Coton de Tulear [Find Out What It Takes to Care For That Stunning Coat]

Coton de Tulear [Find Out What It Takes to Care For That Stunning Coat]
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This cheerful dog breed has been known throughout history by many names: The Royal Dog of Madagascar, Cotone, Cotie. But the name that endures is Coton de Tulear (KO-Tone Dih TOO-Lay-ARE). Intelligent, agile, and calm, the Coton de Tulear has a long lifespan and is a generally healthy breed. This iconic Toy Dog is the perfect addition to any family and a loyal companion for every owner.


From Roman aristocrats to Renaissance artists to swashbuckling pirates to the Royal Court of Madagascar, you too can be a part of history and own one of its most popular dog breeds! Find out everything you need to know about this delightful breed by reading our expert guide on Coton de Tulear temperament, health issues, needs, and where you can get one today!



Coton de Tulear Characteristics

These long-haired dogs can be quite shaggy and have a cottony coat, hence their name "Coton," the French word for cotton. The Coton de Tulear breed is famous for having hair instead of fur. This breed is famous for its long flowing bright white hair with subtle hints of black and grey.


Cotons typically have excess hair that droops down their face and covers their round, expressive obsidian eyes. All Cotons have an equally deep, black nose. Their bodies are typically two feet in length and have a pint-sized appearance due to their dwarvish legs.


A Coton de Tulear's tail extends from their body and curls up slightly. It can be hard to distinguish their tail from the rest of their body since it can be just as hairy. The compact appearance of the Coton de Tulear has made them a popular Toy Dog breed.



red lobster on couch with coton de tulear



Coton de Tulear Dog Breed Size

Very little disparity in size exists between male and female Coton de Tulear dogs. Both males and females measure about two feet long. Males are typically 10-11 inches in height, while females are 9-10 inches. Males usually weigh between 9-15 pounds, while females weigh between 8-13 pounds.



Coton de Tulear Breed Personality

The typical Coton de Tulear temperament stems from its incredibly sweet personality. Cotons possess a kind and laid-back demeanor, not usually seen in other small dog breeds. They often lounge around the house and are highly tolerant dogs. They can sleep upwards of 12-14 hours a day!


But don't let their calmness fool you. This dog is very alert, agile, fast, and loves to be outdoors and explore. They are naturally territorial and a bit stubborn. Cotons make cute yapping sounds while engaged in an activity but they rarely bark, even when approached by strangers. Due to its diminutive size and c'est la vie personality, a Coton makes for a rather laughable guard dog.


Coton de Tulear dogs are famous for their intelligence and require frequent mental stimulation. As a result, they respond well to obedience training, and potty training is not as frustrating for owners. Coton de Tulears like to socialize and get along well with young children and other dogs and pets.



Coton de Tulear Dog Breed Exercise

Understanding the Coton de Tulear's temperament helps to determine their overall exercise needs. Contrary to their calm reputation, these small dogs like to play! Whether inside or outside, Coton de Tulears require a moderate amount of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them in shape.


Indoor Activities

Like other small breeds, the Coton de Tulear does well indoors and in scant living conditions like apartment life. Cotons are territorial dogs that require frequent mental stimulation. As a result, they can get quite bored and destructive when indoors. Indoor activities can help to alleviate their doldrums and preserve your furnishings.


A Coton de Tulear seeks attention, which makes it a great companion dog for many owners. Often found lounging on the floor by family members or sitting in their owner's lap, it's best to give these dogs the attention they desire. By giving this breed enough attention, indulging in playful indoor antics, and allowing them to roam around the house, it can be fairly easy to keep a Coton de Tulear active in indoor environments.


Outdoor Activities

Simple 30-minute daily walks at a moderate speed will keep your Coton de Tulear fit and in perfect condition. Coton de Tulears are descendants of the Portuguese Water Dog, and as the name of their forefathers suggests, they like to swim. Dog sports like playing a game of fetch is also a good activity to do with your Coton de Tulear.

With open space and limitless activities to perform outdoors, it is easy to meet your Coton de Tulear's activity levels and ensure it gets enough exercise. Always be mindful that Coton de Tulears are extremely nimble and like to explore. It's best to do these outdoor activities within the confines of a fenced yard since your dog might run away or get injured.


a coton de tulear training



Coton de Tulear Dog Training

Compared to other dog breeds, Coton de Tulears are fairly easy to train. Due to their intelligence and agility, Coton de Tulears respond very well to training sessions.


Coton de Tulears thrive in environments requiring active mental stimulation, so make sure to keep training sessions engaging. Cotons respond very well to positive reinforcement during such training sessions. When it comes to potty training, Coton de Tulears are easily housebroken, unlike other dogs.


This breed needs to socialize from a very young age, preferably when they are still puppies. This is one of the reasons why they do well around humans and other dogs and why they are often used as therapy dogs.



Coton de Tulear Dog Breed History

The history of the Coton de Tulear breed is rather astonishing, to say the least. Behind the Coton de Tulear's cheerful disposition lies a captivating story steeped in intrigue and romanticism.


Ancient Ancestors

The ancient ancestors of the Coton breed go far back as the Roman Empire. These ancient breeds were thought to have been introduced to the Mediterranean by trade caravans from Central Asia. Similar small dog breeds were common during the Roman Empire's reign. Ancient Romans were quite fond of this breed, making them popular pets with the aristocracy, who referred to them as "table dogs." These ancient breeds were frequently depicted in Renaissance art.


Modern dog breeds with similar characteristics and features of the Coton de Tulear, such as Maltese, Havanese, and Portuguese Water Dogs, are descendants of these ancient Mediterranean dog breeds.


The Royal Dog of Madagascar

Coton de Tulears became a favorite dog breed of pirates and accompanied them on their many long sea voyages. Pirates prized the Coton for their ability to hunt rats onboard. Around the 16th or 17th century, legend has it that during one fateful expedition along the southwest coast of Madagascar near the Bay of Tulear, a violent storm caused a shipwreck, killing everyone on board – except for the Cotons! Several Coton de Touler dogs swam to shore to the seaport town of Tulear in Madagascar, hence their namesake.


Over the centuries, the Coton breed developed into a national treasure of Madagascar and became the country's official dog. The royal court of Madagascar adored Cotons so much that they became known as the "Royal Dog of Madagascar." The country even put the image of a Coton de Tulear on a postage stamp. Madagascar protected their royal dog with extreme pride and did not share this beautiful breed with the world for nearly three centuries.


Coming To America

The early 1970s saw the Coton de Tulear make its way to American shores – this time, without swimming. A biologist visiting Madagascar became enchanted with the dog and brought the Coton back to the States. In the decades since their arrival, the Coton de Tulear has become a popular breed with Americans.


It is famous for its loyalty and its ability to stand at attention on its hind legs. Cotons are a Toy Dog. These breeds are small dogs popular with owners living in urban environments where city-dwelling and apartment life are common. The beauty, obedience, and charm of Cotons have made them a staple of dog shows. From the Roman Empire to murderous pirates to the royal court of Madagascar to American suburbia, it's easy to understand why the Coton de Tulear breed has endured throughout the ages.



Common Health Problems Found in the Coton de Tulear Dog

Unlike other breeds, Cotons are generally healthy dogs that have relatively long lifespans. The typical life expectancy of Cotons is about 14-19 years! But a Coton's longevity isn't a sign of a carefree life devoid of health issues.


Despite their popularity, Cotons are a rare breed of dog with a limited gene pool. With that comes certain genetic diseases they're predisposed to. However, incidences of genetic health issues in Cotons are very rare, usually affecting just 1-5% of the breed. Through vigilant owners and proper veterinary care, the health issues of Cotons can be appropriately treated and managed. Here are some of the most common health issues that afflict Cotons.



The most common health problem with Cotons is infections. Ragweed, pollen, grass, and fleas are just some of the few allergens that can cause a Coton's skin to become itchy and lead to Pyoderma, a bacterial infection of the skin.


Because of a Coton's long hair, their ear canal is often obscured and prone to infection. From fungal infections to becoming a breeding ground for mites to a dense accumulation of earwax, ear problems are a common health issue for Cotons.


Vision Problems

Cotons are predisposed to certain eye conditions that can lead to complete vision loss. Here are some of the most common eye conditions that affect the Coton de Tulear breed.


Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is the main vision problem that afflicts Cotons. PRA is an inherited degenerative disease that has no cure and can lead to complete vision loss. Owners don't need to be too worried since incidences of PRA in Cotons are low. However, vigilant owners should take advantage of genetic tests to determine if their Coton has PRA or not.



It's reasonable for owners to have concern about cataracts in their Coton de Tulear. Cataracts develop in older Cotons when the lenses in their eyes become opaque white. If left untreated, this can lead to blindness. However, this common vision problem can easily be diagnosed early and treated with surgery.


Orthopedic Issues

Like other small breeds, Cotons can suffer from several conditions affecting their musculoskeletal system. Below are the two most common orthopedic conditions Cotons suffer from.


Patellar Luxation

The most common orthopedic condition affecting Cotons is patellar luxation. This condition happens when the kneecap becomes dislocated, usually through activity. Smaller dog breeds are susceptible to luxating patellas due to their small legs and joints.


Always remember that Cotons are nimble dogs that like to play. Owners should keep Coton de Tulear puppies under a watchful eye since their joints are more prone to this condition. No matter their age, Cotons should never jump from heights since this can increase the risk of patellar luxation.


Hip Dysplasia

The Orthopedic Foundation of America reports that 9% of Cotons suffer from hip dysplasia, an inherited disease in Cotons that leads to improperly formed hip joints. Cotons who suffer from this condition find it difficult to stand or move around properly and suffer from weakness.


In severe cases, surgery might be the only option. However, owners can preserve their Coton's quality of life through early detection and management of hip dysplasia.



coton de tulear puppy up close



How to Care for a Coton de Tulear

Cotons can become very attached to their human family members. But Coton owners who live busy lives may find it hard to properly meet their dog's needs. Fortunately, there are simple steps every owner can take to make sure their Coton is cared for at all times.



Use great care when handling Coton de Tulear puppies and adults. Never grab or lift Cotons by their legs, tail, coat, or neck. To properly handle Coton puppies, place one hand on their chest and use the other hand to support their hind legs and bottom. Always remember that a Coton puppy is smaller and more fragile than its adult counterpart and must be appropriately handled at all times. Adult Cotons are less stressful to handle but require the same attention to care. When handling adult Cotons, use one arm to pick them up from their underside while supporting their chest with the other.


Appropriate Shelter

Whether your Coton spends their time inside or outside your residence, always make sure they're provided with an ample supply of cool water, protected from the weather, and have access to a clean space to lounge around. Compared to other dogs, Cotons do well in small living conditions. The breed's small size is the reason why they make for great apartment dogs.


If a Coton is homebound, purchase a high-quality dog bed and wash the sheets often. This breed loves to sleep upwards of 14 hours a day, so their beds must be comfortable. If you live in a house, make sure you have a fenced yard and an appropriately sized doghouse for your Coton. The doghouse should be spacious and sturdy and protect against any extreme weather conditions.


Proper Identification

Always follow your local pet licensing laws and get your Coton proper identification to ensure they don't end up in someone else's home, or worse, the shelter with other stray dogs. Make sure that your Coton has a fitted collar with proper identification at all times, especially when engaged in outdoor activity.



Nutrition and Feeding for a Coton de Tulear Dog

Coton de Tulear dogs are somewhat of a dichotomy. They can be serene, lazy dogs one moment and stubborn, lively dogs the next. Regardless of which personality these dogs decide to showcase, they require proper sustenance to support their activity needs.


Coton de Tulear Nutritional Needs

Feed Coton de Tulear puppies a well-balanced, name-brand puppy food formulated for small breeds. Full-grown Cotons require dry, high-quality dog food. Owners can mix an adult Coton's dog food with other canned food, broth, or water to make it more appetizing and easier to digest.


Limit a Coton's allowance of human foods such as cooked eggs, cheese, fruits, and vegetables to just 10% of their daily food intake. Excess table food can create vitamin and mineral imbalances in Cotons and lead to picky eating habits, weight gain, and obesity.


Coton de Tulear Feeding Routines

It can be difficult to determine how much and how often to feed Cotons. Here's a breakdown of the typical feeding routines of Coton de Tulear puppies and adults:


  • 8-12 weeks: Four small bowls (0.1 cups per bowl) a day.
  • 3 to 6 months: Three small bowls (0.2 cups per bowl) a day.
  • 6 months to 1 year: Two bowls (1/3 cup per bowl) a day.
  • > 1 year: Fed once (1 cup) or twice (1/2 cup per bowl) a day.


Not all Cotons are the same. Some might require slight adjustments to their feeding routine based on their particular needs. Every Coton owner's responsibility is to understand their dog's nutritional needs, feeding routines, and health problems to determine how much to feed them.



Coat Color And Grooming

The Coton de Tulear breed is renowned for its signature flowy white hair. Some Cotons have black and grey or red-roan shades to their hair, but most have luxurious white and fawn hairs. Cotons shed their puppy coat when they are 9-12 months old. Their resulting adult coat produces very little dander, making Cotons a hypoallergenic breed.


Cotons are easier to groom than other dogs because they rarely shed, if at all, and their adult coat has hair instead of fur. However, daily brushing of the adult coat is necessary to avoid hair mats. It's entirely up to the owner to determine how long they want their Coton's hair to be. Many keep the long hair, while others opt for a short puppy clip where the hair is shorter and easier to manage. It's recommended to bathe a Coton every one to three weeks to maintain the adult coat's integrity and keep Cotons clean.


Essential Coton de Tulear Grooming Supplies

Simple daily grooming tasks can help to keep a Coton's coat looking healthy and beautiful. But grooming is not just limited to taking care of a Coton's hair. Here are a few essential grooming supplies that every Coton owner should have to maintain their dog's look and keep them clean:


  • Spray Hair Conditioner: Use a high-quality spray conditioner when brushing a Coton's hair. Spray conditioners help to prevent any hair breakage that might occur when brushing.
  • High-Quality Shampoo and Conditioner: Cotons require frequent bathing. A high-quality shampoo and conditioner will help maintain their soft, voluminous hair.
  • Comb: A durable, long tooth metal comb can help to maintain a Coton's hairstyle.
  • Brush: A pin brush helps to loosen hair mats.
  • Ear Cleanser: Cotons are prone to ear infections and frequent earwax buildup. Using a good ear cleanser can loosen buildup and clean their ear canals.
  • Nail Clippers: Dog toenails can grow very long and hinder their movement. Cotons like to have their nails trimmed once or twice a month as needed.


Time and convenience are always an issue with dog owners. If you cannot properly fulfill your dog's grooming schedule, it would be best to get in touch with a certified dog groomer with experience grooming small breeds like the Coton de Tulear.



Children And Other Pets

Coton de Tulear dogs love to socialize. Young children do very well with Cotons and satisfy the breed's need for attention through activity and play. Small dog breeds tend to be snappy if play becomes too rough. For this very reason, it's important to let children know what they can and cannot do when interacting with Cotons or supervise their interactions altogether.


Cotons get along with other animals such as cats and other pets of a similar or slightly bigger size. Cotons love the company of other dog breeds and do well in households where there are other dogs present. Having multiple pets around helps to keep a Coton occupied at home while its owners are away.



Coton de Tulear Rescue Groups

Several Coton de Tulear rescue groups operate in North America. SaveARescue is an organization that partners and coordinates with over 22,000 rescue groups and shelters across the United States and Canada. They recommend several Coton rescue groups for those wanting to adopt one. You can filter their listings to your specific location to help you find a Coton rescue group near you.


Rescue vs. Rehome vs. Foster

Every prospective dog owner needs to understand the differences in the types of dogs that are up for adoption. When it comes to adopting a Coton or any other type of dog, keep these three types of dogs in mind:


  • Rescue: Dogs that are strays with unknown histories.
  • Rehome: Dogs that have known histories and documented origins, temperament, and health histories. Dogs are rehomed because their owner can no longer care for them due to sudden life changes or death.
  • Foster: Dogs adopted for a predetermined period. Fostering a dog allows its temporary owners to rehabilitate them and get them ready for a permanent home.



shaggy coton de tulear with yellow flowers



Coton de Tulear Dog Breed Organizations

Breeding Coton de Tulears can be a costly endeavor. How much does a Coton de Tulear cost? The average Coton de Tulear cost is $2,060 and can range from as low as $1,000 to as high as $3,200 for an individual dog. The search for a reputable breeder can be exhausting for those wary of spending so much money on a Coton. However, several renowned breed organizations exist if you want to add a Coton puppy to your family.


The American Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club (AKC) marketplace lists several Coton de Tulear breeders who are certified members of the AKC National Breed Club. All of these breeders employ responsible breeding practices in accordance with the AKC's strict breeding standards.


American Coton Club

The American Coton Club (ACC) provides listings of Coton breeders from the United States and Canada. All breeders are certified and follow the American Coton Club Code of Ethics. In addition to selling Coton de Tulear puppies, the ACC also showcases breeders who offer stud services and mentoring services for Cotons.


Madagascar Coton de Tulear Club of America

The Madagascar Coton de Tulear Club of America (mCTCA) has listings of the top Coton de Tulear breeders in the United States. Each breeder is certified as an mCTCA Code of Ethics Breeder and must have their breeding dogs undergo strict health evaluations annually.



More About the Coton de Tulear

It's easy to see why the Coton de Tulear is one of history's most cherished and popular breeds! Their elegant and lush white hair accents their adorable runty appearance. Unlike other dogs breeds, Cotons are a hypoallergenic breed, making them a favorite of families. Cotons aren't picky about their living conditions as long they receive the attention they desire. Their friendly personality makes them ideal pets and wonderful additions to any home.


Cotons are a relatively healthy and long-lived breed that will give you company for many years to come. Select from any number of reputable Coton de Tulear rescue groups and breed organizations near you when choosing to buy a puppy or adopt a rescue. From sunbaked Mediterranean islands to African royal courts to American suburbia, the Coton de Tulear's worldwide journey isn't complete until it finds itself in your home. Be a part of history and adopt a Coton de Tulear today!

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