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The Dalmatian is a medium to large purebred famous for the Disney movie 101 Dalmatians. It is a talented dog who takes part in various activities such as guarding, tracking, agility, running and search and rescue. It is today a popular dog to show as well as a great companion and family dog but was once used as a carriage or coach dog, a circus dog and a firehouse dog.

Here is the Dalmatian at a Glance
Name Dalmatian
Other Names Carriage Dog, Spotted Coach Dog, Firehouse Dog, and Plum Pudding Dog, Dalmatiner
Nicknames Dal, Dally,
Origin Croatia and United Kingdom
Average size Medium to large
Average weight 40 to 60 pounds
Average height 19 to 23 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Coat type Fine, short, dense
Hypoallergenic No
Color Black, brown and white.
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 62nd by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – above average
Tolerance to heat Very good – can live in hot climates just not in extremes
Tolerance to cold Good – can live in cold climates but not very cold or extreme
Shedding Frequent all year
Drooling Low – not known for lots of slobber
Obesity Quite high – food and exercise must be monitored
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – brush daily
Barking Occasional – there is barking but it is not constant
Exercise needs Very active – needs daily long walks and more!
Trainability Moderately easy
Friendliness Very good – social breed
Good first dog Good – first owners can deal with it fine though perhaps it would go easier for more experienced ones
Good family pet Excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Good but needs socialization
Good apartment dog Moderate – not best in apartments, needs yard
Handles alone time well Good – can handle some time alone but not extended periods
Health issues Good healthy dog but some issues include deafness, hip dysplasia and skin allergies
Medical expenses $485 a year for basic care and pet insurance
Food expenses $265 a year for treats and a good quality dry dog food
Miscellaneous expenses $245 a year for toys, license, basic training and other miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $995 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $700
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 3 Maimings: 3 Child victims: 3 Deaths: 0

The Dalmatian's Beginnings

There is a lot of debate over where the Dalmatians beginnings happened. Some look to Africa, some to Europe, some to Asia even. For a while the Croatian theory was not accepted by everyone but in 1993 the FCI accpeted it had Croatian roots though it still does not give it breed standard right. This theory says the Dalmatian's ancestry goes back several hundreds years to Croatia and a region called Dalmatia where the dog's name comes from. Romanies kept them as they traveled around Europe and it had several roles to originally fulfill, a guard dog, a war dog, ratter, circus dog, sheepdog and retriever.

In England though it was developed further in the 1800s and used in one specific role, as a carriage or coach dog. During the times when people traveled by horse and carriage the Dalmatian was used to clear the path ahead and then would run under the coach or alongside. When the coach stopped to rest the horses it would rest with, guarding them. This is why even today you will see the Dalmatian loves horses.

In England in 1882 an unofficial breed standard was created by a breeder called Vero Shaw. In 1890 the first Dalmatian Club was formed there and the standard was adopted and made official.

New Lease on Life

In the US instead of regular coaches the Dalmatian was used in firehouses. It would clear the horses and fire carriage a path to the fire, guard the equipment, sometimes help in rescues and then act as watchdog when at the firehouse. Even today in many firehouses you will see plaques honoring them, or there will be a Dalmatian mascot.

In more recent years in the US it has been used in famous Budweiser commercials and in the movies of 101 Dalmatians the original of which was based in a novel by an English novel by Dodie Smith. This saw the breed see a huge rise in popularity but unfortunately that had the negative affect of leading to poor breeding and poor lines. A lot of unwanted Dalmatians were abandoned and many new rescue organizations had to work hard to find new homes for them when people realized beyond the cute spots there us a very energetic and needy dog! Today it is ranked 62nd by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Dal is a medium to large dog weighing 40 to 60 pounds and standing 19 to 23 inches tall. It has a muscular and strong body and its coat is short, fine and dense, with common colors of white with brown or black spots although those spots are not there when it is born. It has a deep chest and its tail tapers to the end. It has round feet and if its spots are black its toenails are white and black. If its spots are brown, its toenails are white and brown. In non-show dogs the spots can be dark blue, lemon, sable and tricolored.

Its head is wide, long and flat and the muzzle is is the same length. The nose can be dark grey, black, brown or blue. It has eyes that are round and medium sized and can be either blue, brown or a mix. Its ears hang down from being set high and they taper to a tip that is rounded. They are thin and close to the head.


The Inner Dalmatian


Dalmatians are a great mix of goofiness and being dignified. It is smart and independent but also loyal and playful. It is friendly and outgoing, very charming and brave but can have a stubborn and aggressive side too if not well raised. It makes a great companion and family pet, it is also a very good watchdog who will bark to let you know if there is an intruder and can be somewhat protective. Because of its interesting mix of traits and its highly energetic nature it can be okay for new owners, but the experienced might find it easier to handle.

Dals want to be a part of everything and need a lot of attention. It is a high spirited dog but ones from good lines can be very dependable and trustworthy. Unfortunately though there are still a lot of poorly bred dogs out there and these can have really big temperament flaws to overcome including being overly skittish or aggressive. Either way it is a dog that needs lots of exercise, mental stimulation and company otherwise it acts out and can become destructive and very high strung.

There can be a mix in attitudes towards strangers, some Dals are very friendly towards them and some are more reserved. They need strong leadership and patience especially when they are puppies, many Dalmatians are abandoned within the first year as people cannot handle them. They do calm down some though and it will always want attention and want to please.

Living with a Dalmatian

What will training look like?

Dals are moderately easy to train so while not a lot of extra attention or effort is needed, it will still be a gradual process. This is partly because while the Dal is an intelligent dog it is also sometimes stubborn and independent thinking. For people with experience who are able to be a firm and consistent leader the process will be a bit easier. Passive or meek owners are not going to find it as smooth a process because any 'weakness' the Dalmatian senses it will take advantage of! And for these kinds of owners the Dal is in fact a handful.

As well as basic obedience training there should be socialization undertaken too. With this the dog becomes more confident and more well rounded. Getting it used to to different people, situations, places and animals means you can trust that it will react appropriately to these things at other occasions. Because of the Dals intelligence you could easily consider going beyond basic training, it is a good way to keep them mentally challenged. Just make sure training is done in a firm, but fair and positive manner, Dals do not respond well to harshness and do not forget it either.

How active is the Dalmatian?

Dalmatians are very active dogs so need families or owners who are able and happy when active also. It is not a dog best suited to apartment living as it needs a yard to go out and play in and room around the home to move in. It can go out happily on warmer days but does not like it when it is very cold. It should be taken out on at least two walks a day, long and brisk. It has a lot of stamina and endurance, remember it was developed to run miles alongside carriages. It would be happy to join you for a jog, or a hike or cycling and would love time in dog parks where it can safely go off leash, run around, play games with you and socialize.


Dalmatians need lots of physical and mental challenge otherwise it can become bored, restless and destructive. It can also lead to it being high strung, hyperactive and difficult to control. Keeping in mind it would run alongside carriages a few hundred years ago you should keep it leashed when out walking or it might try to run alongside the odd car! It also does very well in competitions for dog sports.

Caring for the Dalmatian

Grooming needs

The coat of a Dalmatian does not need trimming or stripping but it does shed constantly. You will need to brush it daily and vacuum daily and still accept there will be hair on clothing, furnishing and carpeting! It also has blows outs twice a year where it sheds even more heavily. Bathing should only be done when it needs one so as not to dry out its natural oils. Thankfully it is not a smelly dog and their coats are good at repelling dirt.

Give its teeth a brush at least two to three times a week and check its ears once a week for signs of infection. Keep them clean with a wiping using a cotton ball and dog ear cleanser. Do not insert anything into them. Toe nails will need clipping too if they get too long and are not worn down with its activity. You can do it yourself with proper clippers and knowledge about their nails. There are blood vessels and nerves to avoid in them. If you are not sure about it have a professional groomer do it for you.

Feeding Time

It should be fed 1½ to 3 cups of food a day split into two meals. It should be a good quality dry dog food that is not full of fillers so that it is more nutritious for it. It should also always have access to fresh water. How much exactly your Dal might need will depend on its size, metabolism, rate of activity, health and age.

How is the Dalmatian with children and other animals?

The Dalmatian is a highly energetic and playful dog who has a great sense of humor so those from good lines and well raised make great play mates for children. They are also very affectionate with them. Small children should be supervised though as when the play gets a little boisterous they can get knocked over by accident. Make sure too that the children are taught how to safely and kindly touch and play with it.

It gets on well with other family pets if raised along with them and with socialization. It has an affinity for horses still to this day. With socialization it is also good with other dogs but it is important it knows its position. A Dal not socialized or trained well and with meek owners can become aggressive with strange dogs.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

It has a life span of 12 to 14 years and is a fairly healthy dog but is prone to certain health issues. These include deafness, urinary stones, skin allergies, hip dysplasia and iris sphincter dysplasia.

Biting Statistics

When looking at dog attacks that did bodily harm against people in the US and Canada over the last 34 years, there have been 3 linked to Dalmatians. All 3 of those victims were children, and all 3 were classified as maimings. This means they were left with permanent scarring, disfigurement or loss of limb. Thankfully there were no deaths. It is important to understand that any dog no matter size or situation can snap or become aggressive given certain conditions. It is more likely to happen though if there has not been proper socialization, training, exercise and mental stimulation, attention and care. Make sure you get a dog that suits your lifestyle and your level of experience.

Your Pup’s Price Tag


As the Dal is an easy dog to breed and whelp and it has large litters prices tend to be a bit lower for this purebred. But you do need to do your homework to avoid those weaker lines out there. Pet standard Dalmatians from a good breeder will cost $500 to $700. For something of show quality from a top breed it is more like $1500 going into several thousand. A rescue dog is more likely to be an adult not a puppy and is less costly at $100 to $300, you also get medical costs covered and the joy of offering a dog a new forever home. Avoid pet shops, puppy mills, bad backyard breeders and the like. Not only are the lines and health of the dogs under question, but you are helping to fund them and keep such awful places going.

There are other costs to consider apart from just the price of the puppy itself. Initial medical costs will come to around $300 for spaying or neutering, micro chipping, blood tests, a physical exam, deworming and vaccinations. Initial items you might need like a collar and leash, crate, bowls and such are going to cost about $180.

Annual costs for owning a Dal also need to be considered before you get one. Feeding it with a good quality dry dog food and treats is going to cost about $265 a year. Basic medical care like vet check ups, tick and flea prevention, dog insurance and shots is going to cost at least $485 a year. Miscellaneous items and costs including toys, basic training and license come to $245 a year at least. This gives a total annual cost that will start at $995.


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The Dalmatian is a very active and energetic dog so make sure you are prepared for that. It also needs lots of attention, mental challenge and care. With Dals well bred and well raised you can expect a great and loyal dog, smart, polite, affectionate and funny. But there are neurotic dogs to avoid and they are especially challenging when they are puppies. If you are prepared for the work and the constant shedding it is a dog that makes a great family dog or companion in the right home. Remember that deafness is a big problem with this breed, with almost a quarter being born deaf. Make sure the right health tests are done and that you find a good breeder.

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