Dalmatians, a unique and wonderful dog breed


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Dalmatians are highly intelligent, muscular, high-energy, friendly dogs with one of the most unique looks of all dog breeds. Everyone recognizes a dalmatian!

I grew up with a dalmatian. He was a major part of our family and like another sibling! His name was Sam and he had a very expressive face. He had the biggest smiles and they were the best! He was tons of fun.

History of Dalmatians

It is not exactly clear where dalmatians originally came from.  Research has shown they could be from the British Isles, Europe, North Africa, and Asia. 

The name dalmatian came from the Central Europe region once known as Dalmatia, which is now Croatia. They have also been known as English Coach Dog, Carriage Dog, Plum Pudding Dog, and Spotted Dick.  The last two names are from desserts which have spots.

Dalmatians were bred to guard horses and coaches. They would trot alongside horse-drawn coaches while traveling and also guard them when stopped. British nobles would employ them due to their unique look.

They also traveled with the caravans of Romani people (also known as Gypsies) who wandered all over Europe.

Francesco di Cosimo II de' Medici (1614–1634) with a Dalmatian, by Justus Sustermans
Francesco di Cosimo II de’ Medici (1614–1634) with a Dalmatian, by Justus Sustermans

Dalmatians became associated with firefighters in the 1800s when they would guard the horse-drawn fire engines. The horses that pulled the fire engines were strong and fast horses which would attract thieves, so dalmatians would guard the horses, equipment, and firehouse.

Fire engines are no longer pulled by horses and they no longer require guard dogs, but some firehouses still keep a dalmatian as a mascot. 

Brewery wagons were also guarded by dalmatians. While the driver was inside doing business with the owner and making the delivery, a dalmatian would guard the wagon and cargo.  In 1950, the dalmatian made the official mascot for the famous Budweiser Clydesdales and they always accompany them.

Over the years, they have also been used as sports dogs and circus dogs.

Physical characteristics

Dalmatians are a medium size dog with an average height of 19-24 inches and a weight of 45-70 pounds. Males tend to be larger than females. They may have black or brown spots on pure white. Their eyes can be brown or blue. 


Dalmatians make great pets for families. They get along well with other pets and children if socialized well as a puppy and make a good playmate for kids. 

They are dependable and make a good guard dog, as that was their job for a long time. Dalmatians are friendly and loyal to those they trust and may be aloof with strangers.

Growing up, our dalmatian was always tons of fun to play with. He was always up for any game we wanted to play. We also had other pets and he was great with them. We had guinea pigs, hamsters, birds, turtles, lizards, etc.! 

They also have a natural affinity for horses due to working together for so long. I would ride my horses over to the house and they were never worried about our dalmatian running around them and they seemed to get along well.

Dalmatians are intelligent dogs and can be headstrong so obedience training is a must. They will also test you occasionally!

Dalmatians have great stamina, endurance, have high energy, and require daily exercise. They make a great fit for active people who regularly go hiking or running. 

They don’t like to be left alone for long periods of time and prefer to be with their family and also like to sleep near or in the same room.

My dalmatian, Sam

Grooming and Shedding

Their coat is made up of smooth, short hairs that are dense. Dalmatians shed A LOT! They are constantly shedding all year round. Hair will get into everything and can be hard to remove. It can embed itself into any kind of fabric. It is difficult to wear black or dark clothing around a dalmatian. Their white hairs will get all over and will be every obvious! 

In my opinion, the shedding is probably the biggest downside to owning a dalmatian.

You can control the hair somewhat with regular daily or at least weekly brushing. This will help get the hair before it spreads all over your house. A curry brush or bristle brush would work well. 

A great positive for dalmatians is they don’t have that doggy smell! I don’t remember our dog ever having a smell at all. 

Their coat also repels dust and dirt and almost always looks clean and bright. If your dog rolls in the dirt, just give him a quick brush afterwards, the dirt comes right off, and he looks brand new again. They rarely need baths unless they were rolling in mud or doing something especially messy.

Dalmatian – Photo from Pixabay

Dalmatian puppies

The average litter size is 6-9 puppies.  Puppies are born completely white with no spots. Their spots begin to develop around 3-4 weeks of age and a month later they have most of their spots. 

101 Dalmatians

There were two 101 Dalmatians movies. Both were made by Walt Disney Productions and were based off the 1956 novel “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith. The first movie was an animated movie in 1961 and the second was a live-action movie in 1996.

After the 1996 movie, many people purchase dalmatians for their children. Unfortunately, many did not do their research beforehand about the requirements of owning such a high-energy, intelligent dog. The dogs ended up being too much for people and many ended up abandoned in shelters. 

Many dalmatian rescues were established during this time. If you are interested in adopting a dalmatian, there are many rescues that specialize in purebred dalmatians and dalmatian mix breeds. 

Dalmatian – Photo by Catherine Heath on Unsplash

Health issues

Approximately 8% of dalmatians are born completely deaf and 22-24% are deaf in one ear. When deciding to get a dalmatian, make sure they have had their hearing checked. The best test for deafness is the BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test.  

A deaf or partially-deaf dog has special needs and requires training that may be a bit difficult if you are not prepared for it. Verbal commands will not work and they will need to learn hand signals instead. Life can also be a little more dangerous for them. For example, if they run out into the street and can’t hear a car coming, they might get hit. They also startle easier as they cannot hear you coming.

Dalmatians can be prone to kidney stones/urinary tract stones. They have a gene mutation that causes high levels of uric acid which leads to the formation of stones. It is a recessive trait that all pure-bred dalmatians have except for one line bred in the 1970s that does not have it. If you have a dalmatian mix breed, it should not have this gene and will not be as prone to forming kidney stones.

To help prevent stones, make sure there is always fresh water available and the dog has the opportunity to urinate frequently. Leaving a dog locked up all day where it would not have the opportunity to urinate would promote bladder stones forming.

Stones are more common in male dalmatians over the age of 10. They should have their calcium intake lowered and a vet can help with monitoring and prevention measures.

Many dog breeds, especially the larger ones, can be prone to hip dysplasia. Our dalmatian had hip dysplasia. It didn’t seem to bother him too much, but he did have trouble with his hind legs when going down stairs. 

This article by the American Kennel Association is a good read if you want to know more: Hip Dysplasia in Dogs

Where to adopt a dalmatian

If you are interested in getting a dalmatian, I highly recommend you adopt! There are many dalmatians and dalmatian mixes that need homes. 

You can try visiting your local shelters and see if they have any available.

There are many rescues that specialize in rescuing dalmatians. You can try a Google search such as “dalmatian rescue” and add your city or state to see if there are any near you.

You can visit various websites that list animals available for adoption where you type in your location or zip code and the distance you would like to search within.  Here are a few you can try:


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PetSmart Charities

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