If you’ve ever been lucky enough to receive a postcard from someone in Madagascar, you may have seen a tiny image of a white dog featured on the postage stamp. It’s a fairly obscure situation to find yourself in, but definitely not impossible.
That’s because the Coton de Tulear, or Coton for short, is the official dog of Madagascar. So it’s no surprise that he was honored on the nation’s stamps.
And rightly so.
Before we go any further, let’s clear 2 things up:
How the heck do you even say this dog’s name?! Impress your friends with the correct Coton de Tuléar pronunciation is like this.
The breed name literally translates to “Cotton of Tuléar”
Coton = Cotton
de = of
Tuléar = Tuléar or Toliara, a city in Madagascar
This little dog is truly a treasure. His sweet, cuddly nature and fluffy, cotton-like coat make him the perfect lap dog.
Still, sitting around isn’t the only thing the Coton likes to do. This pup is surprisingly sturdy and is always up for a good time. He’s easy to train and loves making his people laugh by being the ultimate clown-performer.
He’s quite the well-rounded canine. If it were up to me, I’d feature him on a postage stamp, too.
We already know that the Coton de Tulear originated in Madagascar, but there’s a bit more to his story than that. A member of the Bichon family, this pup came to Madagascar several hundred years ago.
A dog of high class, the Coton was reserved only for the island’s aristocrats.
These wealthy nobles were keen on keeping all the cottony goodness to themselves, so they didn’t allow any dogs to be exported. In fact, laws were even passed prohibiting commoners on Madagascar from owning this special breed.
Only in the 1960’s was the Coton discovered by French tourists and brought to Europe. And AKC registration came later still, in 2014.
How did such a coveted little dog end up in Madagascar to begin with?
Stories abound, but one of the more popular tales points to a shipwreck off the coasts of the island.
The only survivors:
White dogs that swam ashore, intermingled with local canines, and lived wild in packs. (At least until they became the lap dogs of tribal nobles.)
Whether true or not, this tale does explain why such cuddly, sweet companion dogs would also have so much tenacity to them!
Are Cotons de Tulear Good Family Dogs?
Cotons de Tulear are excellent family dogs!
They do exceptionally well with kids, and are in fact among the best breeds for families with children.
The breed tends to be kind and affectionate with kids of all ages. He loves playtime as well as gentle cuddles, and could spend time doing both for hours and hours!
As with all dogs, you’ll need to teach your children how to properly treat a dog.
And even the friendliest, happiest of breeds need some alone time every now and again. Make sure your pup has a safe place such as a crate where he can retreat if he’s feeling overwhelmed.
All in all, though, the Coton is an excellent kid-friendly choice!
They also make great companions for retirees as well as apartment dwellers, as they do great with or without a yard.
In general, the breed is really adaptable.
The only home environment they aren’t suited for is an athletic-focused one. In other words, they’re not the best jogging partners.
But then again, what lap dog is?
When it comes to owning a Coton, there are some breed-specific things you should know about their care.
As with any dog, your Coton has a few basic needs that you’ll have to provide for. These include nutrition, grooming, exercise, training, and health.
And lots of snuggles and cuddles!
Like all dogs, the Coton de Tulear needs a balanced diet to stay healthy.
You should feed your Coton twice daily on a schedule.
Don’t leave food out for your dog all the time as this doesn’t allow you to watch how much he is eating. You don’t want him to overeat, and you’ll also want to take note if he’s not eating enough.
The amount of food you need to give your Coton is determined by activity level, metabolism, age, and overall health. In other words, the exact amount to feed varies from dog to dog, even within the same breed.
As a general rule:
An adult Coton de Tulear should eat ¾ cup of high-quality dog food, divided into two meals, daily.
For further reference you can check out the guide listed on your dog’s food bag. You may also want to talk to your veterinarian about exactly how much your individual dog should be eating.
Again, several factors affect feeding amounts, and each individual dog is different. But these tips should give you a good starting point.
The Coton de Tulear has a fluffy, cotton-like coat that grows to be about 4 inches in length.
They are low-shedding and are considered great for people with allergies.
As pretty as that fluffy coat is, though, the Coton can be a very high-maintenance breed if you opt to keep his fur long.
He’ll need to be brushed three to four times a week to prevent matting.
It’s important that as you’re brushing your Coton, you make sure the brush goes all the way down to the skin. Otherwise, unseen mats could develop at the base of all that fluff.
When it comes to bathing, frequency again depends on lifestyle.
The more you brush your Coton, the less you’ll probably have to bathe him. But even still, he may need a weekly or monthly bath depending on how dirty he gets.
If you opt for the shorter puppy cut, your Coton will be much easier to maintain. Of course he’ll need frequent haircuts to keep his coat short. But shorter fur does mean less brushing and detangling!
In addition, a Coton requires the basic grooming care needed by all dogs:
Brush his teeth at least once a week to keep him healthy (though more often is always better).
Check his ears regularly for signs of irritation or infection.
And trim his nails when needed.
The Coton de Tulear is a playful, energetic dog.
But even still, it doesn’t take a lot to meet his exercise needs. A daily walk at a normal pace will be sufficient to keep him healthy.
Though he definitely wouldn’t say no to additional activity! He’s always down for a romp around the yard or a good play session with his people in addition to his daily walkies.
Remember those legs are short, though!
The Coton really isn’t a distance runner, nor a hiker. He’s a dog that’d rather stick to a steady stroll around the neighborhood.
As with any dog, the Coton will become bored and destructive without sufficient exercise. But they are adaptable to a certain extent.
Given at least what they need, they are happy to adjust their activity level to that of their people’s.
Training a Coton de Tulear is not too difficult. These happy pups are eager to please and are very capable learners.
For best results, you should keep training sessions fun and entertaining.
The breed is sensitive and responds very poorly to negative training techniques. With positive training methods, though, Cotons excel and can do very well in obedience and agility.
Cotons also love learning tricks and games.
Being the little clowns that they are, they’ll never miss an opportunity to make you laugh by spinning in circles or dancing on their hind legs.
As with all pups, Cotons should be socialized from a young age and throughout their lives. Otherwise, they can become fearful and standoffish.
Potty-training Cotons de Tulear can be challenging.
Cotons can be notoriously hard to housebreak. This is in part because they have small bladders and simply can’t hold it for very long.
With frequent opportunities to go outside and a regular schedule, the Coton can of course be housebroken. It will just take some patience. Crate training can be a great way to help your pup pick up on good bathroom habits more quickly.
Coton de Tulear Health Issues
The Coton de Tulear is a very healthy breed that is more or less free of genetic issues. Health problems can of course exist, but the likelihood is very low.
The breed’s average lifespan is 14 – 16 years. So this little dog could be with you for very close to two decades!
Common Coton de Tulear health issues include the following:
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Spinal disc disease
Things to Know About Cotons de Tulear
1. A True Member of the Family
The Coton will make a wonderful, loyal pet and companion for all family members.
This is a pup that will follow you around all day and will always be down for a good play session.
He’s great with kids, as I’ve mentioned before. And he’s a HUGE cuddlebug (the Coton’s a lapdog, after all!)
In short, he’s just a fun-loving family member to have around! And that’s how he expects to be treated.
If you get a Coton, make sure he will be living inside with you and will be treated and loved as a true member of the family.
2. The Social Butterfly
Family members aren’t the only people the Coton de Tulear loves. This is a dog that is very social and enjoys getting out and meeting everyone.
Of course, the Coton requires socialization just as any other dog would. You’ll need to expose your puppy to a variety of new people and situations from the beginning to ensure he’ll be a good, well-rounded dog.
But personality wise, the Coton tends to be a very friendly breed.
With proper socialization, he will likely want to run up to every new person he sees and give them a big ol’ happy tail wag!
So if you have a lot of visitors over to your home or you want a pup that’s amicable enough to take out in public, the Coton is a very good option.
3. Separation Anxiety
It may seem surprising that a dog whose ancestors lived in feral packs would be so people-friendly.
But I guess years and years of later getting pampered by Malagasy nobles turned the Coton into a big ol’ softie!
Whatever the reason for his sweetness, the Coton de Tulear is a dog that needs to be around people. Deprived of this opportunity, he is likely to develop separation anxiety.
This is something you’ll need to consider before getting a Coton because the breed is very prone to this issue.
If you consistently must be away for more than a few hours at a time, you should probably consider another breed.
4. A Puppy at Heart
If you’re home most of the day, though, and still would love to bring a Coton into your family, then get ready for a puppy at heart!
The Coton de Tulear is a lively breed.
And because he is such a healthy dog, that livelihood will last a very long time. The Coton is a dog that ages well, and his love of life will not fade with time, either.
So get ready for a dog that keeps his happy, playful-puppy mentality well into adulthood.
5. The Water Dog
As a breed, the Coton de Tulear typically enjoys getting in the water and swimming.
So bath time should be a cinch!
And a trip to the lake or to a creek would also earn you a wagging tail.
Just because the breed as a whole likes water, though, doesn’t mean every individual Coton will. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try to see if your pup will enjoy a good water romp!
But be sure to keep a close eye on him since some dogs need to be taught how to swim first.
6. Doesn’t Like the Cold
While your Coton de Tulear may enjoy the water, he probably won’t like the snow.
Cotons can become cold very easily in the wintertime.
They may refuse to go outside, which can be problematic when it comes to potty time.
If possible, have a sheltered place where your Coton can relieve himself in bad weather. You may also need to get your pup a sweater for extra cold days.
7. Somewhat Stubborn
Stubbornness is clearly a given if you’ve read the above section. If your Coton doesn’t want to do something, then he may just not do it!
Cotons are people-pleasers, but they do like to question you sometimes. Your Coton may hesitate and look at you for your reaction before doing the thing you tell him.
Don’t become angry with his little do-I-really-have-to expression.
Instead, take these opportunities as golden teaching moments. Repeat your command firmly, and he’ll likely comply. If not, show him again what you want him to do.
A touch of stubbornness isn’t the worst thing ever. You’ll just need to be calm, firm, and consistent.
8. The Talking Dog
The Coton de Tulear is a dog that always seems to be listening to you. In fact, he’ll even join in on your conversation!
So if you can’t decide between a talking parrot and a puppy, then the Coton might be a good compromise!
You can check out the unique Coton “grunt” below.
9. Mr. Two Legs
The Coton de Tulear is well known for his ability to walk and stand like a person. (It’s another one of this breed’s clownish traits!)
…but this skill isn’t restricted to his hind legs…
And it’s not something you have to teach him how to do, either. This breed will usually just do it on his own.
After all, it is a very effective way for him to get lots of laughs and attention from the people he loves most.
He may also just do it for fun or to get a better look at that hamburger sitting on the kitchen table!
10. Beware if You’re a Commoner
Remember how I told you that historically it was against the law for Malagasy commoners to own Cotons?
That probably sounded strange enough when you heard it. But guess what the penalty was for breaking that law?
Yep, you read right. If you weren’t royalty and you owned a Coton, you faced the death penalty.
So if you’re considering getting a Coton, then be grateful you live in the modern day where Cotons can be freely owned, loved, and enjoyed!
11. Extinction On Their Native Island
Madagascar has come a long way in moving past the death penalty for owning a certain breed of dog.
But unfortunately, some other things have changed on the island as well.
The Coton de Tulear remains to be the “Official Dog of Madagascar.” But due to economic and political crises, the breed may possibly become extinct on its native land.
Thankfully, Coton de Tulear breeders are alive and well in other parts of the world, so complete extinction is not a concern.
After all, it would be a shame to lose such a special little dog!
12. What Are My Color Options?
Obviously a dog that’s known for being as white and fluffy as cotton, would most often be the color of cotton.
But white isn’t the only color choice out there.
Though rare, black Coton de Tulears do exist, sometimes with white markings, sometimes without.
And it’s not uncommon to find white Cotons with gray, yellow, or tri color markings.
So don’t be surprised to find Cotons of different colors. And have fun choosing which one you like the best!