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.
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
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
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
(especially the center ones) may not need much trimming at all because nature has done it
Note: the longer you wait in between nail trims the longer the vein will grow so if it has
a long time since your Papillon's nails have been trimmed you will not be able to trim
short as you might like. If you trim a tiny bit off each week or so for a while the vein
begin receeding naturally back to where it belongs so in time you can trim the nail
||An Untrimmed Nail
|Trimming the Nail
||The trimmed nail
|Where to trim
||The red arrows show the
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.
|Begin with the pads of the
||Trim hair so the pads are
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
||Untrimmed feet & Hocks
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
||Trimmed and Untrimmed feet
& Hocks - Rear, Side View
Notice the lovely lines and angles created after trimming
the feet and hocks.
||The other Rear leg, trimmed
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
||Front close-up trimmed and
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 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
|Front untrimmed right
||Front trimmed left
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
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
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
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.)
Start by trimming the pads.
Now onto the sides of the feet.
|Trimming other side of foot
||Trimming other side of foot
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
||Finishing the sides
Some Papillons will have really hairy feet,
even on the top of the foot. If this is the case you can brush or
or pull the hair upward and just simply snip of 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.
|Finished foot from front
||Finished side view
The finished foot.
|Trimming the back feet
||Trimming the back feet
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 scissors. Make as many cuts as necessary
to complete each side.
|Trimming the back feet
||Trimming the back feet
Do the other side of the foot the same way.
|Now the Hocks
||Brush the hair outward
Brush the hock hair outward from the leg so you can
cut it evenly.
|Trimming the hocks
||Trimming the hocks
Do not cut 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
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
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.
Note: There are more pages available from the