Dalmatian: Playful, Happy, Easy Going and Industrious, the Original Coaching Dog
It's no mistake that the energetic, happy, and hard-working Dalmatian has been the subject of a very popular movie and its remake. Perhaps the original working dog of pre-modern society, the Dalmatian is a large, energetic and athletic dog of impressive strength. The Republic of Croatia, Dalmatia, is officially recognized by many as the breed’s country of origin. However, with some dispute about that, it is also believed that the dog was mostly developed and cultivated in England. The first Dalmatians with distinctive markings appeared in England in 1862.
While its history may have been as a guard dog and companion to the people of Dalmatia, who were nomads, its true roots are not known. It became popular and was widely bred throughout England beginning about 1920. Ultimately making its way to the United States, its easily recognizable markings and modern designation as a firehouse dog give it a distinction all its own.
This distinctive "spotted dog" may be related to the pointer, although spotted dogs similar to the Dalmatian have existed since ancient Egyptian times. In 1993, the Fédération Cynologique Internationale finally recognized that the Dalmatian's origins were indeed centered in the Republic of Croatia, in Dalmatia.
This very old breed has come through many centuries, from Egyptian times, virtually unchanged. These "spotted dogs" have appeared in Africa, Asia and Europe, and have been found painted on tombs running with Egyptian chariots. A poet named Jurij Dalmatin mentions the Dalmatian in his letters, written in the 1500s. A fresco of a spotted dog that looks very much like a Dalmatian was found painted in the chapel of Santa Maria novella in Florence, Italy, dating back to about 1360.
A Working Dog For (Just About) Every Occasion
What's notable about the Dalmatian is that this working dog has been faithfully represented throughout many nationalities, histories, and situations. Known as heroic, fearless, and very intelligent, the Dalmatian has served as a dog of war, as a sentinel in Croatia and Dalmatia, has been a shepherd dog and draft dog, is excellent at killing rats and vermin, and is very heroic even in situations of extreme danger, including those that firefighters regularly encounter. This is one of the reasons that one of the Dalmatian's modern monikers is the "Firehouse Dog."
A performer, too!
The Dalmatian is so intelligent, hard working and obedient that the breed has been used in just about every capacity imaginable – including as a circus and stage performer!
The Original Coaching dog
Perhaps the Dalmatian's most notable function in relatively recent history is as a so-called "coaching dog," guarding horse-drawn vehicles. Dalmatians are instinctively drawn to horses, and have a special bond with them. As coach dogs, Dalmatians keep stride with horses and seem to calm them during travels.
In the early days of established society in England and the United States, for example, during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the main mode of travel was by horse and carriage. Dalmatians were trained to run alongside carriages both to protect the passengers within, as necessary, and to protect the horses themselves. They also prevented the horses from being spooked by other dogs. Their presence also protected the horses from being stolen.
How Did The Dalmatian Come To Be Known As A "Fire Dog"?
Because horses and Dalmatians established such close bonds with each other, it seemed natural to have them in the firehouse during the days of horse-drawn fire wagons. Typically, a Dalmatian was kept in the firehouse to guard both horses and the firehouse itself. When an alarm was sounded signifying that there was a fire, the Dalmatian led the way for the horse-drawn pumper.
Historically, then, the Dalmatian became companion to both human and equine firefighters alike. Even after horses were replaced by fire trucks, the Dalmatian has remained the guard dog of the fire station by choice, now guarding the fire truck. Dalmatians have also been reported to have performed acts of great heroics in the course of fighting fires.
Dalmatian puppies mature to be strong, athletic, muscular dogs. Lean and streamlined, the typical white dog with black spots stands between 19 to 24 inches at the shoulder, with males slightly larger than females. In adulthood, the Dalmatian can weigh between 35 and 70 pounds. Although the Dalmatian is most often thought of as a white dog with black spots and markings, the spots can also be liver-colored, tricolor, dark blue, or lemon. Dalmatians can also be brindle in color, white, or sable. The coat is short and dense, with fine, thickly layered hairs. Eyes are generally brown, but they can be blue or a combination of both.
This wonderful, energetic, eager-to-please dog is extremely intelligent and will make a wonderful pet for your family – that is, if you can keep up with him! The modern Dalmatian, bred to run alongside horse-drawn carriages, has seemingly boundless energy and stamina. Because of that, you will want to be sure you can keep up with your pet's amazing vitality and exuberance. Your dog will need to go on a long walk every day, carefully taught to heel beside you as you go, and will thrive in a highly demanding, very active environment.
Properly socialized and given enough exercise, Dalmatian puppies are simply wonderful pets to keep and watch grow. They bond exceptionally well with children, and if properly socialized with you clearly defined as the "alpha dog" of the pack, will be very protective and loving. This is the perfect companion for you if you're active, as a single person or as part of a family – but is not particularly well-suited for a quiet apartment life. In addition, your pet needs lots of attention and interaction, and will never do well if left alone. Boredom alone can cause misbehavior, in that your Dalmatian can be very destructive if left to his or her own devices. Again, with enough attention and supervision, though, your very smart pet will eagerly find other things to do that will please you.
The Dalmatian is a very trainable dog, and will be very obedient as long as he or she is properly taught right from the start. Capitalize on its intelligence by enrolling him or her in formal obedience classes which will be a perfect way to teach your pet the "rules of the road," and clarify that you are the alpha dog in charge of the “pack.”
Dalmatian puppies grow up to be sturdy, hardy dogs, although your pet will have certain breed weaknesses that you should look out for. Bone spurs, arthritic conditions and hyperuricemia are common problems for Dalmatians moving into middle age, especially in males. You should begin monitoring a male dog for hyperuricemia, giving preventive medication and limiting his intake of purines (uric acid found in red meats and seafood which can cause gout) as necessary once he reaches middle age. Your local vet will have the necessary treatments available for your dog if he does show a predisposition for this condition. Properly cared for, Dalmatians have a lifespan on average of 10-12 years, or even longer.
Dalmatians are also genetically prone to deafness, with only about 70% of dogs having normal hearing. Notably, Dalmatians with larger patches of color are less prone to deafness, although breeding for larger patches of color is actively prohibited for Dalmatians to meet the breed standard.
Dalmatians have short, thick, dense coats that lie close to the body, shedding moderately all year round and profusely twice a year. Brushing frequently will minimize shedding. Your pet is a very "clean" dog that will try to even avoid puddles, and bathing should be necessary only occasionally.
AKC MEET THE BREEDS®: Dalmatian.
Retrieved April 13, 2012.
Retrieved April 13, 2012.
Retrieved April 13, 2012.
Retrieved April 13, 2012.