The Coton de Tulear is a lovely small dog breed known to be sweet, inquisitive, clownish, and happy-go-lucky. Fondly nicknamed Coton, this companion dog gets along with just about everybody, even kids. The Coton is so low maintenance that he makes the ideal pet for novice dog parents.


The Coton de Tulear breed is native to the island nation of Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa. He has a cotton-like coat, and his name comes from the French word for cotton and the seaport city of Tuléar in Madagascar.

The Coton is related to the Maltese and Bichon Frise breeds. How the Coton de Tulear got to Madagascar is unclear. One theory advanced is that they lived as wild dogs before they became pets.

When the Cotons arrived in Madagascar, they became part of the royal court family and beloved pets to wealthy households. Named the Royal Dog of Madagascar, the Coton was brought back to France in the 1970s, where the French established the breed. 

The American Kennel Club recognised the Coton in 2014, years after the breed was registered with the United Kennel Club (UK) and Federation Cynologique Internationale (Europe).

Physical Characteristics

Cotons are beautiful small dogs. They have an expressive smile and lovely round eyes. 

The Coton’s distinguishing physical feature is the long, soft and thick coat. This cotton-like coat is usually white but may have light gray shadings with a mixture of white and fawn hairs around the ears. 

Coton puppies are born all white or with spots on the head, ears and body. As the puppy matures, the sites are replaced by areas that can be light to medium gray. 


Though the Coton de Tulear is small, measuring between 8.5 and 12.5 inches (22 and 28cm), this pup is sturdy and taller than the Yorkshire Terrier. A mature Coton weighs between 8 to 13 pounds (3 to 6kg). A female Coton weighs slightly less than her male counterpart.

Character & abilities

Experts have described the Coton de Tulear as the ultimate companion dog for a good reason. This small dog breed is friendly, playful and loves children of every age.

The Coton de Tulear is a non-aggressive breed and rarely barks.  Granted, much of its behavior will also depend on how the dog was bred.

This breed adapts easily to household routines. Cotons are ever curious about the goings-on in the house. When there are no activities, the Coton de Tulear is content to sit quietly on the laps of his family members to relax quietly. Bred to be a companion, this comes easily to this dog. 

The Coton de Tulear ranks at the top six friendly dogs, together with Chinese Crested, Bedlington Terrier, Boston Terrier, Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Trainability & Intelligence

When training a Coton de Tulear, avoid being harsh as it leads to the pup shying away. As with small breeds, this dog can sometimes be stubborn and problematic to house-train. 

However, because the Coton is alert and highly intelligent, obedience training will work wonders. That said, the Coton de Tulear can become socially well-adjusted when you start training the puppy at 90 days old using positive reinforcement, treats and praises.

It would be helpful to introduce the Coton to other breeds in puppy classes while exposing him to different places, sounds and people.

Exercise Needs & Nutrition

The Coton de Tulear is a fairly active dog breed that requires daily walks of about 30-40 minutes at slow speeds. Taking the Coton for a jog or a run depends on age. A Coton that is less than 12 months old has bones still developing and might suffer an injury on the knee caps.

The best physical activities for the Coton de Tulear include playing catch, short walks, and running around in a fenced yard. Yes, they enjoy playing, but they tire quickly and don’t require exerting activities.

Dog breeds like the Beagle and Shiba Inu can be left alone for long periods, but this is not the case with the Coton. Bred as an indoor companion, the Coton thrives living among people.  

How you feed your Coton will largely depend on the dog’s age. The Coton de Tulear is prone to obesity, liver and kidney diseases. Feeding the breed with leftovers or human food is not recommended as these are foods that contain high levels of fat. 

The recommendation for this breed is to feed him twice a day with ¾ cup of high-quality dog food. Whenever in doubt, check with your breeder or veterinarian. 


Grooming sessions are a perfect opportunity for bonding with the Coton de Tulear.  It is good to teach the small dog from a tender age that this is a fun activity, including coat care, nail trimming, brushing their teeth, and cleaning their eyes and ears.

Grooming is required every one or two weeks to avoid fleas, mites, and other insects from making a home in the dog’s white coat.

To avoid damaging the lovely cotton coat, use a dog coat conditioner and brush the fur with a wide-toothed comb or a pin brush is best for this activity.

When not confident on how best to groom this small dog breed, it is best to hire a professional groomer. 


The Coton de Tulear amazingly has few health concerns. However, as with all small dog breeds, the Coton is prone to loose-knee joints (Patellar luxation) and allergies caused by pollen, fleas, and grass.

Other health concerns for this small dog breed include:

  • Heart disease
  • Dental disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive retinal atrophy
  • Ear infection.

When adopting a new Coton, the following health tests can be conducted by a veterinarian to arrest any inherited medical condition before it happens: cardiac exam, loose knee joint evaluation, hip evaluation, and ophthalmologist evaluation.

With good health, the Coton de Tulear can live between 15 and 19 years.


The Coton de Tulear is a beautiful small dog that is fun-loving and energetic. This breed prefers the company of people but gets along well with other dogs and cats. Intelligent and hardy, this sweet-natured pooch is adaptable and happy to lie at the feet of his family members or follow them around the home on their regular activities. 

Here at All The Small Dog Breeds, we think highly of pups with small stature and larger than life personalities. Whether your intention is to adopt a puppy or a small adult dog, we have all the small dog breed descriptions you need to help choose the right breed for your home and lifestyle. 


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Energy Level

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Good with kids

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