Breed At A Glance


Playful, sensitive and loyal, with extremely good memories

Life Expectancy
10-12 years

Average Height
20-24 inches

Average Weight
55 lbs

Coat Color
Pure white with black or liver colored spots

Coat Length/Texture
Short, hard and dense

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round, heavy twice per year

Also known as Carriage Dog, Dalmatiner, Dalmatinac, Firehouse Dog, Plum Pudding Dog, Spotted Coach Dog, Dali

General Temperament

The Dalmatian is an extremely active and playful breed. They become very attached to their owners and may be prone to depression if suddenly left alone for long periods. They are patient and forgiving with children, but should be monitored around toddlers as they are energetic and rambunctious and may knock them over. They possess immense speed and stamina, and make excellent companions for horses.

The exercise requirements for this dog cannot be overstated. Dalmatians are naturally high-energy dogs, although they do mellow a bit as they enter adulthood. They are excellent companions for people who like to jog or walk frequently. They will even enjoy jogging alongside their biking owner. They will not, however, be happy in a sedentary household. Without sufficient activity and interaction with their owners, this breed will become bored and destructive. A Dalmatian will be happiest as a part of an active family, in a house with at least a medium-sized yard, and that yard needs to be securely fenced as this breed likes to wander.

Dalmatians are extremely sensitive and have better memories than most other breeds: they will not forget ill treatment. A Dalmatian is not as eager to please as some other breeds, but they are indeed highly trainable with patience and consistency from their owner. So, although some inexperienced owners may describe this dog as “untrainable,” it is more likely that they are simply unaccustomed to the needs of the breed. With calm and gentle (yet assertive) hands-on leadership from their owner, Dalmatians can be extremely obedient and well-behaved dogs.

Dalmatians will usually get along with other household pets, although if not well socialized, they can sometimes be combative with unknown dogs. Males in particular tend to be aggressive towards other males.

Breed History

It is generally agreed that the Dalmatian is a very old breed, but that’s where the agreement ends. Artwork and architecture throughout history — including European paintings, Egyptian bas-reliefs and Hellenic friezes — is peppered with images of a spotted dog of the approximate size and body structure as the modern Dalmatian. It’s name comes from the Dalmatia region of Croatia, where the breed is known to have been a sentinel during war time, although it is questionable whether it actually originated in that area.

Throughout it’s varied history, the Dalmatian has found work in drafting, shepherding, controlling vermin, hunting and retrieving, and perhaps most notably, in coaching. The Dalmatian trotted beside, behind or even among horses pulling carriages. Then, while it’s master was occupied elsewhere, the breed guarded the carriages and horses against looters and poachers. Whether the master was on foot, horseback or in a carriage, the Dalmatian was known for following with exceptional reliability. Even modern adolescent Dalmatians have been known to instinctually follow along behind a pack of horses.

The first Dalmatian was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1888.

Body Structure and Composition

The most distinctive feature of the Dalmatian is its coat, with black or liver-colored spots on a pure-white background (puppies are born solid white, with the spots developing later). The dog is approximately as long as it is tall, strong boned but not overly muscled. The head is in proportion to the body, with moderately-sized high set ears and a powerful muzzle. The eyes are dark brown or bright blue, or any combination thereof. The tail is set level to the back and should never curl up over the back. The feet are re round and compact with thick, elastic pads and well-arched toes. The Dalmatian possesses an effortless gait, capable of a high speeds and endurance.

Medical Information

The surge in popularity of this breed during the 1990’s unfortunately lead to overbreeding by irreputable breeders and puppy mills seeking to make a quick buck. Although they generally tend to be healthy, certain lines are highly prone to genetic diseases.

The Dalmatian is particularly prone to genetic deafness, affecting 10-12% of puppies. Early breeders did not recognize this defect in the breed, simply considering deaf individuals to be dumb, and therefore deafness was allowed to proliferate. Deaf Dalmatians tend to be difficult to raise, becoming snappish or aggressive out of fear. Responsible breeders will have a puppy’s hearing checked at 6 weeks of age via a brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) test, and these individuals should be neutered/spayed to avoid spreading the defect.

Dalmatians have a tendency towards Hyperuricemia, a condition that causes high levels of uric acid to build up in joints and cause gaut or bladder/kidney stones. Hyperuricemia is present in all Dalmatian lines, as the “normal” gene for this disease is not present in Dalmatians whatsoever. Therefore, this cannot be bred-out of pure breed Dalmatians. This condition tends to occur in older males, and can be controlled to some degree by medication and by feeding the dog a diet limited in purine (all-natural foods without animal organs or bi-products are recommended).

Skin allergies are also prevalent in this breed, and can also be largely controlled by diet and/or medication. Some Dalmatians can also experience thyroid issues, which can cause appetite changes, weight loss/gain, hair loss, recurring skin infections, and lethargy.

Caring for a Dalmatian’s coat is simple, although frequent brushing is required to help with constant shedding. They are nearly odorless and are said to be unusually clean.

Anecdotal Information

The Dalmatian is perhaps best known for the animated and live-action 101 Dalmatians films (and original novel published in 1956) and their sequels.

The sudden increase in the breed’s popularity after Disney’s release of the live action version of 101 Dalmatians lead to an unfortunate situation for the breed as a whole. Families became seduced by the lovability of the dogs portrayed in the film and purchased Dalmatians for their children, without fully understanding the needs of the breed. A huge number of Dalmatians were subsequently dumped at shelters and rescues, which lead to the development of Dalmatian rescue organizations across the U.S.

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