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Dalmatians - A Great Breed for the Right Family

Dalmatians - A Great Breed for the Right Family
By Terri Haase, President, Save the Dalmatians and Others Canine Rescue
Copyright © 2000-2003, Permission to quote or reprint in entirety given

Cuddly spotted puppies! They look so darling and the movies make it seem so easy. Dalmatians are cute when they are puppies but rapidly grow to a weight of between 45 to 70 pounds of muscle and energy. Unless a family is prepared to deal with an adult dog of this size, the result can be another Dalmatian ending up in a shelter waiting for its last day. Before you adopt a Dalmatian, there are several things to consider.

The first consideration is if the family has the time a Dalmatian requires. Dalmatians need obedience training, exercise and attention. Adding a Dalmatian to a family is like having another two-year-old child in the family. An overworked mother with young children may not be able to handle the additional workload of a Dalmatian.

The second consideration is space. Young Dalmatians need a home with a fenced yard to play in and preferably another canine companion. It is difficult but not impossible to keep a Dalmatian in an apartment but having a yard makes things much simpler. However, Dalmatians should never be left in the backyard all the time. They need and want to be indoors with their families and their short coat does not provide adequate protection for chilly nights outdoors, even with a dog house.

The third consideration is commitment. No one should adopt a Dalmatian or any other breed of dog unless they are willing to make the commitment to keep the dog its entire life. Dogs have the emotional and intellectual capabilities of two-year-old human children. If you think about the kinds of thoughts and feelings two year old children are capable of, then it becomes appalling to think how callously people toss dogs away at shelters. Would they do this to a child? Dogs in shelters suffer tremendous emotional stress. They cry and pine for their owners. Some become so despondent, they try to starve themselves to death. We estimate that thousands of Dalmatians entered Southern California's shelters in 1998 and only about 5% of them were adopted. The rest were euthanized. Dalmatians live approximately 15 years--people should be sure they want to commit to keeping a dog for its entire lifespan of 15 years before getting one.

The fourth consideration is money. Just as children have food and medical expenses and must go in for check-ups and vaccinations, so does a Dalmatian. People must plan their budgets and decide if they can afford the additional expense of a Dalmatian.

Dalmatians are fun dogs who are always ready to play. They want to be included in the family's activities, whether it is jogging at the beach, hiking in the mountains or laying around watching television. Dalmatians were bred to run 25 miles or more per day with horses and a carriage so their exercise requirements are high. They also functioned as guard dogs for the horses, carriage and its occupants and still retain this protective nature.

Their care is relatively simple. Their short coats shed all year round but grooming outdoors with a rubber curry brush can cut down on the shedding while they are indoors. They should be fed twice a day with a high-quality lamb and rice dry dog food mixed with water and canned chicken dog food that does not contain corn, soy, wheat or organ meats. Their ears need to be cleaned on a weekly basis to prevent ear infections. Nails should also be trimmed on a weekly basis. Vigorous daily exercise is necessary to keep the Dalmatian from channeling his energy into destructiveness. Obedience training is also a must. (Editorial Note: Since the time this article was written, there has been a common consensus that the Dalmatian's dietary protein source should come from lamb, chicken or turkey as all three are low purine protein sources. Additionally, it is now recommended that you CHECK your Dalmatian's ears twice a month and clean only as needed. Frequent cleaning, when not necessary, can irritate the ears and may cause problems which otherwise might not have occurred. Nail trimming is important, but can also be done twice monthly instead of weekly.)

The Dalmatian is a very hardy breed and usually does not have many medical problems. Deafness is a serious inherited problem that occurs in about 10% of the Dalmatian population. Urinary tract stone-forming is another serious problem that can be life-threatening if a blockage occurs; all Dalmatians have the potential of becoming stone-formers but only some individuals actually do become stone-formers. A urinalysis can determine if the dog is a stone-former or not.

Because of these two serious inherited conditions, only experienced breeders who are familiar with genetics, actively showing their Dalmatians in the breed ring, and know the health histories of the Dalmatian's parents, grandparent and great-grandparents, should breed Dalmatians. A Dalmatian should never be bred because it is pretty or has a great personality or has AKC papers. AKC papers do not guarantee quality, they only mean the animal's parents were purebred. Casual backyard breeders are the cause of the millions of animals being put to death annually in the animal shelters because of their lack of expertise in placing animals in permanent homes, their refusal to guarantee that they will take the animal back at any point in its life if the new owners cannot keep it, and the massive overpopulation of dogs and cats compared to available homes. A reputable breeder will guarantee in writing the animal's health as well as promise that the animal can be returned to them at any time. One should never purchase a dog from a pet store or a person who does not provide any written guarantees.

Anyone who is interested in the Dalmatian breed should research the breed by reading as much as possible about it and by visiting dog shows to talk with experienced Dalmatian breeders. You may also visit the following web sites for detailed information about the Dalmatian breed: The Dalmatian Club of America at http://www.thedca.org and the Dalmatian Club of Southern California at http://www.dalmatianclubofsocal.org.

Another way to add a Dalmatian to your family is to adopt one through a Dalmatian rescue or from an animal shelter. Dalmatian rescues take in unwanted Dalmatians and save Dalmatians from shelters to try to find them new homes. Two sources of Dalmatian Rescue information are the Dalmatian Rescue Resources web site located at http://bcf.usc.edu/~thaase/DOT and the Save the Dalmatians and Others Canine Rescue web site located at http://www.savethedals.org. If you decide to adopt from a shelter, be sure to ask the shelter staff to assist you in assessing the Dalmatian's temperament and have the dog meet everyone in the family first before adopting it.

Dalmatians are wonderful, fun and loving dogs that do well in the right family environment. Do your research and make sure a Dalmatian is the right breed for you and your family before you adopt one. If you decide a Dalmatian is the right choice, obtain one from a reputable breeder, a rescue or a shelter and you will have a wonderful canine friend for life!