Dalmatian origins are shrouded in mystery. Although most experts agree that the name comes from the Eastern European region of Dalmatia, it’s not known whether the breed originated there or not. Spotted dogs with a similarity to today’s breed were painted on tomb walls in Egypt, portrayed running after chariots, and a fresco painted around 1360 in Italy shows a spotted dog. Later, spotted dogs accompanied the Romany gypsies as they traveled throughout Europe.
During the 18th century, the breed was introduced to England, where it developed a reputation as a natural coach dog. The breed’s affinity for horses, ability to keep up with them, and willingness to protect the horses, carriage, and passengers gained the Dalmation an enthusiastic following. It was in England, too, where Dalmatians were first used as mascots at fire stations, first running with the horses and later riding on the firetrucks.
The Dalmatian today is a medium-sized to large dog, muscular and strong, with the appearance of an athlete, standing 19 to 23 inches tall and weighing between 45 and 60 pounds. The recognizable coat is pure white with either black or liver-colored spots. The spots can range from the size of a dime to the size of a half dollar. The Dalmatian’s expression is alert and intelligent. She has dropped ears, round dark eyes, and a long tapered tail. Even though they have fine, short coats, Dalmatians do shed—not a lot, but a little year-round. Brushing the coat with a soft bristle brush or curry comb will reduce the hair in the house.
Exercising the Dalmatian is a very important part of caring for this breed. Bred to run with carriage horses, fire wagons, or gypsy wagons, this breed must get in a good hard run every day. A walk, even a vigorous one, is not enough. A daily brisk run alongside a bicycle or a run with a horse, if you happen to own one, will keep a Dalmatian happy. If a Dalmatian doesn’t get enough exercise, she will find something to amuse herself, and that could very easily be destructive to your house or yard. Early training is important. Although Dalmatians are intelligent and enthusiastic, they can also be independent and stubborn. The trainer will need to find something that catches the dog’s interest to keep her motivated and attentive.
Socialization is also necessary, as Dalmatians are wary of strangers. Many dogs of the Dalmatian dog breed have enjoyed advanced training and performance sports. Dalmatians do great in agility and flyball. Many serve as excellent volunteer therapy dogs. Because Dalmatians are active dogs and are sometimes quite exuberant, they can be too rowdy for very young children. However, once the kids are big enough to play with the dogs, Dalmatians are great companions, never getting tired or bored of the kids’ games and adventures. This breed has some special health concerns. About 8 to 10 percent of Dalmatians are totally deaf and about 20 -22 percent are deaf in one ear. The breed also has a problem with urinary stones.