5 Things to Know About Dalmatians

Not just an iconic firehouse symbol, Dalmatians are active dogs who thrive on human companionship, so they’re great pets for families.

dalmatians
Dalmatians have distinctive markings in their fur that develop after they’re born. Photo: iStock.com/LucyCartwright

1. Key Characteristics of Dalmatians

  • AKC Group: Non-Sporting
  • Height: 19–24 inches
  • Weight: 45–70 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10–13 years

Dalmatians are distinctive in their coat pattern and are the only spotted dog breed, according to the Amereican Kennel Club (AKC). Their short coats are white with either black or brown (liver) spots.

2. Where Dalmatians Came From

The Dalmatian is rumored to have come from Dalmatia, off the coast of Austria.

But the origins are confusing. The breed appeared in historical documentations for hundreds of years in a variety of countries before it was titled and listed as Dalmatian in the mid-18th century. And a painting in Italy in 1360 displayed a dog with spots similar to the Dalmatian, so the breed’s actual origins are unknown.

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The most impressive thing about these dogs? The lack of change in the breed over such a long period of time.

The Dalmatian has been 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 (protecting horse-drawn carriages).

The breed was registered with the AKC in 1888.

Dalmatians love spending time with their families. Photo: iStock.com/alvarez

3. How Friendly Are Dalmatians?

The Dalmatian has a natural protective instinct and moves with purpose. The dog has guarding and herding instincts inherited from centuries of breeding.

This breed is fast, intelligent, alert and active. Dalmatians are best suited to a family environment and are pretty friendly. The AKC describes the breed as stable and dignified with possible shyness.

These pets are energetic and happy, and they thrive on human interaction.

Dalmatians are not suitable for small apartments.

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4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

HIGH: Dalmatians are active pets who need daily exercise. They also have a high endurance level, so they make excellent jogging companions.

The Dalmatian’s high energy level as a puppy has led some people to return their dogs, but regular, firm training and patience will be rewarding in the long run.

These dogs are bred to follow and need a clear and consistent leader. Place the dog at your side or behind you during daily walks.

Grooming Needs

MEDIUM: Their coat may be short, but Dalmatians blow their coat biannually — and shed constantly. Brush yours at least once a week, preferably more.

The only other grooming these dogs require is a nail trim and an occasional ear cleaning. Bathe your Dalmatian only as necessary.

Health Problems

MEDIUM: Up to 12% of Dalmatians are born deaf. Deaf puppies can be effectively raised and trained, and puppies should be tested around 6 weeks old.

This breed is also prone to urinary stones and skin allergies.

Learn more about these friendly spotted dogs in this video:

5. How to Adopt a Dalmatian

Purebred dogs end up in rescues and shelters all the time. Try our online adoptable pet search, or ask local rescues about finding a Dalmatian who’s waiting to come home with you.

If you decide to go through a breeder for a Dalmatian puppy, please watch for any signs of a puppy mill.

Additional Resources

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