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Published on July 17th, 2015 | by Debbie Martin


Know your pooches – Dalmatian

What is a Dalmatian?

Dalmatians are a very distinctive breed, associated with firefighters and with the classic Disney film 101 Dalmatians. They are instantly recognisable with their white coat and black spots and they are a very popular breed. Everyone loves Dalmatians and when you take yours for a walk you will get a lot of smiles and attention, especially from the kids. These dogs are strong and muscular with excellent stamina and endurance and they have a lot of energy.

A Dalmatian is not the right breed for you if you live in an apartment and you are out of the house most of the day. They are very active dogs and it is important that you have enough time to give them the exercise they need. If you leave them at home alone all day they will be unhappy, difficult to control, prone to barking fits and will start to become destructive. If you take the time to give them training, socialisation and exercise they will be a wonderful and loving companion that will bring you a lot of joy.

History of the Breed

These dogs originated in Croatia and the first illustrations of them were found in altar paintings that date back to 1600-1630. Documented descriptions of Dalmatians were found in the archives of the Archdiocese of Dakovo in the early 18th century. It was said that these dogs were used as guard dogs and a companion to the nomadic people of Dalmatia.

Dalmatians were bred as dogs of war, guarding the borders of Dalmatia. To this day they retain a high instinct for guarding. They have also been used in fire-fighting and they were trained to run in front of the carriages to clear the path and guide the horses and firefighters to the fires.

These dogs were later developed and bred in England and the first standard for the breed was introduced in 1882 by an Englishman Vero Shaw. In 1890 the Dalmatian Club was formed in England and the standard was designated as official.


The Dalmatian has a goofy and lovable personality which always entertains with his antics. Since they were bred to run beside horse-drawn carriages they have an incredible amount of energy and stamina. They really do not like sitting around all day with nothing to do and leaving them home alone for long periods of time will cause them to become restless and high strung which can result in them misbehaving. This is one of the main reasons why nearly half the people who adopt a Dalmatian puppy do not keep them past the first year.

These dogs need human companionship and leadership to be happy. When they receive this, they are happy, playful, dedicated and easy going. They will do very well with firm and consistent training and with the right attention they can be trained to a very high degree of obedience. They will get past their extremely active stage after a few years and with stable leadership they will calm down into a wonderful and well behaved pet. If you are an active person who knows how to be a pack leader, then the Dalmatian will be a wonderful pet for you. At their best they will be high spirited, playful, loving, dignified and dependable.

Common Health Issues

Dalmatians are generally very healthy dogs but they can be subject to a few health issues. One of the common problems that Dalmatians suffer from is deafness – approximately 10-12% of the breed are born deaf. Any puppies of the Dalmatian breed should be given a hearing test at around 6 weeks old and if they are fully deaf they should be spayed or neutered. However, if your Dalmatian is deaf it is still possible to raise a happy and well-adjusted pet.

Dalmatians are also prone to urinary blockage as well a skin allergies, such as to upholstery and synthetic fibres in carpets. Sometimes they can suffer from Uric Acid, which can be caused by having too much protein in the diet. If this is the case your vet can recommend a special diet to get this resolved.


Since Dalmatians are a short haired breed they are very easy to care for and grooming isn’t too much of a task. However, they do shed a lot so brushing them is important. When they are properly fed and exercised they will have a clean, silky coat with natural oils that keep them clean and looking great.

You will only need to give them a bath every 3-6 months or so. Make sure that you use only dog-safe products rather than human shampoo, which will dry out their skin and make their coat gather more dirt.

A Dalmatian that runs and plays outdoors a lot will file down their nails naturally, so they will not need much nail clipping. However, you should check on them occasionally to make sure that they have not grown too long. Have your vet show you how to properly clip the nails of your Dalmatian, so that you don’t accidently clip too close to a vein and draw blood.

More Tips for Owning a Dalmatian

These are just a few tips to keep in mind if you are considering owning a Dalmatian:

  • Make sure that you choose a Dalmatian from a reputable breeder. Because of the 101 Dalmatians movie these dogs became a fad in the 1990s and many breeders tried to cash in on this by breeding any Dalmatian they could find – even ones with health issues and a poor temperament. It is important to do your research before choosing your dog.
  • Dalmatians are stubborn and independent and they have a mind of their own. To train them you must be firm and consistent while showing them that you are the boss.
  • This breed requires socialisation very early so that they will learn how to get along with other people.

These are just a few very important tips that you should know, so that you will have the best experience possible when adopting a Dalmatian.


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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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