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Coton de Tulear: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Coton de Tulear temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Coton de Tulear dog breed

Happy, clownish, and inquisitive, the Coton de Tulear enjoys clever games of dexterity such as "pull the stale bit of fallen cheese from under the refrigerator with your paw."

He is both boisterous and calm – dashing around the yard to play, then snuggling in your lap to snooze.

Cotons are very people-oriented and will push for as much attention as they can get. They are so sociable that they don't do well when left for long periods without companionship. "Not doing well" means unhappiness and boredom, which they try to vent through barking and destructive chewing.

Though peaceful and gentle with everyone (humans and other pets), this breed forms a strong bond with his family and can be conservative with strangers. Socialization is important to build a confident, outgoing temperament, as there is a potential for excessive caution/timidity.

Though he does have a mild stubborn streak, the Coton de Tulear is normally a "soft" dog and responds well to training. He prefers learning tricks to formal obedience and is especially bright-eyed when occasional food treats are offered as rewards. Harshness only makes him wilt.

The most problematic training issue is housebreaking – Cotons tend to be slow to housetrain. Barking needs to be curtailed, as well.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is small but sturdy
  • Is playful and entertaining
  • Has a soft cottony coat that can be left long or clipped short
  • Dosn't shed much (one of the best breeds for allergy sufferers)
  • Doesn't need much outdoor exercise (just daily walks, plus romps in a fenced yard
  • Is polite with people and other animals

A Coton de Tulear may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • "Separation anxiety" (destructiveness and barking) when left alone too much
  • Shyness or suspiciousness in some lines, or when not socialized enough
  • Frequent brushing and combing (unless regularly clipped short)
  • Mild stubbornness
  • Housebreaking difficulties
  • Barking

A Coton de Tulear may not be right for you.


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In this brand new series, I'll help you decide which dog breed traits would best suit you and your family, your home and yard, and your lifestyle, so you can choose the best dog breed for your family.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament  is less predictable than the inheritance of physical  traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

FREE eBooks by Michele Welton

dog icon"Respect Training for Puppies"  and "Teach Your Dog 100 English Words"  are free step by step guides to teaching your pup to be calm and well-behaved.

dog icon"11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy"  is a free guide to keeping your dog mentally, physically, and emotionally happy and healthy so you can enjoy a longer lifetime of companionship.

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  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Cotons have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy.

More traits and characteristics of the Coton de Tulear

If I was considering a Coton de Tulear, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Grooming. Coat care is a major responsibility. Cotons require weekly brushing and combing, and also clipping and trimming every couple of months. Otherwise their coat keeps growing and turns into a matted mass.

    For ease of care, consider clipping your Coton's coat short so that brushing and combing is minimized. Then he will look like an adorable puppy throughout his life.

  2. Housebreaking problems. The Coton de Tulear belongs to the same "family" of dogs as the Bichon Frise, Maltese, and Havanese – all of which are slow to housebreak. Consistent crate training is mandatory. Sometimes a doggy door is necessary so the dog can go out whenever he needs to (though that can lead to another problem if he stays outside and barks!). You will have greater success if the potty area is covered, since many Cotons despise getting wet. Read more on housebreaking.

    If the potential housebreaking problem sounds like a deal-breaker to you, don't give up! Consider adopting an already-housebroken adult Coton de Tulear from a rescue group.

  3. Providing enough socialization. Some breeders and owners have reported aggression and/or fearfulness in some Cotons. This might be an inherited trait – which means you need to be very careful when choosing a Coton breeder – or it might be due to not enough socialization. The Coton tends to be standoffish with strangers. So if you don't do enough socializing, or if you do it the wrong way, their natural caution might become shyness or suspiciousness. Read more on socializing your dog.
  4. Potential separation anxiety. More than most other breeds, the Coton de Tulear needs a great deal of companionship and does not like being left alone for more than a few hours. He is likely to express unhappiness by barking or chewing things up.
  5. Potential barking. Like most small dogs, the Coton de Tulear is often quick to bark when he hears or sees something new. To prevent your Coton from developing a chronic barking habit, you must establish the right relationship between the two of you, where you are the leader and he is the follower. In other words, you should teach your Coton to respect you so that he will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No." Follow my free online training programs.
  6. Potential health problems. Most Cotons are long-lived. But they are very prone to allergies that can disrupt their quality of life. Cotons can be allergic to fleas, grass, pollen, and so on. Allergies cause a dog to scratch and chew himself into horrendous skin conditions.

    Other concerns in the breed are urinary problems and bladder stones, along with loose knee joints that may require surgery. Read more about Coton de Tulear Health.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life. Get my honest advice about all 11 Things before you bring home your new puppy, because some mistakes with early health care cannot be undone. Click here to read for free.

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