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Coton Tzu (Coton de Tulear & Shih-Tzu Mix): Info, Pictures, Traits

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Coton Tzu (Coton de Tulear & Shih-Tzu Mix)

Height: 8–12 inches
Weight: 8–16 pounds
Lifespan: 14–16 years
Colors: White, black, lemon and white, black and white, tri-color, gray and white
Suitable for: Families, singles, children, seniors
Temperament: Affectionate, intelligent, playful, vocal

The Coton Tzu, a cross between a Coton de Tulear and a Shih Tzu, is a small, friendly, and playful breed whose adorable appearance will quickly win over your heart. They have a medium-to-long coat that is silky and fluffy, with large and expressive eyes. Depending on their parents, they can have pointy triangular ears or dropped ears with long fur and tails that curl over their backs.

The Coton de Tulear, also referred to as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar,” has an interesting and exciting history. They were survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Madagascar and thought to have swum across the Malagasy channel. The heroic survivors were named after the city of Tulear where they landed, as well as for their cotton-like coats. They remain Madagascar’s national dog. They were then bred exclusively as companion dogs. They have little or no prey drive and are not known for hunting.

The Shih Tzu is a toy dog breed that originated in China. They are thought to be a cross between a Pekingese and Lhasa Apso and were so prized by Chinese royals that for years, the Chinese refused to sell, trade, or give any of them away. They were first imported into Europe in the early 1930s and then into the U.S. in the mid-1950s. They are also known as the “Chrysanthemum Dog,” due to the way their hair grows as a puppy, extending in all directions and resembling a flower.

The Coton Tzu is an adorable little lapdog that will rarely bark, is a low shedder, and is known to be hypoallergenic, so they are perfect for owners with allergies.

Divider 1Coton Tzu Puppies

A Coton Tzu puppy
Image Credit:PhotogenicPanda, Shutterstock


Most toy and designer dog breeds can fetch massive prices for their offspring, and the Coton Tzu is no different. The parent breeds are fairly rare, and their crossbred offspring are the same, which adds to the high price. They are also usually first-generation litters, which adds to their rare availability.

These affectionate and playful pups are a good fit for everyone.

Parent Breeds of the Coton Tzu
Image Credit: (L) pablo11, Shutterstock | (R) Jumpstory

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Temperament & Intelligence of Coton Tzu 🧠

The Coton Tzu is a calm, friendly, and even-tempered dog breed. They are rarely aggressive and love to lounge around with their owners. They also love to play, so they are ideal pets to have around if you have young children.

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

The Coton Tzu is an ideal family dog and loves nothing more than following their owners around and lounging on the sofa. They are adorable dogs whom children will love and quickly form a bond with. They are non-sporting dogs with little to no prey drive, so they make ideal companions for humans. They are friendly, gentle, and affectionate and are always ready to play.

They are known to be wary of strangers, so early socialization is a must. They don’t like to be left alone for long, will suffer separation anxiety if left alone for extended periods, and are known to start destroying the house when distressed.

coton tzu
Image Credit: Pxhere

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

Yes! Coton Tzus are highly sociable, friendly, and non-aggressive and will get along famously with other dogs. They have little prey drive or hunting instincts, so other family pets like hamsters, birds, or cats are not seen as food. Both of their parent breeds also get along well with other dogs, so this will usually follow with Coton Tzus.

Divider 4Things to Know When Owning a Coton Tzu

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

The Coton Tzu is a small dog, so while they won’t need a large quantity of food, they will need high-quality food to keep healthy. About ¾ of a cup of dry food a day should be sufficient, depending on their age and energy levels. Dry kibble will also help keep their teeth clean and healthy and help reduce plaque build-up and dental issues. Adding the occasional portion of wet food is great, as it can provide extra moisture, but it should still be kept under a cup a day to avoid your dog getting overweight.

Be sure to check the ingredients of both the dry kibble and wet food that you give your dog, as many commercial foods contain harmful “filler” ingredients. Dairy products, grains, chocolate, and fatty meats should be strictly avoided, as these can swiftly lead to health issues. The debate still goes on about whether to feed your dog raw or cooked meat as opposed to kibble, which can often contain harmful ingredients. There is evidence that the cooking process breaks down essential nutrients, especially omega fatty acids. The best option is to give your dog the best-quality dry kibble that you can and mix in meat or tinned food whenever possible.

That said, Cotons are generally a robust and healthy breed, and as long as they are fed a nutrient-rich diet, they will live a long and happy life. Most dogs need around 25–30 calories per pound per day to maintain a healthy weight, so the average Coton Tzu will need to get about 200–450 calories a day. Puppies and young adults will often require more than this, as they are more active, while seniors may need slightly less, as they are generally more placid.

coton tzu running
Image Credit: SaiJeed, Shutterstock

Exercise 🐕

Like all dogs, Cotons will need daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. Growing puppies will especially need loads of exercise to burn off excess energy, and playtime in order to keep their minds stimulated. A common rule of thumb is 5 minutes for every month of age, twice a day, until adulthood.

While the Coton Tzu makes for a great cuddly lapdog, they are an energetic and active breed and will need daily exercise to keep them healthy and avoid bad behavior. Around 30–40 minutes of intensive exercise a day is ideal. These dogs love to play, and games like fetch, ball-throwing, and agility exercises will be a hit with a Coton. They are fairly sensitive to heat, so exercise should be avoided on hot days.

Training 🦮

Both the Coton de Tulear and Shih Tzu are notoriously tricky to train, and the Coton Tzu is no different. Small dog breeds in general are more of a challenge to train, and traditional methods aren’t necessarily the best option. Training sessions should be short and fun—10–15-minute sessions are ideal. Training should be consistent and at least once a day, every day. The method of positive reinforcement training is recommended for most dogs, and Cotons are small and easily frightened, so this method is a great way to keep them feeling safe and confident.

Small dog owners will often let things slide that they wouldn’t necessarily allow from their large dogs, assuming that such a tiny dog can’t do much harm. But these small things can rapidly turn into big things and will make it even harder to train your dog. Consistency is key, especially with small breeds.

Grooming ✂️

While no breed of dog is truly hypoallergenic, the Coton Tzu comes close, as both their parent breeds are low-shedders. This makes them a great choice of dog for owners who suffer from allergies. They do need regular brushing to prevent matting, and a daily brush is likely the best option. Both their parent breeds need a high amount of grooming, and a Shih Tzu in particular needs the occasional trim.

They will benefit greatly from regular baths, and brushing their teeth at least once weekly will help prevent any plaque build-up and dental issues. Nails should also be regularly checked to see if they need clipping, as long nails can cause pain and discomfort for your pooch.

Health and Conditions ❤️

Cotons are generally a healthy and robust breed, with no breed-specific health issues. Due to their long lifespan—sometimes exceeding 15 years—they are more susceptible to lifestyle-related issues. These issues include arthritis, eye issues like cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and hip and joint problems like hip dysplasia.

One of the most common problems in Cotons is allergies, causing itchy skin and ears. The Coton’s ears are susceptible to infection due to the profuse amount of hair inside the canal. This hair is the ideal environment for wax build-up, mites, and fungus, so it should be kept dry and clean as much as possible.

Their tiny size also makes them susceptible to size-related issues that are common in small dogs. Patella luxation is one of the most common orthopedic issues in the Coton de Tulear. This is a painful condition where the dog’s kneecap can slip out of the groove that it’s designed to stay in, often because the groove is shallower than it should be. Depending on the severity of the condition, surgery may be required.

Small dogs can also have dental issues due to the overcrowding of teeth in their small mouths, known as supernumerary teeth. Unless your dog is displaying signs of pain or discomfort, this condition is not usually a huge problem. That said, they will require extra brushing, as food can easily get stuck and cause plaque build-up and even periodontal disease. Small dogs can also suffer from bouts of reverse sneezing, though this is relatively harmless.

Unless you intend on breeding, it is widely recommended to neuter males and spay females. For males, it assists in the prevention of cancer and makes them less aggressive. It will also prevent them from wandering off looking for females and potentially getting lost or hurt. In females, it will assist in the prevention of uterine infections and cancer. It is highly recommended to spay a female Coton before her first heat, as this will further help prevent these complications.

Minor Conditions
  • Skin allergies
  • Cataracts
  • PRA
  • Arthritis
  • Reverse sneezing
Serious Conditions
  • Cancer
  • Patella luxation
  • Supernumerary teeth
  • Periodontal disease

Male vs. Female

The most common differences between male and female Coton Tzus are related to whether they are spayed or neutered. That said, there are small differences in male and female Coton Tzus to be aware of.

Both male and female Cotons are one of the least aggressive dog breeds you’ll find, and they are equally sweet and affectionate. They are also calm and easy-going. Females are more likely to fight with another female than a male is with another male. They will usually assert this dominance fairly early on, as they mature faster than males do. Males are also generally more affectionate and eager to please their owners, whereas females are more independent and happy to do their own thing. Males are usually more food-motivated, which makes them more responsive to training, as they will do anything for a treat!

A common platitude among dog owners is: If you want a dog to love, get a female, but if you want a dog who loves you, go for a male. That said, the biggest predictors of behavior in dogs are the way they are treated as puppies, their genetics, their environment, and lastly, their sex.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Coton Tzus

1. They have soft-as-cotton coats

The Coton de Tulear is known for their incredibly soft coat, which is what they were named for: “Coton” is the French word for cotton. The coat of a Shih Tzu is also soft, and the combination of the two makes for a cuddle-worthy animal.

2. They love water

Most Cotons love water and are adept swimmers. While this can also depend on their upbringing, they are naturally good swimmers and will jump at the chance to dive into a pool or river.

3. Cotons are highly intelligent

These dogs are known for their agility and intelligence and can be easily trained to perform tricks. They have a knack for walking on their hind legs and have unique vocalizations. Owners often describe their nature in human terms, like “witty,” “lighthearted,” and “sympathetic.”

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If you are looking for an adorable, fun, and energetic lap dog to cuddle with on the sofa, the Coton Tzu may be an ideal choice. Children will love them, and they will love them back even more. If you suffer from allergies, their low shedding is a plus, and their soft-as-cotton coat is a joy to groom.

Their propensity for learning tricks and their desire to please their owner make for a fun and entertaining pooch with a ton of character. Owners of these dogs across the board remark on the Coton’s ability to make them laugh.

Whether you are single or a senior or have a large family with young children, there is no going wrong with choosing the Coton Tzu as your next pet.

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Featured Image Credit: Pxhere

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