Throughout history, this playful dog breed has answered to many names, including the Royal Dog of Madagascar, Cotone, and Cotie. Today, we refer to this adorable fluffy ball as a Coton de Tulear (pronounced KO-Tone Dih TOO-Lay-ARE). This generally healthy breed with a long lifespan is known for its intelligence, agility, and calm personality. This […]

Throughout history, this playful dog breed has answered to many names, including the Royal Dog of Madagascar, Cotone, and Cotie. Today, we refer to this adorable fluffy ball as a Coton de Tulear (pronounced KO-Tone Dih TOO-Lay-ARE). This generally healthy breed with a long lifespan is known for its intelligence, agility, and calm personality. This iconic Toy Dog makes for a delightful addition to any household and makes a loving companion for their owner.

The history of this popular dog breed includes Roman aristocrats, Renaissance artists, and even swashbuckling pirates, and the Royal Court of Madagascar. To learn more about this delightful breed, read our expert guide on the Coton de Tulear below to learn about their temperament, potential health issues, and where you can adopt one today!

Coton de Tulear Characteristics

‘Coton’ is French for cotton. These dogs were likened to cotton for their luxurious, shaggy, long-haired coats. Renowned for their distinctive feature of having hair rather than fur, the Coton de Tulear breed boasts a signature look of long, flowing bright white strands, accented by delicate traces of black and gray.

Cotons often sport an abundance of hair that cascades down their faces, covering their round, expressive obsidian eyes. All Cotons share the hallmark of a deep, black nose. These precious pint-sized dogs have tiny little legs and long bodies that typically measure two feet in length.

The tail of a Coton de Tulear gracefully extends from its body, gently curling upwards. Their hairy tails can blend seamlessly with the rest of their furry form, making it challenging to discern where the tail ends and the body begins. This compact yet adorable appearance has solidified their status as a popular Toy Dog breed.

Coton de Tulear Dog Breed Size

Male and female Coton de Tulear dogs exhibit minimal differences when it comes to size. Both females and males typically measure around two feet in length. Males typically stand between 10 to 11 inches in height, whereas females range from 9 to 10 inches. In terms of weight, males generally weigh between 9 to 15 pounds, while females typically weigh between 8 to 13 pounds.

Coton de Tulear Breed Personality

The Coton de Tulear temperament is characterized by an exceptionally sweet disposition. Known for their gentle and easygoing nature, Cotons display a calm and relaxed demeanor which is uncommon for many small dog breeds. Often found lounging around the house, they exhibit remarkable tolerance and adaptability. It’s not unusual for these furry coach potatoes to enjoy extended periods of rest, with some Cotons snoozing for 12 to 14 hours a day!

Despite their serene demeanor, the Coton de Tulear is far from lazy! These dogs are remarkably alert, agile, and swift, and love to go on outdoor adventures and explore. With a natural territorial instinct and a touch of stubbornness, they assert themselves when necessary. While they make adorable yapping sounds during play, they’re not prone to excessive barking, even when approached by strangers. Given their petite size and laidback personalities, Cotons make an adorable but ineffective guard dog.

Renowned for their high intelligence, Coton de Tulear dogs thrive on mental stimulation, making regular engagement essential for their well-being. This natural intelligence also means that this breed tends to be easier to train, making obedience training and potty training a breeze. Coton de Tulears thrive in a full home as they are social creatures and enjoy mingling with both young children and other pets.

Coton de Tulear Dog Breed Exercise

The key to determining the exercise needs of a Coton de Tulear lies in understanding their temperament. Despite their tranquil nature, these small dogs love to play! Whether frolicking indoors or exploring the great outdoors, Cotons benefit from a moderate amount of physical activity to stay in shape and consistent mental stimulation to maintain their well-being.

Indoor Activities

Like many small breeds, the Coton de Tulear is well-suited to indoor living and smaller spaces like apartments. However, their territorial nature and need for mental stimulation means that they can become bored easily, leading to potential destructive behavior in the home. To prevent this, be sure to keep them engaged with indoor activities so they won’t take their boredom out on your furnishings.

A Coton de Tulear loves to be spoiled with their owner’s affection, making them a fabulous companion dog for many owners. Often found nestled at the feet of family members or perched on their owner’s lap, these dogs thrive on human interaction and affection. It can be easy to keep this breed active, even in indoor environments. Just be sure to let your Coton de Tulear roam around your home and have plenty of playtime indoors.

Outdoor Activities

A simple 30-minute daily walk at a moderate pace can effectively maintain your Coton de Tulear’s fitness and overall well-being. As descendants of the Portuguese Water Dog, these pups love to go swimming, so taking them for a dip can be an enjoyable way to mix up their exercise routine. Additionally, engaging them in a game of fetch can also provide adequate mental stimulation and physical activity for your Coton de Tulear.

The open space and limitless activity options of your local outdoor dog park provide an easy way to meet your Coton de Tulear’s exercise needs. These curious and extremely nimble dogs can easily wedge themselves into tiny spaces, so always keep an eye out for your dog in case it finds a hole in the fence to squeeze through. For these reasons, it’s best to keep Coton de Tulears in a fenced yard to prevent accidental injury and running away.

Coton de Tulear Dog Training

Coton de Tulears are fairly easy to train, especially compared to other dog breeds. Coton de Tulears respond well to training sessions due to their agility and intelligence.

Since Coton de Tulears thrive in environments that require active mental stimulation, it’s important to keep your training sessions with them very engaging. Cotons are highly receptive to positive reinforcement during training sessions, making them a joy to teach. When it comes to potty training, Coton de Tulears stand out for their ease of housebreaking compared to other breeds.

Socialization from a young age is crucial for Coton de Tulears, ideally starting during their puppyhood. This early exposure to various environments, people, and other dogs lays the foundation for a well-rounded and sociable nature. It’s no surprise that Cotons easily excel in interacting with humans and other dogs, making them ideal candidates for therapy dog work.

Coton de Tulear Dog Breed History

The history of the Coton de Tulear breed is fascinating! Behind their simple and happy nature lies a history steeped in romance and intrigue.

Ancient Ancestors

The roots of the Coton de Tulear trace back to ancient times, with their ancestors believed to have existed during the Roman Empire. It’s speculated that these ancient breeds were introduced to the Mediterranean region through trade caravans originating from Central Asia. Small dog breeds similar to the Coton were prevalent during the reign of the Roman Empire, endearing themselves to the ancient Romans, particularly the aristocracy, who cherished them as esteemed companions often referred to as “table dogs.” Their popularity endured through the centuries, with these ancient breeds frequently being depicted in Renaissance art, reflecting their esteemed status in society across the ages.

Indeed, modern dog breeds sharing similar traits and qualities with the Coton de Tulear, such as the Maltese, Havanese, and Portuguese Water Dogs, are considered descendants of the same ancient Mediterranean dog breeds.

The Royal Dog of Madagascar

Yo-ho, yo-ho! Did you know that Coton de Tulears were a favorite dog breed amongst pirates and accompanied them on many long sea voyages? Seafaring pirates loved Coton de Tulears for their impressive ability to hunt rats onboard the ships. There is one spooky legend from around the 16th or 17th century that during a fateful expedition along the southwest coast of Madagascar, a violent storm caused a shipwreck near the Bay of Tulear. This crash allegedly killed everyone on board except for the Cotons! These Coton du Tulear dogs then swam to the seaport town of Tulear in Madagascar where they received their modern name.

Over centuries, the Coton breed became a cherished national treasure of Madagascar, ascending to the esteemed position of the country’s official dog. Revered by the royal court of Madagascar, Cotons garnered the affectionate title of the “Royal Dog of Madagascar.” Madagascar even put the image of a Coton de Tulear on their postage stamps, symbolizing the pride and admiration the nation held for its beloved breed. Madagascar protected its royal dog with utmost reverence, keeping this exquisite breed secluded from the outside world for nearly three centuries.

Coming To America

The Coton de Tulear finally made its way to America around the early 1970s. A US biologist working in Madagascar became enchanted with the Coton and brought it back with them to America. Since then, the Coton de Tulear has become a popular breed with Americans.

Cotons are one impressive Toy Dog, with their impressive ability to stand at attention on their hind legs. For their beauty, obedience, and agility, Cotons have become a staple of dog shows and events. Like many Toy Dogs, these breeds are popular with pet owners living in urban areas where apartment life and small living spaces are the norm.

From the grandeur of the Roman Empire to the swashbuckling tales of pirates, from the opulence of the royal court of Madagascar to the tranquility of American suburbia, the enduring appeal of the Coton de Tulear breed is evident across diverse cultures and ages.

Common Health Problems Found in the Coton de Tulear Dog

Cotons generally enjoy remarkable health and longevity compared to many other breeds, often enjoying relatively healthy and vibrant lives. With a typical lifespan ranging from 14 to 19 years, they stand out for their resilience and vitality. However, it’s important to note that their longevity doesn’t necessarily equate to a life free from health concerns.

Despite their popularity, Cotons remain a relatively rare breed with a limited gene pool, which can lead to a predisposition to certain genetic diseases. However, incidences of genetic health issues in Cotons are quite rare, affecting only a small percentage of the breed, typically ranging from 1 to 5%. With responsible owners and access to proper veterinary care, the health issues of Cotons can be appropriately addressed and managed. Below are some of the most common health issues that may afflict Cotons.


Skin infections are the most common health issue for Cotons. Allergens like ragweed, pollen, grass, and fleas can cause itchiness and potentially result in Pyoderma, a bacterial skin infection.

Due to the Coton’s long hair, their ear canal can be obscured and therefore prone to infection. Ear problems like fungal infections, an infestation of mites, or an unhealthy build-up of earwax can be common issues for Cotons.

Vision Problems

Sadly, Cotons can be predisposed to certain eye conditions that may lead to complete vision loss. Below are some of the most prevalent eye conditions that affect the Coton de Tulear breed.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

The main vision problem that affects Cotons is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA is an inherited degenerative disease without a cure, often culminating in complete vision loss. While instances of PRA in Cotons are relatively low, watchful owners can take proactive measures by utilizing genetic tests to determine their Coton’s predisposition to PRA.


Owners of Coton de Tulears may understandably have concerns about cataracts, a common age-related vision issue in older dogs. Cataracts occur when the lenses in the eyes become opaque, potentially leading to blindness if left untreated. Fortunately, this condition can be readily diagnosed in its early stages with Cotons and effectively treated through surgical intervention.

Orthopedic Issues

Similar to other small breeds, Cotons can experience several conditions affecting their musculoskeletal system. Read on to learn more about the two most common orthopedic conditions affecting Cotons.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation is the most common orthopedic condition for Cotons.  A luxating patella occurs when the kneecap becomes dislocated, often as a result of physical activity. Small dog breeds are particularly prone to this condition due to the small size of their legs and joints.

Cotons are nimble and agile dogs that love to play, so, it’s important to keep them under a watchful eye since they are more prone to this condition than other dogs. This is especially true of Coton de Tulear puppies. Regardless of age, Cotons should never jump from heights, like tall beds or couches, as this can increase the risk of patellar luxation.

Hip Dysplasia

According to the Orthopedic Foundation of America, 9% of Cotons suffer from hip dysplasia. This disease is mostly inherited in Cotons and leads to malformed hip joints. Cotons suffering from this condition may experience weakness, and difficulty standing and moving.

In extreme cases, surgery may be the only option for addressing this condition. Generally, owners can preserve their Coton’s quality of life through early detection and treatment of hip dysplasia.

How to Care for a Coton de Tulear

Cotons form strong attachments to their human family members. However, Coton owners with busy lifestyles may struggle to adequately meet their dog’s needs. Thankfully, there are easy steps every owner can take to ensure that their Coton receives proper care and attention at all times.


Exercise caution when handling Coton de Tulear puppies and adults. Avoid grabbing or lifting Cotons by their legs, tail, coat, or neck as this can result in injury. To handle Coton puppies correctly, place one hand on their chest and support their hind legs and bottom with the other hand. A Coton puppy is smaller and more delicate than an adult and requires gentle handling at all times. While adult Cotons are less fragile, they still require careful handling. When handling adult Cotons, use one arm to lift them from underneath while supporting their chest with the other hand.

Appropriate Shelter

Whether your Coton resides indoors or outdoors, it’s essential to ensure they have access to plenty of cool water, shelter from the elements, and a clean, comfortable space to relax. Thanks to their small size, Cotons thrive in compact living spaces, making them excellent choices for apartment living compared to other larger breeds.

For a homebound Coton, invest in a high-quality dog bed and regularly wash the bedding. Since this breed often sleeps up to 14 hours daily, make sure that their bed is comfortable. If you reside in a house, having a fenced yard and a suitably sized doghouse for your Coton is crucial. The doghouse should be roomy, sturdy, and provide protection from inclement weather.

Proper Identification

Remember to adhere to your local area’s pet licensing regulations and provide your Coton with appropriate identification to prevent them from being taken in by someone else or ending up in a shelter with other stray dogs. Ensure that your Coton wears a well-fitted collar with proper identification at all times, especially whenever they’re outdoors, to keep them safe and easily identifiable.

Nutrition and Feeding for a Coton de Tulear Dog

Coton de Tulear dogs exhibit a unique blend of characteristics. They may be calm and relaxed at times, yet lively and stubborn the next moment. No matter which side of their personality they display, it’s crucial to provide them with the right nourishment to meet their activity levels.

Coton de Tulear Nutritional Needs

For young Coton de Tulear puppies, opt for a nutritious, name-brand puppy food designed specifically for small breeds. Once fully grown, Cotons thrive on dry, top-notch dog food. Owners have the option to enhance adult Cotons’ meals by mixing their dry food with canned food, broth, or CBD oil for added flavor and improved digestion.

Limit the consumption of human foods like cooked eggs, cheese, fruits, and vegetables to no more than 10% of a Coton’s daily food intake. Overindulgence in table scraps can disrupt the balance of vitamins and minerals in Cotons, potentially resulting in finicky eating behaviors, weight gain, and obesity.

Coton de Tulear Feeding Routines

It can be tricky trying to determine how much and how often to feed Cotons. Below is an easy-to- follow 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 one 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.

Each Coton is unique, and their feeding regimen may need minor tweaks based on individual requirements. Every Coton owner must understand their dog’s nutritional necessities, feeding schedule, and any health issues they may have, to gauge the appropriate amount of food to provide.

Coat Color And Grooming

The Coton de Tulear breed is celebrated for its beautiful flowing white coat. While some Cotons exhibit variations with black, gray, or reddish hues, the majority have luxurious white and fawn hair. Typically, Cotons shed their puppy coat between 9 to 12 months of age. Their adult coat tends to produce minimal dander, making Cotons a hypoallergenic breed.

Grooming Cotons is relatively easy compared to other dogs since they seldom shed, if ever, as their adult coat comprises hair rather than fur. Nevertheless, daily brushing is essential to prevent hair mats. Owners have the freedom to decide on the desired length of their Coton’s hair, with many opting for the classic long look, while others choose a shorter puppy clip for easier maintenance. It’s recommended to bathe Cotons every one to three weeks to uphold the integrity of their adult coat and ensure cleanliness.

Essential Coton de Tulear Grooming Supplies

Basic daily grooming practices are vital for maintaining a Coton’s coat in optimal health and appearance. However, grooming extends far beyond hair care. Here are several essential grooming supplies that every Coton owner should have to uphold their pet’s appearance and hygiene:

  • Spray Hair Conditioner: Use a top-tier 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 hydrating conditioner will help maintain their soft, voluminous hair.
  • Comb: A durable, long tooth metal comb can help to maintain a Coton’s hairstyle and assist with inspection for fleas.
  • Brush: A pin brush helps to loosen stubborn hair mats.
  • Ear Cleanser: Cotons are prone to ear infections and frequent earwax buildup. Using a good ear cleanser can loosen wax buildup and clean their ear canals.
  • Nail Clippers: Dog toenails can grow very long and impede their movement. Cotons should have their nails trimmed once or twice a month as needed.

For dog owners, managing time and convenience can often pose challenges. If you find it difficult to consistently meet your dog’s grooming needs, it’s best to seek assistance from a certified dog groomer who has experience working with small breeds like the Coton de Tulear. They can ensure that your dog receives proper grooming and care even when your schedule is tight.

Children And Other Pets

Coton de Tulear dogs thrive on socializing and often enjoy interacting with young children. Children can fulfill the breed’s need for attention through engaging activities and playtime. However, it’s crucial to educate children on how to interact appropriately with Cotons to prevent any rough play that may trigger snapping behaviors common in small dog breeds. Supervising their interactions and providing guidelines on acceptable behavior ensures a positive experience for both the children and the Cotons.

Cotons can form loving relationships with other animals in your home, like cats and pets of a similar or slightly larger size. They particularly enjoy the companionship of other dog breeds and thrive in households with multiple dogs. Having other pets around not only provides company for a Coton but also helps keep them engaged and entertained while their owners are away from home.

Coton de Tulear Rescue Groups

Thankfully, there are many Coton de Tulear rescue groups operating throughout North America. SaveARescue stands out as an organization that collaborates with over 22,000 rescue groups and shelters across the United States and Canada. They offer recommendations for several Coton rescue groups for those interested in adoption. By filtering their listings based on your specific location, you can easily locate a Coton rescue group near you.

Rescue vs. Rehome vs. Foster

All potential dog owners should learn the differences between the types of dogs that are available for adoption. When starting your search to adopt a Coton or any other type of dog, these are the three types of dogs to keep in mind:

  • Rescue: Dogs that are strays with often unknown histories. They may be a wild card, but there are still so many loving rescues to consider adopting!
  • Rehome: Dogs that have known histories and documented origins, temperament, and health histories. Dogs are often 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 elsewhere.

Coton de Tulear Dog Breed Organizations

Adopting a Coton de Tulear can be costly as breeding Coton de Tulears can be very expensive. The average cost of a Coton de Tulear is around $2,060, but prices can vary, ranging from $1,000 to $3,200 per dog. The search for a responsible breeder often requires a lot of time and money. However, there are several esteemed breed organizations available for those seeking to welcome a Coton puppy into their family.

The American Kennel Club

To find Coton de Tulear breeders who are certified members of the AKC National Breed Club, visit the American Kennel Club (AKC) marketplace. All of the breeders they list utilize responsible breeding practices in accordance with the AKC’s proscribed breeding standards.

American Coton Club

The American Coton Club (ACC) offers a directory of certified Coton breeders from both the United States and Canada. Each breeder is certified and adheres to the strict standards outlined in the American Coton Club Code of Ethics. Beyond selling Coton de Tulear puppies, the ACC platform also features breeders who provide stud services and mentoring services for Cotons.

Madagascar Coton de Tulear Club of America

The Madagascar Coton de Tulear Club of America (mCTCA) maintains a registry of premier Coton de Tulear breeders across the United States. Each breeder holds certification as an mCTCA Code of Ethics Breeder, ensuring adherence to responsible standards. Additionally, these dog breeders commit to comprehensive health evaluations for their breeding dogs on an annual basis, guaranteeing the well-being of their puppy litter.

More About the Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear holds a special place as one of history’s most beloved and sought-after breeds. Their graceful and luxurious white coat perfectly complements their endearing petite size. Unlike many other dog breeds, Cotons are a hypoallergenic breed, making them a favorite of families with allergy sensitivities. Adaptable and easygoing, they aren’t fussy about their living environment as long as they receive the affection they crave. With their warm and friendly nature, Cotons make for ideal companions and delightful additions to any home.

Cotons are generally a healthy breed with a long lifespan, meaning you can count on their company for years to come. When you are choosing to buy a puppy or adopt a rescue, make sure to select from the many Coton de Tulear rescue groups and local breed organizations in operation. With a history that spans the sun-soaked Mediterranean islands, African royal courts, and American suburban streets, the global odyssey of the Coton de Tulear is not complete until it reaches its final destination: your home. Become a part of this rich history by adopting a Coton de Tulear today!