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Dalmatian - Breed Profile

The Dalmatian is built like a sleek athlete however he is a dependable, dignified gentleman. With an independent mind - some might say stubborn, Dalmatians require regular vigorous exercise and interactive family activities.


It is often thought that Dalmatians originated in Dalmatia, Croatia, but this is not the case. The exact origins of the Dalmatian is shrouded in mystery. Spotted dogs have appeared in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

They have been found painted on walls of tombs running behind Egyptian chariots, in frescoes and even in letters sent from poet Jurij Dalmatin to a Bohemian duchess in the 1500's.

From these first spotted dogs, the breed quickly spread all over Europe with some suggesting they travelled with the Gypsies and the Romani people. Wherever he comes from, the Dalmatian has been known by many names; the English Coach Dog, the Carriage Dog, the Plum Pudding Dog, the Fire House Dog and the Spotted Dick!

The Dalmatian has served many purposes over time: he has been a dog of war, keeping watch over the borders of Dalmatia, Croatia. Used as a shepherd and ratter on the farm; as a pointer and retriever in the field; on large game, bringing down stags and wild boar. Is there any breed more versatile?

But perhaps it is what they are best known for, they are the only breed bred for carriage work

With a natural affinity for horses, Dalmatians have been extensively documented trailing horse-drawn carriages through the countryside in an exercise known as coaching, effortlessly trotting for miles and miles under the axles of the vehicle, keeping an ever vigilant guard.

During the times before motorised vehicles, fire stations used Dalmatians to clear the path to the fire, to keep the horses company and stand guard over the carriage. 

This association between fire stations and Dalmatians has been passed down to today; for what is a fire station without their Dalmatian mascot!

Whatever duty is required of the breed today, be it competing in agility, flyball, obedience, conformation or accompanying its owner on a leisurely walk in the park then settling down to snooze by the fire, there is no other breed quite like the Dalmatian.


The breed as we know it today has physical characteristics similar to both pointers and hounds, however the Dalmatian is used neither for scent work nor as a gun dog. Its primary use, both historically and currently, is as companion and guard dog.

Much like the Pharaoh Hound, Greyhound and Whippet, the coat is short, dense, and fine. The balanced, strong and muscular physique, without bulk or coarseness, is also very much like that of the gundogs – the Pointer, Weimaraner or the German Shorthaired Pointer.

The main characteristic which defines the Dalmatian is its spots. Born with white hair and small pigmented spots in the skin, the coloured spots develop at around two to three weeks and the nose will darken at about three months of age. 

The spots continue to form with age usually up to two or three months, developing into either black or brown, called liver. The spots should be round, clearly defined and not overlapping.

  • Height: Males: 58-61cm; Females: 56-58cm 
  • Weight: 23-28kg. Females are invariably at the smaller end of the scale. 

For the Dalmatian Breed Standard, please visit Dogs Australia


Well-bred Dalmatians are loyal and loving companions and are eager to please their owners. 

They make excellent watchdogs. Although not yappy, they will however alert their owner if something is amiss. They are powerfulactive and boisterous dogs that do need discipline. 

You can expect young pups to dig holes in the yard and chew up your plants too. At least until the dog has matured and learned some obedience. With an average working dog intelligence, the Dalmatian will enjoy obedience training and excels at agility classes.

Dalmatians have a stable, outgoing nature which suits an active family.


Most Dalmatians find an average to large backyard adequate, but they are a breed of great physical endurance, able to travel at a moderate pace for great lengths of time. A morning and evening walk is recommended to burn off energy and stimulate the dog’s mental wellbeing. Breeders warn Dalmatians have little road sense and need a well fenced backyard.

Health & Lifespan

A Dalmatian’s white coat and pale pigmentation will contribute to the likelihood of sunburn. The most susceptible areas, the nose, ears and eye-rims, will be less inclined to burn where more pigment is present.

A metabolic defect unique to the Dalmatian breed can lead to liver and subsequent bladder problems, resulting in bladder stones. This is a hereditary disease and is best avoided by purchasing from breeders whose dogs do not possess the condition. Encouraging your dog to drink plenty of water will minimise the effects of the disease.

In past veterinary journals, deafness was reported in up to 30% of the breed. Breeders say this figure is not representative of Australian lines. 

Deafness will usually show up in puppies by about four weeks of age. People considering buying a Dalmatian puppy should deal with a reputable breeder and always have the dog’s hearing checked.

Another reported problem is allergies which may result in skin lesions. Paspalum grass is one known cause of these allergies.

Dalmatians live for between 12-14 years.


While they do not have a strong doggy odour, a fortnightly bath is adequate. When a Dalmatian sheds, the white hair is very noticeable and daily wiping with a rubber glove will remove most loose hairs.

Recommended for
  • Temperament: energetic, boisterous
  • Lifespan: 12-14 years
  • Maintenance: low
  • Recommended for: families without toddlers, active people

Although not ideal for an elderly person, a Dalmatian does make a great pet for athletic people, runners, joggers and young families. They are considered good family pets but one should be conscious of their exuberance around toddlers and small children.

For more information on the breed, please contact
If you'd like to rehome a Dalmatian, please contact


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