The Spotted Dog: Dalmatian Facts 101

When you think of the dalmatian you probably associate them immediately with fire trucks. They are used as rescue dogs and have become the symbolic mascot for fire fighters. However, the dalmatian has also been used as a dog a war, retriever, and trail hound.


The dalmatian is the only spotted breed and is alert, active, and possesses great stamina. They have appeared in historical texts, art work, and royal families throughout Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa. The dalmatian was once used as a working dog and has had many jobs such as being a war dog, shepherd, ratter, firehouse mascot, bird dog, and trail hound. However, the dalmatian is the only breed that was ever used as a coach dog. As a coach dog, the dalmatian would run in front of the carriages to help clear paths and guide the horses and fire fighters to their destination. They are also often considered great watch dogs.
Their ancestry traces back to the Croatia but the breed was developed and cultivated in England. The distinct markings started appearing in the 1860s and became widely popular in the 1920s.


Dalmatians are mid-sized dogs that weigh between 35 to 70 lbs and stand about 20 to 24 inches tall. Males are usually taller than females and their body is long and lean. The feet are well-rounded with arched toes. The eyes are often brown, amber, or even blue. Some dalmatians have one blue eye and one brown or another combo. The dalmatian ears sit high on the head and taper towards the tips naturally.
The puppies are born completely white with no spots. The spots appear shortly after birth and within a month, almost all the spots for that particular puppy are developed. However, dalmatians continue to develop spots for their whole lifetime but the process is slower and may not be as noticeable. The ideal size of a spot should range from the size of a quarter to a half dollar (remember those?) and sometimes you may find a dalmatian that has a blue-ish hue to its spots or even brindled. The most common are black or brown.

Personality and Health

Dalmatians are incredibly intelligent, playful, active, and loyal dogs. They get along with other animals and are high energy dogs who will romp, run, and play for hours on end. They need a lot of exercise and stimulation to prevent from becoming bored. A bored dalmatian may become a destructive one.
They have also been noted as being stubborn dogs and are good problem solvers. They will figure out how to open a container that has their treats and food. Dalmatians love to eat and need to be supervised or else they will eat to excess. They also do not like to be left alone for long periods of time and may protest and bark for quite some time to let it be known that they are unhappy alone.

They have a genetic predisposition towards deafness, about 30% may be born with some sort of hearing problem. Breeders have not been completely able to eradicate the problem. They also can experience problems with their liver. Some dalmatians have problems breaking down uric acid which can lead to a build up in the blood serum and cause gout. They may experience kidney and bladder stones. It tends to occur in middle-aged males.

Is a Dalmatian right for you?

Dalmatians are active, require a lot of training, and also have a stubborn streak. They may be too big for small children as their wagging tails and bounding nature might accidentally harm a child. They also shed and are always on the hunt for food. If you’re a jogger or walker, this dog could be a great companion. They are beautiful dogs and have wonderful personalities but also need some extra TLC and someone who has had some dog experience makes the best owner.

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2 thoughts on “The Spotted Dog: Dalmatian Facts 101

  1. I have had dalmatians 21 of my 42 years! I have been blessed with 3 females and 1 male. They are excellent companions with wonderful personalities. My oldest Abbie is a prime example of the breed. Very smart, and is definitely a problem solver if the problem is that she wants something and she doesn’t have it. She can think to the next level.

    Liver disease was the cause of death of my first dal, the male. Fritz was diagnosed with liver disease. I was told it was genetic. There was bad breeding involved, which I didn’t know anything about at the time. He died at the age of 4. My next Dal, was Allie. I got her as a 9-month old who’d been terribly abused. It took about 2 years for her to come around and realize she’d found her forever home where she’d always be loved and respected and never harmed. I had the blessing of Allie until she was 15 1/2 yrs old. I had to put her down after she endured 2 1/2 years with degenerative myleopathy. The dog version of Multiple Sclerosis. I have submitted her information under the Dalmatian Longevity Project, which is I believe is still on-going. You can Google search it and submit your dog’s information. It is a study which helps breeders and scientists track the most common causes of death in Dalmatians.

    Extremely intelligent animals and worth every bit of effort you put into them.

  2. My 3rd Dalmatian, Aby, also had Degenerative Myelopathy. She was a rescue at approx 4 years old. I truly believe she was suppossed to be with me but after the last 2 years, the disease got to be too much for her and I had to put her down. What a horrible disease, but what a special Dal she was.