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Family scenthound, pointer
Life Span 12-14 years
Avg Size of Male: 19 – 23 inches, Weight: 40 – 60 pounds
Avg Size of Female: 19 – 23 inches, Weight: 40 – 60 pounds
Original Function: carriage dog
Overall Rating (out of 5)
With tireless enthusiasm, the Dalmatian makes a wonderful companion for most active families. It is usually good with other pets, particularly horses, although it may become aggressive toward strange dogs. It is usually better for a family with older children, as it may be too energetic for little ones. The Dalmatian is sometimes known for its stubborn streak, and it can be reserved towards strangers.

The Dalmatian is a breed of dog, noted for its white coat with either black or liver spots. Although other colour variations do exist, any colour markings other than black or liver are a disqualification in purebred Dalmatians. The famous spotted coat is unique to the Dalmatian breed; no other purebred dog breed sports the flashy spotted markings. The breed takes its name from the Croatian province of Dalmatia, where it is believed to have originated.

This popular breed of dog is a well-muscled, midsized dog with superior endurance. Known for its elegance, the Dalmatian has a body type similar to the Pointer, to which it may be related. The ideal US Dalmatian should stand between 19 and 24 inches at the withers and weight from 45 to 70 lbs fully grown (the UK standard does not accept such small animals and calls for a height between 22 and 24 inches); males are generally slightly larger than females. The coat is short, dense, and fine. The ground color is white with round, well-defined spots of uniform color, either black or one of the brown shades. Lemon, orange, blue, tricolor, and brindle spots can very rarely also occur, but they are a disqualifying fault according to the breed standard, as are any areas of solid color not the result of heavy spotting. The feet are round and compact with well-arched toes. The nails are either white and/or the same color as the spots. The nose is black in black-spotted dogs, and brown in liver-spotted. The eyes may be black, brown or blue, and may not both be of the same color (mismatched eyes are a major fault for showing), with an intelligent expression. The blue eye is not acceptable in British dalmatians. The ears are thin, tapering toward the tip, set fairly high and carried close to the head.

Puppies are born with completely white fur, though the beginning of spots can sometimes be seen under the skin of a newborn pup. Any areas of color at birth are a "patch", and patches are a disqualifying fault in the breed standard. Common areas of a patch are one or both ears, head and neck, and rear. Large patches often result from mating with a non-Dalmatian. Spots will become evident after a week or so, and develop rapidly during the first few weeks. Spots will continue to develop both in number and size throughout the dogs' life, though at a slower pace as the dog gets older. Spots should be well-defined, round, and evenly distributed over the body. Spot size may vary from the size of a dime, to the size of a dollar coin, but the more distinct the spots are, the better. An allowable exception is that spots on the muzzle may be very small, and are called "speckles".


As a result of their history as coach dogs, the breed is very active and needs plenty of exercise. They are very fast runners, with a great deal of stamina and self-reliance. Given freedom to roam, they will take multi-day trips on their own across the countryside. In today's urban environment, they will not likely survive such excursions and must be contained. Owners of Dalmatians must be prepared to devote many hours of each day to exercising this high energy breed. They must have opportunities to run about unleashed, or their pent-up energies will become a handling problem.

Their energetic and playful nature make them good companions for children and they have an instinctive fondness for humans, horses, and other Dalmatians. These qualities make them somewhat "unbreakable", and forgiving of rough handling by children. However, it is imperative that they be socialized with children while still puppies, and also that children be taught the correct way to play with a Dalmatian. These are powerful dogs that are easily capable of injuring a child in the process of innocent play.

They have very sensitive natures and never forget ill-treatment, and cannot be trained by using rough methods. However, their rambunctious and playful personalities necessitate constant supervision around very small children, whom they may accidentally knock over and hurt. Dalmatians are extremely people oriented dogs, and will get very lonely if left by themselves, and should be trained to accept their owners' absence if they must be left alone. A better option is to provide companions. These dogs crave human companionship and do poorly if left alone in a backyard or basement. Dalmatians are famed for their intelligence, independence, and survival instincts. In general they have good memories and kindly natures. Originally bred to defend carriages and horses, these dogs can become territorial if not properly raised. They are extremely loyal to their owners, and can as a result become quite protective of their human families. Because of this protective instinct, some Dalmatians may develop aggression towards other dogs if not properly trained and socialized while young.

Dalmatians are unique in having facial muscles that permit them to exhibit a behaviour that is called "smiling". This involves drawing back their lips in what appears to be a snarl, without growling, to indicate submission.


The coat of the Dalmatian is quite easy to maintain, although it sheds constantly. Daily grooming is suggested, simply by rubbing down the coat to remove excess and dead hair. This breed does not have a “doggy odor.” In fact, the Dalmatian is a rather clean dog that has been known to avoid puddles. Bathing only when necessary is suggested. Daily, energetic exercise is important. The Dalmatian makes a wonderful jogging companion, and it is generally not satisfied with short walks on a leash. It enjoys playing games and the chance to run freely in a safe environment. An average-sized, fenced-in yard is recommended. This dog is not good for apartment dwelling unless it can be taken out several times a day for a brisk run. If the Dalmatian does not get enough exercise, it can become bored, depressed, and destructive. It does best when living in the house and playing outside.


Dalmatians are a very old breed, often thought to be the very first type of dog for which man made deliberate attempts to selectively breed for specific characteristics. These characteristics were at first appearance, then other attributes such as stamina, endurance, and health. The result is a very prolific and long-lived breed of striking appearance, generally free from ailments common to other dogs such as hip displacia (almost unknown in purebred dalmatians). Most of their health problems result from the onset of old age; the average Dalmatian lives between 11 and 13 years, although some can live as long as 15 to 16 years. Males over 10 are prone to kidney stones and should have calcium intake reduced or take preventive medication. In their late teens, both males and females may suffer bone spurs and arthritic conditions. When mated, Dalmatians average about 8 pups per litter.

The exception to their good health is a genetic disposition towards deafness. Deafness was not recognised by early breeders, and the breed was thought to be stupid. Rather, the breed was so smart that it could overcome its deafness. Even after recognizing the problem as a genetic fault, man did not understand its nature, and deafness in dalmatians continued to be a frequent problem.

Today, however, we know that this deafness is caused the absence of mature melanocytes (pigment cells) in the inner ear. This may affect one or both ears. Moreover, there is an accurate test (the BAER test) which can determine if the defect is present. Animals can be tested from 5 weeks of age. Only those with bilateral hearing (hearing in both ears) should be allowed to breed, although those with unilateral (hearing in one ear only) deafness make fine pets. Since bilateral deafness makes socialization and training of young puppies very difficult, most Dalmatian organizations strongly urge that puppies born with bilateral deafness are humanely euthanized, and breeding from them should not be allowed. Research shows that Dalmatians with large 'patches' of color have a lower rate of deafness, and breeding for this trait (currently prohibited in the breed standard) would reduce the frequency of deafness in the breed

There has been some success in using signed commands rather than vocal one to train deaf dogs. BAER testing is the only way of detecting unilateral deafness, and reputable breeders test their dogs prior to breeding. Research suggests that blue-eyed Dalmatians have a greater incidence of deafness than brown-eyed Dalmatians, although an absolute link between the two characteristics has yet to be conclusively proven; blue-eyed Dalmatians are not necessarily deaf. However, many Kennel Clubs consider blue eyes to be a fault or even a disqualification, and at the very least discourage the use of blue-eyed Dalmatians in breeding programs.

Dalmatians, like humans, the great apes, some New World monkeys, and guinea pigs, can suffer from hyperuricemia. The latter lack an enzyme called uricase, which breaks down uric acid. However, in Dalmatians, the deficit seems to be in liver transport. Uric acid can build up in joints and cause gout or bladder stones. These conditions are most likely to occur in middle-aged males. Owners should be careful to limit the intake of purine by not feeding these dogs organ meats in order to reduce the likelihood of stones.


The most distinctly patterned breed of the dog world, the spotted Dalmatian has an unknown origin. While evidence, such as art, indicates that the Dalmatian is likely an ancient breed, the precise place and time if its creation is unknown. The name Dalmatian may come from the word Dalmatia, which is a western Yugoslavian region, but is it unlikely that the dog originated there. Another theory is that the Dalmatian is named after Jurji Dalmatin, a Serbian poet who received two Turkish dogs as a gift. Apparently Dalmatin bred these dogs, and the subsequent breed was named after him. Some claim that this breed hailed from Croatia, and it is also believed that the Dalmatian was used as a hound during the Middle Ages. There have been ancient Egyptian bas-reliefs and Hellenic friezes discovered that portray a similar dog. Some say that the Dalmatian’s ancestors could have been a small version of pointers or the spotted Great Dane. In the 1700s, the Bengal pointer, which had a similar look to the Dalmatian, existed in England making it another possible forbearer. Not only is the origin of this breed unclear, so is the dog’s original function. The Dalmatian played many roles, including bird dog, circus dog, draft dog, ratter, sentinel, shepherd, trailer, and war dog. But the most popular role played by this breed is that of a coach dog. It is believed that this job began in Victorian England, and the Dalmatian protected the horses by trotting beside the coach. Some dogs were even placed in front or beneath the axle of the carriage, and this was considered to be the most elegant position. Evidence suggests that this position may have been passed down by heredity, and that some of these dogs had their ears cropped. But the popularity of the Dalmatian declined after the invention of the automobile. It continued to serve as a coach dog for horse-drawn fire engines, which led to the role of mascot for modern fire departments. The Dalmatian has always been a popular pet, as well as a show dog, but the most popular time of this breed was the years after the release of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians.






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