Dalmatian Care

The much-loved Dalmatian is an active, intelligent, affectionate breed that doesn't require a great deal of maintenance. With these dogs' energy and stamina, Dalmatian care mainly consists of providing ample exercise for your dog. Below you'll find plenty of details about raising a Dalmatian, including info on puppy care, exercise, feeding and dietary restrictions, living environment, and more. For more Dalmatian tips, read on!

Dalmatian Breed Development

Dalmatians, as a medium-sized breed, likewise have a medium time frame when it comes to puppy development. Owners can expect a Dalmatian to reach both physical and social maturity at an average age of 16 months. These dogs reach near full height and length by 12 months old, but typically add further bulk over the subsequent 4-5 months. And though they may be mature by a year and a half, Dalmatians often retain "puppy behavior" until two years of age or more.

Dalmatian Exercise Needs

As an athletic breed with incredible stamina, Dalmatian exercise needs are quite ample. In their early development, dogs of this breed would accompany horse-drawn carriages for miles, so Dalmatians are used to hours of nonstop physical activity. Starting as early as 3-4 months of age, owners can exercise their Dalmatian puppies for brief periods (15-20 minutes) several times per day. Increase the amount of exercise as the puppy grows--and by a year of age, your Dalmatian will easily endure as much exercise as you can possibly give it.

This is not to say, however, that certain precautions shouldn't be taken. Dalmatians have a high tendency to wander off--and if yours gets away, good luck catching it!--so they should be on a leash at all times when exercised outdoors. Another potential issue is that some Dalmatians are born partially or completely deaf. Be aware of your Dal's hearing ability when in public, particularly if you and your dog walk or jog on busy city streets. And as you can imagine, an under-exercised Dalmatian will be difficult to deal with: hyperactive, disrespectful, and simply unhappy overall. At least an hour (if not more) of daily exercise is a must for these active dogs.

As social, people-pleasing dogs, it's best if you, the owner, participate in exercise sessions along with your Dal. A few of the seemingly infinite exercise ideas for you and your Dalmatian:

  • Jogging: A dalmatian can run for hours--and will probably push you to run better yourself
  • Fetch/Frisbee: Easier on you, fun for the dog
  • Hide and Seek: Good indoor activity on rainy days
  • Hiking: Peaceful, relaxing, and great dog/owner bonding opportunity
  • Agility/Obedience Trials: Dalmatians excel in canine sports competitions

Dalmatians often become restless, so it'll be good to have a ball or chew toy lying around the house for the Dal to play with to burn off pent-up energy; tug-of-war with a rope or old towel is another great calorie-burner. And it's suggested that you have a consistent daily exercise regimen for your Dalmatian, such as two or three shorter exercise sessions during the day followed by a long one (a jog or a game of fetch, for example) after dinner.

Dalmatian Maintenance

Maintenance for this breed, at least in terms of shedding and drooling, is fairly low overall. Dalmatian shedding is unfortunately a year-round problem, but can be minimized with regular brushing; these dogs hardly drool at all.

The bittersweet joke among breed owners is that a Dalmatian will shed only at two time periods: during the daytime and at night. These dogs shed continuously because the hair follicles in their short coats have a comparatively brief lifespan, so the dead hairs are constantly being replaced by new ones. And sadly, no real Dalmatian shedding solutions exist. The issue can be curtailed somewhat by brushing a Dal often (4-5 times per week, if not daily), but breed owners will simply need to resign themselves to having shed hair around.

Dalmatian Diet

The typical adult Dalmatian should be happy with 3.5-4 cups of food per day; young puppies should get less than half that. You can increase the puppy's daily food intake as it grows, until you're feeding the Dal full adult portions by about a year of age.

One important restriction for the Dalmatian diet is that the breed lacks the enzyme responsible for digesting purine, a dense protein found in high concentration in certain meats; this condition causes abnormally high levels of uric acid in a Dal's blood, which can lead to kidney stones. For this reason, breed enthusiasts recommend food that's higher in plant-based proteins instead of animal-based ones. The best Dalmatian dog food, therefore, is dry kibble, as it normally contains fewer purines; feeding dry food like Royal Canin to a Dalmatian, rather than the canned or raw kind, is your best bet.

As an active breed, Dalmatians don't have as much of a problem with obesity as do many other breeds; fat dalmatians aren't too common a sight. Still, Dalmatians that are not exercised properly--particularly older Dals--can pack on the pounds. This is a slim breed in general, remember, so if you can't easily feel a Dal's ribs when you run your hand along its side, it's time for a diet. One way to avoid this from happening is to not "free feed" the dog--in other words, don't leave uneaten food in a Dal's bowl, which would allow the dog to eat whenever it wants. Rather, leave the bowl on the floor for 20 minutes or so (or until the dog initially finishes eating and walks away from the bowl).If you find that your Dalmatian is getting fat, the same logic applies to dogs as to humans: eat less, move more. Cut your Dal's daily food intake to 3 cups instead of 3.5; you can also add an extra session to your Dal's daily exercise schedule.

Living Environment

Historically known as the "firehouse dog breed," the Dalmatian is a versatile inside/outside dog. A Dalmatian in an apartment is not the greatest match, as they'll need plenty of outdoor exercise, and may be too active for that limited space. Temperature-wise, Dals can tolerate cold climates, but they do fine in hot weather.