Dalmatian Breed Information
Alternative names -
Plum Pudding Dog,
Spotted Coach Dog
Country of origin - Croatia and standardized in Croatia
Common nicknames - Dal, Dali
Classification and breed standards
FCI:|Group 6 Section 3 #153|Stds
ANKC:|Group 7 (Non-Sporting)|Stds
CKC:|Group 6 - Non-Sporting Dogs|Stds
The Dalmatian (Croatian: Dalmatinski pas) is a breed of dog, noted for its white coat with either black or liver spots. Although other color variations do exist, any color markings other than black or liver are a disqualification in purebred Dalmatians. The famous spotted coat is unique to the Dalmatian breed; no other purebred dog breed features the distinctive spotted markings. The breed takes its name from the Croatian province of Dalmatia, where it is supposed to have originated.
1. 1. Body
This popular breed of dog is a well-muscled, mid-sized dog with excellent endurance. Known for its elegance, the Dalmatian has a body type similar to the Pointer, to which it may be related. The feet are round and compact with well-arched toes. The nails are either white and/or the same color as the spots. The ears are thin, tapering toward the tip, set fairly high and carried close to the head.
1. 2. Size
The ideal Dalmatian should stand between 54 and 61 cm (19 and 24 inches) at the withers and weigh from 20 to 32 kg (45 to 70 pounds) fully grown. Breed standards for showing sometimes call for more specific sizes; the UK standard for instance, calls for a height between 22 and 24 inches (56-61 cm). Males are generally slightly larger than females.
1. 3. Coat
Dalmatian puppies (averaging 8 per litter) are born with white fur and develop their spots at 2-3 weeks of age.
The coat is short, dense, and fine. The ground color is white with round, well-defined spots of uniform color, either black or one of the brown shades. Lemon, orange, blue, tricolor, and brindle spots very rarely also occur, but they are a disqualifying fault for showing, as are any areas of solid color not the result of heavy spotting.
Puppies are born with white fur, though the beginning of spots can sometimes be seen under the skin of a newborn pup. Any areas of color at birth are a "patch", and patches are a disqualifying fault in the breed standard. Common areas of a patch are one or both ears, head and neck, and rear. Large patches often result from mating with a non-Dalmatian. Spots will become evident after a week or so, and develop rapidly during the first few weeks. Spots will continue to develop both in number and size throughout the dog's life, though at a slower pace as the dog gets older. Spots should be well-defined, round, and evenly distributed over the body. Spot size may vary from the size of a dime, to the size of a dollar coin, but the more distinct the spots are, the better. Spots may be smaller on the face and tail.
Unlike many double-coated dogs, such as Siberian Huskies and German Shepherd Dogs, Dalmatians shed their short, fine coats year round. Dalmatians shed considerably more than most year-round shedders. These hairs are barbed at the ends, causing the hairs to stick to clothing, upholstery and nearly any other kind of fabric. Although they enjoy a vigorous rub down, nothing can be done to prevent their excessive shedding; new owners must be prepared to deal with an extraordinary amount of dog hairs constantly littering their households. The Dalmatian is not advised for those who prefer a hair-free atmosphere. Many (but not all) people who are otherwise allergic to the coated breeds can live with a Dalmatian allergy free. This can be attributed to their cleanliness and lack of that "doggy" odor.
1. 4. Coloring
The most common colors for Dalmatians are black spotted or liver spotted on a white background. Other spotting colors, though not permitable for showing, and rare, are blue (a blue-grayish color), orange or lemon (dark to pale yellow), brindle, mosaic, tri-colored (may appear on any other colored spots), and two-toned.
Patches often occur in the breed and are a disqualification in the show ring. Patches are present at birth, and consist of a solid color. Patches can appear anywhere on the body, but are most common on the head and ears. Patches are not to be confused with heavily spotted areas on a dog, however.
According to the AKC breed standard, the eyes are set moderately well apart, are medium sized and somewhat rounded in appearance, and are set well into the skull. Eye color is brown, amber or blue, or any combination thereof; the darker the better and usually darker in black-spotted than in liver-spotted dogs. While blue eyes are accepted by the AKC, the CKC faults any eye colour other than black, brown or amber . The Kennel Club (UK) allows only dark eyes in black-spotted dogs, and amber eyes in liver-spotted dogs. Blue eyes are regarded as a fault by many organizations because there appears to be a link between blue eyes and deafness. Amber colored eyes are more common in liver spotted Dalmatians.
As a result of their history as coach dogs, the breed is very active and needs plenty of exercise. They are very fast runners, with a great deal of stamina and self-reliance. Given freedom to roam, they will take multi-day trips on their own across the countryside. In today's urban environment, they will not likely survive such excursions and must be contained. Their energetic and playful nature make them good companions for children and they have an instinctive fondness for humans and horses. These qualities make them somewhat "unbreakable", and forgiving of rough handling by children. However, it is imperative that they be socialized with children while still puppies, and also that children be taught the correct way to play with animals.
They have very sensitive natures and never forget ill-treatment, and cannot be trained by using rough methods. However, their rambunctious and playful personalities necessitate constant supervision around very small children, whom they may accidentally knock over and hurt. Dalmatians are extremely people-oriented dogs, and will get very lonely if left by themselves, and should be trained to accept their owners' absence if they must be left alone as otherwise they will pine severely. A better option is to provide companions. These dogs crave human companionship and do poorly if left alone in a backyard or basement. Dalmatians are famed for their intelligence, independence, and survival instincts. In general they have good memories and are usually kind natured (though individual specimens may vary). Originally bred to defend carriages and horses, these dogs can become territorial if not trained otherwise. 3. Training A large number of Dalmatians land up in shelters and rescue homes, often being stated as being difficult and un-trainable. A Dalmatian being un-trainable is not true; it is more a problem with the owner's inexperience with dog psychology, dog training, and/or lack of information about the breed than the dog itself (this statement usually holds true in most cases, irrespective of the breed of dog).
Dalmatians have extremely sensitive personalities and will not forget ill-treatment. Ill-treatment can and will break a dog's spirit and a Dalmatian's - certainly so.
While a Dalmatian with a clear rank idea, proper and correct obedience training, would make an excellent companion for anyone or any sized family, Dalmatians are not a breed for a first-time and completely inexperienced owner, especially one whose expectations of the dog and its behaviour are high, especially in terms of obedience or those who have little time and patience to train them.
While a desire to please their owners can be a taught behaviour, they do not have a natural desire to completely please their owners in comparison to some other breeds, e.g. shepherd dogs. Generally speaking (and specimens may vary) Dalmatians are rambunctious, playful breed and usually seem to have a mind of their own, which makes them more challenging to train and requires more knowledge of dog training. Generally speaking (i.e. individual specimens may vary), their attention spans are limited. More so in the hands of an inexperienced owner who does not create the correct rank order. Combinations of rewards (treats, play and praise, in that order) are your best bets and will go a long way in getting their attention and for training purposes [please note the difference between rewards and bribes].
Gentle consistent corrections are often sufficient to correct unacceptable behaviour. Common complaints heard are that while the owner has been able to get the Dalmatian to respond while on leash or while in familiar areas, it does not obey equally well off the leash or in unfamiliar areas. This problem is not breed specific, however, again a trainer inexperience issue.
4. Origin and history
The Dalmatian is a breed whose heritage is hotly disputed by researchers, none of whom can come to an agreement on where this spotted dog originated. Very little is known about the origins of the Dalmatian; contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that the breed originated in Dalmatia. The Dalmatian is most certainly a dog of very ancient lineage that has come through the centuries virtually unchanged. Paintings of Dalmatians running along-side chariots have been unearthed in Egyptian tombs. The breed has also been mentioned in the letters of a poet named Jurij Dalmatin, which date back to the mid-16th century. The Spanish Chapel of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy, boasts a fresco painted in 1360 which depicts a spotted dog that strongly resembles a modern-day Dalmatian. It may be because of these appearances in art, literature, and writings of antiquity that many claim the Dalmatian first appeared in Europe, Asia and Africa. One reason the breed's origin is often attributed to Dalmatia is that the breed has frequently been found in the company of travelling Roma. Like his Roma masters, the breed is well known, but difficult to locate in one place. The first references to the breed by its current name, Dalmatian, occur in the mid-eighteen hundreds.
The duties of this ancient breed are as varied as his reputed ancestors. He has been used as a dog of war, guarding the borders of Dalmatia and Croatia. To this day, he retains a high guarding instinct; although he is friendly and loyal to those he knows and trusts, he is often aloof with strangers and unknown dogs. He has a strong hunting instinct and is an excellent exterminator of rats and vermin. As a sporting dog he has been used as bird dog, as trail hound, as retriever, or in packs for boar or stag hunting. His flashy colouring and intelligence have made him a successful circus dog throughout the years. He is perhaps best known for his role as a fire-apparatus follower and as a firehouse mascot.
However, the Dalmatian's most important task has been his role as a coach or carriage dog, so called because he was formerly used to run in attendance on a coach. To this day, Dalmatians retain a strong affinity for horses, often naturally falling in behind a horse and cart in perfect position. The strong-bodied, clean-cut and athletic build of the Dalmatian reflects his years as a coach dog; although rarely used as a coach dog today, his physical make-up is still ideally suited to road work. Like his ancestors, the modern Dalmatian is an energetic dog, with unlimited energy and stamina.
4. 1. Association with firemen
Particularly in the United States, the use of Dalmatians as carriage dogs was transferred to horse-drawn fire engines, although it is unclear why this link was not made in other countries. Today the Dalmatian serves as a firehouse mascot but, back in the days of horse-drawn fire carts, they provided a valuable service. Dalmatians and horses are very compatible, so the dogs were easily trained to run in front of the carriages to help clear a path and quickly guide the horses and firefighters to the fires. The dogs were sometimes also used as rescue dogs to locate victims in burning structures. Dalmatians are often considered to make good watchdogs and it is believed that Dalmatians may have been useful to fire brigades as guard dogs to protect a firehouse and its equipment. Fire engines used to be drawn by fast and powerful horses, a tempting target for thieves. So, Dalmatians were kept in the firehouse as deterrence to theft. The horses have long since gone, but the Dalmatians, by tradition, have stayed. As a result, in the U.S., Dalmatians are commonly known as firehouse dogs. Dalmatians are still chosen by many firefighters as pets, in honor of their heroism in the past. The Dalmatian is also associated, particularly in the United States, with Budweiser beer and the Busch Gardens theme parks, since the Anheuser-Busch company's iconic beer wagon, drawn by a team of magnificent Clydesdale horses, is always accompanied by a Dalmatian carriage dog. The giga-brewer maintains several teams at various locations, which tour extensively. According to Anheuser-Busch's website, Dalmatians were historically used by brewers to guard the wagon while the driver was making deliveries.
Dalmatians are a very old breed, often thought to be the very first type of dog for which man made deliberate attempts to selectively breed for specific characteristics. These characteristics were at first appearance, then other attributes such as stamina, endurance, and health. The result is a very prolific and long-lived breed of striking appearance, generally free from ailments common to other dogs such as hip dysplasia (almost unknown in purebred dalmatians). Most of their health problems result from the onset of old age; the average Dalmatian lives between 11 and 13 years, although some can live as long as 15 to 16 years. In their late teens, both males and females may suffer bone spurs and arthritic conditions.
5. 1. Deafness
An exception to Dalmatians' generally good health is a genetic disposition towards deafness. Deafness was not recognized by early breeders, so the breed was thought to be stupid. Even after recognizing the problem as a genetic fault, breeders did not understand the dog's nature, and deafness in Dalmatians continues to be a frequent problem.
Researchers now know that deafness in albino and piebald animals is caused by the absence of mature melanocytes in the inner ear . This may affect one or both ears. The condition is also common in other canine breeds that share a genetic propensity for light pigmentation. This includes, but is not limited to bull terriers, Poodles, boxers, border collies and Great Danes. Similarly, Charles Darwin commented on the tendency of white, blue-eyed cats to be deaf, while Waardenburg syndrome is the human analog. There is an accurate test called the BAER test, which can determine if the defect is present. Puppies can be tested beginning at five weeks of age. BAER testing is the only way of detecting unilateral deafness, and reputable breeders test their dogs prior to breeding.
Only dogs with bilateral hearing should be allowed to breed, although those with unilateral hearing, and even dogs with bilateral deafness, make fine pets. Research shows that Dalmatians with large patches of color present at birth have a lower rate of deafness, and breeding for this trait, which is currently prohibited in the breed standard, might reduce the frequency of deafness in the breed. This is not always true as there have been instances where patched Dalmatians have been found to have faulty hearing. One of leading reasons patches are a disqualifying factor in Dalmatians is to preserve the much prized spotted coat--the continual breeding of patched dogs would result in heavily patched Dalmatians with few spots.
Research concludes that blue-eyed Dalmatians have a greater incidence of deafness than brown-eyed Dalmatians, although an absolute link between the two characteristics has yet to be conclusively proven. Though blue-eyed Dalmatians are not necessarily deaf, many kennel clubs consider blue eyes to be a fault or even a disqualification, and some discourage the use of blue-eyed Dalmatians in breeding programs.
5. 2. Kidney and bladder stones
Dalmatians, like humans, the great apes, some New World monkeys, and guinea pigs, can suffer from hyperuricemia. The latter lack an enzyme called uricase, which breaks down uric acid. However, in Dalmatians, the deficit seems to be in liver transport. Uric acid can build up in joints and cause gout or bladder stones. These conditions are most likely to occur in middle-aged males. Males over 10 are prone to kidney stones and should have calcium intake reduced or take preventive medication.
Owners should be careful to limit the intake of purine by not feeding these dogs organ meats, animal by-products, or other high-purine ingredients in order to reduce the likelihood of stones. Healthy diets range from premium, all natural pet food brands to prescription diets. Hyperuricemic syndrome in Dalmatians responds to treatment with Orgotein, the veterinary formulation of the antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase
5. 3. Crosses to English Pointers
Hyperuricemia in Dalmatians (as in all breeds) is inherited. However, unlike other breeds of dog the "normal" gene for uricase is not present in the breed's gene pool at all. Therefore, there is no possibility of eliminating hyperuricemia among pure-bred Dalmatians. The only possible solution to this problem must then be crossing Dalmatians with other breeds in order to reintroduce the "normal" uricase gene.
This has led to the foundation of the "Dalmatian-Pointer Backcross Project", which aims to reintroduce the normal uricase gene into Dals by crossing them with English Pointers, to whom they are normally thought to be related and who have the normal uricase gene. This project was started in 1973 by Dr. Robert Schaible. The f1 hybrids did not resemble Dalmatians very closely. The f1s were then crossed back to pure-bred Dals. This breeding produced puppies of closer resemblance to the pure Dal. By the fifth generation in 1981 they resembled pure Dals so much that Dr. Schaible convinced the AKC to allow two of the hybrids to be registered along with pure-bred Dals. The Dalmatian Club of America's (DCA) board of directors supported this decision, however it quickly became highly controversial among the club members. A vote by DCA members opposed the registration of the hybrids, causing the AKC to ban registration to any of the dog's offspring.
At the annual general meeting of the DCA in May of 2006 the backcross issue was discussed again by club members. In June of the same year DCA members were presented with an opportunity to vote on whether to reopen discussion of the Dalmatian Backcross Project. The results of this ballot were nearly 2:1 in favor of re-examining support of the Dalmatian Backcross Project by the Dalmatian Club of America. This has begun with publication of articles presenting more information both in support of and questioning the need for this Project. As of May 2007, discussion is on-going.
The Dalmatian breed experienced a massive surge in popularity as a result of the 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians written by British author Dodie Smith, and later due to the two Walt Disney films based on the book. The Disney animated classic released in 1961, later spawned a 1996 live-action remake 101 Dalmatians. In the years following the release of the second movie, the Dalmatian breed suffered greatly at the hands of irresponsible breeders and inexperienced owners. Many irreputable breeders and puppy mills cashed in on the breed's rising popularity, and began breeding high numbers of Dalmatians without first ensuring the health, quality, and temperament of the dogs being bred.
Many well-meaning enthusiasts purchased Dalmatians often for their children without educating themselves on the breed and the responsibilities that come with owning such a high-energy dog breed. Since Dalmatians were originally bred to run with horses, they require frequent exercise to keep them out of mischief. Many owners find themselves unable to cope with the breeds or the specimen's characteristics and cannot provide their dogs with adequate care. Dalmatians were abandoned in large numbers by their original owners and left with animal shelters. As a result, Dalmatian rescue organizations sprung up around the country to care for the unwanted dogs and find them new homes. Dalmatians subsequently developed an unfair reputation of being 'difficult', 'stupid', or 'high strung'.
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