dalmatian running through water on a sunny day
dalmatian running through water on a sunny day

The Dalmatian

101 Delights

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Featured Photo 1983Igor/Bigstock

Dalmatian breed statistics1. That really cute spot right over his tail.
2. Sense of fun.
3. Those spots on his face.
4. Sleek, elegant look.
5. Intelligence.
6. The way a whole bunch of spots just about covers one ear.
7. Love of horses.
8. Spots between his toes.
9, 10, 11, 12…Well, we think you get the spot…er, point.

The dashing Dalmatian has as many qualities to recommend him as he has spots sprinkled over his coat. But because the Dally’s other qualities are so often camouflaged by that eye-catching pattern, we’re going to pretend for a moment that he’s just a plain, white, monochromatic dog. We’re going to forget that he even has those you-know-whats.

In fact, no one really knows why Dalmatians look like they were standing too close when an artist shook out her brush full of dark paint. The origins of the breed are not known. Some argue that the name Dalmatian comes from the Dalmatia region on the Adriatic Sea in eastern Europe. Others attribute it to a man named Jurij Dalmatin who may have been associated with the breed in the 16th century. Another theory is that the name is a corruption of dama-chien and that the Dally was originally bred to hunt fallow deer (dama is Latin for fallow, chien is dog in French).

Dalmatian puppy

Life on White/Bigstock

Whether or not hunting was the Dalmatian’s original purpose, its most famous career path has been following horses; up hill and down, over rocky roads and through bustling towns, in snow, rain, and beating sun, the Dal has trotted faithfully behind cobs, coaches, and carriages. Most Dalmatians have a natural affinity for equine friends, making them ideal stable guardians and journey companions during a period when all transportation required real horsepower.

Fire wagons charging to the scene of a blaze might be accompanied by a bold Dalmatian, perhaps to clear the way for the firefighters or to ensure that the galloping horses were not harassed by loose dogs in the street. Today, the dog that kept the firehouse and its stables clear of rats has evolved into a personable mascot and fire safety instructor, often used to teach children basic fire drills such as “Stop, Drop, and Roll” or how to crawl to safety in a burning building.

The breed also has a long history as a showman, from being a travelling performer with gypsy caravans and popularity as a circus clown, through to premier roles in advertising, TV, and movies. How many dog breeds can claim their own video game? The Dal has two: Escape from DeVil Manor and 102 Dalmatians: Puppies to the Rescue. With The 101 Dalmatians Musical currently hitting stages across the US, Dals are even garnering rave reviews in live theatre.

The dog stars of the musical illustrate an important point, however: many of them are rescue dogs that were adopted from shelters. Dalmatians are high-energy, intelligent dogs with a need to be with people and to do something, like the amazing work they perform on stage. Unfortunately, too many people acquire Dalmatians after seeing a cute cartoon or for their appearance alone and without considering that they may not be the right owners for this breed. When their little Patch or Penny turns into an adult dog with exercise demands and willful personality, they dump the “problem” at the local humane society.

Dalmatian dog

Marina Jay/Bigstock

Another reason Dalmatians may end up at a shelter is hearing disabilities; the Dalmatian Club of America’s official Position on Dalmatian Deafness states that from 10 to 12 percent of the breed is deaf. Opinions vary on how difficult it is to own a deaf dog. Some experts warn against it, while others argue that with some extra attention and training, deaf dogs can lead happy and full lives. Hearing disabilities are inherited in Dalmatians and, while dedicated breeders are working to eliminate deafness through testing and careful breeding, anyone who wants to live with a Dal must be aware of the potential problem.

Other health concerns for the Dalmatian include urinary stones and allergies affecting the skin. A planned diet can go a long way toward controlling both of these conditions.

The average Dalmatian is a happy, athletic dog designed for long-distance running. The American Kennel Club breed standard describes him as “strong, muscular, and active…poised and alert…capable of great endurance combined with a fair amount of speed.” His coat must be pure white with short, fine hair and markings of either dense black or “liver” (dark brown)—no other colours are acceptable. Nose colour must match the spots.

Whoops—did we just say spots?

Oh, to heck with it—how can we celebrate the Dalmatian without saying how we love his unique look? Take away those splashy markings and the Dal would still be a dog of 100 delights—but the spots make it 101.

» Read Your Breed For more breed profiles, go to moderndogmagazine.com/breeds

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