1. Key Breed Facts
2. Breed Characteristics
3. Looking for a Dalmatian ?
8. Intelligence / Trainability
9. Children and Other Pets
11. Caring for a Dalmatian
15. Average Cost to keep/care for a Dalmatian
Dalmatians are known the world over for their distinctive looks and beautifully spotted coast. Over the years these elegant dogs have become a popular choice both as family pets and companions. They were once known as carriage dogs because they were bred to run alongside carriages which included horse-drawn fire engines, earning themselves the name of Firehouse Dogs.
Dalmatians are active, muscular and strong dogs that boast a lot of stamina and they like nothing more than to be given lots of exercise and mental stimulation. They are the perfect choice for people who lead busy outdoor lives and who live in the country, but they also do well living in town as long as their owners have a nice, big secure garden for them to roam around and they are given lots of exercise.
Dalmatians boast being one of the most ancient breeds on the planet with evidence of them being found on Greek friezes and tablets that date back 2000 BC. Dogs are seen running alongside chariots in Ancient Egypt, Rome and Greece. Records have also been found of these dogs in Dalmatia, a region of Croatia which is how the breed earned their name.
Over the years, these striking dogs have been given many jobs and this includes being used to herd sheep, hunt, perform in the circus, pull carts and to run alongside coaches. The actual true origin of the breed may be lost in time, but one thing that is known of Dalmatians is that for centuries they have worked comfortably alongside horses and that they first arrived in the UK back in the 18th century.
It was during this time that the breed became a popular choice with Britain's aristocracy and Dalmatians also started being used as carriage dogs working alongside horses. At the same time, they became popular with fire departments with Dalmatians running ahead of the horse drawn fire trucks making sure the way ahead was clear.
Today, Dalmatians remain a popular choice with people who live in the country and who own horses because of the breed's affinity with their equine counterparts. They are also often seen in Field Trials where they show off the natural abilities as working dogs, but they are also a popular choice in other parts of the world, thanks a Dalmatian’s kind nature and their wonderful spotted coats.
Height at the withers: Males 58 - 61 cm, Females 56 - 58 cm
Average weight: Males 23 - 25 kg, Females 23 - 25 kg
The Dalmatian has to be among one of the most recognisable breeds on the planet not only because of their beautiful spotted coats, but thanks to the movie 101 Dalmatians too. They are very proud, elegant dogs that boast a tremendous amount of stamina as well as good turn of speed when needed.
They boast a longish, flat head with a reasonable amount of width between their ears. They have a distinct stop and powerful muzzle with clean lips and a black nose although dogs with liver coats have brown noses. Their eyes are set nicely apart and are medium in size with dogs always showing an intelligent expression. Eyes are dark brown in black spotted Dalmatians, but they are amber in colour in liver spotted dogs. Their rims are well pigmented with black spotted dogs having black pigmented rims and liver spotted Dalmatians having liver brown ones.
Their ears are moderately large and set high and wide on a dog’s head and they gently taper to a rounded point. Ears are fine to the touch and dogs carry them close to their heads. A Dalmatian’s ears are well spotted which adds to their charming appearance. Their jaws are strong with dogs boasting a perfect scissor bite where they upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Their necks are fairly long, light and a dog’s shoulders are muscular and well laid back. Front legs are straight with dog’s having a good amount of bone from their elbows right down to their feet. Dalmatians have nicely proportioned bodies with deep chests and well sprung ribs. Their withers are well defined and they boast level, powerful backs and strong, muscular slightly arched loins. Hindquarters are well muscled with dog’s boasting a nicely developed second thigh and strong back legs.
Their feet are compact and round with toes that are well arched and very cat-like. Their nails can be either black or white when a dog’s coat is spotted black. However, liver spotted dogs boast brown or white nails. Dalmatians have quite long, spotted tails that are thicker at the base but taper to the tip which dogs carry with a slight curve.
When it comes to their coat, the Dalmatian has a short, dense and hard coat that is at the same time glossy and sleek. Accepted breed standard colours are as follows:
Base colour being pure white with black spots
Base colour being pure white with liver, brown spots
Dogs have well defined spots that are well distributed over their entire bodies which includes on their ears and tails.
These dogs are friendly, confident and outgoing, rarely showing any sort of aggressive behaviour. The Dalmatian is a good choice for a first time owner as long as they are prepared to give these active dogs the correct amount of exercise and the sort of mental stimulation they need to remain happy and well-balanced dogs.
Although bred as a working dog whether in a hunting environment or as a carriage dog, over the years the Dalmatian has become a firm favourite both in the show ring and as a family pet. They are active dogs that like nothing more than to be kept busy, but there is a bit of a downside to this because Dalmatians form a very strong bond with their owners and this can lead to them developing separation anxiety. With this in mind, they are not a good choice for people who spend most of the day out of the house leaving their pets on their own. Ideally, these dogs need to be in a family where at least one of the household stays at home during the day when everyone else is out of the house.
It's important for these dogs to be well socialised from a young age and to be introduced to as many new situations, people and other animals as possible for them to grow up to be well-rounded adult dogs. They also benefit from being enrolled into obedience classes from a young age which helps these dogs understand their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household. They can be a little wary around strangers, but once they get to know someone they generally get a lot friendlier towards them.
The Dalmatian is an intelligent dog and one that is easy to train because of their eagerness to please. With this said, if these dogs are not given the right sort of direction, they are also quick to pick up bad habits which is why they need to be trained with a gentle, yet firm hand. Another thing to bear in mind is that males tend to show a bit more of a dominant side to their character than their female counterparts. Dalmatians are often seen taking part in many canine sporting activities which includes Flyball, agility and obedience to name but three and which they are known to excel at.
Dalmatians are very kind dogs by nature and seem to have an affinity with children. They are confident, outgoing characters with puppies and younger dogs tending to be a little more boisterous than older dogs. It takes about two years for young Dalmatians to settle and become less energetic. With this said, any interaction between the kids and a dog should be supervised by an adult to make sure things stay calm and nobody gets knocked over and hurt, even by accident.
These dogs rarely show any sort of aggression towards other dogs, pets or animals especially if they have been well socialised from a young age and they have grown up with them. With this said, care needs to be taken when a Dalmatian meets an unfamiliar cat because they will want to chase them.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Dalmatian is between 10 and 13 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Dalmatian is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and good looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, Dalmatians need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Dalmatians have short coats and therefore should be low maintenance in the grooming department. However, they are known to shed copiously throughout the year which means they really do need to be brushed once a day using a grooming glove to keep loose and dead hair from being left everywhere around the home. With this said, because Dalmatians are known to suffer from skin allergies, care has to be taken as to what sort of products are used on their coats to keep them in good condition and this includes using a special dog-specific shampoo when they need bathing.
Being very active dogs by nature, Dalmatians need to be given the right amount of daily exercise which includes enough mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. It would be hard to over-exercise one of these dogs given their stamina, but with this said a minimum of two hours a day would be acceptable. It is also best to take a dog out for a walk twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the afternoon making sure they are given a lot of mental stimulation throughout the day.
With this said, young Dalmatian puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. If possible, puppies should be allowed to play outside in a garden for around 15 to 20 minutes a few times a day which should be enough to keep them fit and happy. It’s also a great time and place to start a young Dalmatian’s education.
If you get a Dalmatian puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Dalmatian, you would need to pay anything from £500 to over £650 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Dalmatian in northern England would be £21.20 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £45.32 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Dalmatian and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Dalmatian would be between £80 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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