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Coton de Tulear vs Maltese: Key Differences (With Pictures)

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Coton de Tulear vs Maltese

The Coton de Tulear and Maltese are considered the two closely identical dog breeds available today. Unsurprisingly, this leads to much confusion when choosing between them. It’s not uncommon to call a Maltese dog a Coton de Tulear and vice-versa. But despite the visual similarities, these dogs have very different histories and personalities.

If you’re in the market for either breed, it’s important to learn about their differences to make the right choice. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about these toy dog breeds before taking your pick.

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Visual Differences

Coton de Tulear vs Maltese side by side
Photo Credit: (L) pablo11, Shutterstock | (R) Jumpstory

At a Glance

The Coton de Tulear
  • Average height (adult): 9–11 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 8–13 pounds
  • Lifespan: 14–16 years
  • Exercise: 30 to 40 minutes daily
  • Grooming needs: High
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Yes, especially to other dogs and cats
  • Trainability: Highly trainable, eager to learn, agile, intelligent, and obedient
The Maltese
  • Average height (adult): 9–10 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 4–8 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–15 years
  • Exercise: 20 to 30 minutes daily
  • Grooming needs: High
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Yes, but take caution introducing them to larger dogs
  • Trainability: Highly trainable, eager-to-learn, intelligent, and obedient

Coton de Tulear Overview

coton de tulear dog sitting outdoor
Photo Credit: Lunja, Shutterstock

The Coton de Tulear is a purebred, short, loving, adaptable toy dog with a thick coat reaching about four inches long. It’s a small dog, standing at only 11 inches, but it’s also incredibly robust and packed with a lot of energy.

According to the AKC’s 2022 list of most popular dogs in the US, the Coton de Tulear ranks 84th, elbowing out more famous names like the Bearded Collie and the Standard Schnauzer. Coton de Tulears make excellent house pets and show dogs but are terrible at hunting.


This dog derives its roots from Madagascar, a small island off the Southeast African coast in the Indian Ocean. The name Tulear comes from a small seaport city south of the island called Tulear. Translated into English, Coton de Tulear means “Cotton of Tulear”.

A fitting name for the furry, white dog that resembles a walking ball of cotton. The Coton de Tulear was initially a household pet for rich merchants in the small seaport city. Its popularity spread throughout the island, eventually becoming the Royal Dog of Madagascar.

Small white pups would accompany sailors on sea voyages to the West Indies, circling the Cape of Good Hope and sailing through the Mozambique Channel into the Indian Ocean. The pups would reduce the monotony and blandness of journeying the seas and also help cats get rid of mice and rats on sailing ships.

The story goes that a violent storm in the 15th century led to a catastrophic shipwreck near the coast of Tulear that left the entire crew dead. The little white dogs swam to shore and became the ancestors of the Coton de Tulear. The dogs became widely accepted by the people of Tulear and were sold to richer families for a hefty price.


This tiny pup sports a thick, white fur coat, but some puppies are born golden, brown, or with back spots that later fade into white or champagne. They can grow up to 11 inches tall, with males growing larger and weighing more than females.

These pups have slightly disproportionate bodies. They are slightly longer than their height and have muscular frames. Their dark, round, happy eyes add to their bubbly personality.

Coton de Tulear running outside
Photo Credit: Chica de Tulear, Pixabay

Demeanor and Personality

Coton de Tulears are incredibly friendly, affectionate, loving, and gentle dogs. They’re excellent with children and other pets and have a calm and even-tempered demeanor. These dogs are always eager to please their owners, which makes them easily trainable.

They are also incredibly charismatic and have clown-like personalities. Overall, they’re great house pets and show dogs.

Coton de Tulears are generally soft dogs with tenderness and a gentle disposition. They’re extremely loyal and sociable, but you can train them to be cautious among unfamiliar faces. You need to Introduce them to your family and friends early to foster acceptance while transitioning into adulthood.

Given their tiny frames, these toy dogs don’t make the best guard dogs. However, they’re quick to alarm you of any approaching intruders but don’t bark to the point of annoying you. Plus, you could always train them to reduce their barking to tolerable levels.

Living Requirements

Coton de Tulears make excellent additions to any household. Their charm and charisma make living with them a joyful experience. They’ll be eager to wake you up early in the morning to feed them or for a quick game of fetch. These pups thrive on attention and can’t get enough of their owners.

They’re also a relatively active breed and love scurrying around and getting into all sorts of mischief. Fortunately, given their small size, they don’t need much space to play. However, it’s important to allow enough room for them to have fun and explore.

Occasionally take them outside for a walk so they can experience the great outdoors. A 30–minute leashed walk daily will do wonders for your Coton de Tulear’s physical and mental development.

The Coton de Tulear is an excellent family dog provided you introduce it to family members early on. They’ll get along with your children and other pets as well. The only caveat with their lovey-dovey nature is that they become overly attached.

These pups hate being alone and will likely act up when lonely by chewing up the furniture. Fortunately, they make excellent travel companions and can easily fit inside a crate or carrier to join you on your trips and vacations.

Coton de Tulear on grass
Image Credit: JackieLou DL, Pixabay

Care and Grooming Requirements

Their long, silky coats mean that Coton de Tulears require dedicated grooming to keep them looking their best. You’ll need to brush your pet at least four times a week and bathe them weekly or once in three weeks. You also need to trim its nails, clean its ears, and brush its teeth.

Remember to gently brush them and get as close to the skin as possible. The fur closest to the skin gets matted the most, and it’s also where you’ll find the most dirt. A pin brush with uncoated metal pins is the best for untangling matted fur and ensuring a smooth, silky coat.

Some dogs may be difficult to housetrain. However, feeding them on a schedule with regular outings allows them to do their business outside.

Health and Care

Coton De Tulears are generally healthy dogs that can live up to 16 years with proper care. But you must schedule vaccinations and regular vet visits to guarantee your dog’s health. That said, the Coton de Tulear is predisposed to certain health complications, namely:

  • Luxating patellas
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Look out for symptoms of the above conditions and take your pooch to the nearest vet if you notice them. Early diagnosis and treatment can go a long way toward preserving your dog’s health.


Breeding the Coton de Tulear is a lot of hard work and should only be left to the professionals. They breed every six months and give rise to liters of between two and six puppies.

Suitable For:

Families with children since these pups make great companions for kids of all ages. They’ll enjoy each other’s company and help stave off boredom and loneliness, which can make the dog act up.

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The Maltese Dog Overview

White Teacup Maltese
Image Credit: Plernz, Shutterstock

The Maltese is a small white dog with a long, silky, straight coat. It’s incredibly popular in the US, ranking 38th on AKC’s 2022 list of most popular dog breeds. These canines are affectionate, protective, and energetic and enjoy their owners’ company.


The Maltese is one of the oldest dog breeds, having existed for a whopping 29 centuries. The exact origin of the dog is still a mystery, but sources point toward Egypt, Southern Europe, and Sicily. Most historians agree that the Maltese dog’s origin traces to Malta, a small island south of Italy.

Phoenicians may have brought the Maltese to Malta during 1000 BCE after colonizing the island nation. The tiny pup was likely traded for food or helped eliminate rats and other rodents from ships. However, in Malta, the dogs were mainly comforters, companion dogs mostly owned by ladies who carried them in their laps and carriages.

The dog breed’s popularity spread throughout Europe, and it was an accepted household pet in Britain by the 19th century. Today, it’s one of the most popular house pets and show dogs in the US and worldwide.


The Maltese has a compact build, standing between 7 and 12 inches, and weighs a paltry 6 pounds in adulthood. They have thick, white coats with straight fur and tufted tails. Their gumdrop noses and big round black eyes make them extremely adorable.

Sometimes their fur grows long enough to sweep the floor and give them an ornamental look. Some owners tie their long fur on their heads into a top knot, while others let it flow freely. The dog’s gait is flawless and effortless and has unmatched buoyancy and suaveness.

tiny maltese
Image Credit: Pezibear, Pixabay

Demeanor and Personality

The Maltese is a lively, people-oriented tiny dog with a big heart and an insatiable appetite for fun. These tiny pups love their owners and get very attached to them. They’re very playful, vigorous, and eager to learn, making them easy to train.

Despite their small gait, Maltese are alert to intruders and outsiders. They’re known to be excessive, incessant barkers that bark when they spot unfamiliar faces or when stressed or bored. This trait makes them great guard dogs, but the incessant breaking can easily get on your nerves. Fortunately, you can always train it to stop barking when you issue a verbal command or show a hand signal.

These pups generally have an even temper and are good with kids and other pets. However, they may be raucous with younger children, who may handle them roughly. That’s why you should never leave your Maltese with children unattended.

Living Requirements

These pint-sized pups are energetic and love to play. You need to provide adequate play space and enough exposure to other people to socialize. A tiny, fenced area with a few toys will do just fine.

Caring and Grooming Requirements

Maltese are high-maintenance pets in the grooming department. Their silky, white coats get matted and dirty easily. Therefore, it’s important to wash your pet once a week or at least once every three weeks.

The small pooches typically have tear stains that you can clean by wiping with warm soapy water. Don’t forget to brush their hair with a moderately-spaced pin brush daily. Doing so eliminates knots and keeps matted fur at bay.

Maltese dog playing in the grass
Image Credit: Dora Zett, Shutterstock


The Maltese is easy to train, given its predisposition to interact with humans. You can train your dog to obey verbal commands like sit, roll over, and so on. They also respond well to hand gestures, with adequate training. House training typically takes one to four months or a little longer, depending on the dog. You can always allow frequent breaks outside where they can do their business.

Health and Care

Most Maltese live healthy lives with minimal health issues, provided they receive their vaccinations and visit the vet regularly. But this doesn’t make them immune to diseases. Some of the most common health complications with these dogs include:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sebaceous adenitis
  • Deafness
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease


The Maltese can breed every four to eight months, with breeding continuing until their senior years. Female dogs enter breeding maturity during their fourth to eighth month and can have a litter of between two and five puppies.

Cute maltese dog sitting on the rock
Image Credit: Sadovnikovrn, Shutterstock

Suitable For:

Families with younger children and extra space around the house to accommodate the dog’s active nature. The dog is also a great fit for single homebodies with enough free time to spend with them.

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Which Breed Is Right for You?

Choosing between the Coton de Tulear and the Maltese is easier said than done. Both dogs are adorable and are loving creatures that can’t get enough of their owners. Ultimately, picking between the two depends on your specific needs and your budget.

Coton de Tulears are typically more expensive than Maltese dogs. However, Maltese dogs may cost you slightly more in grooming. The Maltese may also be a poor choice if you need peace and quiet. These tiny pups are loud, incessant barkers that can disrupt your peace and quiet.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: (L) BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock | (R) Kang Sunghee, Shutterstock

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