Ever since the movie about the 101 Dalmatians, this spectacular spotted dog has grown in popularity. However, the Dalmatian’s story goes beyond that of the film. He is also known as a “wagon dog” or a “firehouse dog”. Before the “horseless wagon”, horses were used to pull the fire engines and the dog became a common sight around fire stations in the United States. The dog was used as a protector of the wagon, trained to run under the wheels and protect the horses by keeping other farm dogs at bay. The Dalmatian is an all-round watchdog and protector and has also been used as a hunter.

The Dalmatian is an easy-care breed, a simple drying of the coat will keep him clean. His white fur with many spots is spectacular in appearance. Puppies are born completely white and as they get older the spots start to appear. The coat has short, stiff hairs that shed year-round, so a quick rub with a towel several times a week will help loosen the hairs and prevent the furniture from falling out. The standard of the breed describes the coat very specifically: “white must show in the ears” and “there must be only black or only liver spots” not a combination of the two. In the US, blue eyes are acceptable, but European and English standards require black or brown eyes.

He is generally healthy, but the breed has a hereditary deafness trait. The Dalmatian is also a breed known to have some skin problems associated with allergies. There is little hip dysplasia in the breed, but as with all larger dogs, it is necessary for him to be X-rayed to rule this out.

The temperament of this dog is steady but protective. He does not do well with children unless he is exposed to them early. He is intelligent and requires a job to do to be at his best, so obedience training is a great option if you have one of these dogs in an urban setting. A lot of exercise is the key. Joggers make good owners for Dalmatians as they adapt very well to jogging with their owner and protecting him from stray dogs! He is the preferred stable dog in horse companies.

Since the movie, the Dalmatian has become a generally popular dog, which is not always the best for any breed. He has been overproduced by breeders who have bred these dogs to lure the dollar rather than the quality of the breed. This often leads to many of these puppies appearing in pet stores. People buy on impulse, with no idea that what they actually end up with is a dog that is protective, that needs a lot of exercise and with all the usual housebreaking and training that is always necessary for a family pet. As usual when this happens, a number of Dalmatians have ended up in shelters. Fortunately, the National Club has an active “rescue” group that can be located by visiting the pages of the AKC website.

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