The Dalmatian, also known as the Carriage Dog, the English Coach Dog, the Plum Pudding Dog, the Dally, the Firehouse Dog, the Spotted Dick, the Spotted Coach Dog or simply the Dal, has a history shrouded in lore and legend. It takes its name from the province of Dalmatia, an area in the western part of the former Yugoslavia, along the Adriatic Sea. This reserved and dignified dog is the only breed specifically bred to be spotted. The Dalmatian attracted considerable attention from Dodie Smith's book One Hundred and One Dalmatians, which was popularized in the subsequent Walt Disney Movie, "101 Dalmatians." The Dalmatian was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888 and remains a member of the Non-Sporting Group.
The Dalmatian is one of the most recognizable of dogs, yet its ancestry is among the most mysterious. Models, paintings, writings and engravings from ancient days support the theory that Dalmatians first appeared in Europe, Asia and Africa. The breed was also found in bands of nomadic gypsies, making its history even more mystical. The breed name is among its biggest mysteries. The name was first coined by Thomas Bewick in 1791, but there were no Dalmatian dogs living in Dalmatia when he came up with that name. The first known Dalmatians were imported in 1930 by a ship-owner from England who took his dogs to Dalmatia, a region on the west side of the former Yugoslavia, along the Adriatic Sea, which from 1815 to 1919 was a province of Austria, to live and breed in the place after which they had been named. Dalmatia remains the first proven and accepted home of this breed.
Dalmatians have performed a wide range of tasks for their human companions. They have been dogs of war and sentinels on the borders of Dalmatia and Croatia. They have been draft dogs and shepherds. They are excellent ratters and hunters of vermin, and of course are well-known as firehouse mascots. They are sporting dogs used on birds, as trail hounds and retrievers, and also in packs for boar and stag hunting. Dalmatians are among the most dependable performers in circuses and on the stage due to their amazing memory. This breed's intelligence and willingness to please make it suited to almost any task that a person could ask of it.
Perhaps the most perfected talent of the Dalmatian is as a coach dog, working with and protecting horses pulling the coach. They are known for trotting in front of or behind horse-drawn carriages and old-time fire-engines. Their task was not to pull weight, but rather to be transport guards, running or walking alongside travelers to protect them and their property.
The average life expectancy of the Dalmatian dog breed is between 11 and 13 years. This is comparable to the median lifespan of most purebred dogs (10 to 13 years), and consistant with most breeds similar in size. Potential hereditary defects and disorders commonly found, but not necessarily found, in the Dalmatian are as follows:
Allergies: Overreaction by the immune system to an allergen, which is any substance capable of inducing a reaction in that particular animal
Deafness: Defined as the lack or loss, complete or partial, of the sense of hearing
The Dalmatian was originally used to guard the carriages and horses of the upper class in the 1800's. While the master was busy, it was the Dalmatian's job to ensure the stock and carriage remained safe and untouched. Later, they became military sentries and circus performers, and most famously the mascots of fire companies. They are a versatile dog, capable of watching over a house or livestock, performing in advanced obedience competitions or simply acting as a loyal family companion. They love to be with people wand will want to be included in all family activities, whether indoor our outdoor. They travel well and love to go for rides in the car. Dalmatians are friendly with people and great with children, though toddlers can often be knocked down by an eager dog. They are great pets for first time dog owners and are generally a joy to live with.
Dalmatians are rowdy by nature and never fully outgrow their tendency to jump on people. They need to be exercised often, to keep in-house energy levels from getting out of hand. Not suitable for apartments or a couch-potato lifestyle, Dalmatians like to be outdoors and enjoy going on jogs, running alongside bikes, taking hikes or engaging in agility activities. They love to play with children and can be trusted to endure a bit of rough housing, although toddlers should always be supervised around this rowdy dog. Small children can accidentally get hurt playing with a rowdy Dalmatian.
Dalmatians are highly trainable dogs, and training should always involve positive reinforcement and lots of treats. Harsh treatment will result in fearfulness, as this breed tends to start out on the shy side. Once basic obedience is mastered, Dalmatians should graduate to advanced training, tricks, or agility. They are highly intelligent and thrive on mastering new tasks. Natural show dogs, Dalmatians take well to competition, often excelling in obstacle courses.
The popularity of Dalmatians exploded with the Disney franchise 101 Dalmatians. Families flocked to the breed, which unfortunately led to a lot of indiscriminate breeding practices. This led to unstable bloodlines. It is important to know a Dalmatian's genetic history before adopting one. While well-bred Dalmatians are a dream to live with, poorly bred dogs can be rife with behavioral and temperament problems including hyperactivity, biting, stubbornness and even aggression.
Even a well bred Dalmatian has energy to spare. If not properly exercised and mentally stimulated throughout the day, this breed can become destructive. Additionally, because they love people so much, separation anxiety can develop, which also leads to destructive behavior. A commitment to proper exercise is key to raising a happy, healthy Dalmatian.
The Dalmatian is a distinctively spotted dog; poised and alert; strong, muscular and active; free of shyness; intelligent in expression; symmetrical in outline; and without exaggeration or coarseness. The Dalmatian is capable of great endurance, combined with fair amount of speed. Deviations from the described ideal should be penalized in direct proportion to the degree of the deviation.
Size, Proportion, Substance
Desirable height at the withers is between 19 and 23 inches. Undersize or oversize is a fault. Any dog or bitch over 24 inches at the withers is disqualified. The overall length of the body from the forechest to the buttocks is approximately equal to the height at the withers. The Dalmatian has good substance and is strong and sturdy in bone, but never coarse.
The head is in balance with the overall dog. It is of fair length and is free of loose skin. The Dalmatian's expression is alert and intelligent, indicating a stable and outgoing temperament. The eyes are set moderately well apart, are medium sized and somewhat rounded in appearance, and are set well into the skull. Eye color is brown or blue, or any combination thereof; the darker the better and usually darker in black-spotted than in liver-spotted dogs. Abnormal position of the eyelids or eyelashes (ectropion, entropion, trichiasis) is a major fault. Incomplete pigmentation of the eye rims is a major fault. The ears are of moderate size, proportionately wide at the base and gradually tapering to a rounded tip. They are set rather high, and are carried close to the head, and are thin and fine in texture. When the Dalmatian is alert, the top of the ear is level with the top of the skull and the tip of the ear reaches to the bottom line of the cheek. The top of the skull is flat with a slight vertical furrow and is approximately as wide as it is long. The stop is moderately well defined. The cheeks blend smoothly into a powerful muzzle, the top of which is level and parallel to the top of the skull. The muzzle and the top of the skull are about equal in length. The nose is completely pigmented on the leather, black in black-spotted dogs and brown in liver-spotted dogs. Incomplete nose pigmentation is a major fault. The lips are clean and close fitting. The teeth meet in a scissors bite. Overshot or undershot bites are disqualifications.
Neck, Topline, Body
The neck is nicely arched, fairly long, free from throatiness, and blends smoothly into the shoulders. The topline is smooth. The chest is deep, capacious and of moderate width, having good spring of rib without being barrel shaped. The brisket reaches to the elbow. The underline of the rib cage curves gradually into a moderate tuck-up. The back is level and strong. The loin is short, muscular and slightly arched. The flanks narrow through the loin. The croup is nearly level with the back. The tail is a natural extension of the topline. It is not inserted too low down. It is strong at the insertion and tapers to the tip, which reaches to the hock. It is never docked. The tail is carried with a slight upward curve but should never curl over the back. Ring tails and low-set tails are faults.
The shoulders are smoothly muscled and well laid back. The upper arm is approximately equal in length to the shoulder blade and joins it at an angle sufficient to insure that the foot falls under the shoulder. The elbows are close to the body. The legs are straight, strong and sturdy in bone. There is a slight angle at the pastern denoting flexibility.
The hindquarters are powerful, having smooth, yet well defined muscles. The stifle is well bent. The hocks are well let down. When the Dalmatian is standing, the hind legs, viewed from the rear, are parallel to each other from the point of the hock to the heel of the pad. Cowhocks are a major fault.
Feet are very important. Both front and rear feet are round and compact with thick, elastic pads and well arched toes. Flat feet are a major fault. Toenails are black and/or white in black- spotted dogs and brown and/or white in liver- spotted dogs. Dewclaws may be removed.
The coat is short, dense, fine and close fitting. It is neither woolly nor silky. It is sleek, glossy and healthy in appearance.
Color and Markings
Color and markings and their overall appearance are very important points to be evaluated. The ground color is pure white. In black-spotted dogs the spots are dense black. In liver-spotted dogs the spots are liver brown. Any color markings other than black or liver are disqualified. Spots are round and well-defined, the more distinct the better. They vary from the size of a dime to the size of a half-dollar. They are pleasingly and evenly distributed. The less the spots intermingle the better. Spots are usually smaller on the head, legs and tail than on the body. Ears are preferably spotted. Tri-color(which occurs rarely in this breed) is a disqualification. It consists of tan markings found on the head, neck, chest, leg or tail of a black- or liver-spotted dog. Bronzing of black spots, and fading and/or darkening of liver spots due to environmental conditions or normal processes of coat change are not tri-coloration. Patches are a disqualification. A patch is a solid mass of black or liver hair containing no white hair. It is appreciably larger than a normal sized spot. Patches are a dense, brilliant color with sharply defined, smooth edges. Patches are present at birth. Large color masses formed by intermingled or overlapping spots are not patches. Such masses should indicate individual spots by uneven edges and/or white hairs scattered throughout the mass.
In keeping with the Dalmatian's historical use as a coach dog, gait and endurance are of great importance. Movement is steady and effortless. Balanced angulation fore and aft combined with powerful muscles and good condition produce smooth, efficient action. There is a powerful drive from the rear coordinated with extended reach in the front. The topline remains level. Elbows, hocks and feet turn neither in nor out. As the speed of the trot increases, there is a tendency to single track.
Temperament is stable and outgoing, yet dignified. Shyness is a major fault.
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Sources: American Kennel Club