Coton de Tulear

Coton de Tulear Dog Breed
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Silky, soft, little fur ball is this little guy! The Coton de Tulear is a loveable and affectionate breed, doing anything to please the owner. Cuddling with this fellow will feel like hugging a cloud! Teach him a trick or two and he will be the star at every party! If you want a dog that can be kept in an apartment, this is the perfect candidate.

Breed Characteristics

TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingBelow Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsAbove average

Dog Breed Group: Companion Dogs
Height:8 inches to 1 foot tall at the shoulder
Weight:8 to 13 pounds
Life Span: 14 to 16 years

Clownish, happy, and with a snooping character! This breed enjoys games and also snoozing in your lap. They want a lot of attention and company of people, so don’t leave your Coton alone for a long time. The unhappiness and boredom will result in barking and destructive chewing.

When this breed forms the strong bond with his family, they will tend to be very gentle and peaceful with them. Because of this, they will stay a bit conservative with new people, but just until they get to know them better.

The biggest problem of this breed is the housebreaking. You will spend a lot of time on potty training, but always do it non-forcefully.

Main Highlights
  • This breed is one of the relatives of the Bichon Frise and the Maltese. Originating from the island of Madagascar.
  • Enjoys the company of people and doesn’t like to be separated from them.
  • Smart breed, you can see them enthusiastically participating in agility or obedience competitions.
  • The Coton is a companion dog that should live indoors. Actually, it is especially good for living indoors.
  • Walks and playing with their humans are their main occupations and they enjoy every second of it.
  • Keep that coat soft, silky and white! They need brushing several times a week and baths as needed, usually once per week.
  • Young puppies need extra grooming attention, while they change their coat to adult one.
  • When buying a Coton, always look for a reputable breeder that will provide you with all the guarantees and health clearances you need. Never buy a puppy of this breed from a puppy mill or pet store, what you’ll get is probably not going to be a Coton de Tulear.
Breed History

This breed is actually another member of the Bichon family that comes from the large island of Madagascar. It is believed that this breed came to the island (located in the Indian Ocean) several hundred years ago.

These shaggy, little, soft, cuties usually accompanied the ladies on long sea voyages or chased rats on the ships. Also, there are some stories that say how these dogs were the only survivors beached on Madagascar after a shipwreck.

No matter how, they arrived and made themselves at home! Some of them became pets for the royals and the wealthy, and some of them just roamed the streets.

The breed wasn’t introduced to Europe until the 1970s, when a Frenchman who was visiting the island of Madagascar brought some Cotons back from his trip, to France. He then worked to establish the breed in France. During the same time, Cotons were brought to North America as well.

Although this sweet little buddy can still be found in his native land, he became a favorite all over the world.

Even so, the AKC still doesn’t recognize the breed, but it is registered with the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service (FSS). The same goes for the United Kennel Club and Europe’s Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI).


Male Cotons are high from 10 to 12.5 inches at the shoulder and they weigh 9 to 13 pounds; females are 8.5 to 11 inches high and weigh 8 to 11 pounds.

Personality and Character

This energetic and happy Coton will do anything to please his owner! This breed wants nothing more than spending time with his family. The bonds he forms with his humans are so strong that he doesn’t want to be separated from them.

This breed is smart and easy to train. They respond well to praise and food rewards. They love to play with humans and often they can be tend to be clownish just for attention. You will always know if someone is at the door as your pooch will bark once or twice to keep you up to date. However, they are not a breed that barks for no reason. They are nice to everyone, and would probably lick and kiss the guests and the intruders.

When you choose a Coton, it is good to know that females of this breed are more independent than males and often will rule over them.

Just like all dogs, it is good to socialize them in an early age. It is nice to expose them to different people and places, sounds and experiences. This ensures you that your puppy will grow up to be a well-adjusted adult dog.

Health and Potential Problems

Generally healthy, this breed has some health conditions you need to be aware of before getting a dog.

  • Luxating patellas- simply explained as knees that can slip in and out of place. This problem is common in any small breed, so the Coton unfortunately is no exception. While young, you should limit your puppy’s moving, more specifically, jumps up and down the sofa. Cotons are prone to jumping and they sometimes think they can fly, so be careful with them, they need protection from themselves!
  • Hip Dysplasia- this is a genetic condition and dogs that have been diagnosed with this condition should not be bred. It is a problem of the thighbone, which doesn’t fit neatly in the hip joint. Many dogs show symptoms such as lameness, pain, discomfort, refuse to walk, but some of them show no signs of the disease. To check if your dog has problem like this, an X-ray should be done. When you think about buying a dog, the breeder should provide you with X-rays of the mother and the father of the dog and also the dog itself. This is one of the things you need to ask from the breeder, to give you prove that the dog you want to buy won’t have hip dysplasia.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) — another hereditary condition, in this case a degenerative eye disorder. Eventually, a dog that suffers from this can go blind because of the loss of the photoreceptors, which are located at the back of the eye. It is a good thing that PRA can be detected years before your dog goes blind. However, even a blind dog can live a happy and long life because they use their other senses to compensate for the blindness. A trustworthy breeder would never breed dogs that have this condition and will make sure to prove to you as a buyer that the dog you are buying is cleared from this problem.

Some of the health problems don’t appear until the dog is fully mature. This is why it is not recommended to breed dogs that are younger than two or three years.

Care Features

This breed wants to be close to his humans at all times. They can live in any environment, apartment, house, only if they are close to the owner. Cotons like the yard and playing in any kind of weather, even snow and rain. Make sure that your yard is well-fenced so your little buddy doesn’t wander off or gets stolen away from a secret admirer.

Cotons can be sometimes difficult to housetrain but with enough effort and determination, you can do it! Praise him and treat him when he’s done a good job and he will pick it up really quickly.

It is a good idea to crate-train your puppy until it is ready to go outside to potty. Also, this would come in handy when it is raining, snowing or you just don’t feel like taking your dog for a walk.

Don’t forget to make a positive thing out of training and always let him know that he’s done a great job. This way, they will remember better because they would like to please the owner again in the future.

Feeding Schedule

Depending on what kind of food you are feeding your dog, you should read the needed daily amount and split it in two meals a day, for an adult dog.

The daily amount of food also depends on the size, build, age, metabolism and activity of your dog. However, just like people, every dog is individual. That means that every dog needs different amounts of food. Dogs that are more active need more food, compared to couch potatoes.

Another thing that makes a difference in the amount of food you give your dog is the quality of the food. The better it is, the less is needed. If you want your Coton to be in good shape, don’t forget to measure his food and feed him twice a day, instead of leaving the food out all the time.

Coat, Color and Grooming

What makes this dog unique is his coat! It feels like real cotton! Long, soft, and thick coat is what makes this little guy fluffy. By the time it becomes adult, the coat should reach 4 inches.

The color of the coat should be white, although sometimes it happens that there are some light gray or red-roan shading on the ears. When you see a puppy, don’t be surprised to notice some yellow, brown or even black spots on the head, the ears or the body. No need to worry, the spots disappear as the coat grows and the puppies mature.

It is good to know that Cotons shed a little, mostly in the springtime and they are recommended to people with allergies. It is a good idea to spend some time with few Cotons before you decide to get one.

If you want the coat of your precious friend to be always silky and nice, brush it regularly and wash it often. The coat needs to be brushed at least three times a week with a pinbrush, with paying special attention to the neck, behind the ears, legs and elbows. To keep the hair breakage to a minimum, you can use spray conditioner. It is a well-known fact that the more you brush your dog, the less frequently you’ll need to bathe him. You’ll need a fine-toothed metal comb too.

You can make a cute topknot with hair elastic, so you can see his eyes. If you don’t want to go through so much trouble with taking care of the coat, you can always clip it short to be easier to care for.

Just like all the small, white dogs, you can easily notice when a Coton gets dirty. Because of their white color, this is more noticeable and they may need to be bathed weekly or at least once per month. When you bath him yourself, make sure you don’t rub him with a towel because the coat will knot up, instead pat him with a towel. While blow drying, you should brush the coat.

It is very common for owners to lose their patience with the coat of a young Coton because the puppies have softer coat and it is much easier for it to get knotted. After seven to 15 months of age, they get their adult coat which is easier to take care of. So, be patient, it’s worth it!

Teeth need brushing too! At least two times a week, but if you have the time you can do it every day. With brushing, you avoid bacterial build up and you remove tartar.

Nails need trimming! Depending on how much your dog spends his nails, usually is good to trim them once a month. Shorter nails are better for the legs of the dog and you’ll get less scratches when he jumps to say hi.

Most importantly, if you want all of these activities to go smoothly, you need to get your dog accustomed to them while he’s still a puppy. Examine his paws regularly, check the ears and the mouth also.

You need to make sure to make the grooming a positive experience, so don’t be stingy with the praises and the rewards.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

If you teach your kids how to act with the Coton, they will surely become best friends. Cotons are good to everyone that is good to them. They can be playmates to older children, because of their playful, energetic character. However, they’ll learn to hide away from the really young and clumsy children that will pull their hair or squeeze them too hard.

No matter what breed, you should always teach the children how to approach a new dog, how to play with it, and pet it. Never leave small children unattended with dogs.

Other things you need to teach your children is not to approach a dog while eating or sleeping and not to take the dog’s food away while he’s eating.

As much as Cotons appreciate the company of people, they also get along with other dogs and cats. If you as an owner cannot be around all the time, it would be nice to find a friend for your dog of his kind.

Now when you know almost everything about this breed, you can make a decision on whether to get one of these white fluffy friends or not. They are good companions and will do everything to please you. Small and good for any surroundings, nice with children and as cute as they can get; the only difficulty you will face with keeping a Coton is the care for the coat. But trust me it’s worth it!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.