Breed Profile: Dalmatian

An infamous firehouse symbol, the Dalmatian is an active dog that thrives on human companionship. Check out our breed profile.

Dalmatians have distinctive markings.





Physical Description

Dalmatians are distinctive in their coat pattern and are the only spotted breed, according to the AKC. Their short coats are white with either black or brown (liver) spots. They stand between 19 and 23 inches and weigh between 35 to 75 pounds. Dalmatians live an average of 10 to 15 years.



The Dalmatian is rumored to have come from Dalmatia, off the coast of Austria. The breed appears in historical documentations for hundreds of years in a variety of countries before it was titled and listed as a Dalmatian in the middle 18thcentury.

Portion of a painting from 1360 with spotted dogs: Dalmatians?
Portion of a painting, circa 1360, with spotted dogs: Dalmatians?

A painting in Italy in 1360 displayed a dog with spots similar to the Dalmatian, so its original origin is unknown. Most impressive is the lack of change in the breed over such a long period of time.

The Dalmatian was a jack of all trades throughout history, holding jobs such as herding, dog of war, fire apparatus follower, retriever and hunter, and is revered as the only coaching dog. The breed was registered with the AKC in 1888.


The Dalmatian has a natural connection to horses but is most commonly used as a companion pet and firehouse mascot.


The Dalmatian has a natural protective instinct and moves with purpose. The dog has guarding and herding instincts inherited from centuries of breeding. Dalmatians are fast, intelligent, alert and active. They are best suited in a family environment and are friendly. The AKC describes the breed as stable and dignified with possible shyness. These pets are energetic and happy and thrive on human interaction.

The puppy in this video is only 6 months old, and can do all sorts of tricks on command:


Exercise Needs

Dalmatians are active pets that need daily exercise. They also have a high endurance level and work well as performance animals. Some owners report a high energy level in the first year as a cause for some dogs to be returned, but regular, firm training and patience will be rewarding in the long run.

Dalmatians are bred to follow and need a clear and consistent leader. Daily walks should take place with the dog at your side or behind you.

Grooming Requirements

Dalmatians will blow their coat biannually, but still shed constantly. They need brushing at least once a week, preferably more. The only other grooming they require is a nail trim and an occasional ear cleaning. Bathing is usually done only when necessary as Dalmatians are very clean animals.

Common Health Problems

Up to 12% of Dalmatians are born deaf. Deaf puppies can be effectively raised and trained, and puppies should be tested around six weeks old. Dalmatians are also prone to urinary stones and skin allergies.

Is the Dalmatian the Right Dog for You?

Dalmatians are not suitable for small apartments or confined outside in areas of cold weather.

They need daily exercise. They get along with children and other pets and truly enjoy being in the company of people. They love to run and jog and make excellent exercise companions.

Dalmatians are also intelligent and can test your patience, but the reward is a loyal, protective and loving dog that makes you the center of its world. If you have the space, time and attention to provide, there’s a Dalmatian waiting for you.

Additional Resources

Photo: dogbrush/Flickr

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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