Besides them looking so beautiful and graceful, continental toy spaniels are well-known for their intelligence, as they are able to be trained to do near anything. They’re often trained to be therapy dogs and even have been known to have excellent tracking skills. Not only this, but they are often eager for mental stimulation such as dog sports, tricks and agility courses as can be seen in dog shows. They learn from every experience, both the good and the bad ones, and so there is almost no end to what they can learn to do if given the proper treatment and training. Continental toy spaniels also make brilliant companions, as they are often playful and affectionate. They tend to be full of energy and so are able to keep up with more active families, however, are also happy enough to calmly sleep in the arms of their owner. However, they can get easily bored and so it is recommended that they are engaged in play or training to keep from any behavioral issues caused by boredom. Generally, they are happy and adventurous dogs, with notable self-confidence.
The main two breeds of continental toy spaniel are the Papillon or the Phaléne dogs. The Papillon dogs are known for their high ears with long, fringed hair coming from them, whereas the Phaléne dogs have dropped ears. While both are often found within the same litters, most people consider them to be distinctive enough from one another. While the Papillon variety are more common, the Phaléne dogs have recently started rising in popularity once again.
The history of the continental toy spaniel can be traced through art, with the earliest toy spaniels being seen in paintings by Tiziano Vicelli, an artist from Italy. Paintings of important historical figures, such as King Louis XIV, can be found across Europe. The breed was popular in England, Belgium and France, so much so that Marie Antoinette was said to have had a toy spaniel that was cared for in a building in Paris known as the Papillon House in reference to one of the continental toy spaniel’s many nicknames. The continental toy spaniel was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1935, with the formation of the Papillon Club of America. There have been many continental toy spaniels that have won at various dog shows and they still show success in competitive settings, especially with obedience and agility.
The continental toy spaniel is often called the Papillon dog, using the French word for “butterfly” in reference to its long, fringed ears. For the drop eared variety, they are called the Phaléne dog, using the French word for “moth”. Other than this, they are also known as Squirrel dogs, due to their long tails. In non-English speaking countries, the continental toy spaniel is usually still known as the Epagneul Nain, often abbreviated to ENC, in reference to an old drop-eared breed that appeared in paintings and church frescos as early as the 13th century.