Form and Function
The Dalmatian is a square-proportioned, athletic dog of good substance and sturdy bone. They are built for efficiency at the trot and great endurance, and their movement should be steady and effortless. The expression is alert and intelligent; the coat short and sleek.
Friendliness To Dogs
Friendliness To Other Pets
Friendliness To Strangers
Ease of Training
Area of Origin
Date of Origin
The spotted Dalmatian is the most distinctly patterned breed of any dog, but the origin of its coat pattern is unknown. In fact, although art evidence points to an ancient origin, the time and place of the breed’s birth is also unknown. It gets it name from Dalmatia, a region in western Yugoslavia, but it probably did not originate there. Their ancestors may have included a small version of the spotted Great Dane or pointers, though this, too, is conjectural. Even the breed’s original function is unclear, but that is more likely because of its use in so many roles rather than any lack of employment. These roles included war dog, sentinel, shepherd, draft dog, retriever, trailer, and even circus dog.
It was as a coach dog in Victorian England, however, that the Dalmatian found its niche. The coach dog served both a practical and anesthetic role; it protected the horses from marauding dogs and added a touch of style to the procession. The dogs would trot alongside, in front, or beneath the axle (considered the most elegant position) of the coach; interestingly, some evidence exists that coaching position may have a hereditary component.
With the advent of the automobile, the Dalmatian lost their place in high society, and their popularity declined. They continued as a coach dog for horse-drawn fire engines, and this association led to their adoption as the modern “fire-dog.” The Dal was AKC recognized in 1888. Their flashy coloration has always ensured that it has been popular as a pet and show dog; however, it has had extreme ups and downs in popularity. Impulse buying followed movies featuring Dalmatian stars, followed by a backlash when so many of these unprepared homes were ill suited for Dalmatian ownership and laid the blame on the breed.
Bred to run for miles, the Dalmatian retains this tireless enthusiasm. He is a playful, eager companion that must get daily hard exercise in a safe area if it is expected to behave at home. He loves to run and may roam. He may be assertive toward strange dogs, but he is generally good with other pets and is especially good with horses. He may be too energetic for young children. He tends to be reserved toward strangers. He can be stubborn. Note: Deaf Dalmatians present special training and behavioral challenges.
The Dalmatian needs a lot of regular exercise and attention. He needs more than a short walk on leash; he makes a good jogging companion. He can also have his needs met with vigorous games and runs. The coat needs only occasional brushing.
- Major concerns: deafness, urinary stones
- Minor concerns: allergies, seizures, iris sphincter dysplasia, hypothyroidism
- Occasionally seen: CHD
- Suggested tests: hearing, hip
- Life span: 12–14 years
- Note: A unique defect of the Dalmatian is its inability to metabolize uric acid into allantoin, which leads to the tendency to form urinary calculi (stones).