Coton de Tulear vs. Shih Tzu: Which Breed to Get?

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Coton de Tulear vs. Shih TzuIf you are looking for the perfect pet for your family, deciding between a Coton de Tulear or a Shih Tzu can be a challenge. These pups have many similarities, but also some differences that make them better suited to some lifestyles and families.

In the following sections, we’ll have a look at these two breeds, focusing on what sets them apart, so you can choose the best pooch for your lifestyle.

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Coton de Tulear and Shih Tzu History

Coton de Tulear’s name is indicative of its place of origin – Tulear, a region in Madagascar. The “Coton” refers to their cotton-like coat, which makes them easy to distinguish among smaller breeds.

Their actual origin is mostly unknown, with some people believing they were brought by sailors. The small breed is believed to have appeared when the Maltese, or a similar breed, was brought to the island, where it mated with other local dogs, resulting in today’s Coton de Tulear. As such, Coton is considered to be a part of the bichon family of breeds.

Shih Tzu is a name that translates to “lion” and refers to the dog’s lion-like appearance. The origin of the breed is associated with Tibet. For many centuries, the history of this breed has blurred out. It became a royal dog during the Ming Dynasty, from the 14th to the 17th centuries. This pooch has always been a lap dog, so it’s a breed that loves pampering and cuddling.

Coton de Tulear vs. Shih Tzu: What Are the Breeds Like?

Below, we’ll look at what these two breeds are like.


The Coton de Tulear is a small but sturdy dog. One of the most distinguishable features is the cotton-like, long coat which is very soft to the touch. The main color of this pooch is white, but sometimes they do have ashy spots at maturity. This small breed often reaches about 10” in height and 10 lbs in weight.

The Shih Tzu reaches a similar size, about 10” in height and 9-16 lbs at maturity. The majestic coat can be a wide range of colors, including black and white, blue, brindle, or gold. The undershot bite gives them the appearance of a smiling dog because the lower jaw is bigger than the upper one. The coat is long and grows in every direction, and the body is surprisingly hardy for its small size.

Life Expectancy and Aging Profile

These two small breeds are known for their general good health. They can live a very long life, reaching up to 18-19 years at most. Generally, smaller breeds like Shih Tzu and Coton de Tulear live longer than larger breeds, so they can have the longest lifespans in the dog world with proper care, nutrition, and lifestyle.


The Coton de Tulear is a friendly dog that loves spending time with its family. It is charming and some of its favorite activities are to cheer you up, entertain you, and provide comfort. Cotons form very deep bonds with their families, so they do not fit well in households where they need to spend much time on their own. Their behavior is often described as clownish, but they are witty and love performing tricks – especially walking on their hind legs.

The Shih Tzu is born and bred to be pampered. These indoor dogs are lively and extremely friendly. They are usually good friends with other pets and even kids. The little lion dog is a natural charmer but sometimes may love chasing cats or digging holes – especially if it is bored.


Cotons de Tulear are loyal and intelligent. They are good-natured and live to please you, which means they are quite easy to train. The Shih Tzu is equally responsive – despite the “little lion” look, their temperament is playful and caring; most of the time, they’ll want to spend the day cuddling with you, but they can be equally playful and perform tricks.

Coton de Tulear vs. Shih Tzu: Which One Is Easier to Keep?

Next, we’ll look at which breed is easier to keep.

Required Living Space

Coton de Tulear may thrive in a small house with an enclosed yard – it doesn’t matter how big the yard is as long as it is there. They love to run and play, as they are considerably more active than a Shih Tzu. However, as long as you can walk your dog twice per day, a Coton de Tulear may easily adapt to a household without a yard, including apartments.

Shih Tzus are used to living in palaces and are indoor dogs. If your space is limited, a Shih Tzu is a great option. They don’t require much activity, so they will most likely follow you around and happily take a nap whenever you want to. That being said, this lapdog needs a lot of attention, otherwise, they get bored and may become destructive.


Both small breeds require time and care to look their best. The cotton-like, soft, and fluffy coat of the Coton de Tulear needs plenty of your time to stay clean and untangled. You need to brush the coat daily, especially the hair close to the skin, which can mat very easily and become painful for the dog.

Some owners, especially those who want to decrease the grooming time, opt for a puppy clip, which means cutting the hair close to the skin, so it’s less likely to mat and requires less brushing.

The Shih Tzu is low-shedding, but its coat grows continuously, so you need to establish a solid grooming routine. As with the Coton de Tulear, you can opt for a short cut of its coat, to minimize the time required to brush or comb it. If the coat is long, daily brushing is a must – otherwise, with a puppy clip, once or twice per week is enough.

Walking and Exercise

Coton de Tulear is a moderately active pup. About 30 minutes of activity per day is sufficient to keep it healthy and avoid boredom. This could be short walks (half a mile at most) or playtime at home.

The thick coat makes them overheat during summer, so you’ll have to walk them either early morning or late evening to avoid health problems. They also love playing in a yard, with some of their favorite activities being fetch or chase.

The Shih Tzu has a lower activity need. Some short daily walks or playtime at home is enough for this breed, so they are great companions if you live in an apartment. Similar to Coton de Tulear, playing in hot environments should be avoided, otherwise it is prone to heat exhaustion due to the flat face and short muzzle, which make breathing difficult.

Coton de Tulear vs. Shih Tzu: How Much Do They Cost?

A purebred Coton de Tulear may cost between $2,000 and $4,000, depending on your location and breeder. The Shih Tzu breed is usually more affordable, with prices ranging from $500 to $1,500. For champion bloodlines, you should expect to pay a lot more – usually $6,000 or above.

Coton de Tulear vs. Shih Tzu: Which Should You Get as a Pet?

If you are looking for a small, hypoallergenic breed, you are in the right place. However, choosing one or the other may depend on availability, personal preference, and even budget.

If you have a yard, it’s best to consider the fluffy Coton de Tulear – although not very active, playtime in the yard can be of great help. This breed is also excellent for seniors, families with kids, or first-time pet parents. Although its long, cotton-like coat requires considerable time and attention, you can opt for professional grooming sessions or a shorter cut to make it easier for you.

Shih Tzus are usually recommended for seniors, single people, or a family with older kids, as the small pup can be easily injured by smaller kids. In general, this pooch is friendly with just about anyone and will make quick friends with humans and pets alike. Thanks to their calm personality, Shih Tzus are a great choice if you want a dog who is not overly active or requires much physical exercise every day.

As with the Coton de Tulear, its coat is hypoallergenic and can be trimmed short if you are an inexperienced pet owner or prefer to minimize the grooming required. Nonetheless, you should keep in mind that a dog of any breed still needs extensive care – including regular baths, teeth brushing, ear checking, and nail trimming.


Coton de Tulear and Shih Tzu are two excellent breeds if you want a companion dog. They have not been bred with a specific purpose, so they won’t make great watchdogs or guardians. However, they are lively, entertaining, and have plenty of love to give.

The right household for these pooches should have members that spend lots of time at home, and small kids should always be supervised when playing with dogs to avoid accidents. If you want a slightly active, playful pup, a Coton de Tulear may fit right in; if you prefer a dog born to be loved, pampered, and cuddled, the Shih Tzu is the right best friend for you and your family.

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