Other names: Dalmatinski pas, Carriage Dog, Spotted Coach Dog, Leopard Carriage Dog, Firehouse Dog, Plum Pudding Dog
The Dalmatian is certainly one of the most recognisable breed of its species. He is difficult to mistake for another breed, on account of his very unique appearance. But his majestic demeanour should not be the only criterium to take into account when choosing to adopt this spotted dog. In reality, he does not have an easy character and is only suitable for experienced dog owners, ready to invest time and energy in his rearing, and in meeting his ample needs for exercise.
Key facts about the Dalmatian
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Origins and history
His origins remain a source of controversy, and several countries claim to be his birthplace, yet the FCI has determined the breed’s roots as Croatian, even if certain experts believe it to be oriental, while others English. England is, at any rate, one of its adoptive homelands. Presumably bred for the purpose of hunting, a theory backed by his Pointer dog aspect, he was quick to become a ‘coach dog’, before eventually ‘graduating’ onto companion dog- he never will be a ‘toy dog’ though. The Dalmatian is actually a remarkably good hunting dog, contrary to popular belief. The first official standards for the breed were established in 1890, right around the same time as the creation of the English Dalmatian Club. The FCI then published the standards in 1955.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 6 - Scent hounds and related breeds
Section 3 : Related breeds
Physical characteristics of the Dalmatian
Female : Between 21 and 24 in
Male : Between 22 and 24 in
Female : Between 53 and 71 lb
Male : Between 53 and 71 lb
The base is a pure white, covered in black or liver-coloured flecks. The flecks must be small, round, clearly delineated and without smudging, roughly the size of a coin. Do note that brown (liver) Dalmatians exist, but are all in all quite rare.
Type of coat
The coat is short.
The hair is coarse, dense, smooth and shiny.
The eyes are dark in individuals with black spots, while they are amber-coloured in the rare, liver-spotted variety.
The Dalmatian generally appears as an active, well and symmetrically-built dog, without ever seeming stocky or heavy. The muzzle is long, lean and never pointy. The stop is slightly pronounced, while the eyes are medium-sized, round, animated and intelligent-looking. The ears are set high, moderately-sized and folded over sides of the head- they are always heavily flecked. Solid black ears (such as Pongo’s in ‘101 Dalmatians’) are considered a defect. The tail reaches the hock and curves slightly upwards, but is never completely curled over.
Good to know
He has become known in popular culture through the ‘101 Dalmatians’ film, but this popularity has led to rendering the breed fragile, since it resulted in an overproduction of pups that were not necessarily of best possible quality. You must be careful to adopt only from specialised, reputable breeders.
The Dalmatian is a very gentle dog with a generally good attitude towards all members of his family, which he holds in very high esteem despite his somewhat independent demeanour.
This dog’s overflowing energy can be partially channelled through playtime. He loves to play and takes great pleasure in participating in all types of games on offer, as long as they don’t imply too much commitment or restrictions.
‘The calm after a storm’: this is what best describes the Dalmatian, which can indeed be discrete but only once all of his needs have been met- which is no small feat.
Such is the extent of his intelligence that he can quite convincingly ‘play dumb’ whenever he wants to evade an order. It is indeed those dogs that are very resourceful in tricking their way out of a command that are the smartest, however annoying this trait may be to owners!
This Croatian dog has a very evolved hunting instinct. His Pointer dog aspect leaves nothing to envy his hound cousins for. Having said this, modern-day breeding tends to favour and select companion or show dog traits.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Official breed standards describe him as a even-tempered dog, with friendly, confident, generally non-aggressive and non-anxious behaviour. He does, however, tend to be reserved if he does not ‘click’ with a person, and needs more time to asses the situation before giving his trust.
Often considered to be quite independent, the Dalmatian is actually a strong-willed dog that struggles with restrictions and commands. This may lead you to think that he is independent, but in reality he is not at all. Quite the contrary- despite his stubbornness, this dog is very attached to his family and loves nothing more than for them to be closeby.
Behaviour of the Dalmatian
Very attached to his social group, the Dalmatian should not be left alone from dawn till dusk, at risk of developing many behavioural issues (barking, destruction, etc.)- even if he has a garden at his disposal.
He can stand some moments of solitude, especially if he has been taught to deal with it from a young age, but cannot be left alone for prolonged bouts of time.
Easy to train / obedience
Usually perceived as quite an independent animal, the Dalmatian is in fact very stubborn, especially if his owner does not understand him and does not treat him as an equal, which is the only treatment this proud dog will accept. Any show of brutality towards this Croatian dog will be destined to failure and will only serve to sully the master-dog relationship.
The Dalmatian is considered the professional dog trainer’s ‘achilles’ heel’. He is, indeed, difficult to train. It is important to set some boundaries for him from a young age and to maintain a coherent exchange with him, without which communication will be rendered impossible.
Novice or overly lax owners will quickly become overwhelmed by this strong-tempered dog. A strict yet respectful handling, consisting of positive-reinforcement methods, will be crucial.
It is only with a healthy dose of patience, determination and perseverance that the Dalmatian’s owners will obtain satisfactory results.
It is mainly when bored that this Croatian dog can tend to ‘yap away’, as a way of signaling his discontent or to pass the time.
Tendency to run away
An avid runner, if he lacks the opportunity to fully express his vitality by his owner’s side (and in spite of his attachment to the latter) the Dalmatian will not think twice about taking off on his own to get rid of excess energy.
Very active and with much energy to spare, he takes it out where he can: outside if his owner gives him the opportunity to run, otherwise, inside- and to a much more detrimental effect. In short: if his energy hasn’t been expended, he can turn the house upside down in less time than it would take to finish this sentence!
Greedy / Gluttony
A good eater, this dog will never refuse a meal or snack. This gluttony can come in handy when training this stubborn, and not necessarily learning-inclined dog.
Nowadays, he mainly serves the function of a companion dog, but he is good at protecting a household given how vigilant and alert he is. Without ever resorting to aggression, he can prove to be a deterrent if he deems it necessary.
He will also be able to warn his owners about any potential intruder with his loud barking.
The Dalmatian is an intelligent, sensitive dog, whose strong character can at times prove to be bothersome. He needs to be understood and loved for what he is, but he is not the easiest dog to live with and will not be compatible with everyone.
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Dalmatian in a flat
He will need to have a garden at his disposal to be able to fully expend his energy. He can live in an apartment but this clearly isn’t his ideal environment.
Whatever his living situation, whether he resides in the city or the country, inside or outside, he must be taken out for regular runs, as exercise is crucial to him (and will prevent any risk of obesity as well).
Need for exercise / Sporty
The ‘Dalmatinski pas’, as he is called in his native Croatia, is a real fireball who needs to run to remain fully content. He therefore needs an active owner.
Whether on a leash or off it, he needs at least three walks a day, and even more if he lives in a flat.
His Coach Dog legacy has left this presumably Croatian dog with an immense enthusiasm when it comes to following his owner during a horseback ride, for example. In this sense, he is an excellent companion to cyclists, horseback riders, or joggers.
Last but not least, if the Dalmatian’s huge need for exercise has not been sufficiently satisfied, he can rapidly become unmanageable and an everyday burden rather than companion.
Travelling / easy to transport
This black-flecked dog’s medium size does allow him to move around by his owner’s side with relative ease. He will actually rarely go unnoticed on account of his unique beauty.
The Dalmatian pup will, however, require a proper and precocious socialisation towards various situations, and well ahead of time, to ensure that he rapidly absorbs the rules of social conduct.
Dalmatian and cats
He can get along with other household pets, cats included, but it is nevertheless preferable to have had them grow up together to guarantee a harmonious cohabitation.
Dalmatian and dogs
The Dalmatian pup must be properly socialised in due time, to be able to develop and reinforce his ‘canine code of conduct’.
Interactions must be regular, always positive and, if possible, supervised, to avoid any bad experiences that could later on become a source of animosity towards canine fellows.
Dalmatian and children
He is a great companion to children, a daring and brave one. He enjoys their company very much and loves playing with them but the children must, in exchange, respect his tranquility and the rules of conduct inherent in securing the children’s safety.
A few examples may include:
- Do not disturb the dog while he is in his basket
- Do not play with the dog without permission or parental supervision
- Do not let the dog onto the couch when the children are there
- Do not tease the dog (pull his hair, tail, climb on top of his back, etc.)
- Learn to recognise the dog’s warning signs (yawning, growling, showing his teeth, licking his nose, etc.)
Dalmatian and the elderly
The dog’s strong character, coupled with his huge need for exercise, do not predispose him to evolve serenely by an elderly person’s side. He needs available and active owners that can take him out for a run as frequently as possible.
The price of a Dalmatian varies depending on its origins, age, and sex. You have to count an average of £710 for dogs registered at the Kennel Club.
With regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog of this size, you have to estimate an average of £40 per month.
This Croatian dog’s short and smooth coat does not require much strenuous care and even less bathing.
However, brushes will need to be carried at least once a week to preserve the cleanliness and protective qualities of his coat.
Hair loss is, all in all, quite moderate, but becomes more pronounced during the two yearly moulting seasons: autumn and spring. The brushes will then have to go from weekly to daily, in order to remove as many residual dead hairs as possible.
Nutrition of the Dalmatian
The Dalmatian’s nutrition must be closely monitored to ensure a balanced diet that is adapted to his physical shape, especially if he runs a lot or practices a regular physical activity.
High-quality kibbles are absolutely suitable. Be wary of home-cooked meals, which need to be validated by a vet first, so as to ensure that they are balanced.
Given this dog’s high level of activity, it is advised to split meals in two, a light one in the morning, and a more substantial one in the evening, making sure that he stays as still as possible at least an hour before and after every meal.
In order to prevent the risk of gastric torsion, which active dogs are particularly predisposed to, you must absolutely ban any self-service.
Lastly, in order to guarantee their seamless growth, pups must be monitored by a vet and be prevented from practicing any intense exercise throughout their first year of life.
Health of the Dalmatian
Life expectancy is 11 years on average.
Strong / robust
Generally resilient, the Dalmatian is an active and rather robust dog.
You must always be aware of the risk of sun strokes in the case of short-coated breeds whose dominant colour is white. During the summer, you must opt for walks early in the morning and late in the evening, caring never to expose the dog to the sun for too long.
It is advised that you have the Dalmatian sleep indoors, since his short and smooth coat does not equip him with much resistance to cold.
Tendency to put on weight
Quite the eater, the Dalmatian is also luckily very high-performance, which helps him in quickly disposing of excess calories. However, be wary of less active individuals- insufficient exercise will rapidly lead to weight gain.
- Issues with deafness, typical of Dalmatians yet still very rare thanks to breeders’ efforts
- Urinary stones and kidney diseases (hereditary nephropathy) cause by an elevated level of uric acid
- Hip Dysplasia
- Esophageal achalasia