Caring for Your Dalmatian

By Beth White, Melody Kennels

The Dalmatian has a urinary tract very similar to a human's. Some can develop kidney or bladder stones, so it is very important that you feed a good quality but low protein food, preferably chicken or turkey based. All dogs are best fed twice a day with water added (like milk on cereal-not soaked), to ensure that they are taking in adequate water to help flush the kidneys. By adding water to the food your pet drinks far more water than he would normally, making for a healthy urinary system.

Your Dalmatian is short haired and therefore he will be cold during the winter months. He is like you; if you are cold, so is he! Unheated garages are too cold below 50 degrees. Besides, garages offer many dangers to pets...from chemicals to open doors. A dog door into the home will enable your dog to stay warm or cool no matter what the weather. Dog doors are especially useful when you are gone long periods. Your dog is happy, and is also safe in case of a house fire. Consider putting a dog door into the wall of a kitchen, utility room, or even basement where the dog can be confined safely when you are away.

Or, consider building an insulated dog house (with a source of heat for the cold months). A box inside a box with 6-8 inches of insulation works well. Light bulbs mounted in a protective wire basket provide cheap heat, but paint the bulb black so the dog isn't blinded all day. Be sure to put the bulb on a thermostat then it will adjust during the warmer times. Use 40-, 60- or 75-watt bulbs so you can change them according to the outside temperature. Mount a protected thermometer inside so you can check the temperature. A high sill on the door contains the straw or wood shavings used for bedding. These also won't be drug out as a blanket might be by a young dog. If your dog is beyond playing with his bedding, thick blankets or dog pads are very nice for his outside home. A removable lid allows for easy cleaning, while a sloping (not pitched) roof enables your pet to lay on top (which he likely will love to do) and water to run off. During summer months, remember to prop the removable roof up and lift the dog door for better ventilation. CHECK frequently for insects, especially spiders, that love dark spaces! Be sure to put a dog door on the opening to give optimum protection. How warm would your home be if the doors were left open? Give your dog an enclosed, insulated home to use, especially during the cold months.

Dalmatian shedding is definitely a problem, but fortunately the hair will vacuum up and wash out easily. Many dogs live in kitchen and family or living room areas, while bedrooms are off limits. Besides weekly brushings, limiting the dog's access to only active areas of the home (where he will still have your company) is an aid in hair control.

Help reduce your dog's shedding also by adding a tablespoon of corn oil or flaxseed oil to each meal. A pump bottle for ease and cleanliness is good to administer 3-4 squirts per meal, or give 1 tablespoon. You will never make your dog stop shedding completely, but the corn oil does help.

The Dalmatian was bred as a coaching dog and this meant trotting up to 100 miles per trip! He has stamina!! SO, he needs exercise and this means winter, summer, fall and spring. Use a retracting lead (the longest available is 26 feet and well worth it) to exercise your Dalmatian easily. Having a second dog will also provide more exercise in the form of romping and chasing. Consider a second dog of similar needs, size, and coat length to keep your dog company (a second rescue dog possibly??). Just don't forget that they will both still need exercise out of the yard with YOU.

This breed is intelligent, but also independent. Dalmatians learn easily, but it may not be what you want, if you don't train your dog. Kindergarten classes for young pups (10-16 weeks of age) and obedience classes are highly recommended. Find a recommended instructor with some background in dog training who uses incentive or food reward. Incentive teaches better than force. Dogs are stronger so we have to be smarter! Consider the new agility training (doggie obstacle course) for fun too. Your dog will love it and so will you!

Dogs on furniture often present problems because they soon feel they are "equal" to the humans. Should problems arise in controlling your dog, have him sleep only on a bed on the floor. Have him sit for most things he wants/needs....for food, to play, to go out, to come in, to get in the car, to get out of the car, etc. Have him earn his rewards and he will thank you by being mannerly. Trained dogs are loved, welcomed and enjoyed, and don't lose their happy homes.

Walking most Dalmatians with a buckle collar is not fun. Large, active or untrained dogs respond well to a No Pull collar which uses cords under the armpits for control. Although the pinch (or prong) collar looks unpleasant, it is humane and also gives the leverage needed to teach and control a lively dog. Pinch collars must be fitted to ride high on the neck behind the ears. Used with little tugs, it makes a strong, active pet controllable. Another option is the Gentle Leader, a head collar which gives the owner absolute control over the dog's head for ease in walking a strong dog. It is like a halter for a horse and works the same way. When you control the dog's head you control his body. Your dog won't like his Gentle Leader at first. As it is quite foreign to the dog, you must work with your pet to teach him/her to accept the head confinement. Instructions come with the Gentle Leader so follow the directions. Once conditioned, it is a good method of walking an active dog and yet allow the dog room to exercise. However, it is quite useful and very humane.

Crate training is useful for any dog that needs confinement. It prevents bad habits, protects the dog from his environment, teaches him to accept confinement and gives him comfort. Always make the crate a positive experience (i.e., use treats when putting him in it) and just don't overuse it. Four to five hours in a crate at one time should be the maximum. How long could you stay in one position? Remember too that extensive crate time means more exercise to burn off stored up energy. More crate time means more exercise time!!

Dalmatians should be social creatures and enjoy interacting with dogs and people. To ensure a happy experience, provide a food reward (string cheese, hot dogs, dog biscuits, etc.) whenever a dog hesitates in meeting a new person or dog. Have your dog sit, reward him with treats, talk with confidence and be happy. Have strangers offer treats with an open hand (palm up), but don't force the dog. With a strange dog, give each dog a treat for being close. Be prepared to separate dogs if necessary, but usually the food will break their concentration on each other and encourage cooperation.

Supplementing your dog's diet with a quality vitamin/mineral product is good no matter what food is fed. A good example is kelp. Natural vitamin C (as is found in kelp) is very good for your dog because he does not receive much vitamin C in his dog food. Vitamin C relieves pain of arthritis, is a catalyst for other nutrients and also medications, and is anti stress. In growing pups it helps prevent ligament and tendon damage which can result in either arthritis or hip dysplasia. Dalmatians run and play so hard that they sometimes injure themselves and the vitamin C helps prevent that. Undiluted vitamin C should not be given dogs with high uric acid or who are stone formers.

ALL dogs should wear a buckle collar with identification which includes the owner's telephone number. Adding "Needs Medication" and "Reward" also helps him come home. If lost, IMMEDIATELY notify all local shelters, advertise in the paper and post flyers on fluorescent paper. Lost hours and days can mean a permanently lost dog.

Tattooing your Dalmatian is good because purebred dogs are often stolen for personal, commercial, or experimental reasons. Tattoos on the inside of a hind leg are the best. Microchipping is now available as well and most shelters look for both identifications. Check with your veterinarian, local shelter, or local kennel club for more information.

Dogs and heat don't mix! A dog cannot eliminate excess body heat by sweating as we can; he can only pant. This method is very inefficient, so dogs are prone to heat prostration. Be careful when you leave your dog in a car; windows magnify the power of the sun. Even open windows usually don't cool your pet on a hot day. AND, he might be stolen or lost with open windows. When tempted to leave the dog inside a car, think how you might sweat if you sat there. Dog's don't sweat. They just suffer, and sometimes die!

Dogs placed in the back of a vehicle without window ventilation, even in mild weather, are often quite uncomfortable. Many dogs are relegated to the back where they are trapped in the sun's rays. The rear window magnifies the sun on them and they can't get to a cooler spot. Think about riding back there yourself. Let him be near a source of flowing air, or leave him home... Remember too that dogs need shade in their yards during warm weather. The larger the area of shade the cooler your dog will be.

Dogs should NEVER ride in the back of a pickup unless tethered to the middle to ensure they don't jump or fall out. Many dogs are stolen or lost from open trucks and countless have suffered tragic injuries and death. Better than tethered is no riding in the back at all.

Heartworm is a becoming a very serious threat to dogs in Colorado, as it is in most of the country. Have your veterinarian do a blood test to check for presence of worms in March and then you give monthly medication from April thru November, or all year long, depending on the area of the country you live in. This is as important as regular shots!