Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Coton de Tulear portrait

Breed overview

  • Breed group — Non-Sporting group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height — 9-11 inches
  • Weight — 8-13  pounds
  • Coat length & texture — Long, soft, thick, and fluffy
  • Coat color — White with occasional shadings of light gray or red-roan on the ears. Puppies are born all white, though some have multi-colored spots which may fade or disappear over time.
  • Exercise needs —Moderate
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Only to alert
  • Life span — 14 to 16 years
  • Temperament — Bright, silly, and sweet-natured
  • Hypoallergenic — Yes
  • Origin — Madagascar

Coton de Tulear fun facts

👉 Coming up with a pet name can be fun but tricky. Search no further! According to PetScreening’s 2024 database, the majority of our users name their male Coton De Tulears Charlie; Oliver is the 2nd most popular male name. Meanwhile, most of our users with female Coton De Tulears love Bella and Sophie equally.

  • The Coton de Tulear gets its name from its fluffy, cotton-like coat, and from Madagascar’s seaport city of Tulear (now known as Toliara), where the breed originated.
  • The American Kennel Club didn’t recognize the Coton de Tulear as an official breed until 2014.
  • The Coton comes from the same family of dogs as the Bichon frise and Maltese.

Coton de Tulear temperament and characteristics

Often cited as one of the friendliest dog breeds around, the Coton de Tulear is charming, affectionate, and ultra-sociable. Cotons form strong bonds with their owners and love spending time with them, and they can easily get anxious if they’re separated. They’re playful dogs who aren’t afraid to get silly for some praise and attention. They get along with anyone and everyone, whether it’s strangers, kids, or other pets like dogs and cats.

Cotons are  generally quiet dogs that usually only bark when something startles them.  They’re a highly intelligent breed that’s easily trainable, and they have loads of entertaining quirks that are sure to make you fall in love with them. Don’t be surprised if you catch your Coton standing on their hind legs or twirling around for joy.

Coton de Tulear


The Coton de Tulear is a small, sturdy breed with a soft cotton coat. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard, their coat color is white, and any slight shading is not desirable. Their coats are medium-length and can be wavy or curly. We teamed up with FidoTabby Alert, and according to their database, a common coat color for the Coton de Tulear is (81%) white.  

Common Coton de Tulear health problems

Genetic health issues are very rare among the Coton de Tulear, only affecting around 1 to 5 percent of the whole breed. Breeders work hard to keep the breed as healthy as possible by genetically screening all breeding stock, but some conditions have still been known to pop up occasionally. These include:

  • Progressive retinal atrophy. Also known as PRA, this degenerative eye disorder affects the photoreceptors at the back of the eye, eventually causing blindness. PRA is a hereditary condition, though most reputable breeders have their dogs’ eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and don’t breed dogs with the disease.
  • Hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that impacts the way the thigh bone fits into the hip joint. Affected dogs commonly show signs of pain, discomfort, and lameness in one or both rear legs.
  • Luxating patellas. Kneecaps that slip in and out of place are a common problem for all small dog breeds, including the Coton de Tulear. This makes it extra important to keep your Coton from jumping on and off furniture to protect their joints, especially when they’re still puppies.
  • Intervertebral disk disease. Another common condition among small breeds, intervertebral disk disease (IVDD) is characterized by the presence of a ruptured, slipped, bulging, or herniated spinal disk.

Cost of caring for a Coton de Tulear

Since the Coton de Tulear breed is mostly free from major health problems, the cost of caring for them is generally low. If surgery is required for luxating patellas or IVDD, the cost can range from $1,000 to $5,000 dollars, not including the cost of X-rays and other imaging tests run when preparing for the procedures. Hip dysplasia surgery can run you $1,200 to $2,500 or more, including the cost of pre-surgical bloodwork, anesthesia, post-surgical care, and medications. In the case of progressive retinal atrophy, there’s currently no effective treatment available.

Consider investing in a health insurance plan to cut down your dog’s out-of-pocket medical expenses. Owners who sign their pets up early in life get the most benefits out of existing pet insurance plans. You can also open a special pet savings account through a bank or credit union to start saving for any expenses you might have to pay later on.

History of the Coton de Tulear

They may be goofy, fuzzy, and bursting with energy, but this little dog has some surprisingly epic origins. Also known as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar,” the Coton de Tulear is a member of the Bichon family that came to the island of Madagascar several hundred years ago. At the time, the Bichon Tenerife — the Coton’s distant ancestor — was particularly popular with the women of Europe’s high society, who would commonly bring their dogs with them on long voyages across the sea. European sailors also kept Bichons aboard their ships to catch rats and other pests.

As those ships reached places like South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and the Indian Ocean, the Bichon Tenerife began to mate with other breeds on the Island of Reunion, located just 500 miles from Madagascar. The resulting breed was the Coton de Reunion, who’s fabled to have finally reached Madagascar’s Tulear port after being beached in a shipwreck. As legend has it, the sturdy dogs survived the wreck and swam ashore, giving rise to the modern-day Coton de Tulear after 400 years of natural selection, and a little selective breeding.

The adventurous coton quickly became a favorite of the Merina, Madagascar’s ruling indigenous tribe. They perceive the breed as a sign of nobility — hence the nickname “Royal Dog of Madagascar.” When French settlers came to the island in the 16th century, they too became enamored with the breed. Within the same decade, the Coton de Tulear was taken to both France and North America. Today, they’re a favorite all around the world.

Coton de Tulears playing tug

Caring for your Coton de Tulear

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be stressful at times, especially if you’re a first-time dog owner.  On top of making sure their exercise, grooming, and dietary needs are all being regularly met, you’ll need to schedule your first trip to the vet and get their vaccinations in order. For their safety, you’ll also want to puppy-proof your home and make sure all your valuables are nice and put away before they start teething. And while no one likes to think about losing their new dog, services like FidoAlert provide a free ID and tag to make sure you’re prepared just in case.

Here are some other care basics specific to the Coton de Tulear:


The Coton de Tulear is an active, energetic breed that’s always eager to let off steam with some quality play time. They do best when given moderate daily exercise,  so be sure to give them plenty of slow walks around the neighborhood. Cotons can also get their energy out playing inside the house or in a fenced backyard, as long as their beloved humans are there to play with them. On the other hand, they can get destructive if they’re left alone, so make sure you’re able to spend a lot of time with your new dog before deciding on a Coton. This breed is highly recommended for stay-at-home parents, empty nesters, retirees, and anyone else who spends a majority of their time at home.

Coton de Tulear running outside


Coton puppies have a short coat that’s easy to care for until their longer adult coats come in between 7 and 15 months. Give your Coton extra grooming during this period to prevent knots and tangles. Adult Cotons should be brushed 3 to 4 times a week, preferably with a pin brush that has uncoated metal pins and a spray conditioner to keep hair breakage to a minimum. It’s important to gently run your brush all the way down to the skin when grooming your coton to prevent their hair from matting. If a Coton’s coat is severely matted, it may need to be shaved down.

To keep their coat looking fresh and fluffy, bathe your Coton with a dog-safe shampoo weekly, every two weeks, or monthly. The more often you brush, the less often you’ll have to give them a bath. You can even find whitening or brightening products targeted for light-furred breeds —  just be careful not to get any in their eyes! You should also take an extra moment to check their ears once every couple weeks and remove any excess hair, wax, or debris to prevent ear infections.

Like all dog breeds, the Coton de Tulear also requires proper dental hygiene and nail care. Brush their teeth 2 to 3 times a week to get rid of plaque and bacterial buildup, and trim their nails once or twice a month as needed.

Diet and nutrition

Cotons de Tulear can get all their daily nutrition from about 3/4 cup of high-quality dog food, though the best amount of food for your dog will depend on individual factors like their age, size, build, metabolism, and activity level. Consult a vet about the best diet and portions for your dog.

Since Cotons are known to gain weight somewhat easily,  it’s recommended that you split their food into two meals a day rather than leaving food out all day long. This works twofold, keeping them in shape and encouraging healthy eating habits. Treats can also be used when training your coton, just be careful to avoid giving them too many.

Training your Coton de Tulear

Cotons are sharp dogs that respond best to lively, positive training sessions. Though they’re naturally very alert, a bored coton will have a hard time retaining information and staying engaged. Since they’re naturally territorial dogs, it’s important to socialize your coton while they’re young to help them feel more comfortable around strangers and other dogs.  Obedience training is also recommended for Cotons to reinforce lessons and manners.

Some owners find the coton hard to housetrain, but most eventually get the hang of it. You can help your Coton de Tulear puppy learn faster by giving them a regular bathroom schedule, plenty of trips outside, and ample praise and affection. Well-trained Cotons are known to excel in most dog sports, especially those based on agility and obedience.

Coton de Tulear training

Breeds similar to the Coton de Tulear

Not quite sure that a Coton de Tulear is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Bichon frise.  These adorable dogs look like teddy bears, and they do well in most any living situation (so long as their owners are willing to put in lots of play time, of course). The Bichon frise is similar to the Coton de Tulear in size, appearance, and demeanor, though Cotons are generally considered a little easier to groom.
  • Maltese. Like Cotons, Maltese are an energetic and playful breed that doesn’t need tons of exercise to stay happy. Maltese also have long white coats that require daily brushing and regular baths to stay clean and tangle-free.
  • Bolognese. This Italian breed is also closely related to the Bichon, but it might be the lowest-energy dog on this list. The Bolognese is an ideal lap dog that prefers staying inside to long walks. Like the Coton, it’s also considered a good choice for allergy-sufferers due to their low shedding levels.

Frequently asked questions

Why are Cotons de Tulear so rare?

The Coton de Tulear is a rare breed that comes from a very small gene pool on the African island of Madagascar. They’ve faced extinction at multiple points in their history, but today there are several breeders and organizations dedicated to saving the Coton.

Are Cotons de Tulear high maintenance?

The coton de Tulear is an extremely friendly breed that’s generally easy to train and only requires moderate exercise. However, they are relatively high maintenance when it comes to grooming, since their long, fluffy coats require extra care to stay clean and tangle-free.

Is the Coton de Tulear a good family dog?

Yes! Cotons are playful, affectionate dogs that form ultra-strong bonds with their humans. They love interacting with kids, and they’re about as close as a dog breed gets to being hypoallergenic.

Can a Coton de Tulear be left alone for 8 hours?

Because Cotons are so attached to their owners, they can experience separation anxiety if they’re left alone for too long. Unhappy Cotons can also get destructive, so try not to leave yours home alone for more than three to five hours at a time.

Is a Coton de Tulear yappy?

Generally, no. Cotons bark every once in a while when something alerts them, but they’re not nearly as prone to barking as some other small dogs like Chihuahuas.