Judging the Coton De Tulear based on the key elements of type

The information in this article is approved by the United States of America Coton de Tulear Club, AKC, Parent Breed Club.

The magnificent Coton will “take your breath away”when you behold the unmistakable striking beauty of the white flowing coat, rectangular outline, and distinctive convex topline.

“Under the soft, cottony texture coat, the Coton is a dog of balance and symmetry”. The distinguishing qualities of the breed are best appreciated by judging equally with both hands and eyes.

Slighty rounded eyes and black pigment, accentuate the stunning appearance and alluring expression. The head is triangular in shape with a slightly rounded skull. The stop is slight. Ears are set directly above the line of eyes. Ratios: muzzle to head ratio is 5:9 and head to body is 2:5. The standard does not define a difference between male and female heads, but emphasizes correct ratios.

Head furnishings may fall forward over the eyes or brushed back over the skull. Topknots are not acceptable.

Elements of Coton de Tulear type include:


The Coton de Tulear is the “overall appearance of a white dog”. However, the standard defines a small amount of allowable color and makes exceptions for puppy color. When all considerations are equal, judges should give preference to the dog whose coat has the most amount of white.

Cotons de Tulear are presented in natural coat. Some coats will reach the ground, but others will be approximately 1 to 3 inches less than ground length. Either coat length, however, is acceptable.

The coat is not artificially parted, on the head or body. Excessive trimming, sculpting or grooming which alters the natural appearance is to be severely penalized. Trimming of feet and pads is permitted.

The coat feels like a soft, fine quality cotton ball, never silky, harsh or wooly. Coats lay straight with only a very slight amount of wave being acceptable. Adult coats are dense and profuse and should never be so thin that it lays flat against the body.

Determine coat texture by squeezing the fur into the palm of your hand. Correct texture feels like a natural cotton ball or flower. A small amount of fur, twisted upright with your fingers, should produce a stand up look of the fur. If it falls flat, texture is too silky. Puppy coats are much softer than adults.


Acceptable: 5% light tan in one patch or scattered throughout the body. Over 5% of light tan color is a SEVERE FAULT. A light tan or grey dispersed color is allowed on ear tips, and is not considered in determining the 5% amount.

Exception: Puppy Color—Does not apply to puppies with color under 12 months of age. They may have the acceptable colors of light tan, light brown, dark brown, chestnut or grey on the body and head. These colors have the potential to fade to the acceptable 5% allowance by one year of age and should not be penalized.

Black is a DQ anywhere on the coat and at any age!



The body ratio is 2 high at withers to 3 long from point of shoulder to point of buttock.

Cotons de Tulear are 1/3 longer than tall! A definite rectangle! A Coton should never appear long and low and definitely not square.



With height and weight sizes being so dramatically different, it is important that judges not be influenced by size and reward the specimen with the best overall conformation.


The topline is slightly convex. The topline runs smoothly from the withers to the loin and begins a slight, natural arch over the loin continuing over the croup, without flatness, resulting in a low tail set!

If a Cotons withers and croup are on the same plane, with an arch over the loin, you ARE NOT feeling the correct Coton topline. You are feeling a level topline with a hump.

Unfortunately, the Coton is being judged like a Havanese. The Coton topline IS NOT high in the rear. The Coton tail set is low. Tail faults seen far too frequently are

the result of incorrect toplines. One of the major faults we are experiencing in Coton judging is the incorrect evaluation of the Coton slightly convex topline.

Place your thumb and index finger in an inverted U shape over the last rib. This enables you to easily determine the starting point of the arch over the lumbar vertebrae. The rise should not start before the lumbar vertebrae. Croup is oblique.


On the move the tail is carried happily. It is curved over the back so that the hair of the tail rests on the back with the point towards the nape, withers, back or loin. In specimens with abundant coat, the tip many rest on the dorsal-lumber region. It is not obligatory to see the tail raised continuously while in motion, however, when the tail is raised, it must be pointing forward. If the tail is dropped on rare occasion, this may be forgiven.

Tails are down when presented on the table, when the dog is not in motion, and when stacked on the ground at rest.

Most common tail faults (in motion) flagpole tail, standing straight up and a snap tail laying flat on the back.



The gait is a free and flowing moderate trot with no signs of uneven movement. The topline is retained. Less than ideal ring conditions may cause Cotons to jump over high grass, however, SKIPPING should never be seen in the ring, regardless of conditions.

Exhibitor pace is a brisk walk.


Front in motion: Cotons de Tulear have a 30 degree shoulder layback. Forward movement should be free and easy with no tendency for the feet to cross over. Rear in motion: a straight line is maintained at all speeds of the trot, from hip to pad. The flash of pad seen from the rear reveals the construction of the rear leg. The straight leg will show the pad balanced perfectly in line with front leg placement. Legs that are too close or cow hocked will show the pad going away at an angle.


Please visit www.usactc.org where you will find Complete Elaboration of the Standard and a Guide to Judging the Coton.

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR Eileen Boyer Narieka’s passion for Cotons de Tulear began over 17 years ago, but her love of purebreed dogs spans a lifetime. Eileen has served the Coton community as an educator, mentor and Board member of the USACTC, AKC parent breed club, and is known for her unwavering dedication to preserving the health and conformation of the breed. In addition to owning, breeding and handling several #1 ranked Cotons in the club, she has played a vital role in the future of the AKC Coton as a current member of the Breed Education Committee presenting judges education seminars and authoring numerous educational documents. Eileen is a member of the Eastern Stewards Association and the Berks County Kennel Club. She lives in Leesport, PA surrounded by a family of AKC Show enthusiasts

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