Choosing a Dalmatian

Choosing a Dalmatian

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Easily recognized by his white coat and black spots, the Dalmatian is a good watch dog and natural protector. Also called the Carriage Dog, the Dalmatian has a long history of accompanying their masters on chariots, carriages and even fire engines.

History & Origin

The history of the Dalmatian is uncertain to say the least. Experts disagree as to the country of origin of this breed. Dalmatia, a province of Yugoslavia and formerly of Austria, has claimed the origin of Dalmatians. However, France, India, Greece and several other countries have done likewise. Engravings from ancient Greece depict a spotted dog running behind chariots. This coaching ability is one of many ancient skills the breed possesses. The Dalmatian has proudly followed, preceded and run underneath traveling coaches providing protection from bandits. Nighttime found the pets sleeping beside the horses in the stable guarding the master's belongings. Historically, the Dalmatian has been utilized as a firehouse dog, circus performer, for search and rescue missions, and for hunting and retrieving. Recently, this spotted performer has gained popularity as one of Hollywood's favorite breeds. The American Kennel Club first registered the Dalmatian in 1888. It is classified as a non-sporting breed.


The Dalmatian is a medium-sized dog with a sleek and muscular body. The facial expression is one of intelligence and readiness. The breed has a short, thick coat that lies very close to the body. The spots are black or liver brown and round. They begin to appear at around two weeks of age. Combinations of these colors and/or patches are not acceptable for show dogs. The top of the breed's head is flat. Ears are triangular and pendulous with the tip reaching approximately to the bottom of the cheek. The Dalmatian has blue or brown eyes. Combinations of these colors are acceptable. The nose should be the same color as the spots.


Adult Dalmatians average between 19 and 23 inches at the height of the shoulder and weigh between 45 and 70 pounds.


The Dalmatian is an active, energetic pet well known for undying protection of his owner. While not renowned as a dog that barks excessively, the Dalmatian may become vocal when strangers approach. The breed is usually eager to please his owner though is not too friendly with people they do not know or trust.

Home and Family Relations

This breed generally makes a good family pet. They can get along well with children and other pets if they are introduced while still a puppy. This breed enjoys being active and loves to go for long walks or to run in a big yard. Some owners report that their Dalmatian is curious and likes to explore.


The Dalmatian is an intelligent dog and learns readily. They have been successfully trained for retrieving, rescue, circus performance and as coach dogs. They provide excellent protection. Dalmatians are considered easy to train.

Special Concerns

Dalmatians may exhibit a curious combination of a smile and a snarl, a smarl. Lips may be drawn tightly back away from the teeth. Interestingly, this expression is an indication of a playful mood.

With the popularity of Dalmatians, overbreeding and poor breeding have resulted in temperament problems with the breed. Ethical and diligent breeders are continuing to try to reduce the incidence of aggression and behavior problems within the breed. Make sure you obtain your Dalmatian from a reputable breeder.

Dalmatians shed. Their short white hairs are easily noticeable on your clothes and furniture. Brushing your Dalmatian once or twice a week helps to remove dead hairs from the coat. Dalmatians may have "flaky" skin during winter months when the humidity is lower. Talk with your veterinarian to determine possible treatments. Dalmatians' ears are very thin and have a poorer blood supply compared to the rest of the body. Because of this, frostbite can occur if your pet is left outside for too long in cold weather.

Health Concerns

In following diseases or disorders have been reported in the Dalmatian:

  • Gastric torsion, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening sudden illness associated with the stomach filling with air and twisting.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Interdigital dermatitis, also known as pododermatitis, is an inflammation of the paws involving the feet and nails.
  • Atopy is an itchy skin disease of animals that is caused by an allergy to substances in the environment.
  • Food allergy affected pets develop skin allergies due to a variety of food ingredients.
  • Demodectic mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by a mite. Hair loss and itchiness are common.
  • Entropion is a problem with the eyelid that causes inward rolling. Lashes on the edge of the eyelid irritate the surface of the eyeball and may lead to more serious problems.
  • Glaucoma is a painful and serious condition that causes pressure within the eye to increase. It can lead to blindness if not treated early.
  • Pannus is a disease of the eye resulting in inflammation.
  • Cataracts cause the lens of the eye to loose transparency and can result in blindness.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a disease that causes nerve cells at the back of the eye to degenerate. The condition usually begins in older pets and can lead to blindness.
  • Distichiasis is the abnormal growth of an eyelash on the margin of the eyelid. The abnormal eyelash rubs against the surface of the eye (cornea) and causes irritation.
  • Urolithiasis is a condition affecting the urinary tract resulting in the formation of bladder stones. Dalmatians are particularly susceptible to urate urolithiasis.
  • Polyneuropathy is a degeneration of nerves that can cause weakness in all limbs and exercise intolerance. The disease usually begins at about 1-1 ½ years of age.
  • Congenital Deafness present at birth.

    Life Span

    The average life span for the Dalmatian is approximately ten to thirteen years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

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