Coton de Tulear vs Maltese: A Tail-Wagging Duel of Two Adorable Breeds



When it comes to small dogs with big personalities, two breeds often stand out and are compared with each other: Coton de Tulear vs Maltese. Both are renowned for their charming appearance and loving nature, making them excellent choices for those looking for companion dogs. Whether you’re a family in North America or a couple looking for a furry friend, these breeds have much to offer.

The Coton de Tulear, with its fluffy, white coat, hails from a small island and has become popular with French tourists and dog enthusiasts alike. On the other hand, the Maltese, known for its long white coat and graceful demeanor, has a rich history stretching back to the Mediterranean Sea.

But how do you choose between these two little white dogs? What are the major differences that could influence your decision? Whether it’s their health issues, energy level, or compatibility with young children, understanding these breeds is the best way to find the perfect match.

In this guide, we’ll delve into everything from their origins to grooming needs, training tips, and more. By the end, you’ll be well-equipped to decide between the Coton de Tulear and Maltese, two of the most delightful members of the toy dog category.

Understanding the Breeds

Choosing between Coton de Tulear and Maltese dogs means understanding what makes each of these small dogs special and unique. Both breeds are part of the toy dog group and are recognized by the American Kennel Club. Loved for their small size and affectionate nature, these breeds have become excellent choices for family members and solo pet owners alike. Let’s dive into the specifics of each breed to discover what might make one an ideal choice for you.

 Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear originated from the island of Madagascar, where French tourists fell in love with its charming appearance and lively nature. With a long coat that’s often white and a friendly disposition, this breed has become popular in North America and beyond.

  • Appearance: Often white, with a soft, cottony coat.
  • Temperament: Known for being affectionate, alert, and great with young children.
  • Energy Level: Moderate, enjoys play but not hyperactive.
  • Health: Prone to hip dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy.


The Maltese is a breed with a rich history, tracing its roots back to the Mediterranean Sea. Known for its long white coat, elegance, and sweet nature, the Maltese is a favorite among dog lovers around the world.

  • Appearance: Features a luxurious long white coat, often described as a fluffy Maltese dog breed.
  • Temperament: Gentle, affectionate, and adaptable. Known for being a good family dog.
  • Energy Level: Moderate to active, loves attention and play.
  • Health: Some concerns with dental health and susceptibility to bacterial infections.

Whether you’re drawn to the Coton de Tulear’s playful charm or the Maltese’s graceful beauty, understanding these breeds’ characteristics will guide you in making the best choice for your home and lifestyle.



Origins and History

Diving into the history of the Coton de Tulear and Maltese reveals fascinating stories that have shaped these breeds over time. From small islands to royal courts, their origins are rich and intriguing. Understanding where these little dogs come from might not only enhance your appreciation for them but also help you decide which one could be the best match for you.

Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear, named for its cottony coat, hails from Madagascar. Its ancestry is somewhat mysterious, but it’s believed to have been brought to the island by French tourists and traders. Some even say that the breed survived a violent storm at sea.

  • Ancestors of the Coton de Tulear: A blend of various breeds, possibly including the Bichon Frise.
  • Coton de Tulear Origin: Became popular in recent centuries on the island and later in North America.
  • Breed Standards: Recognized by the American Kennel Club, prized for its friendly nature.


The Maltese’s history stretches back over 2000 years, with roots in the Mediterranean region. A favorite among the nobility, this breed has been depicted in art and literature throughout the ages.

  • Exact Origin of the Dog: Thought to have originated on the island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Royal Court: Loved by queens and princesses, a symbol of luxury.
  • Breed Standards: Recognized for its long white coat and elegant demeanor.

Whether it’s the adventurous history of the Coton de Tulear or the regal background of the Maltese, these stories offer a glimpse into what makes each breed unique. Choosing between them may come down to personal preference, but knowing their history adds depth to the decision-making process.



Appearance and Temperament

When choosing between the Coton de Tulear and Maltese, appearance and temperament play a crucial role. These little white dogs might seem similar at first glance, but their looks and personalities offer distinct differences. In this section, we’ll explore these aspects, helping you find the best dog for your lifestyle and preferences.

Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear, often referred to as the “Royal Dog of Madagascar,” is known for its fluffy, cotton-like coat and friendly nature.

  • Appearance: Soft, cottony coat, usually white, but can have other coat colors. Medium length and often described as having a cheerful expression.
  • Temperament: Very social and affectionate, great with family members and young children.
  • Energy Level: Moderate, enjoys play but is also content with relaxation.
  • Size: A true small dog, weighing between 8 to 15 pounds.


The Maltese is a breed synonymous with elegance and charm, often recognized by its luxurious long white coat and graceful demeanor.

  • Appearance: Features a silky long white coat, dark expressive eyes, and a graceful posture. Often groomed to showcase its beauty.
  • Temperament: Gentle and affectionate, adaptable to different family dynamics, and known to be a good family dog.
  • Energy Level: More active than the Coton de Tulear, enjoys playtime and interactive games.
  • Size: Typically under 7 pounds, a delicate and petite breed.

By examining the appearance and temperament of both the Coton de Tulear and Maltese, it becomes clear that while they share some similarities, they also possess unique characteristics. Whether it’s the Maltese’s refined elegance or the Coton de Tulear’s playful charm, these differences may guide your decision in choosing the perfect companion.

Coton de Tulear vs Maltese

Health Concerns

When selecting between the Coton de Tulear and Maltese, considering potential health issues is vital. Both breeds are generally healthy but are predisposed to specific conditions. Understanding these can help in providing the best care and identifying a reputable breeder who prioritizes health. Let’s explore the common health problems for both of these small breeds.

Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear is a resilient breed, but like all dogs, it can be prone to certain health conditions. A responsible breeder will screen for these issues to ensure a healthy pup.

  • Hip Dysplasia: A genetic condition affecting the hind legs.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: A degenerative eye condition.
  • Dental Issues: Regular dental care is essential.
  • Life Expectancy: Generally, a long life expectancy, ranging from 14 to 16 years.


The Maltese, while a robust breed, has its specific health concerns. Recognizing these and working with a vet can ensure a long, happy life.

  • Dental Problems: Due to their small size, dental care is crucial.
  • Bacterial Infections: Can be prone to skin and ear infections.
  • Luxating Patella: A condition where the knee cap moves out of place.
  • Life Expectancy: Similar to the Coton de Tulear, ranging from 12 to 15 years.

Knowledge about these health concerns isn’t meant to deter you from either breed but to equip you with the information needed to make an informed choice. Whether you opt for the Coton de Tulear with its specific eye and hip concerns or the Maltese with its dental and skin considerations, knowing these issues allows you to provide the best way to care for your furry friend.

Regular check-ups and a good relationship with a veterinarian can contribute to a positive experience and great companionship with these lovely small dogs.


Care Requirements

Every dog has its specific care requirements, and the Coton de Tulear and Maltese are no different. From grooming to feeding and training, understanding the care needs of these little dogs is essential for a positive experience. In this section, we’ll break down what it takes to keep these breeds happy and healthy.


Grooming is an essential aspect for both breeds, given their long coats. Regular grooming not only keeps them looking beautiful but is vital for their health.

Coton de Tulear

  • Coat Care: Regular brushing with a pin brush to prevent matting. Their cottony coat can be kept medium length.
  • Bathing: Regular but not too frequent to prevent skin dryness.
  • Nail Trimming: Essential for overall comfort.


  • Coat Care: Requires frequent brushing with a pin brush, and some owners opt for professional grooming.
  • Bathing: More frequent than the Coton de Tulear, especially to maintain a white coat.
  • Eye Care: Regular cleaning to prevent staining.


Both breeds require a balanced diet but have different needs based on size and energy levels.

Coton de Tulear

  • Diet: Balanced dog food suitable for small breeds with moderate energy levels.
  • Treats: Can be used for positive reinforcement in training.


  • Diet: Nutrient-rich dog food, considering the higher energy level.
  • Monitoring: Small size may require close attention to prevent obesity.

Training and Socialization

Training and socializing are crucial for both breeds, helping them adapt to different environments and develop good manners.

Coton de Tulear

  • Training: Responds well to positive reinforcement, including treats.
  • Socialization: Great with families, adapts well to new people and environments.


  • Training: Intelligent and trainable, but requires consistency and positive reinforcement.
  • Exercise Needs: More substantial than the Coton de Tulear, enjoys walks and play.

Whether you lean towards the playful Coton de Tulear or the elegant Maltese, understanding the care requirements is crucial in providing a loving home. From grooming and feeding to training, these care tips ensure your furry friend thrives as a beloved member of the family.



Suitability for Different Lifestyles

The Coton de Tulear and Maltese are both known for being excellent choice companions, but their suitability can vary depending on individual lifestyles and living situations. Whether you’re a family with young children or an older adult seeking companionship, it’s crucial to consider which breed fits best. In this section, we’ll explore how each breed aligns with different lifestyles, helping you find the perfect match.

Families with Children

Both breeds are known to be good family dogs, but here’s how they might fit with younger family members:

Coton de Tulear

  • Temperament: Friendly and patient, great with young children.
  • Playfulness: Engaging but not prone to rough play.


  • Temperament: Gentle and affectionate, but may prefer a home with older children.
  • Care: Requires more close attention, especially around very young kids.

 Singles and Couples

For those without children or with grown-up kids, both breeds offer wonderful companionship.

Coton de Tulear

  • Compatibility: Adaptable and content with ample or minimal company.
  • Separation Anxiety: Generally lower, making it suitable for working individuals.


  • Compatibility: Craves attention and companionship.
  • Separation Anxiety: More prone to this condition, better for those who spend more time at home.

Seniors and Older Adults

Considering a dog in retirement? Here’s how these breeds might fit:

Coton de Tulear

  • Energy Level: Moderate, doesn’t require extensive exercise.
  • Size: Manageable small size, easier for seniors.


  • Companionship: Excellent for providing affection and comfort.
  • Care Requirements: Needs more grooming, but also a low energy dog.

Living Conditions

Whether you have a fenced yard or live in an apartment, understanding how each breed adapts to different living spaces is essential.

Coton de Tulear

  • Space Needs: Adaptable to apartments or homes with yards.
  • Outdoor: Enjoys the great outdoors but doesn’t require extensive space.


  • Space Needs: Well-suited for apartments, doesn’t need a large yard.
  • Outdoor: Prefers indoor comfort, especially in cold weather.

In evaluating the suitability of the Coton de Tulear and Maltese for different lifestyles and living conditions, their unique characteristics shine. From families with children to older adults, singles, or couples, the decision between these two lovely breeds can be tailored to your specific needs and living situation. Whether it’s the Coton de Tulear’s adaptability or the Maltese’s affectionate nature, these insights will guide you in making the best option for a happy, harmonious home.

maltese dog

Conclusion: Coton de Tulear vs Maltese

Choosing between the Coton de Tulear and the Maltese is no easy task, as both breeds offer unique charm, loving companionship, and specific care requirements. This comparison of their appearance, temperament, health concerns, care needs, and suitability for different lifestyles has provided insights to help make an informed decision. Ultimately, your personal preferences, living situation, and commitment to care for these adorable little white dogs will guide you to the best match.

Whether it’s the Coton de Tulear, known for its fluffy charm, adaptability, and moderate energy, or the Maltese, famous for its elegant appearance, affectionate nature, and need for attention, both breeds can make excellent house pets. Considering factors like grooming, exercise needs, and compatibility with family dynamics will ensure a positive experience and a loving relationship with your chosen furry friend.

By working with reputable breeders, understanding the potential health problems, and embracing the joy and responsibility of dog ownership, either breed can become a cherished member of the human family.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • What’s the exact origin of the Coton de Tulear and Maltese? The Coton de Tulear has a mysterious origin linked to Madagascar, possibly brought there by French tourists or through a violent storm. The Maltese has a more ancient history, with roots in the Mediterranean Sea region, particularly Malta.
  • Can these breeds live in cold weather? The Coton de Tulear is adaptable to various climates, while the Maltese prefers warmer weather and may need extra care in cold conditions.
  • How can I ensure I’m getting a healthy dog from a breeder? Look for reputable breeders who follow breed standards, provide health clearances, and are open about the health history of the parents. Visiting the breeder and asking questions is a good idea.
  • Are these breeds suitable for homes with larger dog breeds? Both breeds can live with larger breeds, but proper introductions and monitoring are essential to ensure a harmonious relationship.
  • How do these breeds react to new people? The Coton de Tulear is generally friendly and adaptable, while the Maltese might need more time to warm up to new people.
  • What’s the average life expectancy for these breeds? Both breeds have a relatively long life expectancy, with the Coton de Tulear ranging from 14 to 16 years and the Maltese from 12 to 15 years.

By understanding these details and recognizing the individual charm and needs of both the Coton de Tulear and Maltese, you’re well-equipped to welcome one of these beautiful breeds into your life. They’re sure to provide joy, companionship, and a unique presence in your home for years to come.

Back to Dog Breed Comparison