The Dashing Dalmatian

By Beth White, Melody Kenels

Dalmatians will range from 19 to 24 inches at the shoulders and usually weigh from 35 to 70 pounds, although they may be larger. these dogs are easily recognized by their characteristic black or brown (liver) spots on a white coat. Being short haired, Dalmatians need warmth in the winter (below 50 degrees) and should be housed inside. They do shed year round, so a quick daily brushing is recommended. Because they shed they can cause allergies, usually in people also allergic to cats.

The Dalmatian is an intelligent, athletic dog requiring control and vigorous daily exercise. An adequately fenced yard is a must, with 4 feet being the recommended minimum. Being an athletic breed, some Dalmatians can be climbers but this is easily rectified by an electric hotwire or a covered run if necessary. However, most are happy to stay within the confines of the home where they are loved. Dals can be excellent with children when properly socialized at an early age, but may be too active for the small child. Dalmatians are companion dogs above all else, and thus are very people oriented and usually very devoted to their families. They never seem to get enough affection, but don't seek it from just anyone - they are not a breed that automatically loves everyone it meets. This breed housebreaks very readily. As the Dalmatian is a very intelligent breed, yet independent, training an be a challenge unless you understand their nature. Adequate exercise enhances their learning ability, as does training with food rewards. Using chicken, string cheese, or other (low purine) treats usually results in an attentive dog wanting to learn more.

The average Dalmatian matures physically far sooner than he does mentally, and generally has a tendency to chew or dig until well into his second year. Being an extremely active dog, the Dalmatian would not be happy in a sedentary family situation, and neither would the owner.

Some Dalmatians are born deaf, and it is not always obvious. It is therefore important that hearing be determined by a veterinarian or competent breeder. Deaf Dalmatians learn sign language easily if the owner is willing to give the dog a chance. There is also help on the internet for owners of deaf dogs at

The Dalmatian can also develop urinary stones and associated skin troubles, stemming from the "unique" Dalmatian urinary tract. This condition occurs in only a small percentage of the breed, but it can be extremely painful, and/or fatal--not to mention expensive. Feeding a low purine diet (chicken or turkey based and well watered, though not soaked) can help prevent urinary problems. Fruits and vegetables make a healthy addition to the diet as well.

It is recommended that Dalmatians be given routine urine tests (including specific gravity) as soon as adopted to ensure that their kidneys and bladders are performing properly. Be aware that urine samples should be collected first thing in the morning, tested as soon as possible, and NEVER refrigerated. The dog's urination patterns should be periodically observed, particularly with males, to spot trouble signs such as straining, interrupted flow and discoloration.

Dalmatians live an average of 11-14 years if kept lean and exercised properly. Dalmatians living past 15 years is not uncommon.