Article: Dog Types » Dalmatian
The Dalmatian (Croatian: Dalmatinac, Dalmatiner) is a breed of dog whose roots are often said to trace back to Dalmatia, a region of Croatia where the first illustrations of the dog have been found. The Dalmatian is noted for its unique black- or brown-spotted coat and was mainly used as a carriage dog in its early days. Today, this dog remains a well loved family pet and many dog enthusiasts enter their pets into the competitions of many kennel clubs.
Classification and Standards
- FCI Group 6 Section 3 (Scenthounds) #153
- AKC Non-Sporting
- ANKC Group 7 (Non-Sporting)
- CKC Group 6 (Non-Sporting)
- KC (UK) Utility
- NZKC Non-sporting
- UKC Companion Breeds
Dalmatians are a mid-sized, well defined, muscular dog with excellent endurance and stamina. When full grown, these dogs’ weight normally ranges between 35 to 70 pounds (16 to 32 kg) and they stand anywhere from 19 to 24 inches (48 to 61 cm), with males usually slightly larger than females. The body is as long from forechest to buttocks as it is tall at the withers, and shoulders are laid back. The Dalmatians’ feet are round with well arched toes and nails are usually white or the same color as the dog’s spots. Their thin ears taper towards the tip and set fairly high and close to the head. Eye color varies between brown, amber, or blue with some dogs having one blue eye and one brown eye, or other combinations.
Dalmatian puppies are born with a plain white coat, and their first spots usually appear within a week after birth. After about a month the Dalmatian has most of its spots although they continue to develop throughout life at a much slower rate. Spots usually range in size of a quarter to a half-dollar and are most commonly black or brown (called liver-spots) on a white background. Other more rare colors include blue (a blue-grayish color), brindle, mosaic, tri-colored (with tan spotting on the eyebrows, cheeks, legs, and chest), and orange or lemon (dark to pale yellow). Patches of color appear anywhere on the body, mostly on the head or ears, and are usually consist of a solid color.
The Dalmatian coat is usually short, fine, and dense although smooth-coated Dalmatians occasionally produce long-coated offspring which shed less often. They shed considerably as well as year-round. The short, stiff hairs often weave into clothing, upholstery and nearly any other kind of fabric and can be difficult to remove. Weekly grooming with a hound mitt or curry can lessen the amount of hair that Dalmatians shed although nothing can completely prevent shedding. Due to the minimal amount of oil in their coat, Dalmatians lack a “dog” smell and stay fairly clean.
Dalmatians are intelligent, playful, loyal and active dogs. They usually get along well with other animals, notably horses, and are great companions. Dalmatians are high energy dogs and love to play and romp outdoors, although they also enjoy lounging with their owners. Some dogs, if cooped up, can become aggressive and some have been known to attack smaller breeds of dog when attempting to ‘play’ with them. In most cases this only shows up in a tendency to bark, often just for play. If shown love and companionship from a young age Dalmatians will be loyal and affectionate.
The Dalmatian is often used a rescue dog, guardian, athletic partner, and most often an active family member. Dalmatians are a very active, high maintenance breed. Pet owners should be willing to put extra time and effort into the care of this dog versus others. Dalmatians normally have a big appetite and will eat whatever is put in front of them so pet owners should carefully control food intake. This fun loving breed is very easily trained and rarely aggressive, and owners should find it relatively simple to train their dogs to participate in activities such as jogging, horse back riding, agility, flyball, and common dog tricks. Dalmatians need plenty of exercise otherwise they may develop anxieties, but if given ample room to run and romp 30 to 40 minutes daily this should be sufficient.
Like other breeds, Dalmatians display a propensity towards certain health problems. Hip dysplasia (which affects only 4.6% of purebred Dalmatians) is not a major issue in this breed. The Dalmatian Club of America lists the average lifespan of a Dalmatian at between 11 and 13 years, although some can live as long as 15 to 16 years. Breed health surveys in the US and UK shows an average lifespan of 9.9 years and 11.55 year respectively. In their late teens, both males and females may suffer bone spurs and arthritic conditions. Autoimmune thyroiditis is a relatively common condition for the breed affecting 10.4% of dogs.
A genetic predisposition for deafness is a serious health problem for Dalmatians, only approximately 70% of Dalmatians having normal hearing. Deafness was not recognized by early breeders, so the breed was thought to be unintelligent. Even after recognizing the problem as a genetic fault, breeders did not understand the dog’s nature, and deafness in Dalmatians continues to be a frequent problem.
Researchers now know that deafness in albino and piebald animals is caused by the absence of mature melanocytes in the inner ear. This may affect one or both ears. The condition is also common in other canine breeds that share a genetic propensity for light pigmentation. This includes, but is not limited to bull terriers, Poodles, boxers, border collies and Great Danes.
Only dogs with bilateral hearing should be allowed to breed  although those with unilateral hearing, and even dogs with bilateral deafness, make fine pets with appropriate training. Research shows that Dalmatians with large patches of color present at birth have a lower rate of deafness, and breeding for this trait, which is currently prohibited in the breed standard, might reduce the frequency of deafness in the breed. One of the leading reasons patches are a disqualifying factor in Dalmatians is to preserve the much prized spotted coat (the continual breeding of patched dogs would result in heavily patched Dalmatians with few spots).
Research concludes that blue-eyed Dalmatians have a greater incidence of deafness than brown-eyed Dalmatians, although an absolute link between the two characteristics has yet to be conclusively proven. Though blue-eyed Dalmatians are not necessarily deaf, many kennel clubs consider blue eyes to be a fault or even a disqualification, and some discourage the use of blue-eyed Dalmatians in breeding programs.
Dalmatians, like humans, can suffer from hyperuricemia. Dalmatians’ livers have trouble breaking down uric acid which can build up in the blood serum (hyperuricemia), causing gout; and can be excreted in high concentration into the urine, causing kidney stones and bladder stones. These conditions are most likely to occur in middle-aged males. Males over 10 are prone to kidney stones and should have calcium intake reduced or take preventive medication. To reduce the risk of gout and stones, owners should carefully limit the intake of purine by avoiding giving their dogs food containing organ meats, animal by-products, or other high-purine ingredients. Hyperuricemic syndrome in Dalmatians responds to treatment with Orgotein, the veterinary formulation of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase.
Dalmatian-Pointer Backcross Project
Hyperuricemia in Dalmatians (as in all breeds) is inherited. However, unlike other breeds of dog the “normal” gene for uricase is not present in the breed’s gene pool at all. Therefore, there is no possibility of eliminating hyperuricemia among pure-bred Dalmatians. The only possible solution to this problem must then be crossing Dalmatians with other breeds in order to reintroduce the “normal” uricase gene. This has led to the foundation of the “Dalmatian-Pointer Backcross Project”, which aims to reintroduce the normal uricase gene into the Dalmatian breed. The backcross that was done was to a single English pointer; subsequent breedings have all been to purebred Dalmatians. This project was started in 1973 by Dr. Robert Schaible. The f1 hybrids did not resemble Dalmatians very closely. The f1s were then crossed back to pure-bred Dals. This breeding produced puppies of closer resemblance to the pure Dal. By the fifth generation in 1981 they resembled pure Dals so much that Dr. Schaible convinced the AKC to allow two of the hybrids to be registered along with pure-bred Dals. Then AKC President William F. Stifel stated that “If there is a logical, scientific way to correct genetic health problems associated with certain breed traits and still preserve the integrity of the breed standard, it is incumbent upon the American Kennel Club to lead the way.” The Dalmatian Club of America’s (DCA) board of directors supported this decision, however it quickly became highly controversial among the club members. A vote by DCA members opposed the registration of the hybrids, causing the AKC to ban registration to any of the dog’s offspring.
At the annual general meeting of the DCA in May 2006 the backcross issue was discussed again by club members. In June of the same year DCA members were presented with an opportunity to vote on whether to reopen discussion of the Dalmatian Backcross Project. The results of this ballot were nearly 2:1 in favor of re-examining support of the Dalmatian Backcross Project by the Dalmatian Club of America. This has begun with publication of articles presenting more information both in support of and questioning the need for this Project. In July 2011, the AKC agreed to allow registration of backcrossed Dalmatians.
In 2010, the UK Kennel Club registered a backcrossed Dalmatian called Ch. Fiacre’s First and Foremost. Several restrictions were imposed on the dog. Although the dog is at least 13 generations removed from the original Pointer cross, its F1 to F3 progeny will be marked on registration certificates with asterisks (which “indicate impure or unverified breeding”), no progeny will be eligible to be exported as pedigrees for the next five years, and all have to be health tested. UK Dalmatian breed clubs have objected to the decision by the Kennel Club.
The FCI recognized as its country of origin the region of Dalmatia in the Republic of Croatia, citing Bewick’s 1792 work.
The Republic of Croatia was recognized by the F.C.I. as the country of origin of the Dalmatian; the breed had been developed and cultivated chiefly in England. When the dog with the distinctive markings was first shown in England in 1862 it was said to have been used as a guard dog and companion to the nomads of Dalmatia. But nothing is definitely known about its origin. The breed’s unique coat became popular and widely distributed over the continent of Europe beginning in 1920. Its unusual markings were often mentioned by the old writers on cynology.
The roles of this ancient breed are as varied as their reputed ancestors. They were used as dogs of war, guarding the borders of Dalmatia. To this day, the breed retains a high guarding instinct; although friendly and loyal to those the dog knows and trusts, it is often aloof with strangers and unknown dogs. Dalmatians have a strong hunting instinct and are an excellent exterminator of rats and vermin. In sporting, they have been used as bird dogs, trail hounds, retrievers, or in packs for boar or stag hunting. Their dramatic markings and intelligence have made them successful circus dogs throughout the years.
Dalmatians are perhaps best known for their role as fire-fighting apparatus escorts and firehouse mascots. Since Dalmatians and horses are very compatible, the dogs were easily trained to run in front of the carriages to help clear a path and quickly guide the horses and firefighters to the fires. Dalmatians are often considered to make good watchdogs and it is believed that they may have been useful to fire brigades as guard dogs to protect a firehouse and its equipment. Fire engines used to be drawn by fast and powerful horses, a tempting target for thieves, so Dalmatians were kept in the firehouse as deterrence to theft.
The “Firehouse Dog”
Particularly in the United States, the use of Dalmatians as carriage dogs was transferred to horse-drawn fire engines, although it is unclear why this link was not made in other countries. Today the Dalmatian serves as a firehouse mascot but, back in the days of horse-drawn fire carts, they provided a valuable service. The horses have long since gone, but the Dalmatians, by tradition, have stayed. As a result, in the United States, Dalmatians are commonly known as firehouse dogs. Dalmatians are still chosen by many firefighters as pets, in honor of their heroism in the past. The Dalmatian is also the mascot of the Pi Kappa Alpha International Fraternity. In the past, Pi Kappa Alpha has been known as the firefighters fraternity, and this is why they both share the dalmatian as a mascot.
The Dalmatian is also associated, particularly in the United States, with Budweiser beer, and the Busch Gardens theme parks. Since the Anheuser-Busch company’s iconic beer wagon, drawn by a team of Clydesdale horses, is always accompanied by a Dalmatian carriage dog. The company maintains several teams at various locations, which tour extensively. According to Anheuser-Busch’s website, Dalmatians were historically used by brewers to guard the wagon while the driver was making deliveries.
The Dalmatian breed experienced a massive surge in popularity as a result of the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by British author Dodie Smith, and later due to the two Walt Disney films based on the book. The Disney animated classic released in 1961, later spawned a 1996 live-action remake, 101 Dalmatians. In the years following the release of the second movie, the Dalmatian breed suffered greatly at the hands of irresponsible breeders and inexperienced owners. Many well-meaning enthusiasts purchased Dalmatians—often for their children—without educating themselves on the breed and the responsibilities that come with owning such a high-energy dog breed. Dalmatians were abandoned in large numbers by their original owners and left with animal shelters. As a result, Dalmatian rescue organizations sprang up to care for the unwanted dogs and find them new homes. There was a 90% decrease in AKC registrations of dalmatians during the 2000-2010 period.
- Pongo, Mrs. Pongo/Missis, Perdita, Prince (Perdita’s mate), and their puppies in The Hundred and One Dalmatians and its derivative works (The Starlight Barking, etc.).
- Sparky the Fire Dog Mascot of the American National Fire Protection Association.
- Louie (Lou Dog), the mascot of the band Sublime, owned by singer Bradley Nowell.
- Budweiser Dalmatian, the mascot along with BUD (the horse) for Anheuser Busch Budweiser Brewery
- Spottie Dottie
- Friar Boy, a series of dalmatian mascots for the Providence College Friars (the Dalmatian is also the mascot of the Dominican Order)
- Smokey and Blaze from Krypto the Superdog.
- Pudgey from Betty Boop.
- Iceberg, dalmatian of the Ells family.
- Radar from Fireman Sam’.
- Silverdene Emblem O’Neill aka Blemie, owned by American playwright Eugene O’Neill, well known for his last will and testament.
- Bottomley Potts from the Hairy Maclary series
- Croatian Kennel Club
- American Kennel Club – Dalmatian
- Thornton, Kim Campbell. “THE DALMATIAN.” Dog World 89.11 (2004): 24.
- “Dalmations: [sic] The Firehouse Dogs.” Dog Breed Advice. Web. 28 November 2010. http://www.dogbreedsadvice.com/more-to-dalmation-dogs-than-just-the-spots.html.
- OFA: Hip Dysplasia Statistics
- “The Red Book: The Dalmatian Club Of America’s Informational brochure regarding Dalmatians”. The Dalmatian Club Of America.
- “The Dalmatian Club of America Health Survey Results: Health Related Conditions”. The Dalmatian Club of America.
- “Summary results of the Purebred Dog Health Survey for Dalmatians”. Kennel Club/ British Small Animal Veterinary Association Scientific Committee. 2004.
- OFA: Thyroid Statistics
- Breed-Specific Deafness Incidence In Dogs (percent)
- Proctor PH (1988). “Free Radicals and Human Disease”. In Weber HH, Miquel J, Quintanilha AT. Handbook of free radicals and antioxidants in biomedicine. 1. Boca Raton: CRC Press. pp. 209–21. ISBN 978-0-8493-3268-5.
- DALMATIAN DILEMMA – PART 1
- Reference Materials Concerning Deafness In The Dalmatian
- Dalmatian Club of America Position Statement Regarding Reducing Dalmatian Deafness
- Friedamman, M; S.O Byers (1 September 1948). “Observations concerning the causes of the excess excretion of uric acid in the dalmatian dog”. Journal of Biological Chemistry 175 (2): 727–35. PMID 18880769.
- Simkin PA (August 2005). “The Dalmatian defect: a hepatic endocrinopathy of urate transport”. Arthritis Rheum. 52 (8): 2257–62. doi:10.1002/art.21241. PMID 16052594.
- Lowrey JC (March 1976). “An unusual diet-derived inflammatory dermatosis in a Dalmatian dog responds to orgotein”. Vet Med Small Anim Clin 71 (3): 289–95. PMID 1045695.
- Schaible, Robert H. (April 1981). “A Dalmatian Study: The Genetic Correction of Health Problems”. The AKC Gazette.
- “AKC agrees to register low uric acid Dalmatians”. Dog World.
- “Registration Rules and Regulations (B Regs)”. The Kennel Club.
- “Registration of a Low Uric Acid Dalmatian Import from the USA”. The Kennel Club. 12 January 2010.
- “Backcross Dalmatians – The UK Dalmatian Clubs Respond”. British Dalmatian Club. 2 February 2010.
- Fédération Cynologique Internationale Standard of Dalmatian, No. 153, dated 14 April 1999
- Schneider-Leyer, Erich ; Fitch Daglish, Eric. Dogs of the World, Popular Dogs, 1964.
- Fire Dogs and Fire Horses
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
- American Kennel Club – Facts and Stats
- Dalmatian-Pointer Backcross Project
- British Carriage Dog Society
- Dalmatian Club of America
- Dalmatian Color Variations
- All About Dalmatians (Trivia)
- Deafness in Dogs: LSU & Dr. Strain
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