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Coton de Tulear - Uses its own special language to talk to you!

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The Coton de Tulear is a small purebred dog from Madagascar, named after Tulear, a city there. Its name comes from that and the fact its coat is cotton like. It was bred to a great companion, it is sweet, loves to cuddle and has a funny sense of humor too. It does also do well in obedience and agility events. Being rare this is an expensive breed even for just pet quality dogs.

The Coton de Tulear at A Glance
Name Coton de Tulear
Other names None
Nicknames Coton and Cotie
Origin Madagascar
Average size Small
Average weight 8 to 13 pounds
Average height 9 to 12 inches
Life span 14 to 18 years
Coat type Long, dense
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Black, grey and white
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 85th by the AKC
Intelligence Very good – learns quite quickly
Tolerance to heat Good but not great in very hot weather
Tolerance to cold Good but not great in very cold weather
Shedding Low – not a dog that leaves a lot of hair around the home
Drooling Low – not a dog prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Average – can gain weight if allowed to overeat but not especially prone to it
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – daily care and brushing required
Barking Occasional – quite sometimes but can bark
Exercise needs Fairly active – but being a small dog it is easy to manage
Trainability Easy – being easy to train makes them also easy as a first dog
Friendliness Excellent – very social dog
Good first dog Very good – even inexperienced owners should be fine with this breed
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Excellent with socialization
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Excellent with socialization
Good with strangers Excellent with socialization – very approachable
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size
Handles alone time well Low – this is not a dog that likes to be left alone and can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Generally in excellent health but some issues can include patellar luxation, hip dysplasia and eye problems
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $645 a year for grooming, license, basic training, toys and other miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1,155
Cost to purchase $2,000
Rescue organizations Several including the United Coton de Tulear Association for Rescue and Education and the United States of America Coton de Tulear Club
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 1 Maimings: 1 Child Victims: 0 Deaths: 0

The Coton de Tulear's Beginnings

The Coton de Tulear originates from the town of Tulear which is now called Toliara on the African island of Madagascar. While it is related to island dogs like the Maltese and the Bichon Frise and has some similarities there are also differences between them. It is the island's national dog and it is thought it came about when a Tenerife dog was brought to the island around the 15 to 16 hundreds and mated with a native island dog. One theory is that it was pirates that brought its ancestor over as Madagascar was a popular haven for them back then. It is not known whether they were ratters or just companions for long journeys. Another theory suggests its ancestors came with French troops.

For many years on the island it was a companion to the wealthy people living in Tulear. It was never, as some have suggested, a hunting dog and still today it has a very low prey drive. For a while even only Malagasy royalty were allowed to have Cotons as pets, valued for their cotton like coat which is thought to have emerged from a gene mutation. The breed was sometimes brought to France by French colonists but was not really known in Europe for many years.

New Lease on Life

In 1974 a tricolor Coton stamp was produced in Madagascar. Also in the 1970s a couple of things happened to bring them out of the island to the rest of the world's attention. A visiting Frenchman brought them back to France where he established a kennel and began a breeding program. Around the same time a visiting biologist, Dr. Robert Russell brought some back with him to the US. He helped develop their standard and he started the Coton de Tulear Club of American in 1976, though he was against getting AKC recognition. In France the French Kennel Club recognized it in 1970 but it was not until 2014 that it was fully recognized by the AKC. It can still be found in Madagascar but it is also becoming more well known around the world but it is still a rare breed. It is ranked 85th most popular registered dog by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a small dog weighing just 8 to 13 pounds and standing 9 to 12 inches tall. There is though a rare Tall Coton who can stand 15 to 17 inches and it can be born to normal parents. Cotons have small arched feet with black padded feet, strong backs that are also a little arched, and bodies that are medium length. It has straight back legs and in some cases dewclaws are removed. The tail is set low, tapers to the end and it holds it over its back when it is moving or when it is excited.

The coat is its distinguishing feature for the Coton, it is actually hair rather than fur. It is dense, long, soft and thick with cotton like texture. By the time it is of adult age that length should be 4 inches. Coats are usually white but there are also tri-colored Cotons so grey, fawn/champagne and black colors are possible too along with the white. Some have yellowish markings around the ears. Be aware that puppies coats fade as they grow so its colors when it is young is not exactly how it will look when older.


It has a strong arched neck, a black nose (can be brown or pink in dogs not of show standards), Lips that are the same color as the nose, round dark eyes that are set wide apart, and ears that are high set and triangular in shape. Those ears should be thin too and the dog should have a bright and lively look about it.

The Inner Coton de Tulear


This is a friendly, intelligent, lively and playful companion dog with lots of love to give and a very sweet and cheerful nature. It is not though a super great watchdog so this is not a dog to get if want something alert to let you know if someone breaks in. Because of its eagerness to please and great personality it is a good dog for new owners.

The Coton is a social breed, it loves to be around people, it gets along well with everyone, and loves to be a part of the family. It is not a dog to be left alone for long periods and it can suffer from separation anxiety. If it gets lonely or bored it can become destructive and vocal. This is best with owners who are retired or not working. It also needs to be close to you when you are home so be prepared for it being everywhere you are, close to your feet! In between its playfulness and tricks it is usually quiet and gentle. It can also be clownish and entertaining at times and has a very curious nature.

After having periods of activity it loves to snuggle with you on your lap to have a nap. It loves getting lots of attention and forms very close bonds. In some lines there can be a tendency to be too cautious so socialization is important. While the barking is usually not a problem it is vocal in terms of making noises as it plays, and vocalizing to its owners as if it is talking to you! It also likes to jump on its back legs and walk on them.

Living with a Coton de Tulear

What will training look like?

The Coton de Tulear is an easy breed to train, it listens well, is eager to please, is smart and so will need less repetition and will train more quickly. It can have a slight stubborn side but usually that is not a problem with the right approach, females tend to be a bit more independent than males. Be positive but be firm and consistent. It responds well to treats and encouragement and loves the attention praise and success give it. It is a sensitive dog so avoid being too harsh with it. If you want to take training beyond basic obedience it does very well learning and performing various tricks. Some can be more vocal barking than others so that may need training to control.

Housebreaking is a harder process with this breed as it can be with most small dogs. It is easy for them to sneak off and do their business in the home. It will require patience and it is important you stick to the schedule and the rules. You may want to consider using crate training and you could put in a doggy door. Early socialization is also important even with a social dog like this one. With it the dog learns the appropriate way of responding to different people, places and situations. Some lines of Cotons can be more cautious and without socialization that can lead to them being snappy and over anxious.

How active is the Coton de Tulear?


This is certainly a great dog in terms of size for living in an apartment, it can live in small space, and while a yard is a handy place to play and explore in, it is not a requirement. It will need daily exercise though, it likes to play, go for a couple of walks a day, and it would love occasional trips to a dog park where it can run of leash safely. It likes to swim and can actually keep up with active people for a surprisingly good length and can even join a hike.

Caring for the Coton de Tulear

Grooming needs

Its main feature, its coat, means this dog has a lot of maintenance and grooming to do to keep it in good condition and looking good. It is long and very light textured, it does not shed much and dead hair needs to be combed out to prevent it matting in its coat. Make sure you use a spray conditioner so that you do not break the hair. It is good for those with allergies but it will need daily care as well as regular trips to professional groomer. If you cannot commit to that level of care have it clipped. Do not bathe it too often, just when it really needs one. Any more than that and its skin can dry out. Only use a shampoo for dogs and after the bath brush and blow dry.

There is going to be hair in the feet and the ears that will need to be removed and the hair around its eyes will need to be trimmed or tied up in a top knot. Its ears should be checked too for infection signs, and then wiped clean using a dog ear cleanser. Brush its teeth at least two to three times a week and clip its nails when they get too long. This needs to be done with care as the vessels and nerves in them can mean cutting too low causes bleeding and pain.

Feeding Time

Coton dogs need ½ to 1 cup of good quality dry dog food each day, and that should be divided into two meals. How much exactly can change from one dog to another depending on its size, health, metabolism, activity level and age.

How is the Coton de Tulear with children and other animals?

Coton de Tulear are great with children, they love to get up to mischief, play, run around and have fun. It is also very affectionate to them but even so this is not a dog to be around small children as it is too fragile. Toddlers are prone to pulling and tugging too hard and can be clumsy so Cotons get hurt very easily when the child falls, sits, rolls or squeezes too hard. Make sure children are taught how to play and touch nicely with dogs. If small children are around always supervise them.

It gets along very well with other dogs, though watch it with larger dogs who may get too rough with it during their play. It also gets along great with other pets and has a low prey drive so is not likely to chase them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The life span of this dog is 14 to 18 years and it is a very healthy breed. There are a small few issues it can have such as Patellar Luxation, Hip Dysplasia and various eye problems.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people causing bodily harm in Canada and the US over the last 34 years, the Coton has been involved in one recorded incident. That attack lead to a maiming which means the victim, an adult, was left with permanent scarring, loss of limb or disfigurement. There is no need to be cautious of this breed in terms of aggression but it does show that even small and cute dogs can snap or have a bad day. Make sure the dog you choose is a breed you can keep up with in terms of activity, that you give it training and socialization and the attention it needs. When a dog is properly raised it is less likely to have those bad days.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Coton de Tulear puppy will cost $2000 to $3000 as this is not a common dog. That is just for a pet quality dog from a trustworthy breeder, one from a top breeder for a show quality dog is going to cost upwards of $4000. From backyard breeders and puppy mills, ads you might come across and pet stores prices can fluctuate widely and so can the quality of the dog. These kinds of breeders need to be avoided as you do not want to fund such poor practices. If you are looking to give a Coton a new home you could also look at rescues and shelters. For $50 to $400 you could find a dog, more likely an adult than a puppy, and it will have its medical needs taken care of for you.


There are initial costs to consider too. Your dog will need some items like toys, bowls, collar and leash, crate and carrier and that will be around $100. Then some medical needs such as shots, neutering or spaying, micro chipping, deworming and an examination should be taken care of and will cost around $270.

Annual costs will include food and treats for this breed which will cost you about $75 a year. For medical basics like check ups, vaccinations and flea prevention as well as pet insurance you can expect to pay $435 a year. Miscellaneous costs like toys, license, basic training, grooming and miscellaneous items come to $645 a year. This gives an annual starting figure of $1155.


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  • Male and Female Coton de Tulear Names
  • The Coton de Tulear is the perfect companion and lap dog. It is affectionate, funny, warm, sweet and spirited. It will be there for cuddles, will make you laugh at its antics and will bond very closely with you becoming your new best friend. It should be good even if you normally have allergic reactions to dogs but still test that before you buy one. It is not a common dog though so will be harder to find and of course as you see above that comes at a cost. Also be prepared that while it is low shedding that coat if not kept clipped short does require a lot of care and attention.

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