The Coton De Tuléar is a small breed of Bichon type dog with an average weight of just 5 kg. It is classified under the Toy group by the Kennel Club. This “Royal dog of Madagascar” got its name from the port city of Tuléar (modern-day Toliara) and for its soft cotton-like hair. This breed is predominantly white with a prominent black nose, round, dark and expressive eyes, and pendulous ears covered in fine long hair. It also has black lips, a well-feathered tail that is carried above the back when it is in motion, and an arched loin which gives the breed a distinctive outline. The body of the Coton De Tuléar is slightly longer than it is high. It is covered with a soft cotton-like single coat, between 8-9 cm long, fine and slightly wavy hair (not fur). It is a non-hair-falling, slight shedding breed with low dander so it is a very good choice for people suffering from allergies or asthma. It also has very little to no dog odour. The typical height of the breed is between 25 – 32 cm at withers.
The Coton De Tuléar was developed in Madagascar and is the island’s national dog. It is believed to be a cross between a breed of dog endemic to the island and the Tenerife dog brought to the island during the 16th and 17th by pirates. It is most closely related to the Bichon Tenerife and the Tenerife Terrier and was bred as a companion dog by the Merina tribe in Madagascar. It used to be a royalty-only dog and no one was allowed to own a Coton except for the Malagasy royalty. It was first discovered by a Westerner when biologist Dr. Robert Jay Russell went to Madagascar in 1973 and eventually was able to bring one to the USA and coined the name, the “Royal Dog of Madagascar”. It was also brought to Europe, particularly in France during the 1970s where it was officially recognised as a breed by the Societe Centrale Canine and the Federation Cynologique Interntionale (FCI) which published the breed standard in 1972.
The Coton De Tuléar is affectionate, independent, lively, and playful. It has a very little prey drive and it does not hunt because it was purely bred as a companion dog. It is a quiet dog that rarely barks, only making noise when it is playing. This clownish breed can stand up and walk on its hind legs as a way to please people. This eagerness to please makes it very easy to train. Socialisation is never a problem as the Coton loves meeting new people and other dogs. It also loves to swim whenever it gets the chance. Its small size means it can live practically in any home setting – be it in a small apartment in the city to a large estate home in the countryside. A common demeanour of the breed is to come alive in the evening.
The Coton de Tuléar is an absolutely wonderful dog breed to have as a family companion. Not only is it good for someone suffering from allergies, it is also a fairly easy to train dog. It is highly intelligent and has a penchant for pleasing and will quickly pick up on basic training. Positive training is the best approach when teaching this breed, reinforced by praise rewards or food treats. After the basics, training can move on to more advanced challenges such as dog agility and tracking. The ability of the Coton to stand up on its hindquarters makes it easy to train on doggy dancing.
The soft, silky, cotton-like coat of the Coton De Tuléar requires daily brushing and combing. This breed moults but unlike other dogs, the hair does not fall out and is trapped within the silky coat, which means it needs frequent brushing in order to remove the loose hair. Failure to regularly groom the coat can lead to quick mattings which are hard to remove and will require trimming or shaving. Although this breed does not have a strong doggy smell, bathing once a week is still recommended especially if it is kept as a show dog.
The Coton De Tuléar is generally a healthy breed and has few health issues compared to other dogs because it is a generic-type dog which did not inherit serious diseases from its ancestors, unlike other dogs developed from multiple breeds. However, like any other canines, health issues cannot be prevented. Among the few health problems that are known to affect the Coton are heart problems, liver shunts, disc problems and eye problems. However, the good news is that these diseases are still relatively rare in the breed mainly because the Coton is bred true to type and retained its unique healthy characteristic. It has an average lifespan of 14 – 16 years.
This feisty little breed requires a minimal amount of exercise. Short daily walks up to 30 minutes are enough to satisfy the exercise requirements of the Coton De Tuléar. It will appreciate a good quality time with any member of the family especially if it involves a play session. Never underestimate this small breed because it has a great deal of stamina and has the endurance to go on a long hike. However, exercise should be kept to a minimum during the first few months, gradually increasing the pace after the dog has reached past six months of age in order to prevent any injury.
This lovely family companion is excellent with children regardless of age. However, like any other breed, adult supervision is required when children play with it. Its small delicate size needs careful handling or it can easily get hurt, particularly if it involves rough play. Children must be taught to handle and treat the dog properly. The Coton De Tuléar thrives on companionship and is great with other dogs. It does not have a strong prey drive so it goes quite along well with other pets.