The Dalmatian soared to popularity with the movie ‘101 Dalmatians’ in the 90s, but there is more to this dog than just spots. The breed is lean, strong and very athletic. Dalmatians were bred for endurance, and a lot of their characteristics are representative of this.
The name of the breed comes from its place of its origin, Dalmatia, which is a region in Croatia along the coast of the Adriatic Sea. However, the Dalmatian was developed to its present state in England, with the first dog with signature spots being showcased in 1862. In the early 20th century, the dog became increasingly popular for its distinctive coat.
In Dalmatia, this dog was originally bred as a dog of war. It was later bred to escort horse drawn carriages, and soon began to be used for escorting firefighting carriages. It was here that the Dalmatian gained popularity as a firehouse mascot. Even though they are not used as often for firefighting as before, their role in firefighting is still remembered.
The Dalmatians are muscular, mid-sized dogs with lots of stamina and enthusiasm. They generally weigh around 35 to 70 pounds when they are fully grown, and stand 19 to 24 inches tall. They have rounded feet with arched toes and white colored nails. They can have different eye colors and combinations, ranging from blue, amber, and brown to a mix of two, such as one brown and one blue eye.
The most striking characteristic of a Dalmatian is, of course, its coat. Puppies are generally born with a plain white coat, and the distinctive spots start surfacing after a couple of weeks or so. Most of the spots are already formed within a month after birth even though there is some development throughout life. The spots on their coat usually range from 30 to 60 mm, and are colored black or brown on a white background.
Dalmatians were initially bred as dogs of war and guard dogs, and they still have a strong guarding instinct to this day. They tend to be very loyal to those they are familiar and more distant toward unknown dogs and strangers. The breed is known to be friendly with people and great with children. However, as with most medium-to-large dogs, toddlers can often be knocked down by overly eager dogs. Dalmatians can be highly trainable dogs and early training is recommended to their owners.
Common Health Problems
Dalmatians are prone to a number of common health problems. Owners of this breed should take their pet to the veterinarian regularly for checkups. They tend to suffer from bladder stones, which can trigger more problems. A special diet that is low-purine can be beneficial both in the prevention and treatment of urinary tract health issues. .Another major concern is that of complete or selective deafness. About eight percent of Dalmatians are born completely deaf and 22 to 24 percent are born with hearing in one ear only. All puppies are born with their ears closed. Deeafness is an inherited polygenic trait and all Dalmatian bloodlines can pass along this trait to their offspring.
Life Expectancy and Living Environment
Dalmatians are very active dogs that need lots of attention and even more exercise. They live best with active families or single owners, and make an excellent jogging companion. They can thrive well in moderate climates, and require minimal grooming. The breed's life expectancy ranges from 11 to 13 years.