LIVING WITH PAPILLONS
Article by Karen A Murad
Let me start by introducing myself. I am Karen A. Murad of Krystal Papillons in Graham, WA. I have been involved with the papillon breed since about 1970 when I lived in San Diego, CA. My first puppies were bred back in the days when there were not too many dogs in the US and gas was $.25 a gallon.
I became much more involved
in the breed when I acquired what was later to become my foundation bitch, CH Karens Dark Krystal, CD, in 1986. Since then I have bred many litters, building and expanding on that good foundation. Presently my stock is mostly of English bloodlines.
As I have raised my puppies I have learned quite a lot about the breed by observing and interacting with them every day of their lives. I would like to note at this point that I am expressing my opinions based on the experiences I have had with my dogs over the years.
As early as 3 weeks old you can see the beginnings of individual personalities in the puppies. Even though their eyes and ears open between 10 to 14 days of age, they do not really notice each other until 3 weeks old. Their teeth are coming in by then as well. Lots of development is happening all at once. Their ears are getting bigger, coats are getting longer and they are toddling around their bed better each day. They start playing with each other by trying to bite each otherís noses off. So cute. This is the time I open a door in their bed so they can come out and piddle in a litter box.
As soon as their teeth start coming in it seems their appetite is more than their mother can satisfy. They cannot digest anything other than milk until this point. Getting teeth seems to be a trigger. I introduce food to them in addition to nursing from their mother. I think the dam is glad I do. She no longer wants to stay in the bed 24/7 and is glad for a break from being the milk bar. Her appetite increases as well as they demand more and more from her.
Now the development seems to increase day by day. Instead of lurching and stumbling they start to actually walk. By 5 weeks old they are pros at it and hardly fall over at all. An interesting thing I have noticed is that as they become aware of objects in their surroundings they will zero in on something and go for it. The difficulty with that is they are oblivious to anything in the way. So they will run through the food bowl, water dish, over each other. I use an x-pen to confine them. In their desire to get to something of interest they will run right into the fence, almost like they could not focus on or see more than one thing at a time.
They sure learn fast though. You canít bump your nose into a wire fence too many times before you become aware of its existence. Sometimes they will get behind one panel of the x-pen and take a while and lots of whining before they discover how to back out and go around it to get to their destination.
Personalities start to show as early as 4 weeks when they are learning about their world. I want all of my dogs to be outgoing and friendly and not be afraid of anything. If I see one that seems to be shy I will put more attention to that one to be sure it grows with as much confidence as it is capable of. Since I am careful how I breed my dogs, I have not had too much trouble with temperaments. It would be foolish to breed an overly shy or overly aggressive dog. Temperaments are an inherited trait just like any other.
By the time they are 8 weeks old they are masters of their domain and are excited to play with and chew on anything and anyone in sight. The danger I see here is their habit of jumping up to either get your attention or attack your face. I see them do this with the older dogs. It is a submissive gesture and invitation to play. They just wildly throw their bodies. It is not much of a problem if you are on a carpet but a hard floor can be dangerous. They can so quickly fall over on their backs and hit their heads on the floor. So, for a few weeks at least, I put a heavy blanket on the floor for them to play on. I get down so I am at their level and they get used to a human face right next to theirs.
If the weather is good I get them outside as early as 6 weeks. Even in winter a few minutes out in the yard is a good experience for them. All papillons seem to love the snow. Rain not so much, but snow is great fun. Their first introduction to grass is priceless. They get all excited in discovering the smells and textures of the lawn, rocks, plants, trees and anything else they can poke their little noses into.
At 7 weeks, I put collars on them so they can get used to the feel of something on their necks. It takes at least a week to finally stop scratching. At 8 or 9 weeks I put a leash on them, introduce them to delicious bait of roasted beef heart and start the process of walking on a leash. Kitchen to family room, back and forth, doing my best to make it the most fun thing to do. We also work on the table thing. I put them on a pad on the kitchen counter and touch them all over even more than the judge will do in the show ring. Both pets and show dogs get the same education.
I do have older dogs as well so the puppies get to interact with older dogs quite early in life. As we play in the evening in the family room, I let the puppies out to mix with the older dogs. Most of my grown guys tolerate the puppies just fine, even playing with them. Some donít want to bother and move away or growl at the puppy to stay away. I supervise this play so no one gets hurt. By the time they are 8 weeks old, all the dogs go out in the yard together to explore and play, supervised of course.
Some interesting and amazing characteristics of papillons are that they are not very bothered by fireworks, like to play chicken with the lawn mower, can squeeze a large bone through a small doggy door and will notice anything new anywhere in the yard or house. They like to lay on the back of the couch with their head on your shoulder while you watch TV, retrieve their favorite toy for hours and drive you crazy by biting the squeaker over and over to make a sound.
Everyone has lots of funny stories about their butterfly dogs. You cannot have a papillon without accumulating lots of wonderful memories of their antics. I could go on for hours telling about the funny stuff some of my dogs have done. They may not be able to talk the way we do but they can sure communicate if we just pay attention to their eyes and body language. One of my guys is a dedicated retriever. He brings you the toy and throws it in your lap so you can throw it. One time he came to me and stared at me. When I asked him where the ball was, without turning his head, he looked to the side and back at me. It was clear he was telling me the ball was to my right. Amazing.
Once in a while I am approached by someone wanting a show dog. Making the decision between show and pet can be difficult at an early age. Sometimes a puppy will be obviously pet quality. I am talking about markings and/or size here. Using the standard as a guide, if a dog has white on its ear or on the head between the ear and corresponding eye, it will not win in the show ring. Right away you know it is not show quality as far as looks go. In every other way it is a fine dog ready to make some family very happy. I try to get to know the prospective owner by asking questions and finding out what they plan to do with the dog in order to determine if I actually have a dog that would suit their purpose.
Papillons change quite a lot as they grow. To be sure of a dog with show possibilities, you must wait until they are at least 5 months old. So many things can go wrong so as to make a show career impossible. Males can have only one or no testicles. Their jaws can grow unevenly causing an over or under shot bite. Structurally, they could be too big or even too little, there could be short upper arms, narrow rib cage, too long loin, straight stifle or hock, low tail set, tail not carried over the back, topline not level . . . in short, problems with the dogís conformation that would cause its movement to be faulty. Again, using the standard as a guide, the papillon should be fine boned with its movement straight both coming (front) and going (rear). There should be reach and drive in their movement when observed from the side. Since they are slightly longer than tall they should not move like a terrier who is built square nor like a miniature pinscher who has a hackney gait.
When placing puppies in a pet home, I will let them go at 3 months of age. I do not feel they are ready for the challenges of a new environment until then. Placing a show dog is another story. They have to be older to be sure they would have a chance in the competitive show ring. I train all of the dogs the same, just as if they were going to be show dogs. They get to go to training class as early as 10 weeks old. I work with them at home first to walk on a leash and stand still on the table for examination. In addition, they learn some words of command like their name, go outside, hurry up (means potty), come, wait and pick up (when picking them up).
The papillon is not for everyone and some papillons never feel comfortable around small children, but someone who wants a smart, happy, go anywhere, do anything companion in a small package, it is ideal.