Happy Dalmatian Walking Outside
iStock.com/Aleksandr Zotov

Dalmatian Dog Breed

Other names:
Carriage Dog
Coach Dog
Firehouse Dog
Plum Pudding Dog
Spotted Coach Dog

The dalmatian dog breed is one of the most recognizable breeds in the world. Besides the breed's good looks, dalmatians are highly intelligent dogs which have been used for various jobs since the breed's origin.

Dalmatians make excellent family dogs and are spectacular for active owners. Since the breed was originally bred to run alongside horses and carriages, dalmatians have ample stamina to keep up on long hikes and runs.

Dalmatian Breed Details

The Dalmatian is a member of the Non-Sporting group of breeds; dogs of this breed have been around for centuries, and have been utilized in a wide variety of activities including herding, retrieving, coach/carriage guarding, in circuses, and numerous others. These versatile, active, intelligent dogs are best for active families who are willing to meet Dalmatians' high exercise requirements.

Some Dalmatian facts: they're medium- to large-sized (averaging 22 inches in height and 50 pounds in weight), with short-haired, fine coats in the classic "white-with-black-spots" color pattern. Here are some additional qualities of the Dalmatian, both good and bad:


  • Highly intelligent
  • Extremely versatile
  • Willing to please
  • Fun-loving and comical
  • Excellent in obedience/agility trials
  • Fairly easily trained
  • Great stamina and work ethics
  • Socializes well with kids and other pets
  • Good watchdog abilities
  • Clean and self-maintaining


  • High exercise requirements
  • Sheds frequently
  • Can be stubborn and strong-willed
  • Hereditary deafness is common
  • Will bark/turn destructive if bored
  • Not good for apartment living
  • Incredibly exuberant; will jump/bound often, especially when young
  • Numerous health issues
13 - 16 yrs.
19 - 24 in.
50 - 55 lbs
OverallFamily FriendlyChild FriendlyPet FriendlyStranger Friendly
Easy to GroomEnergy LevelExercise NeedsHealthShedding Amount
Barks / HowlsEasy to TrainGuard DogPlayfulnessWatch Dog
Apartment DogCan be AloneGood for Busy OwnersGood for New OwnersIntelligence

Dalmatian Breed Description

Dalmatians are large breed dogs. The breed's average is 19-24 inches tall (from ground to shoulder) and 55 pounds. This size makes it easy for the breed to remain agile without being too small to perform its guarding duties.

Dalmatians are an alert and highly intelligent dog breed. They have a strong desire to please their owners and are willing to learn making them ideal family dogs. The breed does well with children and are excellent with animals (especially farm animals). The chances are if you've been in a city with a horse drawn carriage, there was a dalmatian riding in the carriage as well.

Dalmatians are considered a clean dog breed. Their coats repel most dirt and the breed doesn't develop the "wet-dog" smell that many people dislike. The breed sheds year round, so they need to be brushed frequently to keep loose hair at a minimum. Due to the coats self-cleaning properties, dalmatians only need to be bathed a few times per year. The breed has high amounts of energy and will need moderate to high amounts of exercise to meet their fitness needs.

Dalmatian Breed History

Dalmatian origin is a bit mysterious--and a little misleading as well. Dogs of this breed, historians believe, did not originate in Dalmatia, a region in the southern part of present-day Croatia, as the breed name suggests. Dalmatian history is in fact believed to be as old as civilization itself. White dogs with black spots appeared in ancient Egyptian cave paintings, and the breed--or at least a Dalmatian predecessor--is thought to have traveled with nomadic gypsy tribes in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Dalmatians' supposed Croatian origin likely stems from paintings found in that nation in the early 1600s, in which Dalmatians are portrayed. The official breed name was coined in 1790 by English author Thomas Bewick, whose book A General History of Quadrupeds described the "Dalmatian" as a medium-sized dog that was white with black spots.

Whatever the case, dogs of this breed have had a long, versatile working history. They've been utilized as hunters, shepherds, even circus performers--but the breed really grew in prominence in nineteenth-century England, when Dalmatians were known as excellent "coach dogs." Dalmatians would accompany horse-drawn carriages, clearing a path for them and guarding the horses when the carriages were not being used.

In the U.S., meanwhile, Dalmatians have a bit of a different association--with firehouses. These dogs have for decades served as unofficial mascots of American fire departments; the dogs would accompany firemen (first in the horse-drawn fire carriages, then on trucks) to burning buildings, aid in search and rescue, and become firehouse watchdogs during idle hours. The Dalmatian breed was further immortalized in British author Dodie Smith's children's book The Hundred and One Dalmatians, which is the basis for the 1961 Disney film of the same name.

Currently, the Dalmatian population is relatively small worldwide. These dogs are sometimes still used in work capacities, but mainly serve as family pets.

Dalmatian Appearance

The medium- to large-sized Dalmatian has a muscular, streamlined body that is almost "rangy" in overall appearance.

The breed's body is typically a bit longer in length than in height. Its head is wedge-shaped, and its eyes are wide-set, almond-shaped, and come in various shades of brown and blue. (Some Dalmatians have heterochromatic eyes, meaning they are different colors.) Dalmatian ears are quite large, triangular, and hanging; the chest is narrow, the torso is long, and the legs are straight and long as well. (The rear legs are angled backward somewhat, contributing to the breed's streamlined appearance.) The Dalmatian's tail is fairly long, thin, and either straight or slightly curved.

The Dalmatian coat--probably its most recognizable feature--is a white base with darker spots, with the spots typically 1-2 inches in diameter. The fur is short-haired and sleek, and sheds year-round.

Dalmatian Colors

The images below represent the coat colors and patterns associated with Dalmatians.

White and Black
White and Black
White and Liver Brown
White and Liver Brown
Additional Coat Colors
White and Lemon
White and Orange
White, Black, and Tan
White, Liver, and Tan

Dalmatian Variations

The Dalmatian breed is pretty consistent in regards to size and physical structure among individual dogs. The most variety can be seen within the coat patterns. Dalmatian fur exists in these varieties:

  • White with black or liver spots: The most common pattern, and the only one permitted in the show ring
  • White (or cream) with orange or yellow spots: These often have cream-colored base coats, and noses that are darker in color than dogs with black/liver spots
  • White with brindle spots: These dogs have spots that are themselves multi-colored. Each spot can be black and brown, or yellow and orange, in a brindle or striped pattern
  • White with spots of different colors: Some spots are solid black, others are solid liver, and so on
  • White with brindle and multi-colored: This is actually a fairly common pattern. Some spots are solid black or solid liver, while other spots are brindle

In addition, Dalmatians carry a recessive gene for longer fur, so occasionally a puppy will have medium or long hair instead of short. A few breeders specialize in long-haired dalmatians, and selectively breed two long-haired dogs; even so, not all the puppies in the litters will be long-haired since the gene is recessive.

In regards to size, the breed is fairly consistent as well (an average of 21 inches in height and 50 pounds in weight). A few breeders offer "miniature Dalmatian puppies" for sale; while those dogs are indeed smaller (around 12 inches in height and 22 pounds in weight), they were developed through selectively breeding small dogs, and are not an actual breed variation.

Dalmatian Temperament

Intelligent, energetic, alert, sensitive, and at times needy and stubborn, the typical Dalmatian temperament is one of affection and enthusiasm. Dogs of this breed are interested in any- and everything, and they are extremely willing to please. On the one hand, they're loving and playful, but they can also be quite headstrong; they will generally need a lot of attention, and don't do well when left alone.

Dalmatians are quite eager to learn, so training is usually pretty easy; some breed members, though, can be stubborn and strong-willed (particularly if they're not trained while young), so consistent, reward-based methods--starting when a Dalmatian is a puppy, if possible--is best. Dalmatians respond very poorly to harsh treatment, and are known to have long memories when it comes to such treatment, so try to avoid any negative reinforcement when teaching these dogs.

Dalmatians are loyal, alert, and protective, so they make great watchdogs; they tend to alert their owners to potential threats.

Living Requirements

People who keep Dalmatians as pets usually sleep very well at night. These dogs are incredibly energetic, and will require as much exercise/activity as their owners possibly can give them! They're also known to bark excessively and turn destructive if they're idle for too long, so Dalmatians are best suited for people who can give them plenty of attention and exercise.

The typical Dalmatian prefers to live inside with its human family members. These dogs love giving and receiving attention, so if left alone, outside, in a yard a lot they will be extremely unhappy, and will probably find a way to escape. And an apartment might simply be too confining for these energetic animals; a house with ample space will be best.

It's often said that Dalmatians shed at two time periods: in the daytime and at night. In other words, they shed a lot! They're not hypoallergenic, so a Dalmatian owner with allergies will be miserable. Potential owners of this breed will need to be ready to vacuum often.

Dalmatian Health

Unfortunately, the Dalmatian is prone to numerous health problems, both major and minor. One frequent issue among these dogs is deafness; around 10 percent of Dalmatian puppies are born completely deaf. Other issues include urolithiasis (urinary tract stones), hip dysplasia, eye problems, and various respiratory and skin allergies. Experts recommend that all Dalmatian owners have their dogs thoroughly examined by a veterinarian immediately after acquiring them, and continue with regular vet checkups throughout the dog's life.

Dalmatian Health Concerns

Below are potential health concerns associated with Dalmatians.

Hip dysplasia
Kidney stones
Iris sphincter dysplasia
Skin allergies

Random Details

  • Dalmatian uses are numerous. Though time, dogs of this breed have been utilized as coach and carriage companions, as circus performers, in search and rescue, as watchdogs, therapy dogs, farm dogs, and much more. Of course, they also make fantastic pets!
  • Dalmatian puppies are born with no spots. These puppies are born with pure white coats, though the spots are visible on the skin underneath. The spots begin to appear in the first few weeks of the pups' lives, and are usually fully formed by about six months of age.
  • The two 101 Dalmatians films were both good and bad for the breed. In the months following the releases of both the 1961 original and the 1996 remake, the number of Dalmatian adoptions increased exponentially--but shortly after that, animal shelters also saw increased numbers of the breed. This was because many families who brought Dalmatians home after seeing the films were unaware of the amount of care they needed (particularly their high shedding and extensive exercise requirements), and would abandon the dogs.
  • Dalmatians' deafness and coat coloration are closely related. Scientifically speaking, this breed has genes for extreme piebald coloration--but the presence of the genes also includes a lack of mature cells in the inner ear, leading to partial or total hearing loss. Interestingly, the larger a Dalmatian's spots, the less likely the dog is to have impaired hearing.

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About this Article

Authored by:Dog-Learn
Updated:February 10, 2019