be sure you do not trim the nail so close that you clip
the vein. If you do, it is somewhat painful and will bleed readily.
Having a blood stopping product like Stypic Powder on hand is
a good idea until you get the hang of it. Just hold a little of the
Styptic Powder on the end of the nail where it is bleeding for a few
moments until it stops bleeding. Stypic Powder is fairly inexpensive
and can be bought at most any pet supply shop. Below are examples
of the tools we have mentioned here.

Nail Trimmers Stypic Powder
Small Scissor Nail Trimmers Stypic Powder

Trimming Nails:

Below are some examples of light-colored toe nails on a
Papillon. You will be able to see the pinkish area, known as the vein and we will
show you before, during and after shots of trimming. We will begin with a diagram
of a dog's toenail and then show actual photos of one of our Papillons. Some
dogs have dark colored nails making it difficult to judge where the vein stops. On a
parti-colored dog like the Papillon, many will have both dark and light nails. If this
is the case you can use the light colored nails as a guide to know where to trim the
darker ones. Once you begin to learn how the nail is shaped (where it curves downward etc...)
it will also help you evaluate where the vein stops in the average nail. This will help
you trim dark colored nails even when you do not have a guide. If your dog has all dark
dark colored nails then you will need to learn how the nail is shaped so you can tell
where the vein runs. First start by looking at the end of the nail. If it comes to a
sharp point then it most certainly needs to be trimmed. Look at the under-side of the
nail as well. The under-side end of the dark colored nail is often indented just a
little on the back side and sometimes it is even a slightly lighter color in this
area if it has been a while since trimming. (This is more common on mature dogs).
If you see this indention then it is safe to cut that area because the vein is
not in that portion of the nail. Start by trimming just the sharp tip off. When you examine
the nail, if it is slightly snubbed off at the end this means your dog is fairly active or
exercises on rough surfaces like concrete or stone often. If this is the case some of the nails
(especially the center ones) may not need much trimming at all because nature has done it for you.
Note: the longer you wait in between nail trims the longer the vein will grow so if it has been
a long time since your Papillon's nails have been trimmed you will not be able to trim them as
short as you might like. If you trim a tiny bit off each week or so for a while the vein will
begin receeding naturally back to where it belongs so in time you can trim the nail

Nail Diagram An Untrimmed Nail
The vein is called the Quick See the Quick?

Trimming the Nail The trimmed nail
Trimming Trimmed

Where to trim The red arrows show the distance left
Where the scissor blades touch is where the trim takes place Leave a little distance between the end of the quick and where you trim to be safe

Trimming The Hair:

There are 2 types of scissors we use when grooming
our Papillons. One being a quality pair of grooming scissors with a blunt end
to lessen the risk of accidentally poking the dog if it moves while you
are trimming. The other scissors we use are called Thinning Sheers.
These allow you to trim coat without leaving scissor marks in the hair,
therefore leaving a more natural look rather than obvious trim lines.
When purchasing your scissors be sure to chat with the dealer
telling them the type of coat you will be trimming (Silky Papillon Coat)
and they will recommend the proper fineness or coarseness of scissor
and thinning sheer. Be sure to select the pair that feels best in your hand.
We prefer the shorter ones in the 4-5 inch range.
If you are left-handed you will most certainly need to purchase
left-handed scissors or they will not cut.

Papillons should have what is known as a "hare foot"
meaning the foot should come to somewhat of a point
with a tuft of hair on the tips of toes similar to a
rabbit's foot. This is opposite of what is known as a
"cat's paw" meaning it is more rounded.
Below are some examples to help you visualize a proper foot
and to show you the differences from untrimmed vs. trimmed.
For my example dog I chose a bitch who had weaned a litter of puppies
a few months before these photos we taken. For those of you who don't
know, a female dog of any coated breed will shed most all of her coat
after weaning a litter due to the hormones released in the body
during whelping and nursing. This girl has grown back just enough coat
to show you a nice looking Papillon, but is still short coated
enough to give you a good view of her legs, hocks, angles etc...
Use the red lines and arrows on the photos to see the
area of discussion.

Brushes Scissors
Chris Christenson brand Scirssors and Sheers

Begin with the pads of the feet Trim hair so the pads are exposed
Hairy pads Trimmed pads

Trimming the pads of the feet will give your Pap
better traction on slick or smooth surfaces and reduce the risk
of slipping and injury. For this you can use either the regular
grooming scissors or a battery operated trimmer or electric clipper.
Just be sure to trim only the pads because if you trim too far
to the side of the foot you will take a chunk of hair out from the
side making it look notched when you look at the foot from the top.
With trimmers or clippers you lessen the chance of cutting a pad, but
you must have a steady hand or you will shave hair off
that should have been left. We do not recommend trimming
the hair from in between the pads simply because that hair
actually protects the tender areas of the foot from pebbles,
rocks, stickers, etc...

Untrimmed feet & Hocks Right Side Untrimmed feet & Hocks Right Side
Jagged hock hair Concave hock Hair

The above example shows the untrimmed right side of a Papillon.
When the coat is brushed the hock will appear jagged and the feet unshapely.
When not recently brushed the hock will often appear concave making the hock
look mis-shappen. If this dog had full coat her pants would cover all the
leg angulation making her appear somewhat straight and incorrect in rear
when left untrimmed. Some Paps do not grow a lot of foot or hock hair,
but the ones who do can grow even more than is shown here.

Trimmed feet & Hocks Left Side Trimmed and Untrimmed feet & Hocks - Rear, Side View
Lovely Hock showing off rear angulation One foot trimmed, one untrimmed

Notice the lovely lines and angles created after trimming
the feet and hocks.

Rear, untrimmed The other Rear leg, trimmed
The untrimmed foot and hock The trimmed nails, foot and hock

This is a rear foot and hock example of a different Papillon.
In the photo on the right I have pulled the foot forward a little so you can also see
the nicely trimmed toenails as well.

Front, trimmed and untrimmed Front close-up trimmed and untrimmed
The untrimmed foot looks oversized and rounded The trimmed foot is properly sized and properly shaped

Can you tell my test subject is getting quite bored?
In this example you can see where the sides of the feet have been trimmed
to form the "V" or hare shaped foot while the untrimmed foot shows
a more rounded, over-sized and clunky foot.

Another Front Example from a higher angle
Here's a front example showing a different Pap

Here is another front example showing a trimmed and untrimmed foot.
This is a different Papillon and the photo is taken from a little higher angle so you can
see what it looks like from the top of the foot. This Pap has even more excess fur on her
feet than the other one. Can you believe such a cute little foot was hiding in all that hair?

Front untrimmed right Front trimmed left
Notice you can not find the ankle Nice foot with obvious ankle

In this example I have trimmed the pads, sides and ankle area.
After you trim the hair away from the largest pad at the back of the foot (using the scissors)
you can then trim up the ankle a little using the extra pad on the
back of the leg as a guide (using the thinning sheers). Do not trim the hair close against the leg
or ankle. Just trim the length off so it is not hanging down and
touching the ground. This will accentuate the ankle. In the
right hand photo you can see the difference between the 2 feet side-by-side.

Rear feet & Hocks trimmed & untrimmed Rear feet & Hocks close-up
Left foot trimmed Right foot untrimmed

Here you can see the difference between trimmed
and untrimmed from the back. The difference between the sides
and hocks is obvious, but notice I pulled the dog forward just
a tad so you can slightly see the pads of her feet and compare
the difference there as well.

Below are photos showing actual trimming.
(Notice when I change from scissors to thinning sheers.)

Trimming pads Trimming pads
Careful not to cut the pad Trim straight across the back of the large pad

Start by trimming the pads.

Trimming sides Trimming sides
Lay scissors gently against side of foot as a guide Pull away from foot with each cut to remove hair

Now onto the sides of the feet.

Trimming other side of foot Trimming other side of foot
Other side Again pull away after the cut has been made

When using thinning sheers, not all of the hair is
cut at once so it will take multiple cuts in the same area to complete
a trim. This is the reason you don't notice "cut" marks when using sheers.
By pulling away with the sheers after each cut you will see
how much hair was removed and know where to make the next cut.

Trimming a little off the top Finishing the sides
A tiny bit off the top if needed Finishing touches

Some Papillons will have really hairy feet,
even on the top of the foot. If this is the case, you can brush
or pull the hair upward and just simply snip off the very ends.
Do not cut as short as on the sides or the foot will look too
flat when complete. Also be careful you don't trim off too much of
the hair that creates the point on the toes. However, if the hair
on the point is too long, trim it at the same angle you do the sides
of the foot. Do not trim straight across the front or you will create
a blunt look, instead of the proper rabbit (hare) foot point.

Finished foot from front Finished side view
Front view Side view

The finished foot.

Trimming the back feet Trimming the back feet
First cut Pull away

With your sheers gently against the side of the foot
make your first cut and pull away. Notice after the first cut only about
half the hair was removed with the sheers. Make as many cuts as necessary
to complete each side. (Note: if the nails are not trimmed beforehand or already
short you will not be able to get a close enough cut agsinst the side of the foot.)

Trimming the back feet Trimming the back feet
Other side of foot Cut and pull

Do the other side of the foot the same way.

Now the Hocks Brush the hair outward
Fuzzy hock Brushed out

Brush the hock hair outward from the leg so you can
cut it evenly.

Trimming the hocks Trimming the hocks
Start a little long if you are unsure how short it should be. Pull away

Do not cut right against the leg as you did with the feet.
You do not want the hock to appear trimmed, you just want it to be even
and lay downward so it accentuates the straight line of the hock.
It is best to make your first trim a little long as you can always
go back and trim shorter if it does not lay smoothly.

Finishing the hocks A sharp looking Pap
Final touches Compare to the untrimmed side view from the start

If your sheers are not as long as your dog's hocks
it might take several passes to completely get it even.
Here's the finished product! Pat yourself on the back
and give your pup a cookie.

Note: Some people who have a Papillon as a companion may
like the foot left fluffy and this is certainly up to the individual owner.
Many Papillon breeders and show exhibitors in other countries
do not trim the feet with the exception of possibly the pads.
This is a personal preference, but in the American show rings you
will always see nicely trimmed feet on the Papillons. Sometimes
trimming can have benefits other than just for looks. Keeping
the hair trimmed off the pads of the feet can reduce the risk of slipping
and injury on slick surfaces such as tile flooring and agility rings.
Many show exhibitors may have different methods for trimming or
different tools of choice, but we feel the tools mentioned here
are great for beginners as well as many show professionals.

For background information about the breed visit our profile page.

For more information about the breed visit our Information page.

For more information about the breed's abilities visit our Versatility page.

For more information about Papillon colors visit our Colors page.

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