Coton de Tuléar

A white Coton du Tulear walks across a dirt road.

The Coton de Tuléar is a people-oriented small breed dog with a goofy nature. They're an adaptable little dog that does well in most situations. Cotons love to show off and perform, can be boisterous and energetic, but are not demanding—their favorite activity is just to be near you. The charming Coton has a mysterious history and is known as the Royal Dog of Madagascar due to the nobility's affinity for the plucky pet. This lively little dog has a distinctive cotton-like coat, which is where its name came from—Coton from French, meaning cotton, and de Tuléar meaning from Tuléar, a city in Madagascar now called Toliara.

Other Names

Cotons de Tuléar are also known as Coton or Coties. The plural of the name is Cotons de Tuléar.

Physical Description


The low-shedding, soft, thick cotton-like coat of the Coton de Tuléar can be partly credited for the breed's name. It grows to a length of about four inches, and is usually white but may come in black and white or tricolor. The hair may change color as puppies grow.


Average Height: 8-12 inches


Average Weight: 8-13 pounds

Breed Standard & History

The small, energetic Coton de Tuléar wears a hallmark cottony coat, the most recognizable feature of the breed. The Coton is somewhat longer than it is tall, with a rectangular outline and sturdy appearance. The intelligent and lively expression shows joie de vivre. Wide-set brown or black eyes and hanging triangular ears add to the breed's alert and happy expression. The coat should always be soft, never rough. The coat should be white with light shading tolerated on the ears—to exceed no more than five percent—though pure white is ideal. A well-groomed, yet natural, appearance is a must. The breed should offer an adaptable, cheerful, social temperament. – AKC Breed Standards

Legend has it the predecessor of the lively little Coton de Tuléar, a Bichon-type dog, arrived on the island of Madagascar after a shipwreck. The beached dogs were left to fend for themselves as the ship's passengers didn't survive. An alternate story claims that the breed's development began when a Tenerife dog arrived in port in the 16th century—possibly on a pirate ship, but maybe as the companions of ladies at sea—then bred with a local dog from the island.

They were prized as companions by the wealthy families of Madagascar. Their association with Malagasy and Merina tribal nobles earned them the nickname "Royal Dog of Madagascar."

It wasn't until the 1970s that the modern Coton's development began in France. The current breed differs greatly from the small dog found on Madagascar—but its cottony coat has remained. The AKC recognized the Coton de Tuléar in 2014.

AKC Breed Category

Non-Sporting Group


General Temperament

Playful and people-oriented Cotons de Tuléar are intelligent dogs with an eagerness to please. They're playful and clownish—and can be rambunctious—but are generally easy to live with. Adaptable Cotons aren't needy when it comes to attention. They'll play when you're available, but won't cause trouble if you need to focus on other things. With enough attention, they're content to nap nearby but are cuddly lap dogs if given the opportunity.

Family Life

Are Coton de Tuléar Good with Kids? While most Cotons de Tuléar are polite and well-behaved with children, they do best with dog-experienced children who are not likely to play too rough.

Are Coton de Tuléar Good with Other Pets? Coton de Tuléar tend to get along well with other dogs, and can learn to live with cats and other small pets. They do not have a strong prey drive, but they should be properly introduced to any other animals in the home.


The Coton's small size and gentle nature removes him as a candidate for guard dog duty. The breed is too friendly to act as a watchdog but he may offer an alert bark at the approach of a stranger—only to greet them with a wagging tail when the door is opened.

Energy Levels

Though they have a moderate amount of energy, they don't need more than a walk per day and a few rambunctious play sessions to keep them happy.

Specific Concerns:

  • Sensitive to harsh correction or rough handling
  • May wander so a personalized dog collar is a necessity
  • Desires companionship—doesn't appreciate staying home alone all day
  • Can be stubborn
  • Requires time-consuming regular grooming
  • May be difficult to housetrain



Coton de Tuléar can adapt to most living situations and are fantastic apartment dogs. They aren't often noisy, and are happy to play indoors until it's time for a walk.


Sun, rain, snow—it doesn't matter to the Coton de Tuléar. While this hardy breed enjoys a romp outside in any weather conditions, they are not a breed that can live outdoors. They should always be supervised while outside. A fenced yard will help prevent roaming.


The majority of the exercise a Coton needs can be gotten through indoor play or a few laps in the yard, but a daily walk—in addition to playtime—is ideal.


The rugged little Coton de Tuléar has plenty of stamina—they have the endurance to join in on treks outdoors and excel at high-energy activities like agility, but they're still small dogs so their size should be considered when planning activities.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: An adult Coton de Tuléar in good health may be able to run up to two miles with breaks to rest.
  • Hiking Miles: Energetic Cotons are often able to handle a hike of a few miles if special considerations are made for their short legs. Climbing is usually no problem for the breed, and they aren't discouraged by water. Debris from the trail is likely to gather in the cottony coat, so extra grooming or a puppy trim may be necessary.


The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food to feed is ¾ cup per day. This amount is based on average weight and activity level and should be split between two or three meals.

While Coton de Tuléar are not prone to food guarding behaviors, children should never be allowed to touch or remove food from any dog while it is eating.

Alone Time 

Time spent with the pack is the best time, if you ask this social butterfly. The Coton de Tuléar is attached to family and prefers to spend time in their company. They may be able to stay home alone for three to five hours, but they do best in a home where they will have company through the majority of the day.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

14-19 years


The cotton-ball-like hair of the Coton de Tuléar requires brushing two times per week and occasional baths. They shed very little, but their medium-length coat can become matted without proper brushing. They do not require costly trips to the groomer—the breed standards recommend the Coton's coat be kept in a natural state, without trimming. For Cotons kept as pets, a puppy cut may make grooming easier.

Common Health Issues

The Coton de Tuléar is a healthy, long-lived breed, though there are a few health concerns, including:

  • Luxating patella
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Liver shunt
  • Disc problems
  • Eye concerns

You can minimize serious health concerns in Cotons de Tuléar by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



Incredibly intelligent, eager to please, and happy to perform—the highly trainable Coton learns basic obedience with ease. They are intelligent, but can be stubborn. Don't confuse their sense of independence for lack of intelligence or you'll find that the dog is the one training you.

They take to housetraining slower than many breeds, so consistency is key. Crate training may help when it comes to housebreaking the Coton. Gentle training and positive reinforcement are the best approach for training this sensitive breed.

Advanced Training

Agility, advanced obedience, rally, and playful tricks are training activities in which the Coton will eagerly participate. The Coton, ever the class clown, will often stand up on his hind legs to show off—if it gets a reaction, he will do it repeatedly. The breed's propensity for tricks and games can be harnessed with praise and treats.

The friendly, affectionate nature of the Coton makes therapy dog training a good match for the breed.

Sporting Dog Training

The Coton de Tuléar is not a hunting dog.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Coton de Tuléars.

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The hair of the Coton de Tuléar is soft and cotton-like, which may be due to a gene mutation. The texture could also have come about when the breed's ancestors mated with dogs native to the island of Madagascar.

'Tall Coton' is the name given to Cotons de Tuléar that stand taller than the regular type. They're not bigger overall—they have longer legs and a lean body. Taller Cotons are born in litters of standard-sized Cotons, but are not common. A gene mutation may be the cause of the size difference. There is no breed standard for Tall Cotons and their size disqualifies them from the show ring, but the taller versions do not have any additional health concerns and are just as affectionate.

Breeders charging more for a 'rare' Tall Coton should be avoided. The trait is likely a genetic mutation and should not be intentionally bred for.

There are two types of coat change the Coton de Tuléar is known for. First, they change from their puppy coat to an adult coat some time before one year old. Their undercoat 'blows,' or sheds, as their adult coat comes in. Expect excessive brushing during this coat change—the shedding coat means matting is more frequent, which requires extra care daily to prevent discomfort. Some Coton owners keep their pets trimmed in a puppy cut to avoid the extra brushing necessary during the Coton coat change, but show dogs must not be trimmed.

The other type of change is related to color. Though breeders prefer an all-white dog, puppies may be born with shading or color at the ears or on the face, and occasionally elsewhere. This coloring may fade—black turning grey and tan lightening or turning fully white—by two years of age. The color may also disappear during the coat change from puppy hair to adult hair. It is also possible that the coat may never change or fade. Coat color matters in the show ring—but a Coton of any color is just as delightful as a pet.

The Coton de Tuléar is considered hypoallergenic because it is a low-shedding dog with hair, rather than fur—which is less likely to cause a reaction in allergic individuals. While no dog is truly without the risk of an allergic reaction, the Coton may be an option for allergy sufferers.

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