The Dalmatian we know today comes from a long line of “coach dogs,” bred to chase horse-drawn carriages day and night. They are tough, dependable and have an incredible stamina. If you’re a cross-country runner or daily jogger, you may have met your match: Dalmatians can keep up with the most intense runners. And for those who live on a ranch or farm, Dalmatians have an instinctive calming effect on horses that goes back to their carriage-guarding days.
- 45 - 70 pounds
- 19 - 24 inches
Ideal Human Companions
- Active people
- Families with older children
Dalmatians on Dogster
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- Black spots
What They Are Like to Live With
Well-trained and socialized Dalmatians can prove to be both gentle and gentlemanly, displaying good manners and a quiet demeanor, even around strangers. However, they do have a boisterous side that comes from their incredible energy and stamina. For this reason, they may not be the best pets around very small children. But their intentions are always good and they make superb playmates for older children. They also have keen protective instincts that make them very effective guard dogs.
Things You Should Know
Dalmatians are people-oriented dogs. They should not be left alone in the house for long periods of time. Without adequate amounts of attention (and, of course, exercise) they can get a little destructive, digging up gardens, chewing objects and barking excessively.
These dogs like to wander. If allowed to roam, they could be gone for days, exploring different areas of the neighborhood—or county, for that matter—and feeding their curiosity. Make sure your backyard fence doesn’t have any escape hatches, and keep your Dalmatian on a leash at all times in public.
Dalmatians are very clean and tidy, but they do shed quite a bit. They have heavy spring and fall shedding seasons, but also keep shedding year-round. Daily brushing is needed to keep up with the excess. Also, Dalmatians can be sensitive to cold. Don’t leave them outside in cold weather and be sure they have a sweater for those winter strolls.
A healthy Dalmatian can live as long as 12 years. Common health issues include skin allergies and deafness (10 percent of Dalmatians are born with at least partial deafness). They can also get bladder stones, which can be limited with a low-purine diet.
Although Dalmatians have been living in Europe, Asia and Africa for centuries, little is known of their origin. Dating back to ancient Egypt, they have been used as guard dogs, dogs of war, circus performers, bird dogs, retrievers and of course firehouse mascots. But Dalmatians really made their name in the 19th century as “coach dogs”—their natural quickness, agility, protectiveness and affinity for horses made them perfectly suited for following horse-drawn carriages and guarding them when their owners went indoors. The American Kennel Club first registered them in 1888, and the Dalmatian Club of America was started seventeen years later.
The Look of a Dalmatian
Dalmatians are lean, medium-sized, well-proportioned dogs with distinctive black spots on white. Their muzzles are strong, eyes deeply set and their soft ears are set somewhat high. They have strong, arched necks, deep chests and level backs. Their tails extend out from their backs and curl up slightly without carrying over their backs, and they have long, well-muscled legs with round feet. Their coats are short, dense and sleek. Puppies are born solid white and develop black spots as they get older. Overall, Dalmatians have a dignified, powerful and alert posture with a steady gait.
Talk About Dalmatians
These are very loving dogs
Dalmatians are very loving with their family and very ACTIVE. They need to be exercised everyday and do not do well when left alone in a yard (they are house dogs!). They are very sweet dogs and will be your best friend following you everywhere and wanting to be with you all the time. It's very sweet and endearing. I have had many dogs in my life but would never own another breed. Dalmatians are fantastic, smart, easy to train and very loving. BUT note that they need training and direction because they can practice "selective deafness" at times. If you chose to bring a Dalmatian into your life you will have the best friend you can ever imagine.
~Jenn, owner of a Dalmatian
The protective clowns of dogdom
What I love most about Dalmatians is their wicked sense of humor. Many of them will stop at nothing to get a laugh out of you!
This is not a breed for anyone without a sense of humor who doesn't think a dog parading around with your undies in front of company or "forgetting" behaviors in competition they have always done perfectly in rehearsal. But they do give the most fun you can have with a dog friend.
They also are naturally protective of their owners. I am on my fourth, and I hope to have more! Lots of socialization is a must, as is gentle, fun "play training." They are not good for the sedentary -- or the house-proud, because of the shedding.
~Lisa H., owner of a Dalmatian
Sensitive to thunder, lightning, and flea meds
My Dalmatian, Dom, is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen and every time I look at him I feel happy. He sleeps with me and has to get under the covers and in the morning he waits for me to wake up so he can give me big kisses. In storms with thunder and lightning he completely goes to pieces -- he shivers, shakes, and wants to sit on my head! The vet gave me little yellow "chillout" pills and he has two when the storms are bad -- he also does not like big windy weather.
My husband sadly passed recently, and at Christmas my son came to visit. He was the first male to be in my home since my husband passed. You could see Dom just fall in love with my son, wanting to put his head on his shoulder and get special permission to get on the sofa. Dom completely ignored me during the visit and took himself to bed for three days after my son left! I had to give him lots of extra love and attention and a few drives in the car, which he loves.
My wardrobe is predominately black, so living with Dom has been challenging -- the little white hairs stick into fabric and are very hard to remove. They have a little hook thing and are hard to get rid of, and I have learned which fabrics the hairs do not stick to. That is just a small price to pay for the love and affection and happiness Dom brings.
When I watch him run it is the most beautiful thing. He loves the beach and jumping in the surf waves. The trick is getting him to come back -- he could run all day, and even bribery food does not always work.
We recently survived the floods, and for a few days Dom was very stressed and constantly coming and nudging me then one day he woke up and dancing and jumping and as happy as could be and I knew this meant the danger had passed. My late husband was a horseman and explained that the same as a thoroughbred million-dollar horse is highly strung and sensitive, so is my purebreed Dom.
In regard to the sensitivity thing, Dom recently had the first flea ever in his nearly 6 years so I put one of those capsule things you run down the back. Within seconds he was running around and almost instantly got a thick almost six-inch wide bright red strip down his body. I quickly got a wet flannel and kept rubbing it with water. Take him to the hydro bath lady to have a flea wash.
~Michelle M., owner of a Dalmatian
Tire him out before you train him
When I introduced dog agility in Manila, I realized I had the best dog to promote it: my Dalmatian! Spotty was a huge attraction. Even now that he's retired at 9 years old, he keeps receiving compliments.
Admirers do not know about the work and the huge amount of physical exercise we put into his life. The training and leadership so he's a joy to bring around. Yes, this is one dog that, if he lacks exercise, is DESTRUCTIVE at home. He's a smoldering ball of boiling energy that needs release! That's why agility sports is ideal for this dog.
You can't train a Dalmatian right away. He's spewing sparks all around the minute he faces you. He needs to run around first. He needs to tire physically. I read in a book on Dalmatians once that said exercise RELAXES them. The Dalmatian is hard to train, but it's not because he's dim-witted. He's just too restless to pay attention. He needs to run loose and pant around first. Only then will he have the focus to pay attention to you after he's let all that bounding energy out.
Spot has been my best exercise companion because if it weren't for him, I'd be too lazy to put on my rubber shoes.
I love this dog passionately, maybe because I feel so connected to this breed. The Dalmatian represents physical activity, the outdoor life, freedom, and a lot of class! So if you're not the active kind, don't get this breed.
~Betty S., owner of two Dalmatians