There is only one "type" of dalmatian, the familiar spotted white dog made famous by Disney's "101 Dalmatians." Dalmatians are an energetic, intelligent and social breed with an ambiguous origin, but with many special characteristics that make taking care of an individual a rewarding pet-owning experience.
The exact origin of the dalmatian is unknown. The dogs did travel with the nomadic Romany, or gypsy, people. The name comes from Dalmatia, where they were used as guard dogs. Dalmatia was a province on the Adriatic Sea that is part of present-day Croatia. These dogs have been used as shepherds, ratters and retrievers as well. In England, dalmatians were developed as a coaching dog, meaning they were in charge of clearing paths in front of stagecoaches, and guarding the coach and the horses. In the United States, dalmatians began to be used as watchdogs at firehouses and sometimes even participated in rescuing people from fires.
Dalmatians are strong, muscular and fairly large dogs, between 19 and 24 inches tall and weighing 48 to 55 pounds. Males generally are larger than females. The nose is either black, brown, blue or gray. The eyes are brown or blue, but can be a combination of both. The ears hang down, tapering to a tip, as does the tail. The coat is made of fine, dense hair, and is white with round spots of either black, brown, dark blue, sable, lemon or a combination of three colors, although the American Kennel Club only recognizes black and liver-colored spots. Puppies are born without spots.
Behavior, Training and Activity
Dalmatians are intelligent and alert, qualities that have made them good watchdogs. They also love to show off to get a laugh, especially from children. They are extremely energetic and love running. Therefore, dalmatians need to have daily brisk walks or jogs. On these outings, the dog should be situated beside or behind the human so it recognizes them as the leader. Dalmatians should have time to run off the leash but that doesn't mean they should be left in the yard all day as they also need social interaction. Apartment dwelling is not the best environment for them. If they do not get enough physical and mental stimulation and exercise, they translate that boredom into destructive and high-strung behavior.
Health Issues and General Care
The average lifespan of a dalmatian is 13 to 16 years. Hereditary deafness can be a problem with the breed; 10 to 12 percent of dalmatian puppies are born completely deaf and 22 to 24 percent are born with hearing in only one ear. The Dalmatian Club of America recommends euthanasia for completely deaf puppies, but it is possible to raise and train a deaf dog through hand signals and vibrations. Dalmatians are prone to urinary tract stones as their urine contains uric acid instead of urea. Regular fresh water helps prevent this condition. Two meals of dry food should be served to the dog daily. Dalmatians shed year-round and, thus, require regular brushing.