Breed Group:
Companion Dogs

Middle Age: 6 years

Geriatric Age: 12 years

Life Span: 12 to 14 years

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Dalmatian Breed Background & History

The Dalmatian breed is a medium to large sized breed with a distinct white coat with black or liver spots. Dalmatians are the only breed of dog to have a spotted coat, but this is not where their singular nature or history ends. Dalmatians are named for Dalmatia, a region in western Croatia, where the breed gained a stronghold. Although named for this region, the Dalmatian is not believed to have originated in Croatia. The Dalmatian is an ancient breed whose history has been obscured by the passage of time. No one knows for sure where or when the breed originated, but there are some tantalizing clues as to the age of the breed. Images of spotted dogs can be found

Images of spotted dogs can be found in Egyptian tombs depicted running alongside chariots. Other images or references to spotted dogs crop up in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Although we will probably never know where or when the Dalmatian originated, historians of the breed agree that the breed is ancient and has remained largely unchanged over the centuries.

The Dalmatian experienced a surge of popularity in Victorian England, where they were used exclusively as carriage dogs. Dalmatians ran alongside carriages to clear roads for passages. They also served a protective role, guarding the draft horses against wild dogs and other threats. Dalmatians most famously served alongside fire crews as coach dogs. Although the automobile eliminated their usefulness as guardians of horse-drawn carriages, Dalmatians can still be seen in use as mascots for fire departments.

While most widely known as a carriage dog, Dalmatians also served as war dogs in Croatia, formerly Yugoslavia. They also worked as ratters, hunting, and herding dogs. As you can infer from their broad application across a number of fields, the Dalmatian takes well to a variety of work. Today, the Dalmatian breed serves primarily as a companion, a role for which they are eminently suited.

Dalmatian Temperament & Personality

Dalmatians are an energetic and intelligent breed with a regal, dignified temperament. They can be extremely playful and affectionate with family members. Their history as independent workers has left them with an independent personality that can, at times, lead to stubbornness. The Dalmatian temperament has been known to be aggressive with strange dogs, and aloof with strangers. Both characteristics made them excellent at clearing the way for horse-drawn carriages and protecting the horses but is less desirable in the modern world.

Dalmatian Trainability

Dalmatians are intelligent and eager to please, so they tend to be a very trainable breed. They enjoy learning new commands and tricks, a personality trait which has resulted in many Dalmatians successfully competing in obedience and agility trials. Dalmatians should be socialized early, as they can show aggression with strange dogs or people. Owners should expect a degree of independence and stubbornness, which can be overcome with patience and time.

Dalmatian Exercise Requirements

Dalmatians are extremely energetic, so they will need a daily long walk, run, or vigorous play session. This is not an indolent breed. Dalmatians will appreciate high levels of activity and attention from their owners. They are extremely playful and fun-loving, so incorporating training into their play session is highly recommended.

Dalmatian Lifespan & Longevity

Dalmatians are a healthy breed that lives anywhere from 12-14 years. Some exceptionally healthy Dalmatians live up to 16 years. This is a breed that will stay energetic and playful throughout most of its life. They should bring years of companionship and fun to their owners.

How Popular Are Dalmatians?

Dalmatians are the 62nd most popular AKC registered dog breed. Their above average popularity is due to their affectionate and intelligent nature, which makes them great companions.

Dalmatian Feeding Requirements

Dalmatians should be fed a high-quality diet that avoids any grain based fillers such as soy, wheat, or corn. Grain fillers are known to be difficult to digest and can lead to allergic reactions. This is particularly important for Dalmatians given their predisposition for developing skin problems from certain foods. Look for a food that provides a good balance of high-quality proteins, vegetable fillers, and healthy fats. The average Dalmatian weighs between 40-60lbs, so expect to feed them between 2¾ to 3½ cups of dry food a day, split into two even meals.

How to Groom a Dalmatian

Dalmatians are a clean breed that gives off little odor, so their grooming requirements are fairly low. They are, however, prolific shedders, so they need very regular brushing to maintain the health of their beautiful coat. It is recommended to brush your Dalmatian at least a few times a week to remove dead hair and minimize shedding. Dalmatians don’t need frequent bathing or grooming. The Dalmatian’s nails will naturally be worn down if they are frequently brought outside for exercise, but be sure to regularly check their nails and trim them if necessary.

Are Dalmatians Good with Kids?

A properly socialized Dalmatian is an excellent family dog that is wonderful with children. They are gentle playmates that are energetic enough to keep up with even the most active children. They do well with children of all ages. They are neither too large or two small to inadvertently hurt, or be hurt, by children. Dalmatians are also affectionate and loving companions that are loyal to their family above all else.

Dalmatian Health Problems

Urolithiasis: Urolithiasis, or urinary stones, is a condition characterized by the buildup of minerals in the urine of dogs. Urine naturally contains a variety of salts, minerals, and crystal-like structures that are excreted in the urine under normal conditions. Urine stones form when these minerals or crystal-like structures begin to bond together, becoming larger over time. Urinary stones can occur anywhere within the urinary tract, from the kidneys, bladder, ureter, or urethra. In the vast majority of cases, urinary stones form in the bladder. Signs of urinary stones in the bladder include the presence of blood in the urine, pain in the abdomen, dribbling urine, frequent urination that results in only a small amount of urine, and obvious strain when urinating. If the urinary stones lodge in the ureter, or the vessel through which urine travels from the kidneys to the bladder, signs include abdominal discomfort, vomiting, decreased appetite, and blood in the urine. Urinary stones are treated in a variety of different ways depending on the composition of the stones, severity of the case, and where the stones are located. Struvite bladder stones are the most common form, and can often be treated by medication that helps dissolve the stone. Other compositions, or stones that are present in the ureter or urethra can be life threatening and are treated by surgical intervention. Dalmatians are genetically predisposed towards developing urinary stones; Dalmatian owners are encouraged to be mindful of the signs that urinary stones may have formed.

Congenital Deafness: Congenital deafness in dogs is a hereditary condition that is most commonly seen in breeds with white coats. Dalmatians currently have the highest rate of congenital deafness out of any breed. Congenital deafness in Dalmatians occurs shortly after birth while the ear canal is still closed. It is believed to be the result of a decreased supply of blood to the cochlea. The lack of blood flow causes the nerve cells of the cochlea to die, resulting in complete loss of hearing. Because Dalmatians are at a higher risk of developing congenital deafness, breeders have been encouraged to administer a brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) test on their puppies before they are delivered to their homes. The BAER test can be administered at 6 weeks old and determine if there is any presence of deafness in one or both ears.

Allergies: Dalmatians are particularly susceptible to developing common skin allergies and the breed specific “Dalmatian Bronzing Syndrome”. Skin allergies can be caused by a number of different environmental and hereditary factors; many of which are not well known. Skin allergies can be triggered by mold, pollen, food allergies, flea bites, chemicals coming in contact with the skin, extremely dry or humid conditions, as well as many other less well-understood triggers. Dalmatian bronzing syndrome is a condition wherein the hair follicles become inflamed and lead to a secondary infection by a bacteria found on the skin of all dogs, Staphylococcus intermedius. These bacteria cause intense itching. The inflamed hair follicles stop growing, leading to hair loss in the affected area. The remaining inflamed hair follicles release a serum that causes the hair to be dyed a bronze color, hence the name of the condition. Skin allergies and Dalmatian bronzing syndrome are both generally treated with special shampoos, creams, and antiseptics that will help reduce the inflammation and return to the skin to a natural state. These are often accompanied by the administration of antihistamines to help alleviate itching and discomfort.

Epilepsy: Canine Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent seizures. Epilepsy in dogs is generally classified as either idiopathic or symptomatic. Idiopathic epilepsy is epilepsy that is inherited. Symptomatic epilepsy is a condition where recurrent seizures are caused by an underlying medical condition. Dalmatians are most commonly diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy. In either case, seizures in dogs are typically tonic-clonic in nature. Tonic-clonic seizures are seizures that are accompanied by spasms and complete loss of motor control. Following the seizure, dogs typically experience an extended period of mental fatigue and lethargy. Although visually distressing, seizures are not normally life threatening. Idiopathic seizures are treated by administering antiepileptic medication for the remainder of your dog’s life. Symptomatic seizures are treated by addressing the underlying medical condition for which seizures are a symptom.

Other Resources

National breed website: Dalmatian Club of America
Rescues: Dalmatian Rescue of Southern California, Inc. 

Health Issues Associated with this Breed: