|Is The Dalmatian The Right Breed For You?|
|Before getting my first Dalmatian, I read EVERYTHING I could find on the breed, the good and the not-so-good. I found many inconsistencies and inaccuracies along the way. Two books that I highly recommend are, The Official Book of the Dalmatian, by the Dalmatian Club of America and The New Dalmatian, Coach Dog, Firehouse Dog, by Alfred and Esmerelda Treen. Both of these books have a wealth of information about the breed - the standard, temperaments, health concerns, etc. If you are considering adding a Dalmatian to your life, please consider getting one of both of these books. In the meantime, I'd like to give you a 'snapshot' of what its like to have a Dalmatian in your life.
Appearance: The Dalmatian is a meduim sized dog. Males in good condition will weigh somewhere between 50-65 pounds, while females are slightly smaller, weighing between 40-55 pounds. Their height at the withers (the highest point on the back, where the neck meets the shoulders) should be under 2 feet, but some Dals may be slightly larger. Dals are a well-muscled breed, but not to an extreme.
They, of course, are spotted, with the spots being either black or liver (dark red/chocolate brown) on a pure white background. Spots can vary in size, and are usually smaller on the head, tail, and legs, but typically range from the size of a dime to a half-dollar. In addition to spots, some Dals have patches, which are areas of intense black or liver with even edges, no intermingling white hairs, and a texture that is more silky than the rest of the Dalmatian. Patches typically occur over and around the eye(s), and on the ear(s), but may also be found on the top of the head, back and tail. All patches are present at birth, while the spotting doesn't appear until the puppies are about 3 weeks old. Dals' coats are short and soft, not silky or coarse. They shed profusely, so if you like to keep a meticulous home and auto, but don't want to vacuum or clean every day, the Dalmatian is not the right breed for you!
Eye color in Dals may be brown, (varying in shade from dark in black spotted Dals to amber in liver spotted Dals), blue, or both
*For the official Dalmatian standard, go to my links page and visit the Dalmatian Club of America's website, where you can view The Dalmatian Illustrated Standard.
Health: Dalmatians are a healthy breed, with few genetic problems. While incidence of Hip Dysplasia is relatively low (5%of the breed affected), there is still room for imporvement. Because of their white coat, deafness can occur in this breed (about 8% of Dals born are completely deaf), and usually becomes evident when the puppies are 3-4 weeks old. Therefore the hearing status of puppies should be determined before they are placed in new homes. Where available, BAER testing provides clinical proof of the hearing status, and should be done on all puppies in a litter.
Some Dalmatians can suffer from allergies, caused by grass/pollen and even diet. Typical symptoms include red, sore/inflamed skin, particulary on their bellies, on their muzzle, between their toes and in the 'armpit' area. Treatment for food allergies may be as simple as a change in their kibble to eliminate the offending dietary ingredient(s). Treatment for 'inhaled' allergies may require a veterinarian consultation, and prescription drugs. Dalmatians with allergies that are non-food or flea related, known as Atopic Dermatitis, should not be bred as there is statistical evidence that this trait is inherited.
Dalmatians have one unique health concern - they have high levels of uric acid in their urine. This condition, when not addressed through proper diet, hydration, and being able to regularly relieve themselves, can lead to the Dal forming bladder stones. A Dal with bladder/uric stones will be in severe pain, and may require life-saving surgery.
Temperament: The Dalmatian is an intelligent, active breed, who needs to be a part of family life. Known for its ability to run along side horse and carriages, the Dalmatian possesses great endurance. While 'coaching' the Dalmatian would act as a guard dog for both the horses and occupants in the carriages. To this day the Dalmatian retains these traits. As an acive breed they need regular exercise. But don't confuse 'active' with 'hyper'. Most of their time will be spent with you just quietly 'hanging out'. And as a guard dog, they need both obedience training and regular socialization. Because they are intelligent, they are easy to train with positive training methods. But their intelligence means that they can quickly become bored with a lesson, and will make up 'more entertaining' reponses to your commands. They are also known as the clowns of 'dogdome' and will do just about anything to get you to laugh or get themselves out of trouble!
They are strong willed. That coupled with the intelligence means they will test your IQ regularly to see who is actually in charge. If you don't like regular IQ tests or establishing firm rules, Dalmatians are not the right breed for you. They will quickly determine that they are smarter or more in command and will rule and ruin your life.
Dalmatians are affectionate and devoted. This is a breed that wants to be with you constantly, and does not make a good/happy kennel dog or 'backyard ornament'. If you aren't willing to make them a part of your life, spending considerable time with them, even if it's just at home, but particularly when you go 'out and about', the Dalmtian will become miserable - and when that happens they'll make your life miserable too! But if you're looking for truly unconditional love and companionship, they make wonderful family pets!