Grooming a Coton de Tulear
Update January 2015: I've added some new products I've found and liked below.
Coton de Tulear has a beautiful coat and this is an important characteristic of the breed so there is a little grooming involved when you are lucky enough to have a Coton in the family. A Coton's coat feels like flowering Cotton. To me their coat feels like an old fashioned cotton nightgown. As your puppy grows so will the hair and must be brushed to avoid the dreaded mats associated with long hair breeds. Therefore if you have a Coton puppy it's a good idea to begin grooming them right away so that they are used to the process long before their adult coat blows in.
A Coton puppy's hair is pretty mat free and easy to take of. But the adult coat will begin blowing in around 7-12 months of age and this is when you'll really begin to feel mats. The adult hair grows into the finer puppy hair and voila, you have mats. Keep up the combing and you may find you'll have to do it more often. The blowing in process will take 4-12 weeks so be patient. Once the transition is finished you'll have a better idea how much combing your adult Coton will need.
Admittedly our dry desert lifestyle and climate doesn't help the condition of a Coton coat. I allow the dogs to play and a wrestle and that takes the toll on their coat. They bite and nip which can make it dry and break at the ends. Plus my water is hard well water, not softened. This also creates an environment where hair dries out making it hard to maintain.
Keeping it brushed out, conditioned and clean is the key to keeping the coat lovely and manageable. To accomplish this, many Coton owners end up with a plethora of doggie hair products cluttering their shelves. In fact, you may want to add on to your home to find the room to store it all.
All kidding aside, I'll try to outline what works for me here in a dry climate where the dogs run in snow, sandy clay and play together constantly. Remember to make grooming as pleasant an experience for both of you as possible. Treats are a must even if doing a quick comb out.
Each Coton coat is different. Rocky has a huge coat but is easily manageable and a pleasure to groom. Colby's tends to mat and is harder to manage, many split ends on that girl. She will get the ends wet leaving the hair at the base dry and this creates terrible mats where the dry hair meets the wet. I have to comb her out each day to keep her coat nice or keep her in a puppy cut.
Hair cut to 3-4" with tail and head left long (this isn't Colby)
You can keep your Coton in a very short coat if you prefer or it better fits your lifestyle. If don't have time to groom or your Coton just hates to be combed, or if you hike with your Coton, etc., a short cut might be the answer for you.
Cotons will need to be combed or brushed 1-7 times a week, depending on lifestyle, climate and coat of the dog. Baths every 2-4 weeks, depending on the dog and your preferences.
I use the widest toothed comb to do their regular brushings and to "line" comb them. The key to combing them out is to not break the hairs, so the widest is best to begin and work down to a finer comb. I also use a Gold tipped pin brush, in many sizes to brush them. I also use the "Les Pooches" brushes to brush them before using the comb. The Les Pooches brush really separates each hair and makes the comb easier to get through their hair.
The best way I've found to assure you've combed the entire body is to lay them on their side. You can also groom them on your lap if you have a cooperative dog.
To lay them down on the table I hold them as if I'm hugging them around all 4 legs, then gently lower them to the table.
You will need to "line" brush and/or comb. Meaning you go row by row (horizontally), combing all hair until tangle free. Making sure you get to the skin and comb out, gently.
I start combing from the tips of the feet and work my way from the bottom to the top. Again, if the opposite works for you that's good (top to bottom). I start at the rear legs, work up the hind end. Then go under the tail and back of the legs and underneath. Working to the belly and up the sides to the top. Then I get the front legs, shoulder and head. Turn them over and do the other side. Make sure you get the groin, the ears and underarm areas. Mats will begin there from the constant friction.
Always use an anti-static or conditioning spray as you comb or brush!!!! Always! Just a little spritz before putting the comb/brush through the hair. This will help in conditioning and make it easier to brush them out. You can spray it on the dog or the comb/brush. If you don't use a spray to comb them out their hair will get staticy and will break more easy.
My new favorite spray is "Isle of Dog" no.62 Conditioning Mist. I mix it with "Vellus" Anti-Static spray diluted it with distilled water and use this spray for normal daily brushing. It seems like the comb/brush goes through the hair very easily and it seems to add some volume as you brush.
Inevitably you will find tangles and mats. Don't just yank them out, you will pull out more hair than you need and will hurt the dog. We want this to be as pleasant an experience as possible. So feel free to give treats, hugs and kisses. A consistent grooming schedule will help the attitude of the dog too, it will become routine.
When I encounter a tangle or mat I use a dab of "Chris Christensen" Silk Spirits or "Vellus" Satin Creme to help loosen it making it easier to work out. Once it's loose try the Les Pooches Mat Blaster (red) to brush the mat out or if it's real stubborn try the mat comb to get it out. Then comb through the entire area where the mat was.
Below is a video Terri Tyler made of grooming her Cotons. This will help you see how to do a regular combing/brushing of your Coton. She's lucky to have Cotons who will allow a lap brushing, mine won't. Enjoy.
Regular bathing will help keep the coat in better condition. It's easier to comb a clean Coton than a dirty Coton. A few things need to be done before throwing them into the bath water. 1st make sure you thoroughly comb them out, removing all mats and tangles.Make sure to line comb them first so you know there are no mats before the hair hits the water.
Use a dab of Satin Creme or Silk Spirits all over their hair, work it into the hair, the conditioning is good before the bath. Check their ears for hairs inside and clip those away. I put a dab of triple antibiotic ointment eye ointment into their eyes to protect them from water. Get all your supplies out before getting the dog. Shampoo, conditioner, comb, towel, nail clippers and hair dryer (if you're going to blow dry them)
I use a sprayer in my shower or kitchen sink to do the bathing. I pump up the heat too, they will get cold when wet. Wet them down and apply the shampoo from the top down to the ends. If the dog has really dirty feet or mouth, shampoo those areas first. Don't rub in a circular motion, mats will begin if the hair isn't kept straight. Apply the shampoo and work your way down to the ends of their hair.
I use "Vellus" Show shampoo, diluted with distilled water on the Cotons. It's very mild with a lovely smell. You don't need to get them all sudsy for the shampoo to work. I use a wash rag around the face to wash that then rinse with as well. This keeps the sprayer from getting into their eyes. Make sure you rinse and rinse until all the shampoo is washed out. You want them squeaky clean.
Then I use the "Vellus" conditioner, again diluted a little with distilled water. I do use a good amount of conditioner because of the dryness and hard water. I leave it on for about 10 minutes before rinsing.
After all is rinsed out I take a big towel and wrap them up and proceed to blot dry them, don't rub it will create mats. It will usually take a couple of towels. Then I lay the towels on the floor of the bathroom and let them continue to dry themselves as they playfully roll around on the floor. I let them air dry a few minutes.
Then spray them with a conditioner and comb them out with a wide toothed comb while still wet. Then I start blow drying from the roots out. With a high powered dryer point it at the skin and brush out from where the hair is flaring out. Brush up,down and sideways to create more volume. And continue all around the dog, up and down the legs etc.
I often will let them air dry instead of using the dryer. I either leave them in the bathroom with the heater fan running or put them in a pen outside to dry in the desert wind. Actually when the weather is warm enough air drying them outside is the fastest way to get them dry. Just make sure they're in a pen with a blanket on the floor so they don't dirty again before they're even dry.
When dry I take a brush and brush everything out making sure there are no mats or tangles. You can also use a comb instead of the brush. If needed tie back their hair in a top knot.
Bath time is also a good time to clip the hair and clean the inside of the ears, brush their teeth and do a toenail trim. Grooming time is good bonding time and if you can do it regularly they become cooperative.
My Favorite Products
There are a ton of hair products for dogs out there. Like I mentioned above, all Coton hair is different and you may end up with many different products before you find the ones that work the best for you. Below are the products that work the best for us. There are many other products, so keep experimenting.
You'll find where you can purchase these products on our links page.
Combs and Brushes
Chris Christensen #003 Butter Comb
Fine and Extra Course or what works best for you.
Chris Christensen Gold Series Pin Brushes
27mm oval. I also like their oblong brushes
|Les Pooches lime colored brush for regular maintenance or red "mat blaster" for the mats|
Shampoo, Conditioner and Sprays
|Vellus Anti-Static Spray|
|Isle of Dog #62 Conditioning Mist|
Detangling spray, shampoo and conditioner
Healing/Antiseptic Products (great for skin)
Shampoo, Conditioner, Healing spray and bug spray
|Chris Christensen Silk Spirits|
|Chris Christensen Peace and Kindness|
|Vellus Satin Creme|