The handsome, spotted Dalmatian has a murky history. Spotted dogs can be seen in paintings going back to at least the 1500’s. The Dalmatian as we know it today however was standardized more recently in Great Britain.
This is a dog that has done a bit of almost everything. It is said this breed has been used in war; they’ve hunted large game including boars, and they’ve been ratters; they’ve retrieved birds; they have been carriage dogs and are noted for their affinity with horses.
Dalmatians can run alongside a horse, or behind the carriage – then they can guard the horses, carriage and cargo while the driver steps away. This is said to have been particularly useful when horse drawn wagons were being used to deliver beer.
Born looking basic-white, Dal’s skin spots can be seen through their fur as they age. Responsible breeders test all puppies for hearing loss as deafness is too common in this breed.
Dals born with blue eyes are most likely to be deaf; dogs can be born with bi-color eyes and it is only with testing that a breeder can know for certain if a pup is deaf in one ear vs. not deaf at all. Breed recommendations are to not breed blue eyed Dals.
The other health issue most common to the breed is a tendency to have high uric acid content in their bloodstream, which can lead to kidney stones and gout. Fortunately, this disorder can be treated.
This is an athletic breed that sheds year round. They are great family dogs, for a family that provides structure and exercise and doesn’t mind short white hair. Natural watchdogs aloof with strangers and devoted to their own people this is a trainable, energetic dog that makes a great watch dog, jogging partner, bicycling partner, agility dog, or a dog to keep you company while you ride your horse.
Dals are also still used in special competitions where they accompany horse-drawn vehicles.
In the U.S. Dals were used with horse-drawn fire wagons; while the horse-drawn wagon was replaced by fire engines, the Dalmatian has remained as a common firehouse mascot.
The most common color for a Dal’s spots are black, then liver. Much less common are lemon, brindle, blue, and occasionally dogs that are ‘tri-colored’ with tan coloring on eyebrows, ears, and chest. For more about Dalmatian colors there are some good copyrighted pictures at this site: http://www.hattrickdalmatians.com/Colors.html
There is some variation in Dal personality both in blood lines and litters. One of the chubbiest, happiest, friendliest, easy going dogs I ever met was a Dalmatian, while others have been lean and aloof.
Adopting from a knowledgeable rescue or working with a reputable breeder are the best way to find an individual Dalmatian that will be the right fit for your family. Following the last 101 Dalmatian movie there was a huge increase in poor breeding of Dals, followed by a massive increase of Dals in rescue.
In the decade since then registration of Dalmatians has dropped considerably, however, like most breeds, this is a breed that does still need re-homing at times. For the right kind of family this is a perfect companion dog, known to do well with other animals and enjoying a family lifestyle.