These iconic dogs, known for their black spots on white fur, are incredibly intelligent, active, and affectionate. Dalmatians have made their way into popular culture many times, including through being circus performers, the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians, and by being the official firehouse dog for many firefighters.
Dalmations are active dogs and can be a bit reserved and scrappy towards strangers and other dogs. They also might be a bit too lively for very young children so they might not be the best option if you have toddlers. But this breed is great around horses and can be quite active. A secured area is generally needed for Dalmations, as they tend to roam and can run for miles if given the chance. Because they’re so active, they need more strenuous and intense exercise, which makes them a great jogging or hiking partner. If you’re looking for a chill couch potato, this breed is definitely not for you.
Their history is a bit obscure and disputed and there are some artifacts and writings that support their birth in various places around the world. A part of this mysterious past may be due to the fact that many Dalmatians have traveled with the nomadic Romani people across Europe. Their breed name comes from Dalmatia (a historic region in Croatia), where the breed has a stronghold but its unsure if it is their country of origin. But paintings of spotted dogs resembling Dalmatians have been found all over, including in a 1360 painting found in the Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy and on the walls of Egyptian tombs.
Originally bred for guarding horses and coaches, this breed still retains some of that protective instinct, which makes them aloof, reserved, and great watchdogs. Being a coach dog is a rather unique job which meant that Dalmatians were used to run alongside horse-drawn coaches and guard when the horses and equipment was otherwise unattended. It’s that history and training that made them great firehouse dogs when firefighters still used horse-drawn fire coaches.
Their coats are unique in a myriad of ways. For one, they’re not born with spots! Their coats are all-white when they’re born and they get their spots as they grow. Plus, each dog has its own unique spot pattern. While their coats are unique and short, Dalmatians do shed quite a bit but regular brushing can help keep their coat healthy and shedding down to a minimum.
Dalmatians are people-pleasing, loyal companions and thrive when they’re around their people. They are not meant to be backyard dogs and can get quite bored and destructive if left alone for long periods. Their intelligence, combined with their need to please, makes them easy to train. Consistent training combined with daily runs, long walks, or hikes will make many Dalmatians happy and healthy dogs! Like some other breeds, they are emotionally sensitive so positive reinforcement training and early socialization to people and dogs will make all the difference.
Standing 19-24 inches tall and weighing 45-70 pounds, this large breed has a life expectancy of 11-15 years. There are a few health problems that Dalmatians may experience, including genetic deafness. Eight percent are born completely deaf and 22-24% are born deaf in one ear. Weirdly enough, there are some coat colors that have higher risks of being deaf, including white and piebald (white with spots) coats. While it might seem daunting to raise a deaf dog, there are ways to train and care for them without using your words!
- Deaf Dog Care: a site dedicated to helping deaf dogs and their owners.
Ultimately, Dalmatians would be a great companion to any active home. Their loyalty and energy means they love being with their people and especially love runs and hikes.