People who watch old films and cartoons will recognize the Dalmatian Dog breed as the ‘Firehouse Dog’ which was often shown in a setting with firefighters on their way to a call or back at the Firehouse keeping watch while everyone was out. Why? Because at one time they actually pulled small carriages with firefighting equipment on them in the days before horses were commonly available for that duty and tended to make excellent Fire House watch dogs because they have no fear of strangers. Dalmatians are still used as Firehouse or Fire Team mascots in many places today, although their temperament is less than suited to that duty. Kids who watched the Disney film “101 Dalmatians” instantly wanted one as a pet in the 1960s, but many who did adopt one found they were not exactly the kind of friendly dogs that they saw portrayed on the silver screen.
The Dalmatian Dog breed first appeared in Dalmatia, a region of Croatia in Eastern Europe. Dog fanciers from England imported the animals in the early 1800s because of their unique spotted coat and introduced them to the world. No one really knows how old the breed is, but most experts consider it to likely that Dalmatians are a natural breed, not one created through the cross breeding of other breeds. Spotted dogs have been located around the world and may or may not necessarily be linked to a common ancestor (apart from being dogs). Dalmatians can weigh from about thirty five to seventy pounds and are generally thought of as large dogs because of their build. Most live nine to thirteen years.
History tells us that Dalmatians were originally used as war, guard, hunting and rat elimination dogs. While they are not overly aggressive, Dalmatian Dogs are fiercely loyal to their owners and that makes wary of strangers. A number of Fire Companies stopped keeping these animals around because of biting, nipping and other threatening behavior towards Fire House visitors. Dalmatians are very intelligent and can easily be trained to do most common canine behaviors, but many retain their dislike for strangers and may act in an unpredictable way when introduced to someone new.
Apart from the behavior issues, Dalmatian Dogs have some other problems. If you have cannot deal with with dog breeds that shed frequently and heavily, this breed is not for you. Most Dalmatians have short and very dense coats which create hairs that are difficult to clean up during shedding. Some slightly long haired Dalmatians have finer hairs and shed less. The good news for prospective owners who dislike having their home filled with the odor of “dog smell” is that Dalmatians have less oil in their coats than most dogs and that means they do not create an offensive odor.
Like many intelligent dog breeds, Dalmatians require a lot of social interaction. When they do not get it or are left alone for long periods of time these dogs will act out in sometimes nasty or destruction ways. Chewing, defecating, urinating and even biting can result from leaving a Dalmatian to its own devices for too long. These dogs also require a lot of physical exercise to remain healthy and fit. Most canine experts recommend thirty to forty minutes a day of free roaming activity for Dalmatians. Just taking them for long walks will probably not be enough.
Hyperuricemia or Gout is a common health problem for this breed. Like many humans, Dalmatians develop Gout because their bodies cannot properly break down uric acid. Medications and special diets can help to assist in alleviating the symptoms, but are unable to do much about the core problem. Some older male Dalmatians (ten years +) commonly develop kidney stones. To help prevent this problem owners should consult their Veterinarian about a special diet high in animal organ proteins.
Prospective Dalmatian owners should know that this breed also has a genetic predisposition for hip dysplasia, bone spurs arthritis and deafness. That said, so do many other dog breeds. The key to keeping any dog healthy is to be sure you schedule regular yearly checkups with your Veterinarian and any subsequent visits they recommend. Premium dog food and high quality supplements are also an important part of keeping your pet fit.
Most people who purchase cheap dog food do not realize that while they are saving a few bucks at the checkout counter, they will end up paying out all that and more later to a Veterinarian. Inexpensive dog foods contain fillers like corn which dogs cannot properly digest. Cheap dog foods also lack the high quality proteins that dogs need to maintain optimal health. Supplements are also an important part of dog health, especially for large breeds. I recommend high quality natural supplements that avoid the use of chemicals which can actually be dangerous to pets and even people.
If you want to have a Dalmatian as a pet, be sure that you are willing and able to provide your dog with good social interaction and lots of exercise. If you plan on taking your spotted friend with you when you go out, be aware of their behavior issues towards strangers. Discourage people that are not already known and trusted by your dog from coming too close to it, extending a hand for the animal to sniff, or random petting. Most people that already have one say that Dalmatians make good pets, but I suggest that prospective owners carefully consider if this breed fits their lifestyle and visa versa.