- Cotons have dark eyes with an engaging expression, black lips and a black nose. The face is adorned with a prominent beard and mustache, and hair falls over the eyes. Floppy ears are covered in long, flowing hair.
- A Coton’s coat may be white (sometimes with champagne-colored patches), black and white, or tricolor (mostly white with champagne patches and a dusting of black hairs).
- The Coton is the official dog of Madagascar and has appeared on that country’s stamps.
AKC group: Non-Sporting
UKC group: Companion
Average lifespan: 14-16 years
Average size: 8-13 lb
Coat appearance: medium-to-long, fluffy, cotton-like coat that is considered hair rather than fur
Coloration: white (sometimes with tan markings; all white is preferred by show breeders); black and white; and tricolor.
Best Suited For: Families with children, singles, seniors, apartments, houses with/without yards
Temperament: Lively, playful, intelligent, affectionateComparable Breeds: Bichon Frise, Maltese
Small, fluffy, white-coated dogs have been favored companions for more than 2,000 years. Being portable, they quickly spread throughout the known world, becoming a little different in each place they settled. These Bichon dogs, as they became known, often took their names from the places they were found. One is the Coton de Tulear, from Tulear, Madagascar.
How they actually came to be is unclear. One tale suggests that the dogs swam ashore after a shipwreck and then mated with local dogs. Others claim that the little white dogs were brought to the island by visitors, whether those were sailors, pirates, traders or diplomats. Whatever the case, they are said to have a 300-year history there and eventually became known as the Royal Dog of Madagascar.
The Federation Cynologique Internationale recognized the Coton as a distinct breed in 1970. The Coton de Tulear Club of America (now the Madagascar Coton de Tulear Club of America) was formed in 1976. The American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 2014 through another club, the United States of America Coton de Tulear Club.
The happy and boisterous Coton is a people-pleaser, who wants nothing more than to spend time with his humans. He forms strong bonds with family members and doesn’t like to be separated from them.
He’s smart and easy to train, responding well to praise, play, and food rewards. He’ll play the clown for attention, which he loves. Cotons may bark once or twice if the doorbell rings or they see something interesting, but they don’t generally bark just for the fun of it. Guests and intruders alike run the risk of being licked to death.
Females are more independent than males and often rule over them.
Like every dog, Cotons need early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences. Socialization helps ensure your Coton puppy grows up to be a well-adjusted, happy dog.
The Coton de Tulear is a relatively health breed. There are a few issues seen in this breed, but they are not widespread. These include Neo-Natal Ataxia, Luxating patellas, Hip Dysplasia and Progressive Retinal Atrophy.
The Coton is a hardy dog who enjoys playing in all types of weather, including snow and rain. But he should always live indoors with his people (as should all dogs).
He’s well-suited to living in any environment, from apartments to ranch houses, but if he has a yard it should be fenced so he doesn’t wander off — or get stolen away by someone who admires him as much as you do.
Some people find the Coton difficult to housetrain, but given a regular schedule, frequent outings to do his business, and praise when he potties in the right place, a Coton can pick it up very quickly.
Crate-training can help him learn to wait until he’s taken outside to potty, as well prevent him from getting into trouble when you’re not around to supervise.
Cotons take well to training, especially when it’s presented in a positive manner. Reward him with praise, play, and treats, and let him know what a great job he’s done. Remember that his goal is to please you.
The Coton is good for apartment life. They are fairly active indoors and will do okay without a yard.
The Coton de Tulear is a real people-pleaser and he’ll want to please you when it comes to training. Because this breed is intelligent, you’ll find that your Coton picks up on basic training quickly. Use positive training techniques and be sure to reward him with praise, play, and treats. After the basics have been mastered, move on to other challenges, such as agility training, doggy dancing and tracking exercises.
Although they are easily trained, the Coton can have issues picking up the finer points of house-breaking. Crate training will help your dog learn where it’s okay to do his business.
Exercise and Activity
The Coton is often content with being lazy and curling up next to you,
but he does enjoy and can use exercise and activity. The Coton used to run alongside his master on horseback and has often been well-regarded for his stamina and durability. Cotons may look like frou frou dogs, but they can walk over various terrain, love an expedition on a wooded trail, will welcome a long walk, or a hearty, fast paced activity like Agility or just a rousing game of fetch or chase. Cotons have good speed, especially for their size, and can jump well for their size also.
As with many dogs, a good exercise routine can help keep excess energy away, help give them a more fulfilling day, and satisfy an instinctive need to wander, explore, and leave “pee-mail”. In addition, regular outings can give them more opportunities for socialization, both with dogs and people, which can be very important if you have a Coton that’s on the shier side of the personality scale.
Don’t forget the mental exercise as well. Remember that the Coton loves a mental challenge and that will also help to burn off energy, often times even faster than a physical activity of the same duration!
The Coton has cottonlike hair that is dry and wind tossed. It shouldn’t look shiny, and it shouldn’t be so long in the chest or abdominal area that it touches the ground. Although the Coton’s coat is not especially difficult to maintain, considering its length of 4 to 6 inches, it does require a regular investment of time.
On the plus side, the Coton’s hair dries quickly,
requires relatively little brushing and doesn’t shed much.
It’s also a good idea to trim the hair on the feet between the pads and toes. It may be necessary to trim the hair over the eyes if it seems to impair the dog’s vision. Of course, it’s important to keep the eyes and ears clean.
A Coton puppy’s coat is easy to groom, but when he reaches 7 to 8 months of age, the coat starts to change and begins to mat more easily. It’s essential to begin grooming the Coton at an early age so that when this coat change occurs, he is already used to being brushed and combed and is less likely to put up a fuss.
Grooming tools you should have on hand for the Coton include a small or medium-size slicker brush to remove mats and dead hair, a comb to remove food or other debris from the facial furnishings , a nail trimmer and styptic powder in case you accidentally cut into the quick and cause the toenail to bleed, and a good coat detangler recommended by your dog’s breeder or groomer.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every three to four weeks or as needed. Brush the teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath.
Cotons are good with kids if kids are good with them. They’re fun-loving and energetic enough to be playmates for older children who treat them respectfully, but they’ll learn to hide from clumsy younger children who may pat them too hard or accidentally kick them or step on them.
Always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party.
Teach your child to never approach any dog while he’s sleeping or eating or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how good-natured, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Cotons prefer the company of people, but they get along well with other Cotons, dogs of other breeds, and cats. If his people aren’t around all the time, a Coton will appreciate having the company of another animal.
Is the Coton de Tul̩ar the Right Breed for you?
High Maintenance: Grooming should be performed often to keep the dog’s coat in good shape. Professional trimming or stripping needed.
Minimal Shedding: Recommended for owners who do not want to deal with hair in their cars and homes.
Easy Training: The Coton de Tul̩ar is known to listen to commands and obey its owner. Expect fewer repetitions when training this breed.
Fairly Active: It will need regular exercise to maintain its fitness. Trips to the dog park are a great idea.
Good for New Owners: This breed is well suited for those who have little experience with dog ownership.
Good with Kids: This is a suitable breed for kids and is known to be playful, energetic, and affectionate around them.
Did You Know?
The Coton de Tulear is a member of the Bichon family of dogs, which also includes the Bichon Frise, the Maltese, the Bolognese and the Havanese.