February 6, 2013 PetGuide
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  • Height: 19-27 inches
  • Weight: 45-70 lb
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Group: AKC Non-Sporting
  • Best Suited For: Families with older children, active singles, guard duty, houses with yards, rural areas
  • Temperament: Energetic, enthusiastic, boisterous
  • Comparable Breeds: Brittany, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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Thanks to a large size, a bright white coat, black spots and a Disney movie or two, there are few breeds of dog more infamous in the world than a Dalmatian. Often associated as the kind of dogs who help firemen and police, Dalmatians are notoriously good workers and comprise an assertive, friendly breed.

And as the only spotted breed of dog, they’re not exactly hard to spot.

But what is it about Dalmatians that seems to capture our imaginations? Was it the movie? Or is it simply the spirit of the breed? After all, if you’re considering buying a dog for you family, you may find that nothing can light up your children’s eyes quite like mentioning a Dalmatian.

What are the right circumstances for a Dalmatian? As you’re about to find out, Dalmatians are an active breed that enjoy attention and love to get in a good workout – especially if there’s company involved. If you’re considering getting a Dalmatian yourself, here are some facts that can help you better understand this unique breed of dog.

As the only spotted breed of dog, they’re not exactly hard to spot.

Considering they’re called Dalmatians, one might think they’re from a made-up, far-away place like Dalmatia. Silly, right? Well, that’s the case – except Dalmatia is not made-up. It’s a region in the country of Croatia, and historians pinpoint the Dalmatians there back to the late 1700s.

Although that is the official country of origin, the Dalmatian is actually quite an English dog, having been developed and bred primarily in England. The truth is that there’s not a lot know about the Dalmatian breed.

Dalmatians were said to be from Croatia in the mid-1800s, as is officially known now, and were said to be used as guard dogs. Thanks to a sporty, active English breeding, Dalmatians are now known as dogs that get along with a variety of animals – especially the horse – and display strong hunting and sporting instincts.

Because Dalmatians are frequently used in fire fighting, there’s no doubt about its responsiveness to training.There is little precedent for establishing the pedigree of Dalmatians, although some people in Croatia will tell you that they descend from guard dogs and dogs of war in the Dalmatia region. Modern-day Dalmatians trace their instincts and breeding to England, where Dalmatians were bred to work with carriages. This explains the Dalmatian’s instinct to follow horses whenever they are seen. Dalmatians currently are used frequently in firefighting thanks to its strong instincts and assertive nature as well as a healthy response to habitual training.

Dalmatians do not have many stringent needs when it comes to their diet. As avid exercisers, this breed can work up an appetite but should be fed accordingly in order to create a lean, healthy look. Dalmatians should not be fed processed foods or foods meant for human consumption.

Dalmatians have plenty of endurance and stamina.

Because Dalmatians are frequently used in fire fighting, there’s no doubt about its responsiveness to training. A good trainer can get a Dalmatian to act well-behaved and assertive but never overly-aggressive. Like many assertive animals, a Dalmatian can generally be more assertive in the presence of a weak or submissive trainer or dog owner. For this reason it’s especially important to be assertive and in command around a Dalmatian. This dog breed that understands its role can get along very well with other animals in your home.

Dalmatians are relatively tall but also lean – they should be somewhere around 55 pounds. Deviating too far from the norm (either over or underweight) can cause health problems down the line. A dog with plenty of activity and good healthy food readily available should have no problems maintaining a healthy weight. Male Dalmatians can be heavier than females.

Dalmatians are very active. Dalmatians are very active. The stereotype of the active dog that is trying to get its owner to play might well suit the Dalmatian, as it is lean and capable of plenty of exercise and really enjoys the company of others when being active.

Dalmatians have plenty of endurance and stamina, so if you’re looking to get into shape, finding a Dalmatian might not be such a bad idea. This breed also have a good deal of versatility both as a family pet and as a show dog that is capable of putting on a good show and listening to obedience training.

Since Dalmatians can be rather large, it’s important that they’re aware of their role within your family. Like any other dog, it’s important that you are able to enforce proper boundaries with your dog.

Although hip dysplasia is a frequent problem in many dogs, it’s not a major issue for many Dalmatians. Other health issues like bone spurs and arthritic conditions, however, may plague your dog especially as it gets advanced in years. Dalmatians also possess a genetic predisposition to deafness, a problem that many dogs may have to deal with but which is pronounced in Dalmatians.

Dalmatians live a typical lifespan for many dogs, about 10-12 years.

You could categorize the Dalmatian as a high-exercise dog. With strength and endurance, this breed will be capable of handling nearly any exercise you throw at it within reason. They can outlast many humans when it’s time to visit the park and enjoy getting frequent walks. Making sure your dog gets plenty of exercise is critical in maintaining a balanced personality, so make sure that you don’t neglect a Dalmatian’s exercise requirements.

As far as extra exercises, Dalmatians are capable of a lot, which is partially the reason they’re used in more advanced scenarios such as firefighting and in dog shows.

The Dalmatian is alert and active, possessing great endurance, speed and intelligence.

According to the American Kennel Club: “The only spotted breed, the Dalmatian is alert and active, possessing great endurance, speed and intelligence. Their working and sporting heritage makes them suitable as both a family pet or performance animal, and they are often found in the show, obedience and agility rings, or galloping alongside a horse as a coach dog in ‘road trials.’”

Dalmatians have a unique spotted coat which makes them one of the more unmistakable breeds you’ll come across. They are also frequent shedders, especially on a seasonal basis. Their hair is short, however, so this will require minimal grooming and clipping.

Dalmatian puppies are born completely white and develop their spots later – so don’t worry about white Dalmatians if you simply see them as puppies. It’s important to properly socialize your Dalmatian from an early age and ensure that it knows its boundaries, as Dalmatians don’t mind taking an assertive role if no assertive humans are around.

Photo credit: Eric Isselee/Shutterstock

Comparable Breeds

Go to Brittany


  • Height: 17-27 inches
  • Weight: 30-40 lb
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Group: AKC Sporting
  • Best Suited For: Families with children, singles, seniors, houses with yards
  • Temperament: Affectionate, independent, gentle, kind
  • Comparable Breeds: Cocker Spaniel, English Setter
Go to Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

  • Height: 12-13 inches
  • Weight: 10-18 lb
  • Lifespan: 10-14 years
  • Group: AKC Toy
  • Best Suited For: Families with children, singles, seniors, apartments, houses with/without yards
  • Temperament: Friendly, playful, eager to please, gentle
  • Comparable Breeds: Bichon Frise, Cocker Spaniel