Widely known as the mascot breed for firehouses, the Dalmatian is a versatile dog. These dogs have served as draft dogs, shepherds, trail hounds and retrievers in addition to being well-loved companion dogs and family pets.
The Dalmatian's history can be traced all the way back to Dalmatia, an ancient province of Croatia - these spotted dogs have been seen in drawings dating back to that period. In more recent years, Dalmatians have become a popular show breed, participating in obedience and agility competitions as well as road trials.
Dalmatians are easily recognized by their white coats which are covered in dark brown or black spots. The coat of a Dalmatian is typically short and dense and, despite the short length of its coat, these dogs shed year-round. In addition to regular shedding, Dalmatians also shed their coat heavily twice a year. To combat shedding, Dalmatian owners should brush their dogs daily and bathe them only when necessary to keep the coat clean and healthy.
Dalmatians are a mid-sized breed with the average dog weighing in around 55 pounds. Males of the breed are usually slightly larger than females, but the overall average height achieved by most Dalmatians is between 19 and 24 inches. The body of a healthy Dalmatian should be as long as it is tall and the dog should appear both poised and alert.
Because Dalmatians are a friendly, people-loving breed they are often kept as family pets. These dogs enjoy human companionship and also tend to get along well with other dogs. With proper training and socialization, these dogs can be a joy to keep. However, if the owner fails to assert his dominance, Dalmatians have a tendency to become willful and difficult to control.
In addition to being very friendly, Dalmatians are also a very active breed. These dogs have incredible stamina and a vast amount of energy - to control their energy, Dalmatians require a great deal of daily exercise. The Dalmatian is not a breed that is content to lie around at home - he likes to run outside and play with his family and with other dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Dalmatian is 10 to 12 years, but there are a few conditions to which this breed is prone that could affect its life span. Dalmatians are particularly susceptible to deafness - it is estimated that between 10% and 12% of Dalmatians are born deaf. Dalmatian puppies can be tested for deafness using the BAER test at six weeks of age.
Other common health concerns affecting the Dalmatian breed include hip dysplasia, autoimmune thyroiditis, hyperuricemia and arthritis. Most breeders screen their dogs for conditions like hip dysplasia and deafness, but in the event that a Dalmatian contracts one of these conditions they are usually able to adapt.
Overall, Dalmatians are an excellent breed of dog for families because they thrive on human companionship and tend to be gentle with children. These dogs can be a joy to keep but if you are not prepared to fulfill their needs for exercise and leadership you may find that you have a stubborn, willful dog on your hands.
With proper care and training, however, Dalmatians make great companion pets.