The Dalmatian is highly recognizable thanks to the Disney film 101 Dalmatians. With their unmistakable spots and love for humans, they have slowly become one of the most popular dog breeds. That is why we have put together a Dalmatian care guide so you can find out everything you need to know about one of America’s most beloved dogs.
Table of Contents
The Origin Of The Dalmatian
The medium sized breed got its name simply from where it comes from, Dalmatia in Croatia. The name was given to them by Thomas Bewick when he discovered them in 1791 and brought them back to the UK. Previously, the Dalmatian was referred to as a Coach Dog or Carriage Dog. Today, the dog is recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), Dalmatian Club of America and various national breed clubs. The dog coat is black or liver spotted and coat length is typically short.
The Role Of The Dalmatian
Over the years, Dalmatians have played many roles for us, humans. When they first came to Britain and America, the canines were used in stables as ratters and guard dogs. The Breed gets along famously with horses and would protect them from thieves and other stray dogs. They also served as a Coach Dog or Carriage Dog.
However as time went on, their job role eventually evolved into what we stereotype them with today – Firehouse Dogs. Dalmatians have become famous for helping firefighters in rescues – and they’ve actually played this role longer than you probably realize.
In the 1900’s, when horses would pull the water wagons to the scene of fires, the dogs would often run alongside them to offer comfort to the horses and stop them from getting spooked by the fires. The dogs would also guard the equipment against thieves so the men didn’t have to. Today you will still see some Dalmatians as firehouse dogs, but they play more of a mascot role than a working role.
Due to their will to please humans, they are mainly used as companion dogs nowadays.
The Dog Breed Group
The Dalmatian breed is part of the ‘Utility’ group. The name ‘Utility’ essentially means’ ‘fitness for a purpose’.
The utility group is made of a wide range of dogs – most of them originally coming from the non-sporting group. Other members of the Utility group are the Bulldog, Akita, and Poodle.
Most of the dogs in this group having been selectively bred to perform a unique purpose – that doesn’t involve hunting or retrieving. Believe it or not, some of the breeds in the group are the oldest breeds of dog in the world!
Photo by @cruella.and.jasper on Instagram
Average Height And Weight
Most people would classify the Dalmatian as a ‘large’ breed of dog as they typically stand between 19 and 23 inches, however, this does vary depending on the gender. Like most breeds of dog, the males tend to be bigger than the females. As male Dalmatians tend to be bigger, they often weigh between 55 and 70 pounds, while females only average out to be 40 to 55 pounds.
The Dalmatian Coat
The Dalmatian’s coat can be described in two words: short and fine. Some even say it had a velvety feel to it.
The Dalmation doesn’t have much variation when it comes to coloring. They all have a base color of white and then their whole body is covered in brown or black spots – they even have spots on the roof of their mouths! Believe it or not, Dalmatian puppies are born white and their spots don’t appear until they are usually around four weeks old.
The Dalmations Life Span
Typically, the breed has an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years. This is a pretty standard life expectancy for a dog of this size.
Nutrition And Diet
Dalmatians lack a common enzyme that all other dogs have that helps them digest proteins. They are actually one of the only breeds that lacks this enzyme too. This enzyme plays an important role in helping dogs digest foods that are very heavily dense in proteins. As a result, the Dalmatian lacks the ability to break down uric acid into allantoin.
Undigested proteins in a dog can build-up and form into kidney stones and urinary stones. This can obviously be a massive health risk and an expensive trip to the vets if your dog isn’t getting the correct nutrients, however, there are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening.
Cutting protein is not the answer, let’s make that clear now! As these dogs are large and active, protein is essential to them. However, you can limit the amount of food they are eating that is heavily dense in protein – A common one is organ meat. You should always leave a bowl of fresh clean water for your Dalmatian to drink as plenty of water will help the kidneys.
The Dalmations Grooming Requirements
Shedding and Bathing
The Dalmatian is relatively low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Unlike Poodles, Dalmatians fur does not grow because they shed, so they don’t need clipping. However, this breed of dog sheds heavy all year round. Therefore we advise daily brushing to keep your home clean and your dog comfortable.
Due to the fact, Dalmatians shed heavy, they are incredibly clean dogs with dirt repellent coats – which is a huge benefit if you love taking your dogs on long and muddy walks. Their fast shedding cycles mean they also do not emit that doggy musty odor we all know about!
When it comes to bathing, we recommend bathing your dog once every few months because washing your dog too much more than this will strip the coat of its dirt-repelling oils and will alter the feel of the fur.
There are quite a few general maintenance grooming tasks you will have to perform on your dog. We highly recommended you check your Dalmatian’s ears at least once a week for signs of buildup or dirt – you could even do it after every walk to be on the safe side. Built up dirt or mud in a dog’s ears will only lead to an infection and if not worse. If you notice a build up of dirt on your Dalmation’s ears, simply cleanse the ears with a veterinarian-approved cleanser and a cotton ball.
If the dog does not wear down his nails naturally outdoors, monthly clippings will be in order. Start touching a puppy’s paws as early and often as possible, so he gets used to the touch and won’t resist nail trims.
Exercise And Activity Levels
Dalmatians are very active dogs. With their muscular, athletic build, they need an owner who is active and who is going to walk them off lead daily. We recommend a walk at least once a day for around one to two hours.
Training Your Dalmatian
Training Dalmatians is all about positive training methods and rewarding good behavior. The breed is known to be very intelligent and this has sometimes proved to be a challenge when it comes to training. However, with perseverance and consistency, training your Dalmatian will be easy.
Common Health Issues In Dalmations
Unfortunately the breed does suffer from quite a few health issues. That is why it is so important to research your breeder. Simple things can be done before purchasing your dog to minisize health complications, such as ensuing the parents of your puppy have been health tested for common health issues. Down below we have listed some of the common complications in dalmations:
- Allergies: Overreaction by the immune system to an allergen, which is any substance capable of inducing a reaction in that particular animal
- Deafness: Defined as the lack or loss, complete or partial, of the sense of hearing
- Epilepsy: Refers to a group of clinical signs that result from over-stimulation of the brain
- Hip Dysplasia: Involves abnormal development and/or degeneration of the coxofemoral (hip) joint
Dalmations have a great temperament, and with the right home they make great pets. As a whole, we tend not to advice housing Dalmatians with cats and other small animals due to the fact they do have a drive to hunt.
Stereotypically the dalmation can be very vocal too – especially if they are left at home for a long period of time. This is because it is in their nature to guard their home and alert their owners of any potential dangers. However if you keep this under control from a young age, you can easily train your dog to be left at home for a long period of time without barking.
Dalmatians love to be with their family. They love to be with you and will want to be included in all family activities – whether it may be going camping for the weekend or going for rides in the car.
Dalmatians make great family pets, their loyalty is fierce. They are usually friendly with strangers and amazing with children. However due to their size,energy and muscular build, a home with toddlers may not be ideal – however they are great pets for first time dog owners and are generally a joy to live with.