Dalmatians 101

Dalmatian DogDalmatians, the most gracious and unique dog breed of them all, but where do these dogs come from and what are they all about? While there seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the history, there is a lot to talk about the modern breed – they really are that special.

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origin of the breed. There are many theories and legends just how far back the lineage really goes. The official standard for the breed was established in 1890 – though there are artistic paintings that include Dalmatians that date as far back as the 1600s. So it’s safe to assume that they go back even further than that.

Dalmatian History

Throughout its history Dalmatians filled many necessary roles for us. Most of those roles revolved around protection of some sort. Whether they fought alongside in war, guarded their owners from unwanted visitors or protected horse carriages along their trips, the instinct to serve and protect goes back far. They are tough and loyal dogs that are all about taking care of business, although they still love to goof off and have fun from time to time.

Unfortunately, their history has largely been forgotten and overlooked in modern times – mainly due to that one Disney animated film centered around them. In that film they were portrayed as friendly lovable lapdogs.  As a result, a lot of people that fell in love with the beauty of the breed weren’t aware of all their needs, resulting in neglect. And the sudden large popularity didn’t help either.

The whole Dalmatian breed suffered as a whole. The large demand for Dalmatians opened the marked for backyard breeds and puppy mills to push out as many puppies as possible, regardless of health, temperament or the well being of their dogs. The combination of poorly bred dogs and owners with unrealistic expectations gave Dalmatians a very bad rep as aggressive/unstable dogs – which just isn’t true.

Luckily the “fad” has died down and the popularity of the breed fell dramatically since then, which meant less poorly bred dogs and, hopefully, more educated owners. Even though their popularity might be falling, the effects of it will hopefully restore the breeds reputation.

Physical Characteristics

Lifespan: 10-15 years
Size: Medium/Stocky Built
Height: 18-25 inch. (45-65 cm.)
Weight: 50-55lbs (22-25 kg.)
Color: White, White with Black Spots, White with Brown Spots.


There are vast differences dog to dog, even if they are of the same breed. However, there are a few things Dalmatians tend to have in common. The personality traits that I’m about to list are just general traits that Dalmatians tend to have. Each dog will be different depending on their parents and upbringing, but the following list should give you a better idea of what to expect:

Very Active – this breed comes from a lineage of very active dogs and that absolutely need to run, play and explore to stay mentally sharp. If you’re looking for a dog that will be happy to run right next to you on your morning jogs and has plenty of energy to play with your kids all day right after, these dogs are for you. They are not the type of dogs that just want to sleep on the couch all day.

Intelligent – The thing about Dalmatians is that they are extremely intelligent and as a result have a mind of their own. So solid fundamental obedience training is a must with these dogs. They will test you if they think you’re being unfair or they don’t trust you. But with right leadership you can win their trust and have an amazing loyal pet.

Very Social – Well-bred and well-tempered Dalmatians will always want to make new friends and meet new people. The key of course is to get them socialized early on while they are still puppies.

Clean Dogs – Dalmatians are beautiful dogs and part of that reason is that they like to keep themselves clean – which means you will have less grooming to keep up with.

Protective – Through history these dogs had built up an instinct to protect and guard. As a result, they can make wonderful guard dogs, but it will take training for them to properly understand what is expected of them.

Health Issues

When it comes to health, besides a few genetic possible problems, Dalmatians are relatively healthy. Nearly all purebred dogs have some breed specific issues, and Dalmatians are no different. The biggest and most common health concerns with these dogs are deafness and bladder stones.

  • Deafness – Nearly 30% of Dalmatians have some sort of a hearing disability – whether it’s just one ear or both. Most breeders have their puppies tested for hearing problems. The test is called BAER test, so make sure you ask for results of that before you get your puppy.
  • Urinary Stones – Dalmatians are at a higher risk of developing bladder stones and that is due to high levels of uric acid in their blood. Although it’s a genetic issue, you can reduce the chances of having problems with proper diet and hydration.

Related Topic: Common Dalmatian Health Problems

Training Requirements

If you want to own a Dalmatian, then you will have to do some sort of obedience training. Yes, they are very smart dogs – but that intelligence can actually work against you. Since they are so clever, they will have moments of stubbornness where they will decide they know better than you. Without proper training those moments will be happening almost all the time.

When I say “proper training”, I’m not talking about the junk methods that focus on being the “alpha”. Most of those training techniques involve yelling, shouting or putting yourself on the same level as the dog (I kid you not, I’ve seen someone say that you need to bite your dog’s ear to display dominance). None of that will work with Dalmatians. They will just see through it and assume you’re crazy.

The correct approach to training Dalmatians involves positive reinforcement, consistency and very clear rules. It’s going to take some time and effort, so be prepared for that. Usually I recommend at least of 10 minutes a day of some sort of obedience training. Might not seem like much, but it’s enough if done daily with consistency. So if you think you have ten minutes plus the initial time to do some studying, you should do fine.

Related Topic: How to Train a Dalmatian

Who Are They For?

Considering getting a Dalmatian? Well first you need to decide if they are even right of you. As wonderful as this breed is, it is definitely not for everyone. So then who exactly are they for then?

Well first and most importantly they are for people who are active and want a dog that can keep up. If you have kids who love to play outside, or you yourself enjoy going for jogs or hiking, Dalmatians can make really good companions. These dogs are full of energy, and if you don’t help them release it then they will find ways to entertain themselves – and it will probably be at your expense.

Their natural instincts that they have to guard and protect can come in handy for people with kids. They are not the most intimidating or biggest dogs, but they sure can scare someone off.

Since Dalmatians are pretty darn clever, they are not recommended for people who don’t want to bother with training. Again, they are not little lapdogs who will just sit quietly and do as they told. Instead they will look for good leadership and will listen when approached in a correct way.

In conclusion, Dalmatians can make wonderful family pets as long as their needs are meant. They require an active lifestyle along with proper training. Owning a happy, healthy and well behaved Dalmatian will take some effort, but the loyalty and companionship you get will be rewarding and worth the effort.

Continue Reading: Do Dalmatians Make Good Pets

About The Author

Charles Owens is a proud Dalmatian owner, trainer and enthusiast. He has been helping Dalmatian owners for years through his website, discussion forum and personal one on one training sessions.

He has also written a complete guide on what it takes to raise a healthy, happy and obedient Dalmatian.

You can find the complete guide here: The Complete Dalmatian Guide

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