Coton de Tulear: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

A Coton de Tulear dog siting in an open field

Yann Guichaoua-Photos/Moment / Getty Images

The Coton de Tulear is a small non-sporting dog breed from Madagascar that has a long, wavy coat that's said to be as soft as cotton. Cotons were bred to be friendly companion dogs. They generally form incredibly close bonds with their family and are good with kids, strangers, and other pets. They’re adaptable to different living situations, though they don’t like being left alone and can develop separation anxiety. 

Breed Overview

Group: Non-Sporting

Height: 9 to 10 inches (female), 10 to 11 inches (male)

Weight: 8 to 13 pounds (female), 9 to 15 pounds (male)

Coat: Waxy, long double coat

Coat Color: White, can have gray or yellow markings

Life Span: 15 to 19 years

Temperament: Affectionate, companionable, playful

Hypoallergenic: Yes

Origin: Madagascar

Characteristics of the Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear generally has a very sweet personality. It loves people and even other dogs. It also can have quite a lively and playful temperament but doesn’t tend to bark much. 

Affection Level High
Friendliness High
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness High
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Coton de Tulear 

The Coton de Tulear gets its name from its cotton-like coat and the seaport town of Tulear in Madagascar. The breed’s history is unclear, but its ancestors likely arrived in Madagascar in the 16th and 17th centuries. During that time, sailors kept little canine companions, such as the Maltese, and even used them as barter. The small dogs that arrived in Madagascar bred with the native dogs, ultimately creating the Coton de Tulear. 

The people of Madagascar doted on these little white dogs and largely kept the breed isolated to the island. Through selective breeding, they fine-tuned the dogs’ health, temperament, and appearance. In fact, today’s Cotons rarely have genetic health issues as long as they come from reputable breeders. 

French tourists stumbled upon the breed in the 1960s, and after that it began to spread around Europe. It made its way to North America soon after that. And the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2014.

Coton de Tulear Care

The Coton de Tulear has moderate exercise needs and usually responds well to training. But its grooming requirements are high.

Exercise

Cotons are medium-energy dogs. But thanks to their small size, roughly an hour of exercise per day should suffice. Morning and evening strolls are ideal, along with games of fetch and other playtime. Plus, this breed tends to enjoy dog sports, including obedience, rally, and agility.

Puzzle toys are also a great way to exercise a Coton’s body and mind. These dogs can get bored easily without enough activity, and they might find destructive ways to entertain themselves. So make sure you can dedicate enough time to exercising your dog.

Grooming

Because the Coton de Tulear has long, dense hair, its coat should be brushed at least three times per week with a pin brush. Take extra care around the ears, legs, and elbows where the coat is more likely to mat or tangle. If your Coton has very tough mats or tangles, try spritzing them with a conditioning spray and gently remove them with your fingers.

How often your Coton de Tulear needs a bath depends largely on its exposure to dirt and dust and the frequency with which you brush it. In general, more brushing means fewer baths. When you bathe your Coton, pat it dry—don't rub—to prevent tangling the hair.

Check your Coton's ears at least weekly for wax buildup, debris, and irritation. And check its nails roughly once a month to see whether they need a trim. Also, plan to brush its teeth daily.

Training

Start obedience training with your Coton from as young of an age as possible to prevent bad habits from forming. These dogs typically respond well to positive training methods and are eager to please. But they might shut down and refuse to learn if harsh corrections are used. 

Likewise, aim to expose your Coton to different people, other dogs, and various locations from an early age to build its comfort and confidence. Most Cotons tend to be charming and curious when meeting new people, and having positive experiences can reinforce this.

Common Health Problems

Cotons are generally an extremely healthy breed. While hereditary health issues are uncommon, some can occur, including:

Diet and Nutrition

Always have fresh water available for your Coton. And feed a high-quality, nutritionally balanced canine diet. It’s typical to feed two measured meals per day. But you should discuss both the quantity and type of diet with your vet to ensure that you’re meeting your dog’s individual needs. Monitor treats and other extra food closely, as even weight gain of a pound can be a lot for this little dog.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Coton de Tulear 

Although Cotons are a rare breed, it’s still worth checking local animal shelters and rescue groups for a dog in need of a home. For a puppy from a reputable breeder, expect to pay around $2,000 to $4,000, though this can vary widely. 

For further information to connect you with a Coton, check out:

Coton de Tulear Overview

Pros
  • Very affectionate

  • Typically good with kids and other dogs

  • Generally very healthy

Cons
  • High grooming needs

  • Can become destructive when bored

  • Doesn't like to be left alone and might experience separation anxiety

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

Before bringing home a Coton de Tulear, do your research to make sure the breed is right for your lifestyle. Talk to breed owners, rescue groups, reputable breeders, and veterinarians. Try to spend some time with Cotons if possible.

If you're interested in similar breeds, check out:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

FAQ
  • Are Cotons de Tulear rare?

    The Coton is still a rare breed around the world, and it has even faced extinction at times due to having a small gene pool. But there are breeders and organizations dedicated to preserving it.

  • Are Cotons de Tulear good family dogs?

    Properly trained and socialized Cotons can be excellent family dogs. They generally are gentle and patient with well-mannered kids.

  • Are Cotons de Tulear good apartment dogs?

    Cotons don't need much space to run and play indoors, and they are fairly quiet dogs. That can make them ideal for apartment living.

Article Sources
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  1. Coton de Tulear. American Kennel Club.

  2. Coton de Tulear Puppies and Dogs. Adopt a Pet.