The Coton de Tulear is a charming companion dog best known for its natural long, white coat. The breed derives its name from the port of Tulear in Madagascar, where it originated, and the French word “coton”, meaning cotton. Today, the Coton de Tulear is ranked number 81 out of 193 dogs recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Their exact history remains uncertain, but it is rumored that ancestors of the modern breed were introduced to Madagascar by European merchants. The dogs were prized by the noble class of Madagascar, who forbid that anyone other than royalty own the breed, inspiring the title “Royal Dog of Madagascar”.
Characteristics of the Coton de Tulear
Let’s take some time to go into detail about the appearance and temperament of the Coton de Tulear.
The Coton de Tulear is classified as an AKC small dog breed. The Coton’s height ranges from 9 -11 inches and its length from 12-16 inches. The Coton’s weight ranges from 8-15 pounds, with males being on average slightly larger than the females. The Coton de Tulear is a long-lived breed with a life span ranging from 15-19 years.
The coat of the Coton de Tulear is soft, shaggy, and attractive, primarily white with some fawn or grey colored hairs around the ears and face. The Coton’s dark eyes and expressive smile give it a happy expression. Their coat can be kept in a long, classic style or a short “puppy clip”. The longer the hair, the more brushing the dog will require, and the more it will shed. Check out our recommendations for dog brushes and dog shampoo to help keep your Coton’s coat in top shape.
The little Coton de Tulear can be both calm and boisterous and loves to exercise. They will happily transition from running outside one minute to curling up on the couch the next. Cotons love attention from their humans but are relatively independent and not demanding.
Often described as clownish and inquisitive, the Coton de Tulear loves to explore and play. Cotons are adaptable to new environments and make great traveling companions. They are highly sociable but can be shy with strangers, especially if not properly trained. However, they will quickly warm up to any new acquaintance. The Coton’s adaptability and lack of aggression make them a great addition to households with children or other pets, including cats and big and small dogs.
Cotons are prone to suffering from separation anxiety and will be happiest in a household where a human companion is always around. If left alone for too long, Cotons often exhibit undesirable behavior such as chewing and crying. They are also naturally territorial dogs that are sure to let you know when someone is at the door. Excessive barking can be an issue if your Coton is not properly trained.
Cotons are also known for their ability to walk on their hind legs for unusual distances, as well as their unique and amusing vocalizations.
Caring for a Coton de Tulear
To ensure you are providing your Coton de Tulear with everything it needs to live a long and happy life, it is essential to understand the quirks of the breed and what works best for them. Following are preliminary tips on health and training your Coton so you know what to expect. However, remember that each dog is unique, even within a specific breed.
A high-quality dog food specific to the Coton de Tulear and the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will fulfil all of your Coton’s nutritional needs. However, even small increases in caloric intake can lead to weight gain over time, so consistency is key. Avoid feeding your Coton table scraps or an excessive amount of treats, which can lead to weight gain and related health problems. As a small dog, the Coton will require relatively few calories, but its good health and longevity still demands a balanced diet filled with vitamins and nutrients.
Coton de Tulears require regular exercise to stay in shape and healthy. They have moderate exercise needs compared to other dogs and will be happy with two walks per day at a slow speed. Cotons will also benefit from regular off-leash time in a dog park or fenced backyard and enjoy playing chase and fetch with their humans. Cotons enjoy playing with toys, which will also help keep their mind and body active. Consider investing is one or more interactive dog toys or puzzle dog toys.
Eager to please their humans, the Coton de Tulear is easy to train on most fronts. Cotons respond best to reward-based training and positive reinforcement. Cotons will become fearful and nervous in response to aggressive or harsh commands, and any sort of negative-reinforcement is best-avoided. Occasionally stubborn and distracted, it is best to keep training sessions focused and exciting.
Expect a longer-than-average effort to house-train your Coton, as they are notoriously slow to understand the concept. Be sure to include obedience and socialization exercises in your training regimen, which the breed responds to well. They also enjoy learning agility exercises and can be trained to be excellent therapy dogs.
The Coton de Tulear is a healthy and long-lived dog, fairly free of genetic health issues. Breeding Coton’s is a carefully monitored process to maintain this standard. Eye problems and hip dysplasia are the most common genetic health issues among the Coton de Tulear. Luxating patellas and spinal disc disease are known to occur in all small dog breeds, with the Coton being no exception. Ear infections are common, which can be avoided by checking ears weekly and removing any excess hair, wax, or debris. The National Breed Club recommends these health screenings for Coton de Tulears: a patella evaluation, ophthalmologist evaluation, hip evaluation and cardiac exam.