The much-loved and unmistakable Dalmatian is a friendly, loyal and multitalented pooch that is hard to resist. These canines can turn their paws to a variety of working roles and are excellent family pets. However, their intelligence and incredible energy mean that they need constant mental stimulation and a huge amount of exercise. Owners must be able to keep up with their dog’s exercise needs if they are not to find themselves with a hyperactive troublemaker.
Which breed group is the Dalmatian in?
Breed group: Utility
Dalmatian breed history
Dalmatians date back centuries and there is some debate as to their origins. Similar dogs appear in Greek art dating back to 2000BC. The dogs are depicted running alongside chariots and may also have existed in Ancient Egypt. These spotted pooches are then thought to have travelled with gypsies throughout southern Europe. They appeared in Croatian art of the 17th century and the dogs were mentioned in Croatian church chronicles of that period where they were identified as Canis Dalmaticus. Most authorities consider the origin of the breed we know today to be Dalmatia, Croatia where they were dogs of war and guarded borders.
These dogs became status symbols which trotted alongside carriages and also proved to be efficient hunting dogs and killers of vermin. The breed was cultivated by the nobility in the UK with the first standard being written in 1882. They were valued for their fabulous spotted coats together with their impressive stamina and hunting skills. These dogs have also been used to herd sheep, perform in the circus, pull cars and assist firefighters by running ahead of horse drawn fire trucks to clear the route. Today they remain working dogs in a variety of roles and are hugely popular as pets. Their popularity was secure by the movie 101 Dalmatians and these friendly and versatile dogs are impossible not to love.
Dalmatian breed characteristics
Dalmatians are amongst the most recognisable dogs in the world. It is their gorgeous spotted coats which set them apart but there is much to admire about these particular canines. They are elegant dogs with amazing stamina. They have powerful muzzles, clean lips and dark noses. They boast intelligent expressions and moderately large ears which are set high and wide. Ears are carried close to the dogs’ heads and their tails are carried with a slight curve. Dalmatians are also characterised by long necks muscular bodies, deep chests and arched loins. They have compact round feet with arched toes and their coats are either white with black spots or white with liver spots.
Dogs with black spots have dark brown eyes, black lips and black noses. Dogs with liver spots have amber eyes, liver coloured lips and liver coloured noses. All dalmatians mature slowly and males are much larger than females. They are friendly, confident dogs which are rarely aggressive and which form strong bonds with their owners. They require a huge amount of exercise not to mention mental stimulation and may become troublesome and destructive if not kept entertained.
- Lifespan: 10-13 years
- Height: up to 65cm
- Weight: up to 28kg
- White coats with black or liver spots
- Powerful muzzle
- Intelligent expression
- Moderately large ears set high and held down
- Long neck
- Deep chest
- Arched loins
- Compact feet
- Huge stamina
- Easily bored
Health issues with the Dalmatian
Dalmatians are active dogs with amazing stamina but are prone to several hereditary and congenital health issues as follows:
- Hip dysplasia
- Urinary stones
- Allergies - hives
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)
- Atopy - a hypersensitivity to pollens
- Shoulder osteochondrosis
- Dilated cardiomyopathy
- Copper toxicosis
- Laryngeal paralysis
- Hypertonic myopathies
- Ceroid lipofuscinosis
What is the Dalmatian bred for?
Dalmatians have been bred to perform a variety of roles over the centuries including hunting, herding, guarding, running alongside carriages, pulling carts and performing.
What sort of owners does the Dalmatian suit?
Easy to train and low maintenance regarding grooming, these dogs are good choices for inexperienced owners and perfect for family life. They are excellent with children and boast a natural affinity with horses. However, they do shed and they require a huge amount of exercise. In addition, they need constant mental stimulation and suffer from separation anxiety. As such, Dalmatians are best suited to living in households where at least one person can be with them all day. The ideal owners would be highly active people who live in the countryside and can devote plenty of time to their dog. Dalmatians can live with other dogs if they have been socialised as puppies but most will chase cats and small pets.