Ever since the film about 101 Dalmatians, this spectacular spotted dog has grown in popularity. However, the story of the Dalmatian goes beyond that of the film. It is also known as the “Wagon Dog” or “Fire Dog”. Before the “horseless carriage,” horses were used to pull the fire wagons, and the dog became a common sight at fire stations across the United States. The dog was used as the coach’s protector, trained to walk under the wheels and protect the horses by keeping other court dogs at bay. The Dalmatian is a versatile guard and protector and was also used as a hunter.
The Dalmatian is a low maintenance breed, a simple wiping of their coat will keep them clean. Its white coat with many spots is spectacular in appearance. The puppies are born all white, and as they grow older, the spots gradually begin to appear. The coat has short, stiff hairs that shed year-round, so vigorous rubbing with a towel several times a week will help loosen the hairs and prevent them from falling out on furniture. The breed standard describes the coat very precisely: “must be white in the ears” and “must be only black or only moles” no combination of both. Blue eyes are acceptable in the United States, but European and English standards call for black or brown eyes.
He is generally healthy, but the breed carries an inherited trait of deafness. The Dalmatian is also a breed known to have some skin problems related to allergies. There is little hip dysplasia in the breed but as with all larger dogs it is necessary that he be x-rayed to rule this out.
This dog’s temperament is stable but protective. He does not do well with children unless exposed to them early. He’s intelligent and needs a job to do his best, so obedience training is a good option if you have one of these dogs in an urban environment. Lots of exercise is the key. Joggers make great owners for Dalmatians as they get very used to jogging with their owner and protect him from stray dogs! He is the stable dog of choice on horse farms.
Since the movie, the Dalmatian has become a universally popular dog, which isn’t always best for every breed. He has been overproduced by breeders who bred these dogs for the lure of the dollar rather than the quality of the breed. This often results in many of these puppies showing up in pet stores. People buy on the spur of the moment, not realizing that they will end up with a dog that is protective, that needs lots of exercise, and all the usual housebreaking and training that always comes with a family pet. As is usual in this case, there are a number of Dalmatians who have ended up in animal shelters. Fortunately, the National Club has an active “rescue” group which can be found on the pages of the AKC website.
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