From 101 Dalmatians to sitting on the Anheuser-Busch wagon, Dalmatians have permeated popular culture. Their origins though remain unsolved. Images of spotted dogs have existed through the ages across parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe.
The most commonly-accepted origin of the Dalmatian is Dalmatia, a region of Croatia, where the dogs were used for guarding homes, country borders, and stagecoaches. The latter is the traditional and most well-known job for which Dalmatians were used; having a beautifully spotted dog running along your coach became a status symbol for nobility in the 1800s.
According to the American Kennel Club, today the Dalmatian is ranked number 56 in popularity of the 193 AKC-recognized breeds and is categorized in the Non-Sporting Group.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DALMATIAN
What characteristics define the Dalmatian? Read on to discover what physical attributes and personality traits make the Dalmatian such a unique breed.
Dalmatians are one of the most easily-identified breeds of dog due to their iconic white coats with black spots and presence in popular culture. The short, dense coat may have larger black patches, most often found on the muzzle, head, chest, or legs. The American Kennel Club also recognizes spots of a Liver Brown color. Dalmatian puppies, on the other hand, are born completely white; spots usually develop between 3 and 4 weeks of age. Dalmatians should be strong and athletic, with a deep chest and long legs capable of great speed and endurance.
Dalmatians should weigh between 48 and 55 lbs, standing between 19 and 24 inches high at the withers (top of the shoulder). Females are usually slightly smaller than males.
The Dalmatian’s temperament is characterized by its historical use to guard stagecoaches. Dalmatians have been bred to run endless amounts of miles alongside horse-drawn carriages, so their need for exercise is great. A well-exercised dog will be a much better-behaved dog. This breed is friendly and affectionate with family members and known friends, but very suspicious of strangers – both human and canine.
Dalmatians are intelligent with a downright trouble-making sense of humor, so keeping their brain occupied in addition to their bodies is a necessity. A Dalmatian’s interest and surveyance of everything going on makes him an excellent watchdog, but can also get him into trouble when his curiosity is piqued.
Like all dogs, Dalmatians require socialization from a young age; exposure to as many sights, sounds, animals, and people as possible will make for a more well-rounded dog.
The Dalmatian is not a breed that does well living in the yard as they bond strongly to their human family members. Dalmatians have a life expectancy of 11-13 years.
CARING FOR A DALMATIAN
Understanding and maintaining a Dalmatian’s particular needs will lead to a longer, healthier life for your dog and a more enjoyable partnership for both dog and owner. Read on to learn more about the nutrition, exercise, training, and health requirements of a thriving Dalmatian to ascertain whether or not this is the right breed for you.
Dalmatians thrive on high-quality dog food specially formulated for large breeds with high energy and exercise requirements. Diets should be appropriately tailored to an individual based on age (puppy, senior, etc) and activity level. Many dog foods have serving suggestions on their packaging, but monitoring food intake and body condition, as well as consulting with your veterinarian, are all simple ways to make sure your dog is receiving the nutrition he or she requires.
Dalmatians require moderate-to-high intensity exercise on a daily basis. This breed was bred to run long distances and does well in a household that runs, bikes, or hikes often. Dalmatians should be kept on a leash whenever outside of fenced-in areas, as they are prone to take off cross-country and not be seen for several days. Consider a leash that prevents pulling to make walks more enjoyable for both you and your companion. Other options for exercise are canine contests such as agility, rally, or flyball competitions.
The Dalmatian is a high-energy dog that needs both physical and mental stimulation. With the high-energy requirements characteristic of the breed as well as their large size, training and socialization during puppyhood are essential. Consistent training and patience are key to successfully raising a Dalmatian. Puppy classes are a great way to start training and socializing a new Dalmatian puppy early on. At a minimum, your Dalmatian should learn basic obedience commands such as sit, stay, and come. This breed is typically intelligent but has a stubborn streak, so regular training is necessary.
Due to their strong familial ties, Dalmatians left alone for long periods of time can resort to undesirable behaviors. Some of these behaviors can be mitigated by providing access to puzzles and interactive toys.
When 101 Dalmatians skyrocketed the popularity of the Dalmatian, less care was taken by some breeders in producing large amounts of puppies without regards to promoting ideal genetics in the breed. As a result, Dalmatians can suffer from genetic issues such as deafness, kidney problems, and skin allergies.
Some Dalmatians are only unilaterally deaf, or deaf in one ear, and can live a relatively normal life. Dogs that are bilaterally deaf, or deaf in both ears, have special needs that need to be taken into consideration by prospective owners.
Dalmatians can suffer from issues like hyperuricemia, where their liver has trouble breaking down the uric acid in their bodies. This uric acid ends up in the urine, causing urolithiasis, where small stones develop in the urinary tract. Puppies should be tested for deafness by breeders before being sent to a new home.
Skin allergies usually stem from three possible sources: food allergies, which can be combatted with a specialized diet, contact allergies from topical substances like shampoo, or inhalants such as those caused by dust or mold.
The Dalmatians’s short, dense coat sheds all year long, but more intensely so twice a year as the seasons change. To keep the coat healthy, Dalmatians should be bathed periodically and brushed once a week with a rubber curry comb or horsehair mitt to pull off dead hairs. Dalmatians’ short hairs have a tendency to weave into clothes, rugs, and blankets and may be difficult to remove.
Other breeds similar to the Dalmatian include: