Probably one of the most well known breeds in literature thanks to the wonderful book, 'The Hundred and One Dalmatians' written by Dodie Smith in 1956, which tells of the fictional story of the robbery of Dalmatians by the evil character Cruella de Vil to make a herself spectacular fur coat from their magnificent spotted coats. This coat is one of the most recognisable physical appearances of any dog in the world and a true beauty in the canine world.
There is some controversy as to the actual roots of the Dalmatian. Some think its origins are in an area of Croatia called Dalmatia, but paintings of spotted dogs have been found through other areas of Europe, Africa and on the walls of tombs dating from Ancient Egypt. Whatever the origins of the spectacular breed, it was used flexibly for a varity of jobs and appeared in England in the 1860's, where it was chiefly used as a guard dog. Another popular role for the Dalmatian was as a ratter, a carriage dog (to run in front of the horses and guide the way on the road or to nip at their heels to make them go faster), and as a guardian of 'firehouses' (guarding expensive horses and equipment used for fighting fires when the fire service was in its infancy). To this day, many fire services, especially in the USA, have a Dalmatian as their mascot
Average height to withers: Both males and females are between 19-25 inches.
Average weight: Both males and females can vary in weight between 16-35kg.
The stand out physical uniqueness of this dog lies with its spots. Although born white, the spots will appear a week or two after birth. By the time they are a month old, they have the majority of their spots but they will continue to develop them through the rest of their lives. The spots themselves can range in size from the size of a ten pence piece and occasionally are seen as patches anywhere on their body. The coat of the Dalmatian is white with the contrasting spots being either black or liver brown. Occasionally variants in colour can be found with lemon, orange and a blue grey colour being found.
The coat itself is very short and although smooth, is quite dense. The pin sharp hairs are quite difficult to remove from clothing, furniture and carpets when the dog is shedding, which can be most of the year.
The Dalmatian is renowned for its stamina and as such displays a well muscled body and is an extremely well proportioned dog. Their ears are dropped and close to the head, with eyes which can vary in colour including the occurrence of blue eyes. The feet of the Dalmatian are particularly notable in having arched toes, making for hardy feet which were capable of running miles on harder ground alongside carriages.
Dalmatians are noted for their highly playful nature, particularly with other animals. They are intelligent dogs and need to have this channelled in a constructive manner, especially when coupled with their high energy drive, meaning that they do require a lot of stimulation and exercise. That said, this is a breed that also likes nothing more than a lounge and hugs with its family on the sofa. The Dalmatian responds well to a firm routine of training and will benefit from socialisation from an early age as its playful nature, especially with other animals can border on alarming exuberance on occasion. This early socialisation makes them a good choice for a family dog, provided they receive the attention and exercise required to make a well rounded member of the family.
On average, the Dalmatian will live between 11-13 years. The major health issue with Dalmatians is the well known genetic predisposition to deafness - in fact estimates are that around 30% of Dalmatians have some sort of hearing impediment. Through research, it is known that albino and white furred/pale skinned animals of any species tend to have this predisposition towards deafness. This is thought to be attributed, in part, to problems with the skin pigmentation in the inner ear but it is not an issue that is yet fully understood. The tendency for deafness in a Dalmatian is higher in a dog displaying one or both eyes which are blue in colour. Thus the breeding of Dalmatians with blue eyes is discouraged. Dalmatians which are deaf or have some sort of hearing impediment can be trained using hand signals and other techniques. The owner of such a Dalmatian will need to have patience with their pets and be prepared for training which may take longer than other breeds of dog.
Dalmatians are also prone to liver issues, notably the inability to break down Uric Acid, which can potentially cause Gout and ultimately Kidney Stones. These conditions are primarily seen in males aged 9 years plus and are controlled with medication from your vet.
The Dalmatian is a breed which will benefit from regular brushing, even as a shorter haired dog, to try to prevent a build up of excess hairs which, once shed, are difficult to remove from your clothing and furniture. This is a dog which is active and needs at least two good walks per day to prevent boredom.