Coton de Tulear: A Lap Dog That’s Sweet and Soft Like a Cotton Candy

An amiable small dog that got its name from two sources: ‘Coton’, a French word for cotton, and ‘Tulear’ from the port city of Tulear in Madagascar. Nicknamed as Coton or simply Cotie, this dog breed is closely related to similarly small breeds Maltese and Bichon Frisè. Small it may be but overloaded with sweetness and loves an enormous amount of snuggle time with its human family.


  • Good for first-time dog owners
  • Does not shed much making it ideal for allergy sufferers
  • Polite with people and other pets
  • Has separation anxiety issue
  • Difficult to housebreak
  • A tendency to bark too much

The History of Coton de Tulear

The origin of this dog breed is somewhat vague. There are anecdotes as to how this dog came to inhabit the island Madagascar but most are unsubstantiated.

During the 15th to 16th centuries, it was believed that the Coton’s ancestors known as Cotons de Reunion were brought to a popular port in Tulear, Madagascar aboard pirate ships. Upon arriving in Madagascar, these dogs were then believed to have bred with the dogs on the island, resulting in the breed that we know as the Coton de Tulear.

For years, the Merina tribe of Madagascar kept the Coton de Tulears as companions up until France colonized the island in the 17th century. The French aristocrats adored the Cotons and adopted them as their own. They even went as far as prohibiting the commoners from owning the dog breed. Thus, it was called Madagascar’s royal dog.

By the 1960s when Madagascar got its independence, tourism boomed and saw an increase in the importation of the Cotons. In 1999, The Fèdèration Cynologique Internationale recognized the breed. But it was only in 2014 when the Coton de Tulear got its recognition by the American Kennel Club.

Appearance and Vital Stats

Three Coton de Tulears

Breed Group

The Coton de Tulear is a member of the non-sporting companion dog breed groups.


This is a breed that is on the smallish side with the male Coties standing from 10 to 12.5 inches in height and may weigh up to 13 pounds. The female Coties stand from 8.5 to 11 inches and weigh between 8 and 11 pounds.


The average lifespan of this affectionate dog is between 14 and 16 years.

Coat and Colors

Coton de Tulear puppies in the basket

One of the distinguishing features of the Cotons is their long, thick, and soft coat that is cottony in texture. What sets them apart from other dog breeds is the texture of their coat which is more like human hair than the traditional dog coat. Since they do not shed and have a low level of dander, they are considered as a hypoallergenic dog breed.

The coat comes in three colors: white (but some dogs have tan markings), black and white, and tricolor. What’s interesting is that these tan markings may eventually fade into all white. In the same manner that the black coat may likely fade to lighter shades of gray or even white as the puppy grows into adulthood, which is at 18 months or thereabouts. Why? Because of the fade gene inherent in the breed.

Coton de Tulear coat and colors

The tricolor is mostly white but with some brown markings and shades of black usually on the head and on the body. The honey bear tricolor is light brown with specks of black that will eventually get paler to an off-white or lemon color. Due to the fade gene, the tricolor may lose most of the color usually becoming white with small markings of champagne and specks of black on the ears or body.

Coton de Tulear white with black markings


Coton de Tulear tail

The tail is set low with its length reaching just under the hock joint. When resting, the tail is carried low with its tip curving upwards. While on the move, the tail is carried gleefully curved over the back with its tip pointing towards the loin or the neck.


The ears are triangular and are fine at the tips. These hang loosely close to the dog’s cheeks and the length reaches the corner of the lips.


Colton de Tulears are bursting with sweetness. They are people pleasers, loyal, funny, and charismatic. ‘Stalking’ their owners is one of their personality traits and this is why Cotons are high on the issue of separation anxiety.

They are also boisterous and tranquil at the same time-dashing around to play, then nestling in your lap to nap.

Cotons are very vocal, too! While this may be an awesome way to scare off intruders but the incessant barking may be bothersome for those who want peace and quiet. Anyone would be drawn to the expressive nature of Cotons, meaning they have a language of whines, grunts, and other noises that owners find endearing and funny.


Like any other dog, training Cotons should start once the pups are brought home. These little fellows are pretty much easy to train for as long as it is done with consistency. They are smart and strive to make their owners happy. That means obeying their commands.

The important thing is for the Cotons to realize that their owners are the leaders of the pack.

The Coties are a bit on the sensitive side. They do not handle scolding very well; in fact, it may even hinder the learning process. Firmness combined with gentleness is the best way to train a Coton.

There may be some Cotons that are a bit of challenging to train. This is where consistency comes in. It is also a good idea to socialize Cotons at a young age to help them get used to strangers and everyday situations.

One issue with Coton de Tulears is their potty training problem. The cousins, Maltese, Havanese, and Bichon Frisè, are slow in this aspect, too. This is the reason why consistent crate training is required.


Cotons love to play and swim. Running around in wide-open space is very much appreciated. If trained at an early age, they are good at dog sports such as agility trials and play catch.

Coton de Tulear playfulness

Apartment Living

Due to their small size, the Cotons are ideal companions for those who live within a limited space to move around. Yes, they love the outdoors but they are also happy and content playing inside the apartment. Indoor activities like puzzles and tug-of-war are enough to keep them occupied.

Compatibility with Children and other Pets

The sunny disposition of the Coton de Tulear makes these dogs excellent playmates for kids. They have a high resiliency when it comes to boisterous kids. If they need to hide from rowdy children, they would.

Though Cotons prefer to be with humans it does not mean that they won’t get along well with other pets, be it another dog or cat. Without the company of humans, Coton de Tilers are pretty much satisfied in the company of other animals.



Choose a high-quality dog food for Coton de Tulear. Dog food with meat as its first ingredient is highly recommended.

Cotons will do best on food that is specific to its age and activity level. Regardless of the choice, be it wet or dry, the important thing is to avoid those dog food that contains meat-by-products, soy, corn, wheat, and sugar. These ingredients do not provide nutritional value at all for the Coton’s well-being. Plus, the ingredients mentioned are likely to cause allergic reactions.

The recommended amount of food is 3/4 cup divided into two meals each day.

Dog treats are good, too but these must be given in moderation to prevent gaining weight.


Coat care is of utmost importance. To prevent matting, the coat should be brushed four times a week using a pin brush. This is also a good way to keep the hair clean and glossy. It also helps if a conditioning mist will be used to minimize hair breakage.

Bathing does not have to be done weekly unless the dog gets very dirty.

To avoid the dental issue, brushing the teeth twice a week is highly recommended.

Since Cotons excitedly jump when meeting their owners, trimming the nails once a month is necessary.


This dog breed may be small in size but it does not mean that daily exercise shouldn’t be part of its daily routine. Coties do not need strenuous activities. A daily brisk walk of 30 minutes or a game of fetch is enough to keep this dog breed in great shape.


Coton de Tulears are generally healthy but they are not immune from certain health problems. The following are some of the issues seen in Cotons but these are not widespread in the breed:

Skin Allergies:

This is the number one health issue in this dog breed. It is either allergies from food or seasonal allergies.

An allergy is a condition where there is a hypersensitivity to certain substances such as pollen and food.

Allergens like pollens are prevalent at springtime and this causes seasonal allergic reactions to susceptible dogs.

On the other hand, there are dog breeds that can react to a certain food proteins. It could be protein from chicken or beef, to name a few. Having said this, the single-meat protein dog food is advisable for allergy-prone dogs like the Coties.

Ear Infections

This is common among Cotons due to ample hair in the ear canal. As a result, the ears become the ideal locations for mites and fungus to propagate.

By keeping the ears dry, infection is avoided. How to do it? After a bath or after plunging into the pool, using a cotton ball, wipe the ears dry to stop the moisture from seeping in.

You may also use ear cleaners/dryers for dogs at least twice a month.

Luxating Patellas

In a simpler explanation, this condition happens when the knees slip in and out of their place. Small dogs like Cotons are prone to this disease. It is important to refrain puppies and adult dogs from jumping too much as this can place a heavy toll on the knees.

Hip Dysplasia

This is a hereditary condition from which the thighbone does not fit snugly onto the hip joint. This can be worsened by an external stimulus like injury from jumping.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Another hereditary medical condition that can lead to cataract and blindness due to the decrease in photoreceptors located at the back of the eye. Other breed-related like Maltese and Bichon Frisè are also prone to suffer from this issue.

Similar Breeds



Havanese dog breed closely resembles the Coton de Tulear not only in terms of physical attributes but also in terms of disposition.

What’s the difference between the two? In terms of size, Havanese is smaller. In terms of coat color, Havanese comes in color variations of black, silver, brindle, blue, red, gold, chocolate, cream, and white.



An equally small dog with a white and long coat. The Maltese is just as sweet-tempered as the Coton de Tulear.

What’s the difference between the two? Definitely the size as Cotons weigh twice as much.

Plus, the color coat of Maltese is pure white.

If there is one common denominator among these three adorable dog breeds, that is, all of them are members of the Bichon Family of dogs. Believed to have the same ancestors namely the French Barbet and the Poodle dog breeds.