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"The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue."

Author Unknown



The Dalmatian (Croatian: Dalmatiner) is a breed of dog, noted for its white coat with either black or liver spots. Although other color variations do exist, any color markings other than black or liver are a disqualification in purebred Dalmatians. The famous spotted coat is unique to the Dalmatian breed; no other purebred dog breed features the distinctive spotted markings.

This popular breed of dog is a well-muscled, mid-sized, elegant dog with excellent endurance. The Dalmatian is an 'approximately' square dog, with the length from fore-chest to buttocks the same measurement as from withers to the feet. Shoulder should be well laid back with the elbow falling directly under the tip of the shoulder blade. Rear angulation should match the front with the stifle "well" bent indicating good angulation in the rear. The feet are round and compact with well-arched toes. The nails are either white and/or the same color as the spots. The ears are thin, tapering toward the tip, set fairly high and carried close to the head.

The ideal Dalmatian should stand between 54 and 61 cm (19 and 24 inches) at the withers and weigh from 20 to 27 kg (45 to 60 pounds) fully grown. Breed standards for showing sometimes call for more specific sizes; the UK standard for instance, calls for a height between 22 and 24 inches (56-61 cm). Males are generally slightly larger than females.The female Dalmatian's gestation is about 2 months (60-64 days).

Dalmatian puppies (averaging 8 per litter) are born white, Dalmatians shed their short, fine coats year round. Dalmatians shed considerably more than most year-round shedders. These hairs are barbed at the ends, causing the hairs to stick to clothing, upholstery and nearly any other kind of fabric. Although they enjoy a vigorous rub down, nothing can be done to prevent their excessive shedding; new owners must be prepared to deal with an extraordinary amount of dog hairs constantly littering their households. The Dalmatian is not advised for those who prefer a hair-free atmosphere. Many (but not all) people who are otherwise allergic to the coated breeds can live with a Dalmatian allergy free. This can be attributed to their cleanliness and lack of that "doggy" odor.

The most common colors for Dalmatians are black or liver spotted on a white background. Other spotting colors, though not permitted for showing, and rare, are blue (a blue-grayish color), orange or lemon (dark to pale yellow), brindle, mosaic, tri-colored (may appear on any other coloured spots), and two-toned.

Patches often occur in the breed and are a disqualification in the show ring. Patches are present at birth, and consist of a solid color. Patches can appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the head and ears. Patches are not to be confused with heavily spotted areas on a dog, however.

According to the AKC breed standard, the eyes are set moderately well apart, are medium sized and somewhat rounded in appearance, and are set well into the skull. Eye color is brown, amber or blue, or any combination thereof; the darker the better and usually darker in black-spotted than in liver-spotted dogs. While blue eyes are accepted by the AKC, the CKC faults any eye colour other than black, brown or amber. The Kennel Club (UK) allows only dark eyes in black-spotted dogs, and amber eyes in liver-spotted dogs. Blue eyes are regarded as a fault by many organizations because there appears to be a link between blue eyes and deafness. Amber colored eyes are more common in liver spotted Dalmatians.

As a result of their history as coach dogs, the breed is very active and needs plenty of exercise. They are very fast runners, with a great deal of stamina and self-reliance. Given freedom to roam the wild, they will take multi-day trips on their own across the countryside. In today's urban environment, they will not likely survive such excursions and must be contained. Their energetic and playful nature make them good companions for children and they have an instinctive fondness for humans and horses. These qualities make them somewhat "unbreakable", and forgiving of rough handling by children. However, it is imperative that they be socialized with children while still puppies, and also that children be taught the correct way to play with animals.

They have very sensitive natures but respond favorably to calm assertive leadership by the pack leader. Their rambunctious and playful personalities necessitate constant supervision around very small children, whom they may accidentally knock over and hurt. Dalmatians are extremely people-oriented dogs, and will get very lonely if left by themselves, and should be trained to accept their owners' absence if they must be left alone as otherwise they will pine severely. A better option is to provide companions. These dogs crave human companionship and do poorly if left alone in a backyard or basement. Dalmatians are famed for their intelligence[citation needed],and survival instincts. In general they have good memories and are usually kind natured (though individual specimens may vary). Originally bred to defend carriages and horses, these dogs can become territorial if not trained otherwise.

A large number of Dalmatians end up in shelters and rescue homes, often being stated as being difficult and un-trainable. A Dalmatian being un-trainable is not true; it is more a problem with the owner's inexperience with dog psychology, dog training, and/or lack of information about the breed than the dog itself (this statement usually holds true in most cases, irrespective of the breed of dog).

Dalmatians have extremely sensitive personalities and will not forget ill-treatment. Ill-treatment can and will break a dog's spirit and a Dalmatian's - certainly so.

While a Dalmatian with a clear rank idea, proper and correct obedience training, would make an excellent companion for anyone or any sized family, Dalmatians are not a breed for a first-time and completely inexperienced owner, especially one whose expectations of the dog and its behaviour are high, especially in terms of obedience or those who have little time and patience to train them.

While a desire to please their owners can be a taught behaviour, they do not have a natural desire to completely please their owners in comparison to some other breeds, e.g. shepherd dogs. Generally speaking (and specimens may vary) Dalmatians are a rambunctious, playful breed and usually seem to have a mind of their own, which makes them more challenging to train and requires more knowledge of dog training. Generally speaking (i.e. individual specimens may vary), their attention spans are limited. More so in the hands of an inexperienced owner who does not create the correct rank order. Combinations of rewards (treats, play and praise, in that order) are your best bets and will go a long way in getting their attention and for training purposes [please note the difference between rewards and bribes].

Gentle consistent corrections are often sufficient to correct unacceptable behaviour. Common complaints heard are that while the owner has been able to get the Dalmatian to respond while on leash or while in familiar areas, it does not obey equally well off the leash or in unfamiliar areas. This problem is not breed specific, however, again a trainer inexperience issue.



Other names: Carriage Dog, Dalmatiner, Dalmatinac, Firehouse Dog, Plum Pudding Dog, Spotted Coach Dog
Nicknames: Dal, Dali
Country of origin: Croatia
Weight: 59-61 pounds (25 kg.)
Height: 19-23 inches (50-60cm.)
Coat: Short, hard, dense
Litter size: Average is 9
Life span: 10-12 years (average)

The Dalmatian is a breed whose heritage is hotly disputed by researchers, who have not come to an agreement on where this spotted dog originated. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that the breed originated in Dalmatia. The Dalmatian is most certainly a dog of very ancient lineage that has come through the centuries virtually unchanged. Paintings of dogs resembling dalmatians running along-side chariots have been unearthed in Egyptian tombs. The breed has also been mentioned in the letters of a poet named Jurij Dalmatin, which date back to the mid-16th century. The Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy, boasts a fresco painted in 1360 which depicts a spotted dog that strongly resembles a modern-day dalmatian. It may be because of these appearances in art, literature, and writings of antiquity that many claim the Dalmatian first appeared in Europe, Asia and Africa. One reason the breed's origin is often attributed to Dalmatia is that the breed has frequently been found in the company of travelling Roma (sometimes called gypsies). Like his Roma masters, the breed is well known, but difficult to locate in one place. The first references to the breed by its current name, Dalmatian, occur in the mid-eighteen hundreds.

The duties of this ancient breed are as varied as their reputed ancestors. They were used as dogs of war, guarding the borders of Dalmatia and Croatia. To this day, the breed retains a high guarding instinct; although friendly and loyal to those the dog knows and trusts, it is often aloof with strangers and unknown dogs. Dalmatians have a strong hunting instinct and is an excellent exterminator of rats and vermin. In sporting, they have been used as bird dogs, trail hounds, retrievers, or in packs for boar or stag hunting. Their dramatic markings and intelligence have made them successful circus dogs throughout the years. Dalmatians are perhaps best known for their role as a fire-apparatus follower and as a firehouse mascot.

However, the Dalmatian's most important task has been his role as a coach or carriage dog, so called because they were formerly used to run in attendance on a coach. To this day, Dalmatians retain a strong affinity for horses, often naturally falling in behind a horse and cart in perfect position. The strong-bodied, clean-cut and athletic build of the dalmatians reflects their years as a coach dog; although rarely used in this capacity today. Their physical make-up is still ideally suited to road work. Like its ancestors, the modern Dalmatian is an energetic dog, with unlimited energy and stamina.

Association with firemen
Particularly in the United States, the use of Dalmatians as carriage dogs was transferred to horse-drawn fire engines, although it is unclear why this link was not made in other countries. Today the Dalmatian serves as a firehouse mascot but, back in the days of horse-drawn fire carts, they provided a valuable service. Dalmatians and horses are very compatible, so the dogs were easily trained to run in front of the carriages to help clear a path and quickly guide the horses and firefighters to the fires. The dogs were sometimes also used as rescue dogs to locate victims in burning structures. Dalmatians are often considered to make good watchdogs and it is believed that Dalmatians may have been useful to fire brigades as guard dogs to protect a firehouse and its equipment. Fire engines used to be drawn by fast and powerful horses, a tempting target for thieves. So, Dalmatians were kept in the firehouse as deterrence to theft. The horses have long since gone, but the Dalmatians, by tradition, have stayed. As a result, in the United States, Dalmatians are commonly known as firehouse dogs. Dalmatians are still chosen by many firefighters as pets, in honor of their heroism in the past. The Dalmatian is also associated, particularly in the United States, with Budweiser beer and the Busch Gardens theme parks, since the Anheuser-Busch company's iconic beer wagon, drawn by a team of magnificent Clydesdale horses, is always accompanied by a Dalmatian carriage dog. The company maintains several teams at various locations, which tour extensively. According to Anheuser-Busch's website, Dalmatians were historically used by brewers to guard the wagon while the driver was making deliveries.

Dalmatians are a very old breed, often thought to be the very first type of dog for which man made deliberate attempts to selectively breed for specific characteristics. These characteristics were at first appearance, then other attributes such as stamina, endurance, and health. The result is a very prolific and long-lived breed of striking appearance, generally free from ailments common to other dogs such as hip dysplasia (almost unknown in purebred dalmatians). Most of their health problems result from the onset of old age; the average Dalmatian lives between 11 and 13 years, although some can live as long as 17 to 18 years. In their late teens, both males and females may suffer bone spurs and arthritic conditions.

An exception to Dalmatians' generally good health is a genetic disposition towards deafness. Deafness was not recognized by early breeders, so the breed was thought to be stupid. Even after recognizing the problem as a genetic fault, breeders did not understand the dog's nature, and deafness in Dalmatians continues to be a frequent problem.

Researchers now know that deafness in albino and piebald animals is caused by the absence of mature melanocytes in the inner ear. This may affect one or both ears. The condition is also common in other canine breeds that share a genetic propensity for light pigmentation. This includes, but is not limited to bull terriers, Poodles, boxers, border collies and Great Danes. Similarly, Charles Darwin commented on the tendency of white, blue-eyed cats to be deaf, while Waardenburg syndrome is the human analog. There is an accurate test called the BAER test, which can determine if the defect is present. Puppies can be tested beginning at five weeks of age. BAER testing is the only way of detecting unilateral deafness, and reputable breeders test their dogs prior to breeding.

Only dogs with bilateral hearing should be allowed to breed, although those with unilateral hearing, and even dogs with bilateral deafness, make fine pets with appropriate training. Research shows that Dalmatians with large patches of color present at birth have a lower rate of deafness, and breeding for this trait, which is currently prohibited in the breed standard, might reduce the frequency of deafness in the breed. One of leading reasons patches are a disqualifying factor in Dalmatians is to preserve the much prized spotted coat--the continual breeding of patched dogs would result in heavily patched Dalmatians with few spots.

Research concludes that blue-eyed Dalmatians have a greater incidence of deafness than brown-eyed Dalmatians, although an absolute link between the two characteristics has yet to be conclusively proven. Though blue-eyed Dalmatians are not necessarily deaf, many kennel clubs consider blue eyes to be a fault or even a disqualification, and some discourage the use of blue-eyed Dalmatians in breeding programs.

Kidney and bladder stones
Dalmatians, like humans, the great apes, some New World monkeys, and guinea pigs, can suffer from hyperuricemia. The latter lack an enzyme called uricase, which breaks down uric acid. However, in Dalmatians, the deficit seems to be in liver transport. Uric acid can build up in joints and cause gout or bladder stones. These conditions are most likely to occur in middle-aged males. Males over 10 are prone to kidney stones and should have calcium intake reduced or take preventive medication.

Owners should be careful to limit the intake of purine by not feeding these dogs organ meats, animal by-products, or other high-purine ingredients in order to reduce the likelihood of stones. Healthy diets range from premium, all natural pet food brands to prescription diets. Hyperuricemic syndrome in Dalmatians responds to treatment with Orgotein, the veterinary formulation of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.