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
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.