What is a Breed Standard?
"A breed standard is a written document, approved by a kennel club or breed club that details the breed's physical characteristics, temperament, and abilities necessary for its intended original purpose" (Knorr, 2006). Standards are used by breeders to assist them in maintaining the integrity of the breed.
Divergent opinions exists over the standard for the Coton de Tulear. On one side of the controversy is Dr. Jay Russell, who sent the first Coton breeding stock from Madagascar to America in 1974. The Coton de Tulear Club of America (CTCA), the first Coton club in the United States, was founded by Dr. Russell. The CTCA maintains its own breed standard, which is derived from the original Malagasy standard for the breed.
Other clubs abide by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) standard. The FCI is an international kennel club that originally included only five European countries. Today membership includes nations on six continents and they recognize over 300 breeds of pure-bred dogs.
The main disagreement between the two standards is over color and size. The FCI standard maintains that a Coton is primarily a white dog. Although slight color on the ears is "tolerated", it is not desirable. The CTCA standard on the other hand argues that the original Coton comes in three color varieties. They include the Black and White and the Tri-Color in their standard.
Size is the other issue. The FCI standard states that the Coton height should be in the range of 9.8"-12.5". Although the CTCA standard is very similar they also recognize what they refer to as the "tall Coton". Dr. Russell has initiated a scientific experimental breeding protocol in an attempt to understand the genetics of Coton tallness and has a few breeders working in cooperation with the experiment to purposefully try to produce tall Cotons.
At Cathy's Coton Cuties we have adopted a balanced philosophy in relation to the standards. All of our dogs that are used for breeding meet the FCI standard and were obtained from knowledgeable, reputable breeders who adhere to the FCI standard. However, we have seen the three color varieties mentioned in the CTCA standard in puppies produced by some of the top European Coton kennels, making it difficult to discount the existence of such variations in the breed. As stated by the CTCA, a "cookie cutter look" for this breed is not the goal. Although we do not breed for extreme color variations, where white is no longer the dominant color of the Coton, we are not opposed to the look of the tri-color and black & white variations. Many people find this variation very beautiful. We offer everything from pure white to tri-color and even black & white in our puppies.
Another hottly debated issue in the Coton world is AKC (American Kennel Club) acceptance of the Coton breed. For years a majority group of Coton breeders resisted the acceptance of the Coton as a recognized breed by the AKC. Breeders worried that such recognition would cause the Coton to be overbred, allowing faults into the breed that do not commonly exist at this time. There is nothing inherently wrong with the AKC. We were Chihuahua breeders for 12 years before breeding Cotons. I found the AKC to be a noble regulating force in my breeding practice. A representative from AKC would visit our home twice a year to inspect our paperwork, our kennels and the living environment we provided for our dogs. We never felt threatened by this. We welcomed these visits as we knew we were providing the best of care for our dogs. We always passed those inspections with flying colors and earned the respect of the AKC representative that visited our home.
I say all that to demonstrate that AKC truly attempts to educate breeders and protect the dogs that they accept into their registering club. We made the decision in the summer of 2015 to move all our registrations to AKC. So when you buy a puppy from us, you will receive an AKC puppy registration application (except for one of Liliana's dogs.) If you have any questions or concerns about this issue we are happy to chat with you about it. It is our belief that it is up to us, as lovers and breeders of the Coton, to help to mentor new breeders and uphold the standard of the breed.