Is it OK to Give a Papillon a Haircut?

February 7, 2023

Ask this question in almost any breed-specific papillon group and the answer will be a resounding “no”.  Not only will it be a “no”, but, did you know, it’s apparently a sin to give a papillon a haircut?  Who knew?  I seemingly didn’t get that memo, because I’ve been trimming my currently 14-year-old papillon’s fur since he was a puppy!  Over the years I’ve seen people offer lots of reasons why, in their opinion, it’s not okay to cut or trim a papillon’s hair.  But I’ve never experienced any issues doing so with my own dog.  Of course you can trim a papillon’s hair – it’s hair!  While I understand why not every papillon owner will want to do so, whether or not you cut your own dog’s fur should come down to what’s best for you and your individual dog.

papillon haircut

Dispelling Myths:

I write this a lot on my blog – every dog is an individual.  Not only that, but every owner is too.  And every dog and their owner live a unique life together.  Just because dogs are part of the same breed does not mean that what’s right for one will be right for all.  Things like health concerns, past traumas, behavioral differences, personal preferences (both the owner’s and the dog’s), lifestyle, and many other factors may be taken into account when deciding whether or not keeping your dog’s fur trimmed is right for you.

Papillons are a breed that doesn’t typically need haircuts.  Many people consider their long fur, especially their ear fringe, to be a focal trait of the breed.  The official papillon breed standard says their coat should be “abundant, long, fine, silky, and flowing”.  But a papillon with shorter hair is still a papillon indeed.  This leads me to my number one pet peeve comment that I’ve gotten about giving my papillon haircuts…

“You Should Have Gotten a Short-Haired Dog”

A papillon with short hair, whether it’s trimmed or just turns out that way, is 100% still a papillon!  Hey, I get it, papillons will full coats look beautiful.  But, to me at least, their fur isn’t what defines the breed.  It’s not even close to my favorite thing about them!

I’ve been told quite a few times that if I’m going to trim my papillon’s fur I should have just gotten a chihuahua instead.  But I didn’t get my papillon because of how he looks!  I love papillons because of their personalities (dogsonalities?).  They are little dogs that are just packed full of intelligence, athleticism, and sass.  I adore how social and sweet they are.  I love what amazing little adventure dogs they can make.  Nothing against chihuahuas, they are super cute too!  But chihuahuas rank 125th, out of 138, on the list of dog breeds ranked by intelligence level.  Papillons rank in at number 8!  A chihuahua and a papillon, although they can often be similar in size, are defiantly not the same breed.

Papillons are such an amazing dog breed.  I’ve not come across another dog breed, short haired or otherwise, that I felt like could replace one.  And it’s not about their hair, at least not for me.

“But Cutting a Papillon’s Fur Will Damage it Forever”
papillon haircut

Kit a few months after a haircut.

This hasn’t been my experience at all.  I’ve been cutting my papillon, Kitsune’s, fur regularly since he was a puppy.  In his, so far, 14 years of life I haven’t had any major issues with his fur growing back just as nice, and long, as it was before.  In fact, Kit’s fur grows back surprisingly quickly!  I’ll admit that sometimes I wish it would slow down a bit so that I wouldn’t have to trim it as often.

In the rare times when I speak with owners who have issues with their papillon’s fur growth after a haircut, I always recommend they speak with their dog’s vet.  Poor hair growth can often be a sign of a health condition or nutritional deficiency.  The only time I’ve ever had an issue with Kit’s fur growing in after a haircut was rather recently when he was struggling with some health issues.  We worked with his vet to get his health concerns more under control.  Almost immediately, his fur started to grow back normally again.

“But Papillon’s Have a Double Coat, Which You Shouldn’t Trim”

Nope!  Papillons are actually supposed to be a single coated breed.  It always shocks me a bit at the number of papillon owners who don’t seem to know this.  Apparently, some papillons do have a double coat.  However, this is not the norm and papillons with double coats do not meet the breed standards for coat type.

If my papillon did have a double coat, I’d probably think twice before cutting it.  I don’t cut my double coated dog, Fenrir’s, fur.  Mostly because growing back a healthy double coat is a bit more complex than a single coat.  But my papillon has the breed standard single coat.

Because they lack the insulating undercoat, papillon’s fur doesn’t protect them from cold temperatures the way a double coated dog’s coat does.  People against trimming dogs fur will sometimes use a viral thermal image photo in an attempt to “prove” that a dog’s fur keeps them cool as well as warm, but there’s one big problem with their argument.  They grossly misinterpret how thermal imaging works!  Not to mention that this ‘argument’ is often used against papillon owners, despite the fact that most papillons don’t even have double coats in the first place.

I’ve always found it interesting that with other breeds with single coats, such as poodles, Yorkies, cocker spaniels, and Maltese, cutting their fur on a regular bases is perfectly acceptable.  Yet papillon owners are often criticized for giving their dogs haircuts.

Reasons Why Some Papillon Owners May Trim Their Dog’s Fur

People against trimming a papillon seem to be against it no matter the owner’s reasoning.  That feels a bit unfair to me.  In my opinion, there are some very valid reasons why a papillon owner might cut their dog’s fur.

  • Health Concerns: When my papillon, Kitsune, was suffering from flea allergy dermatitis I found it way easier to keep his hot spots clean, dry, and medicated when his fur was short.  Can you think of other health concerns that might be easier to treat if your dog had shorter hair?
  • Dogs Against Grooming: Not all dogs are used to being groomed.  Since papillons have such long hair, not grooming them frequently can lead to matting.  Matting is painful for dogs.  Owners with dogs who will not accept grooming may opt to keep them trimmed.
  • Inability to Maintain Grooming: People with health concerns may have a harder time grooming their dogs often enough to prevent matting.  For these owners, getting their dog’s fur trimmed will allow them to keep beloved pets, and keep said pets comfortable.
  • Climate Concerns: People who live in especially hot climates may find that their dogs stay cooler and more comfortable with their fur trimmed short.
  • Lifestyle: I’ve spoken with a handful of hikers who own papillons and keep their dogs trimmed short to avoid how horribly dirty full coated papillons can get on a trail.  This can be more than an aesthetic thing, since sticks, etc., getting caught in your papillon’s fur can cause injuries and pain.
  • Comfort: Believe it or not, some naturally long haired dogs do feel more comfortable when their fur is trimmed short.
  • Personal Preferences: Some owners just like the way that their dogs look with short hair.
  • Other: Can you think of other reasons I didn’t mention here?  Comment below!

Why I Personally Keep My Papillon’s Fur Trimmed

papillon haircut

Snuggly, short haired Kitsune!

My own papillon prefers to have his hair trimmed.  He’s happier and more comfortable when his fur is shorter.  How do I know?  Well, I’ve known Kitsune for over 14 years now.  So I know him quite well!  When his fur gets too long he gets way more cautious about doing certain things, like jumping up onto furniture.  He doesn’t snuggle with my partner, our other dog, or me nearly as much when his fur is long.  He hates when his hair gets caught on things or pulled, even a little bit.  So, we think, he avoids doing things that he knows could cause his long fur to accidently get caught or pulled.  Snuggling and playing are two of his all time favorite things, and he avoids doing both when his fur grows long.

My partner and I also both prefer how Kit looks with trimmed fur.  In my opinion, personal preference is a valid reason to cut a single coated dog’s hair as long as you’re not doing it to the detriment of the dog.  Kit’s shorter hair is also way easier for me to maintain with our active, outdoorsy lifestyle.  I don’t have to worry as much about Kit getting sticks and brambles tangled up in his fur during hikes, or snowballs stuck all over his tummy and legs in the winter.

Considerations to Take Into Account Before Giving Your Papillon a Haircut

One thing I’ll always suggest to owners interested in cutting their dog’s hair is to make sure you leave enough hair to protect your dog’s skin from the sun!  I don’t recommend you shave your dog down to the skin.  Rather, trim your dog’s hair shorter but still leave some fur there.  You generally want to leave at least an inch of fur on your dog to help protect their skin.

If you trim your dog’s fur in the winter keep in mind that you may make it more likely that they will require a sweater or coat to keep warm.  However, I haven’t found trimming Kit’s fur to strongly impact his temperature regulation.  Like I mentioned above, single coated dogs lack an insulating undercoat.  Kit’s single coat, whether it’s long or short, doesn’t seem to keep him as warm as a double coated dog’s fur would.

What Do You Think?

Comment below!  Have you ever received criticism for giving your dog a haircut because it’s not a breed that is typically trimmed?  If you’re here because you’re considering giving your papillon a haircut, remember that the most important factors you should consider before making your division are your own, individual, dog’s comfort and needs.  Never let others, especially people who don’t know you or your dog, make you feel bad for making a decision with your dog’s best interest at heart.  You know your dog best!

papillon haircut

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  • Reply Dawn May 19, 2023 at 3:43 pm

    My little one is a shelter pup and she had no hair when she came into the shelter where I worked due to being covered in flea dirt. I knew what she was, and as soon as her stray hold was over I took her home. I’m a trainer, and I had been wanting a pappy because I had worked with sever, and they are, IMO, one of the smartest dog breeds around. She was around five when I adopted her. She hates being groomed, and where we live there are terrible burrs in the grass. Keeping up with them is not easy. We have to brush her every time she walks in the door. So I have been known to cut her hair in the summer when the burrs are abundant. It always grows back, and she seems just as happy to have the short cut. She’s about 15 now, and this summer I’m going to try to keep the coat because I think it’s cute. But it’s been a chore. I pulled about 30 burrs out of it this morning.

    For the record, I just adopted a chihuahua, and the characterization that they are dumb is simply not accurate. He’s incredibly smart. But he’s nothing like my girl in anything other than size. They are absolutely different dogs. I love them both. To be blunt, he’s an a–h—. But I kind of like his spunky nature, so I’m absolutely thrilled to have him. And he’s been helpful demonstrating for my students. He learns really fast, and he’s really focused.

    Thanks for addressing this. I actually got here because someone said something about her having a double coat and I know better than to cut a double coat, and was concerned that I’d been screwing up all this time. Glad to know I haven’t been. She’s my baby girl.

  • Reply Betty June 24, 2023 at 2:39 pm

    My Papillon is about 10. His hair DRAGS the ground. How is the best way to trim it? I live in the country, in the woods, and he is forever picking up “debris” due to his coat being so long…

  • Reply Gayl December 7, 2023 at 6:40 pm

    I fostered a papillon in the last year of his life, he lived to 16. He was my little fur baby but I did end up shaving him in the last few months of his time, because a consideration is also the weight of the fur. He was suffering from kidney disease and was already very fatigued. After shaving him, all the fur was nearly a pound, and I could tell it was much easier for him to walk around. Otherwise, before that time I just kept him trimmed up so he would be warm. I noticed he would get the tails of his ear hair in his mouth when he would eat, so I started cutting that short.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack December 8, 2023 at 9:07 am

      Thank you for fostering!

      Yeah my papillon is almost 15 now. He’s just more comfortable with shorter hair. I don’t shave him, but I trim his hair short. I make sure to leave enough to protect his skin from sunburn. Even when his fur is really long it’s thin, so it doesn’t seem to do much to keep him warm in the winter.

      Especially with senior dogs, but really with all of them no matter their age, I think keeping them comfortable is way more important than looks!

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