Spotlight On: Dalmatians

What is black and white and cuddly all over? Dalmatians, of course!

This month’s spotlight (pun intended) is one of the world’s most recognizable breeds. Thanks to their fame and exposure with the Disney movie franchise as well as being a mascot for fire stations around the country, Dalmatians can be spotted (again, with the puns!) from a mile away. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about this unique breed!

Basic Characteristics

Let’s start with the obvious. Dalmatians have a very unique coat-white with black spots. However, there have been breeding instances where some pups have liver-colored spots or even rarer instances of lemon-colored spots. Regardless of what color spots they have, all puppies are born white and acquire their spots around 2-3 weeks old.

With an athletic, muscular build, Dalmatians stand around 21 inches tall and can weigh between 45 to 60 pounds. Built to run, these dogs have a very sleek body frame, from their head all the way to their tails. Don’t let their sleek build fool you though, Dals are strong and powerful and owners will notice that in their legs, while running,  and their tail, when wagging at full speed can be known as a lethal weapon!


“Aren’t Dalmatians high strung?” “They are too energetic.” “That breed can be really mean and aggressive.” These are some of the many questions and statements pet parents may hear about their beloved Dals. The only problem is these assertions are highly inaccurate.

Dalmatians are extremely loyal, intelligent dogs. They thrive being around their family and love to show off their goofy, playful side. Dals can almost be known as Velcro dogs and want to be with their favorite people and involved in everything. It’s often recommended that they are better in a home with older children, but that is only because their rambunctiousness can easily knock a toddler over.

Spatial awareness is definitely something that these spotted goofs lack, especially when they are excited about something! As far as their temperament, they are very friendly and as with all dogs, need to be supervised around young children. Dals also get along well with other fur babies, especially if they have been raised together.

Dals make great watchdogs because they are always so in tune with everything going on around them.  If someone walks up to your front door or a rabbit decides to hop across your front lawn, your Dal will let you know that someone or something is on the premises! As far as guests in your home, your Dal will more than likely welcome them into your home, however they can be protective if the situation arises.

As with any breed, it is extremely important to get your Dalmatian into training courses as soon as possible, for training and socializing purposes. Socializing plays a major role in any dog’s life, so remember to get your Dal around as many people, kids, and other animals as often as possible. Since Dalmatians are so intelligent, obedience training should be a breeze, just make sure they aren’t the class clown! Once your pup passes obedience, consider enrolling him in agility courses! This will help with his athletic energy as well as keeping him mentally stimulated.


Dalmatians were born and bred to run. As coaching dogs, they would protect carriages and horses from any kind of interference, protect carriages at road stops, and alert coachmen to highwaymen. Eventually, they transitioned into fire dogs who would clear the way for the fire trucks to come through. Nowadays with motorized fire trucks, Dalmatians just get to play the role of adorable mascots as they ride on the fire trucks! Anyway, the point we are trying to stress here is that these dogs LOVE to run!

Get ready to lace up your sneakers because a Dal will need at least an hour of exercise every day. They make excellent running buddies and can definitely go the distance. So, if a marathon is on your bucket list, enlist a Dalmatian as your new training partner! Owners that neglect to give them their exercise time, are typically the ones who claim their Dals are high strung. That’s only because, without exercise, these pups have no way of releasing that pent-up energy and can become overly excited or destructive.

As previously stated, pet parents may want to think about enrolling their dog into an agility type class or obedience competitions as their Dalmatian grows to help keep their mind and body active.

All that high energy and exercising needs to be met with a high-quality, nutritious diet. Dalmatians are prone to urinary stones (more on this later) and require a low purine diet, a special diet may even be recommended by your vet. Making sure your Dal has plenty of clean water is also extremely important. In an attempt to help prevent stones, Dalmatians need to be able to flush out their bladders. Regardless of what you feed your Dal, you need to take into consideration how much exercise he is getting per day and ensure he is getting the adequate amount of food necessary to keep up with his daily exercise.

It is critical to take the exercise needs of this breed very seriously. If you find yourself working long hours during the day or don’t have time to dedicate daily for your Dalmatian’s exercise, consider hiring a pet sitter to help ease your mind by playing with your dog when you are unavailable.


Once you decide to bring a Dalmatian into your home, you can kiss those little black dresses, and any black clothing for that matter, goodbye! Their short, dense coat sheds, a lot! So, you can expect to find fine little white hair everywhere. Brushing weekly can help to control shedding, but just know it isn’t going to prevent it!

The good news is this beautiful spotted coat doesn’t necessarily need to be washed very often. Dals don’t have oily coats, so they don’t typically smell, and the dirt seems to roll right off of them. So washing isn’t really required as often as other breeds. Pet parents can even use baby wipes to wipe down their Dals if they have a little dirt on them.

Additionally, pet parents need to be considerate of other grooming needs. This could include trimming nails, checking and cleaning ears on a weekly basis, and checking those pearly whites. Staying up to date on grooming and hygiene for your Dal will keep him healthier and happier in the long run.

dalmation dogs as pets

Vet/Medical Care

The lifespan of a Dalmatian is anywhere from 10-13 years. However, Dalmatians are prone to a few health-related conditions, many that are inherited, that are important for pet parents to be aware of.

As previously mentioned, one of the major health concerns is that of urinary stones. Dalmatians carry a genetic abnormality that causes them to excrete uric acid instead of purine compounds in their urine. This can lead to painful bladder stones, which can lead to other serious health issues involving the liver and kidneys. Therefore, it is extremely important that your Dalmatian has access to fresh water as well as frequent bathroom breaks throughout the day.

Some owners even provide their Dalmatians with distilled water because tap or spring water can contain minerals that could also exacerbate bladder stones. This is an extremely serious condition and can become fatal. If you suspect your Dalmatian has bladder stones, you need to seek immediate veterinary attention.

Another health issue that these spotted cuties are prone to is deafness.

Anywhere from 15%-30% of Dalmatians suffer from deafness, usually unilateral, but 5% have bilateral hearing impairment. Typically when puppies are born, they can typically hear with both ears but as they grow can lose their hearing due to melanocytes, cells that produce and contain pigment, and are critical for the proper functioning of the inner ear. Around 5 weeks of age, breeders should have their litter BAER tested, which will determine if the puppy has limited hearing in one or both ears. If you are purchasing a puppy from a breeder, make sure you inquire about the BAER results and ask for a copy for your vet records.

It is always a good idea to have a discussion with your vet about any health concerns you may have regarding your pet. Remember to stay up to date with routine vet care and be in tune with your pet and their behavior. If something seems “off” with your pet, make sure you seek veterinary assistance to help treat conditions to prevent them from getting worse. It is no secret that vet bills can escalate quickly, especially when it comes to an emergency or surgery. It is never a bad idea to consider getting your fur baby a pet insurance policy to assist in paying those vet costs.

Bringing a Dalmatian Home

Dalmatians are not a breed for everyone. With that said, potential pet parents really need to take into deep consideration all these attributes before getting one. If one or more of these features do not coincide with your current lifestyle, please choose a different breed.

Purchasing a Dalmatian from a reputable breeder can start at a cost of $1,200 and go up from there. However, please keep in mind the Adopt, Don’t Shop option! Many purebred animals end up in shelters every single day for reasons that are usually out of their own control. In fact, Florida has an incredible Dalmatian rescue.

Check out the Dalmatian Rescue of South Florida for more information on volunteering, fostering, or adopting a Dalmatian in need. As always, Space Coast Pet Services is available for all your fur baby needs, including dog sitters, walkers, and even home visits. Contact us or visit our website today for a full list of services.



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