Coton de Tulear
The Coton de Tulear is most easily identified by the soft, fluffy, cottony looking coat that is typical of the breed. They are a relatively uncommon breed outside of their native homeland of Madagascar but are gaining in popularity with dog fanciers the world over. There are actually different standards for the Coton de Tulear depending on which registry is being referenced. A general description is found below.
The Coton de Tulear has a rounded skull and a well defined face that is highlighted by the soft, cottony hair that frames the dark features. The muzzle is tapered and short and there is a noticeable stop between the forehead and the start of the muzzle. The eyes are dark, lively and intelligent and are framed by dark skin. The nose is also very dark, black in color and very noticeable against the white or light colored coats. The lips cover the teeth tightly and are not loose or overlapping. The lips, like the nose and skin around the eyes is black in color. The ears are moderate in length and drop or fold over approximately two and a half to three inches and then there is an additional fringing of hair on the ears that makes them appear fuller and longer than they actually are.
The head is carried very high, proud and erect on the long neck, which flows nicely into the shoulders and well developed chest. The topline of the back is straight to somewhat outwardly arched, although this arch is not predominant or highly noticeable. The legs are straight, somewhat on the shorter side and well muscled for the overall size of the dog. The pads of the feet are black in color and nicely rounded and compact.
The tail of the Coton de Tulear may be carried straight or slightly curved, but will always be covered with longer, cottony hair. The breed has a noticeable beard and moustache of longer hair, plus the eyes of the mature Coton de Tulear will be covered with the long hair from the forehead. In pets this may be trimmed to help with upkeep, but in show dogs the coats and faces may not be trimmed or clipped. The overall appearance of the coat should be windblown and free, not slicked or flat against the body. They should closely resemble a fluffy cotton ball that has been slightly pulled apart.
Coton de Tulear Temperament
The Coton de Tulear has a wonderful, lively and intelligent personality that makes them ideal for any type of home or family situation. They are a great dog to interact with children or the elderly and can adjust to the amount of exercise that the home can provide. They are also very easy to train, very willing to please, and enjoy being with their families as much as possible. Not a toy dog, the Coton de Tulear, despite its fluffy and somewhat toy like appearance is a very sturdy small breed that loves to play, fetch and romp around with the family.
The Coton de Tulear is an excellent companion dog for either smaller or larger breeds. When properly socialized the Coton de Tulear will accept other dogs into their area without being overly protective or dog aggressive. Of course intact males are more likely to be problematic with aggression especially in the presence of females that are in heat. Neutered males and spayed females are typically the calmest of the breed when interacting with other dogs. They are also excellent with non-canine pets and tend to interact very well with cats and other household pets.
The Coton de Tulear is a very happy breed. They seem to constantly be smiling, wagging their tails and wanting to be around the family. They do best when they are left alone only for brief periods of time. The Coton de Tulear is not a good breed for a family that will be gone more than they are home or that don't have time to spend with their pet on a regular, daily basis.
Daily grooming is key to keeping the coat of the Coton de Tulear looking its best and free from mats and knots. While they are not a shedding breed the longer, dead hairs if not removed from the coat will cause skin irritations as well as mats and tangles in the coat that can become very significant in a short period of time. Daily grooming either by brush or comb will keep the coat looking soft and tangle free with just a simple routine that shouldn't take more than five minutes.
The Coton de Tulear usually only sheds hair when been groomed, much like a human loses hair when they brush. Since the hair is so dry to the touch and silky, it is typically easy to groom using a wide toothed grooming comb or a pin brush. Start at the neck and groom down and back, following the direction of hair growth. The Coton de Tulear will never have a sleek, lie down on the skin type of coat so it is not essential to worry about exactly how the hair appears on the body, a windblown look is considered the best for the breed. The coat of the Coton de Tulear is naturally very clean and should only be bathed once or twice a year, never more frequently.
It is important to trim the hair on the feet to prevent it from matting between the pads and becoming uncomfortable or absolutely painful for the dog. This can be done with blunt ended grooming scissors that prevent any possibility of nicking the skin. The ears should also be carefully checked and cleaned with each grooming and any long hairs in the outer ear area should be plucked to avoid irritation for the dog.
Show Coton de Tulears may not be trimmed or clipped, although many pet owners choose to clip the hair over the eyes as well as clip or trim the hair on the body. When clipping or trimming the Coton de Tulear it is possible to do it yourself or simply take the dog to the groomer. If you are using a professional groomer clearly explain the type of cut you want and even ask to see pictures of what the clip or style will look like on your dog to prevent any surprises. Most groomers will allow the owners to stay with the dog, at least for the first session, to ensure that the clip is just what the owner is expecting.
The Coton de Tulear is originally from Madagascar, more specifically the port of Tulear. It is believed that a dog closely resembling the Coton de Tulear was found after a shipwreck off the port city, although there is no record of the name of this ship or where it was sailing from. Many breeders believe it is more likely that the European ships sailing to this African port likely had small companion type dogs of various mixtures with them, that then were left behind as gifts or simply left behind to mate with other dogs already in the city.
The result was a small, athletic and uniquely coated dog that came to be known as the "Royal dog of Madagascar". They were then brought back to Europe and reintroduced, giving rise to the debate as to whether they are originally a European breed rather than an African breed of dog. Regardless they are a relatively rare breed of dog that is slowly but surely becoming more popular around the world.
The Federation Cynologique Internationale or FCI accepted the breed in 1971 and has since moved to change some of the standards used by the other breeding associations and kennel clubs. They have moved to a more Maltese looking breed standard that is not accepted or recognized by other associations.
Training the Coton de Tulear is a very pleasant experience although they are occasionally a bit headstrong and stubborn. The breed is very lovable and wants to please the owner, making them very responsive to positive training methods that use praise and small rewards. They are quick to learn both good and bad habits and will find many endearing little things to do when they think they may be in trouble. Many Coton de Tulear are naturally adept at learning tricks like walking on their hind legs and sitting up to beg.
The Coton de Tulear, bred as a companion dog for so long, seems to have the ability to understand what the owners is wanting before the command needs to be given. They are ideal obedience and agility dogs and seem to love competition and being in the spotlight. As with all breeds they do need consistent training and a puppy obedience class is highly recommended to provide both socialization as well as a good understanding of the basic commands.
Most Coton de Tulear are very clean dogs and puppies and will almost house train themselves given the opportunity to get outside when needed. They are also excellent dogs to crate train although the owners must be committed to following the routine and ensuring that the puppy gets outdoors or to the designated areas when in the crate.
Teaching the Coton de Tulear tricks and entertaining routines is very easy. Unlike some dogs they will be able to understand multiple commands and are reported to have an uncanny ability to understand what their owner is saying. To avoid any confusion when first training the Coton de Tulear it is recommended that one person train the dog first, then have other members of the family work with the dog using the same commands and signals.
The Coton De Tulear is one of the healthiest breeds of dogs with no known Health Problems, likely due to breeders continued efforts to closely monitor and select the best possible Breeding programs. All Coton de Tulears in the United States must complete a blood chemistry test as well as general Health test to qualify for breeding status in the Coton de Tulear registry. Some conditions that the health exam looks for include:
Cherry Eye-prolapsed gland in the third eyelid, usually corrected by surgery.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy-progressive blindness.
Patellar Luxation-dislocation of the kneecaps.
CHD-canine hip dysplasia is a progressive weakening of the hip joint causing pain and limited movement.
Legg Calve Perthes Disease-bone and circulatory disease of the hips, can be treated by removing the joint and constructing a new joint of muscles and tendons. It is genetically transmitted condition that is common in most small breeds.