Breed Group: Non-Sporting
Height: 19 to 23 inches at the shoulder
Life Span: 10 to 13 years
The Dalmatian is highly active and intelligent and needs lots of exercise to stay happy. A former circus performer, he’s great at learning tricks and loves to show off his talents.
Did You Know the Dalmatian has Health and Temperament Issues?
Dalmatian puppies are born white and develop their spots as they mature.
Unique spots are the Dalmatian’s calling card, but his running ability is what made him famous. Bred to be a coaching dog, he ran alongside carriages or horseback riders for miles, discouraging stray dogs from interfering with the horses, alerting the coachman to the presence of approaching highwaymen, and guarding the carriage at rest stops. No fashionable lord or lady went driving without a pair of the flashy dogs by their side, and later the Dalmatian’s talents were adapted by firemen, who kept the dogs to clear paths through town for their horse-drawn fire engines.
The Dalmatian has a romantic and exciting history — not to mention those spots! — but he has health and temperament issues that must be taken into account.
The Dalmatian is a smart dog with a sly sense of humor. He’s a clown and will do anything to make you laugh. And he has a tendency to greet people with a big, happy smile.
Thanks to his coaching heritage, the Dalmatian has an endless capacity for exercise. He loves to go jogging: Don’t be surprised if he noses his way into your dresser drawer, pulls out your jogging shorts, and brings them to you as a not-so-subtle hint. His high activity level makes him an excellent companion for people who spend their time training for marathons, going for long bike rides, or skating along beach boardwalks. He can get enough exercise in his own yard if it’s big enough, has a picnic table or other obstacles for him to jump, and contains plenty of toys. Of course, he’d really rather be out doing something with his people.
The Dal loves attention and has a strong desire to please, so it’s not unusual for him to excel in canine sports such as agility and flyball. He’s also great at performing tricks — not surprising considering that he was once a favorite circus dog. If you can teach it, your Dal can probably do it.
It’s important to Dalmatians to be part of the family. They like to be with their people and know everything that’s going on.
What’s the downside? That depends. If you’re active and athletic, there might not be one. If you acquire your Dalmatian from a good breeder who will be there to serve as a resource, and if you socialize your Dal and train him with fun and positive methods, he can be the perfect companion… as long as you don’t think a little dog hair is a big issue.
Dalmatians shed. A common joke among Dalmatian owners is that the breed sheds at only two times: during the day and during the night. Dalmatian hairs are stiff and weave themselves into fabric, and they’re not easy to remove from clothing or furniture. Weekly brushing of the smooth, dense coat helps to remove the dead hairs before they land in the house, but you’ll never be entirely free. On the upside, the Dal’s coat isn’t oily, so it doesn’t tend to have an odor, and it sheds dirt easily. It’s also soft and velvety to the touch, and that makes up for a lot.
Like most dogs, Dalmatians become bored when left to their own devices. They can easily become noisy or destructive if they don’t have other dogs to keep them company and don’t receive much attention from their people.
Last but not least, it should go without saying that a people-loving dog like the Dalmatian needs to live in the house. It’s an unhappy Dalmatian who is relegated to the backyard with little or no human companionship.
Other Quick Facts About the Dalmatian
Because of their heritage as coaching dogs, Dalmatians get along well with horses and make good companions for riders.
The Dalmatian’s spots may be the result of a mutation in a gene for a ticked coat, but no one is really sure where they come from. The spots today are now larger and less ragged around the edges than those seen in pictures of early Dalmatians.
One of the British nicknames for the Dalmatian is Plum Pudding Dog, because his spots look like the plums in a Christmas pudding.
The Dalmatian is prone to inherited deafness and urinary stones.
The Dalmatian was once a popular circus dog.