The Dalmatian Club of America
Proudly Presents

"The Red Book"

The Dalmatian Club Of America’s Informational brochure regarding Dalmatians


The Dalmatian


Choosing Your Dalmatian: Where to Look and What to Look For
Health Peculiarities
Training and Socialization
QUESTIONS FREQUENTLY ASKED ABOUT THE DALMATIAN 1) What is the average life span of the Dalmatian?
2) Is the Dalmatian good with children?
3) How big will my Dalmatian grow to be?
4) How much does a Dalmatian eat?
5) What equipment do I need to prepare for my new Dalmatian?
6) What kind of veterinary care does my Dalmatian require?
7) What is the difference between the black-spotted and the liver-spotted varieties?
8) Should I buy a male or a female Dalmatian?
9) At what age can I begin show or obedience training my Dalmatian?





About Dalmatians
About Training
Veterinary Assistance


The Dalmatian is a medium-sized, smooth-coated breed of working and sporting heritage, suitable as a family pet or performance animal. He is an intelligent dog, devoted to his owner(s), moderately territorial though not blatantly aggressive, and pleasant to live with. His most unique feature, his spots, are either black or chocolate brown, which is properly termed "liver". He is clean by nature and has little, If any, "doggy odor". His short coat does shed almost year-round; regular brushing with a curry comb outdoors helps to minimize shedding. 

Dalmatians are a hardy breed and their day-to-day upkeep does not involve a lot of fussing. They do best in a household situation and indeed will do poorly if left outside on a chain or are otherwise ignored. They are a people-oriented breed, and they bask in the love and attention of their owners. If your idea of owning a dog consists of leaving the dog outside all the time and patting it once a day when you feed it, do not buy a Dalmatian! Also, with their short coat, they tend to be sensitive to extremes of heat and cold. Common sense should dictate when your Dalmatian has "had enough" and should come in.

Dalmatians thrive in almost any type of residence. The Dalmatian's first concern is that he be with "his" people, whether in an apartment, a townhouse, a single-family home or on a farm, the object being that he have proper exercise and attention. Possibly the ideal situation would be a single-family home with a large fenced yard from which he cannot escape. Dalmatians are active dogs and if left to their own devices, are capable of wandering far from home. Do not assume that he can find his way back! The dog should always be under some kind of control, either on a leash or behind a fence. The off-leash or unfenced dog is always in danger of running into the road at precisely the wrong time, or in the case of a farm residence, being caught in barbed wire or hurt by farm machinery or livestock. Again, common sense should prevail regarding your own particular circumstances.

Choosing Your Dalmatian: Where to Look and What to Look For

If you have decided to purchase a Dalmatian puppy, we advise you to look at as many litters of puppies as possible in order to observe the differences in both appearance and temperament found in the breed. Show-potential puppies cost more than pet quality puppies. A show puppy will be your pet too, but pet quality will not be suitable for showing or breeding. Different breeders have different opinions as to what they judge to be a pet versus a show pup, and even the most promising pup at eight weeks of age may not evolve into the adult that the breeder predicted. Therefore, if you think you may be interested in showing or breeding Dalmatians, carefully study the Dalmatian Standard to understand the technical points, faults and disqualifications specified for the show ring. Go to several dog shows to see Dalmatians in competition and talk to the breeders and owners at the shows who have the dogs which appeal to you.

The American Kennel Club offers breeders the option of placing their puppies on either full or limited registration. Full registration allows the dog to compete in all AKC events, and permits any purebred puppies produced by the dog to be registered. Limited registration allows the dog to compete in any AKC event except conformation classes, and precludes registration of any puppies produced by the dog. Limited registration is another tool, along with spay/neuter contracts, through which breeders protect the breed by preventing the breeding of pet quality dogs. The AKC permits the breeder to lift the limitation on the registration one time during the life of the dog. The owner cannot have it lifted. If you acquire a pet-quality puppy on a limited registration and you think you would like to have a litter, you must take the dog back to the breeder to have it evaluated, and discuss with the breeder the possibility of having the limited registration lifted.

Temperament in the Dalmatian varies widely throughout the breed. The type of temperament your particular Dalmatian exhibits is a result of both his genetic background and his subsequent environment and handling. When looking at a litter of Dalmatian puppies for prospective purchase, it is advisable to observe them in a group if possible. Watch how they play with each other and, if they have been removed from their normal play area, how they go about exploring the area they are in. The pup who tends to be a "bully" may be tougher to handle as an adult than you want. Conversely, the pup who avoids joining in play, who startles easily, or who shrinks away from being handled may be too timid to make a good pet. The best temperament is shown by the middle-of-the-road pup who shows natural curiosity, can hold its own in a crowd without being aggressive or withdrawn, and who doesn't struggle and claw when it is picked up.

While the Dalmatian is a highly adaptable dog, the new owner should carefully consider the kind of environment the dog will experience in his or her home and the kinds of reactions to that environment expected from the dog in a given situation. If you have an aged parent in your home or very small children, you will want a quiet, calm, tolerant dog. If you live alone and want a pet who will double as an alarm dog or who has a shot at the next World Frisbee Championship, you will want a more alert, keen Dalmatian. Meet the breeder's adult dogs and see how they behave. Breeders tend to reproduce the kind of temperament they like, and much can be predicted about your new puppy's temperament by seeing the adults the breeder has on hand. Of course, training has a lot to do with how your dog acts around people, but the basic temperament and attitude of the dog will be little modified by formal training, if at all. A careful analysis of your particular wants and needs will guide you in choosing the Dalmatian which will suit you best and which will be, with proper care, your perfect companion.

In view of the foregoing, it should be fairly obvious that you are not likely to find a well-bred pup of good temperament in a pet store. Most pet store pups come from "puppy mills" which are huge breeding kennels where the females are bred nearly every season and the puppies are sold in bulk to the pet shops. These animals are not bred carefully for temperament and correct type as are a private breeder's; they are bred strictly for profit. The pups receive minimal veterinary care, no real socialization, and are often shipped to the pet shops in packing crates of 8 or 10 puppies per crate. These pups are then divvied up among the regional pet shops and are subsequently housed as you see them in the stores: in metal cages where, among other things, they learn to urinate and defecate right where they eat and sleep. This habit can make them extremely difficult, if not impossible, to housebreak once they go to their new homes. These puppies, being of dubious pedigree to begin with, do not receive affectionate human contact in their early weeks of life. Handled like inert merchandise, they often have physiological and psychological problems which time cannot cure.

Also beware of the so-called "backyard breeder" who has bred a pet bitch for frivolous reasons, such as "I wanted to get my money back out of her" or "I wanted the kids to witness the miracle of birth". Such people do not take the time to learn about the breed and plan a breeding that results in improvement. Their bitch is likely not of breeding quality, and their choice of the sire of the litter is probably based on convenience ("The dog down" the road") rather than his suitability for their bitch. They generally do not have the experience or facilities to raise a well-socialized, healthy litter. They often do not know about deafness or other health problems and may not have wormed or vaccinated the puppies properly. The best way to find out if the person is a backyard breeder is to simply ask whether they exhibit their dogs in AKC shows (conformation or obedience classes) and how long they have been in the breed. If the answers are "Oh, no, we don't show her, she's just our pet" and/or "What do you mean, how long have we been in the breed?", you are talking to a backyard breeder. All in all, you are best advised to buy your puppy from a reputable and experienced private breeder. You will have a well-adjusted, properly vetted pup of indisputable pedigree; a pet you can be proud of.

Once you have chosen your puppy, paid for it and received the papers from the breeder, the rest of its education is up to you. Training in the elementary niceties can begin right away, but remember that you have a baby in the house and his or her attention span is short. Housebreaking is the first order of business and you can help tremendously by taking your pup outside immediately after he eats and after he wakes up from a nap. As soon as he relieves himself outside, lavish praise on him. It is smart not to let him go off to play afterwards because then he will forget that the reason he went outside in the first place was to eliminate. Instead, bring him back in and play with him inside. Take him to play outside a bit later, as a separate event from going out to eliminate. Most puppies catch on very quickly and you will be able to tell, if you keep an eye on him, that he needs to go out. Many puppies circle on the floor in an ever-decreasing radius; it is your job to anticipate and take the pup outside. As he catches on to the idea, he will go to the door when he needs "out". Remember, lots of praise when he performs outside, even if he also sprinkled the rug before you got to him. Praise for doing the right thing will put your Dalmatian on track faster than punishment for doing the wrong thing.

We recommend that you purchase a crate for your Dalmatian. This is a welded wire or molded plastic house for your dog in which he can stay, in the house, during those times you are not around to supervise. All dogs have a "denning instinct" and your dog's crate will become, in his mind, his own "den" or "cave". He should never be punished when in his crate; it is his little home. Crating will help immeasurably with housebreaking since a normally clear dog is loathe to soil his bed and will "hold it" while he is crated. (This is where pet shop dogs become difficult because they are used to messing in their own beds). The crate is also handy when you have company and want the dog confined. It is a comfortable and safe place for your dog to ride when traveling in the car. When you must leave the house for an hour or two, your dog is where he is secure and cannot cause damage to the house or himself. Be sure to buy a crate which will accommodate your Dalmatian comfortably when he is full-grown.

Do not eliminate the idea of obtaining an adult Dalmatian rather than a puppy. Some breeders have adult Dalmatians available for placement in suitable homes at any given time and the Dalmatian "rescue" associations always have dogs in need of loving people. Most Dalmatians adjust readily to a new household and are completely settled in within two to four weeks. Adult dogs have the advantage of being housebroken already and being past the chewing stage. Depending on the individual dog, an adult may also be already crate-trained, trained not to bark, not to lie on the furniture, not to jump up on people, and may even have had formal obedience training. If you acquire a puppy, you have to do all this yourself. Adult Dalmatians usually do very well in situations where the owner is at work all day or with elderly people who want a companion but feel they cannot "keep up" with a puppy effectively. The Dalmatian Club of America or your local Dalmatian club can put you in touch with the nearest Dalmatian rescue league, or breeders who occasionally place adults. Rescued dogs should be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian and also evaluated for temperament by experienced breeders before being placed.

General Care

The day-to-day care of the Dalmatian is quick and easy but should be done regularly in order to keep him feeling and looking his best. The Dalmatian is basically odor-free, and bathing is usually unnecessary more than 3 or 4 times a year unless the dog becomes dirty or stained frequently, or needs a medicated bath due to fleas or ticks. Use a mild shampoo made for dogs and be sure to rinse all the soap completely out of the coat or it can dry and cause itching. If your Dalmatian has been exposed to fleas and ticks, use a shampoo made for repelling them. Start at the dog's head and work back towards the tail. Be careful to work the lather well into the coat, including legs and feet, as fleas often hide between the toes until your inundation is over with. Be sure to protect the dog's eyes and ears from the suds.

A good brushing with a moderately firm bristle brush, curry comb, or horsehair mitt every day or two will put a nice gloss on your Dalmatian's coat and help to alleviate shedding. Trim his toenails back (just the hooked tip, please!) once a week so they do not grow too long and cause him discomfort in walking. Check his ears once a week. If you see matter in them or smell a strong odor, clean the ear canal with a Q-Tip dipped in baby oil. If the odor persists or the dog is shaking his head and digging at his ears, have your vet check them for infection. Keep an eye on your Dalmatian's teeth, too, so that he doesn't suffer an inordinate build-up of tartar.

Aside from the above, you should keep a general eve on your dog to make sure he is acting bright and happy, is neither too fat nor too thin, and that he has not eaten anything detrimental to him. Puppies are especially curious and, much like human babies, everything goes in the mouth. With moderate attention and awareness on your part, your Dalmatian will be an easy dog to care for.

Health Peculiarities

As with any breed of dog, there are a few things you should be aware of when choosing a Dalmatian as regards faults of health. One is congenital deafness. This occurs in Dalmatians at the rate of about 12%, although whole litters are often born with no deaf pups. However, ethical breeders have their litters tested for hearing impairment at a professional facility by a trained technician, when such facilities are available to them. Any puppies proven deaf are euthanized. The test, called a BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) test, measures the hearing response of each ear on each puppy. The tester then provides a printout of each puppy's test, which is then given to you at the time of purchase. In this way, you know your puppy hears.

Still controversial at this time is the issue of the dog that hears in only one ear. These are referred to as unilaterally hearing, or "uni" (pronounced "yoo-nee"). Very young unilaterally hearing pups appear to have some difficulty with directional hearing (locating the source of a sound), but usually by the age of about 8 weeks the uni pup has adapted almost perfectly to this limitation, and it would be difficult for the uninformed person to "find the uni" in the litter. Most experienced breeders feel unis make perfectly suitable pets, and since it is not clear what the inheritance factor(s) of deafness may be, some breeders will keep an especially fine show-potential puppy that is a uni to show and breed. The inexperienced breeder, however, should seek advice from a knowledgeable breeder before attempting to breed a litter, particularly if the bitch or proposed sire is uni. Of course, before the BAER test became available, breeders could only tell if a dog was completely deaf; everybody had unis and had no idea of it!

The Dalmatian Club of America takes the problem of deafness very seriously and has instructed its Research Committee's sub-committee on Deafness Research to collect BAER test data in the attempt to discover the mode of deafness inheritance. The search is on for a "marker gene" (a measurable or observable characteristic present in close proximity to the deafness-causing gene(s) and inherited with it) in order to devise a simple blood test to determine whether or not a particular dog carries the gene(s) for congenital deafness. With this tool, a breeder would be able to know beyond doubt which animals in his/her breeding program are capable of producing deafness-free puppies and which animals have the potential of passing along the deafness causing gene(s).

Do not adopt a completely deaf dog even if it is given to you, as you will be letting yourself in for a lot of work and probable heartbreak: work, because the dog cannot hear you, and for all but the most experienced handlers is rendered untrainable; probable heartbreak, because if the dog ever escapes from you, he cannot hear traffic. You can conclude the ending. The deaf dog leads a sadly neurotic life, as every hand on his fur or step on the floor startles him because he cannot hear. Most deaf dogs become so fearful and timid that they must be put to sleep anyway; it is better to do so right after the BAER test proves the dog deaf, before a family is attached to the dog. Should you somehow procure a deaf Dalmatian, the breeder is obliged, by any code of ethics, to replace the puppy with a hearing one or to refund your money and take the dog back.

The other peculiarity intrinsic to the Dalmatian is the direct excretion of uric acid by the kidneys, without conversion into water-soluble urea. This is due to metabolic differences inherent in the breed and should not be confused with the renal failure and/or incontinence common to many breeds during old age. The most dramatic consequences of uric acid excretion (kidney/bladder stone formation, urethral blockage, toxemia) occur in a very small percentage of male Dalmatians and seldom in females. Females, however, can exhibit symptoms of Uric Acid Syndrome and must be treated when it occurs. It is likely that females do form stones, but pass them more easily than do the males.

The DCA Research Committee has devoted attention to this problem also, and has compiled a "Primer On Urinary Stones for Dalmatian Breeders and Fanciers", available through the Secretary of DCA. Various corrective diets and medications have been developed to combat the effects of Uric Acid Syndrome. There seems to be a link between the feeding of high levels of protein and the aggravation of stone formation. It also appears that using a wheat-, soy- or corn-based food helps to alleviate stone formation, as opposed to feeding a diet high in meat- and bone meal based protein. As with congenital deafness, stone forming occurs in proportionately few animals.

Some Dalmatians experience skin and coat problems which are usually worse during the summer months. In some cases, the redness, scratching, and loss of hair can be attributed to an obvious source such as fleas and ticks, or an allergy to the flea bites. Other Dalmatians may have allergies to grasses or dust, and some just seem to have a chronic dermatitis. These types of sensitivities tend to be hereditary, so when looking for a puppy it is wise to see the parents of the litter and to ask about possible skin reactions in the bloodline(s) of the puppy.

Aside from the above, Dalmatians do not have any appreciable problems with the kinds of things found in some other breeds, such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, von Willebrand's disease, or luxated patellas. They are not, as a rule, finicky eaters and they do not require expensive supplements to their normal diet in order to keep them fit and looking well.

Training and Socialization

Training your Dalmatian to behave as a good citizen and good neighbor is extremely important, whether you tackle the job at home or enroll in a formal obedience class. We recommend that you find a good obedience class in your area so that you can learn to handle your dog properly and so he can learn what is expected of him in society. Dogs which have no direction or guidance become a nuisance to you and everyone else. Your puppy's breeder can probably recommend a good obedience class for you and your Dalmatian, and some organizations even offer "kindergarten" classes for very young puppies. Do train your Dalmatian: you will appreciate the cooperation from your dog, and your neighbors will appreciate the cooperation from you!

Equally important to your dog's well-being and happiness is what breeders call "socialization". This means exposing your youngster to new things, new people, and new situations. The dog who pines in the boarding kennel and refuses to eat when the family goes out of town, or the dog who snarls and backs away from strangers is often the dog that is poorly socialized Take your dog with you whenever possible, especially as a young puppy. Walk him on a leash through a shopping mall and have strangers pet him. Take him to the train station or the airport and acclimate him to the noise and human traffic. Expose him to as many unusual situations as possible to assure that he doesn't cower or hang back under stressful circumstances, and that he is confident and trustful that you will not let anything hurt him. This is especially critical for a show dog because a self-confident "heads - up" kind of dog will carry the day every time over the skittish, frightened one.

If you are interested in showing your Dalmatian, you should attend a show handling class. Here you will learn not only how to pose your dog properly and how to present him in motion to the judge, but also the correct etiquette for the ring, what to wear and how to prepare your dog. Handling classes are often given by all-breed clubs or by professional handlers; your dog's breeder or your local breed club can point you toward good classes in which to enroll.

We of the Dalmatian Club of America are pleased that you have contacted us for information about our favorite breed; we hope it will soon become yours. For more information about Dalmatians, try these links:

The Dalmatian Club of America's Home Page
Regional Dalmatian Clubs
Upcoming Dalmatian Events
Help finding a Dalmatain Breeder


1) What is the average life span of the Dalmatian?

With proper care, your Dalmatian could live as long as 15 or 16 years. The average life span is between 11 and 13 years. 2) Is the Dalmatian good with children?

Normally, yes. Of course, children must be taught to treat the dog kindly and not to overtax a puppy with constant play, but the average Dalmatian is tolerant and affectionate with children. 3) How big will my Dalmatian grow to be?

Dalmatians range in size from about 19" to 24" at the shoulder, or about knee-height to an adult person. Depending on height, your Dalmatian will weigh anywhere from 45 lbs. to 70 lbs. when full-grown. 4) How much does a Dalmatian eat?

An adult Dalmatian will eat from 3 to 5 cups of dog food per day. Puppies eat smaller amounts more often because they are growing. You should feed your own dog whatever amount keeps him looking nice and lean. Do not let him become overweight as a fat Dalmatian is not healthy, but if he looks too thin, i.e., his ribs are showing or his backbone protrudes, you should increase his intake.

The quality of the food you buy is very important. Do not buy generic dog foods because they usually are of poor quality and may not be consistent in nutritional value from lot to lot. There is no one brand of food that is perfect for all Dalmatians, but the breeder or previous owner of your dog should be able to recommend a dog food which is good for the dog and is palatable to him. (The best food in the world does your dog no good if he refuses to eat it!) Stick with nutritionally-balanced name-brand foods which benefit your dog through the enormous amount of research which has gone into their development.

5) What equipment do I need to prepare for my new Dalmatian?

Your dog will need a food bowl and a water dish. Both should be heavy so he cannot tip them over or push them across the floor while eating or drinking. He will need a collar for walking and holding his license tags, preferably a flat leather or nylon one, and a leash of either leather or woven cotton.

If you have a puppy, you will need to buy a new collar as he outgrows his puppy collar. You will also need a slip collar ("choke collar") made of either a medium-weight chain or of woven nylon, for training. Do not let the dog run around with his slip collar on! He could easily become caught on something and strangle himself. Do not use a slip collar on a young puppy; wait until he is 5 or 6 months old and ready for his obedience training. Another item you will need to have is a crate, either welded wire or the molded plastic airline shipping type. Make sure it is big enough to accommodate the dog when he is full-grown so that you will not have to buy a second one later on.

For grooming, you will need a bristle brush, rubber curry comb, pumice stone, or horsehair mitt. These seem to do best for stripping the dead hair off of the Dalmatian's short coat. You will also need toenail clippers so you can keep his feet trimmed.

6) What kind of veterinary care does my Dalmatian require?

If you have purchased or wish to purchase a puppy, the breeder will have started the first series of shots for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, and parainfluenza. The puppy should have also had at least one and preferably two inoculations against parvovirus. You will need to continue the puppy series once you have taken your puppy home; the breeder should provide you with a record of what the puppy has had and your own vet can advise you as to dates for future shots. The first rabies shot is normally given when the puppy is between 4 and 6 months of age.

If you have acquired or wish to acquire an adult Dalmatian, the previous owner should tell you when its next shots are due and you and your vet can carry on from there.

Your Dalmatian, puppy or adult, should be checked periodically for worms. Young puppies often have roundworms, and the breeder should have checked the entire litter and wormed them if necessary. Your vet can advise you as to an appropriate worming schedule, but running a check once every 6 months or so is a good idea whether you think your dog has them or not. A heavy worm infestation is very debilitating and can result in severe malnutrition in young puppies. Prevention is always the best road to follow. Any time your dog looks thin and poor, you should suspect worms, have a check done and follow your vet's advice for medication.

Heartworm is prevalent throughout the United States and Canada. You are well advised to start your young Dalmatian on preventative early and continue all through mosquito season (the microfilaria are transmitted by carrier mosquitoes), or all year round, if necessary. If you have an adult dog which has not been on heartworm preventative, you must have the dog tested by your vet before start mg medication. This is a simple blood test your vet uses to detect the presence of microfilaria. If your dog tests clear, you may begin the preventative; if he does not, your dog must be treated for heartworm first. You should be aware that the treatment for heartworm involves the use of arsenic; better to start your dog on the preventative while he tests clear rather than take the chance of his contracting heartworm and being subjected to the treatment, or death from the infestation itself.

Other than these basics, common sense will dictate when a visit to your vet is called for. Obvious symptoms of illness such as diarrhea, vomiting or listlessness certainly warrant a call to your vet right away.

7) What is the difference between the black-spotted and the liver-spotted varieties?

From the standpoint of pet ownership or showing, there is no difference; it is all a matter of your own color preference. Many people who think they have their hearts set on buying a black-spotted Dalmatian fall in love with a liver one when they see it; the deep brown spots are very attractive.

For breeding purposes, the two colors are interbreedable. Black is the dominant color and liver the recessive color. This means that a black-spotted dog can carry the liver gene and produce liver puppies bred to a liver or to another "liver-factored" black dog. Two livers bred together will always produce only liver puppies. Two blacks which do not carry the liver gene will always produce only black puppies. Due to the genetic mechanics involved between dominant and recessive, litters that are mixed for color (some black-spotted pups, some liver-spotted pups) are very common.

Other unusual colors, i.e., lemon and tricolor, do occur, although rarely, and while these dogs can serve handsomely as pets, they cannot be shown or bred.

8) Should I buy a male or a female Dalmatian?

Which sex to buy is a matter of personal preference and circumstance. If you are interested in breeding, you would have to buy a female. However, if you are not interested in having a litter, you either have to put up with the inconvenience of your female coming into season every six months or the expense of having her spayed (which is usually more expensive than having a male neutered). Any female not designated by the breeder as suit able for breeding should be spayed.

Male Dalmatians lift their legs to urinate and if you have prize-winning flowers in your yard, you may not appreciate that. An un-neutered male will also become a screaming lunatic when neighborhood females are in season. However, as with females, if your male is not to be used for breeding, he should be neutered and that will solve that problem.

As far as personality differences between the sexes, the Dalmatian as a breed has all different kinds of temperament, and each dog is an individual. There are no hard and fast correlations between one sex or the other as regards affection, aggression or docility. Contrary to popular myth, many breeders find that males are more affection ate than females and females are more aloof, as well as more protective and territorial than males! Much of your dog's personality will depend upon how you raise him or her, what you expect, encourage or discourage in terms of behavior, and the kind of environment the dog experiences.

So, in many ways, it is a toss-up. You should purchase whichever sex you want, as both have advantages and disadvantages. Again, if you purchase a pet quality Dalmatian, please have it spayed or neutered. It will not make the dog fat and it will not change its personality. It will simply save you a lot of worry about the possibility of an unwanted litter, as well as the whining and carrying-on that goes with seasonal behavior.

9) At what age can I begin show or obedience training my Dalmatian?
Most breeders start with show training almost as soon as the puppy can stand up. The puppy is handled a lot and taught to stand in a show position right from the start. He is given lots of praise for holding still and sometimes given bits of food as a reward. At this early age, of course, training is kept very short and undemanding but it does teach the puppy to stand still and allow itself to be handled as it will be later on in the show ring. More rigorous training can begin in a handling class when the pup is 4 or 5 months old.

Formal obedience training normally does not begin in earnest until the youngster is 5 or 6 months old. At that age, the puppy can start learning and retaining basic lessons. Some organizations have "kindergarten" classes for very young (2-4 months old) puppies, which make use of the puppy's natural curiosity and retrieving instinct to prepare for more advanced obedience work. These classes are informal, fun, and kept short so the puppies do not become bored or frustrated. They are wonderful for socializing your puppy, too.

Any kind of training should be geared to the individual dog's ability and attention span. Bring your Dalmatian along slowly and gently and never ask him to do something of which he is incapable, or which he does not understand. Do not lose your temper! Be firm and consistent in your training methods and lavish praise on your dog when he does it right. The result will be an eager, happy dog who looks forward to his work and wants to please you.


A recent issue of the American Kennel Club Purebred Dog Gazette, reports that the Dalmatian has reached the number 9 position in registration statistics. 42,816 Dalmatians were registered in 1993, up 3,889 from 1992, a 10 percent increase that jumped the breed 6 places up the rankings from the 15th position in 1992.

Dalmatian litters rose at a faster rate than individual registrations in 1993, clear evidence the Dalmatian will continue upward in 1994 and beyond. There were 11,414 Dal litters recorded in 1993, up 1,421 (14.2 %) from 1992.

It is estimated that approximately 12 % of the breed is deaf. No Dalmatian bloodline is free from deafness. Even that dogs that hear normally can produce deaf puppies.

The question of the inheritance of the deafness gene is not an uncomplicated one to answer. Ongoing research in the area is supported by the DCA, as well as serious breeders across the country in hopes that it will help us make intelligent, informed breeding decisions in the future.

Click here for the DCA position on deafness.

From: The Complete Dog Book
Official Publication of the American Kennel Club
Golden Anniversary Edition, 1979

No breed has more interesting background or a more disputed heritage than that dog from long ago, the Dalmatian. His beginning is buried so deep in the past that researchers cannot agree as to his origin. As to the great age of the breed, and the fact that it has come through many centuries unchanged, investigators are in complete agreement.

Models, engravings, paintings, and writings of antiquity have been used with fair excused but no certainty to clam the spotted dog first appeared in Europe, Asia, and Africa Perhaps some of the divergencies in opinion as to the original home of the Dalmatian can be accounted for by the fact that the dog has frequently been found in bands of Romanies, and that like his gypsy masters, he has been well known but not located definitely in any one place Authoritative writers place him first as a positive entity in Dalmatia, a province of Austria on the Eastern shore of the coast of Venice. Though he has been accredited with dozen nationalities and has as many native names -- he is nicknamed by the English, The English Coach Dog, The Carriage Dog, the Plum Pudding Dog, the Fire House Dog and the Spotted Dick -- it is from his first proved home that he takes his correct name, the Dalmatian. We find references to him as Dalmatian in the middle eighteenth century. There is no question whatsoever that his lineage is as ancient and his record as straight as that of other breeds.

His activities have been as varied as his reputed ancestors. He has been a dog of war, a sentinel on the border of Dalmatia and Croatia. He has been employed as draft dog, as shepherd. He is excellent on rats and vermin. He is well known for his heroic performances as fire-apparatus follower and fire-house mascot. As a sporting dog he has been used as bird dog, as trail hound, as retriever, or packs for boar or stage hunting. His retentive memory has made him one of the most dependable downers in circuses and on stage. Down through the years the intelligence and willingness of the Dalmatian have found him in practically every role to which useful dogs are assigned. Most important among his talent has been his status as the original, one-and-only coaching dog.

The imaginative might say that his coaching days go back to an engraving of a spotted dog following an Egyptian Chariot! Even the practical minded will find no end of proof, centuries old, of the Dalmatian, with ears entirely cropped away and padlocked brass collar, plying his trade as natural follower and guardian of the horse-drawn vehicle.

He is physically fitted for road work. In his makeup, speed and endurance are blended to a nicety. His gait has beauty of motion and swiftness, and he has the strength, vitality, and fortitude to keep going gaily till the journey's end. The instinct for coaching is bred in him, born in him, and trained in him through the years. The Dalmatian takes to a horse as a horse takes to him, and that is to say, like a duck to water. He may work in the old way, clearing the path before the Tally Ho with dignity and determination, or following on with his ermine spotting in full view to add distinction to an equipage. He may coach under the rear axle, the front axle, or, most difficult of all, under the pole between the leaders and the wheelers. Wherever he works, it is with the love of the game in his heart and with the skill which has won him the title of the only recognized carriage dog in the world. His penchant for working is his most renowned characteristics, but it in no way approaches his capacity for friendship.

There is no dog more picturesque than this spotted fellow with his slick white coat gaily decorated with clearly defined round spots of jet black, or, in the liver variety, deep brown. He does not look like any other breed, for his markings are peculiarly his own. He is strong-bodied, clean-cut, colorful, and distinctive. His flashy spottings are the culmination of ages of careful breeding.

His aristocratic bearing does not belie him, for the Dalmatian is first of all a gentleman. He is a quiet chap, and the ideal guard dog, distinguishing nicely between barking for fun or with a purpose. His courtesy never fails with approved visitors, but his protective instinct is highly developed and he has the courage to defend. As a watchdog he is sensible and dependable. He is not everyone's dog -- no casual admirer will break his polite reserve, for he has a fine sense of distinction as to whom he belongs. Fashion has not distorted the Dalmatian. He is born pure white, develops quickly and requires no cropping, docking, stripping, or artifices of any sort. He is extremely hardy, an easy keeper, suited to any climate. He requires only the minimum of care, for he is sturdy and neat and clean.

Approved by the American Kennel Club
Effective September 6, 1989

General Appearance - The Dalmatian is 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 a fair amount of speed.

Deviations from the described ideal should be penalized in direct proportion to the degree of the deviation.

Size, Proportion and 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.

Head-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, indication 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 and 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 to 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.

Forequarters - 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.

Hindquarters - 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 - 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.

Coat - The coat is short, dense, fine and close fitting. It is neither wooly 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 changes 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 over-lapping spots are not patches. Such masses should indicate individual spots by uneven edges and/or white hairs scattered throughout the mass.

Gait - 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 feel turn neither in or out. As the speed of the trot increases, there is a tendency to single track.

Temperament - Temperament is stable and outgoing, yet dignified. Shyness is a major fault.

Disqualifications -

  • Any dog or bitch over 24 inches at the withers.
  • Overshot or undershot bite.
  • Any color markings other than black or liver.
  • Tri-color.
  • Patches.

General Appearance
Size, Proportion and Substance
Neck, Topline and Body
Color and Markings
Total 100


1. The DCA - The Official Book of The Dalmatian
The Dalmatian Club of America
T.F.H Publications, Inc., (1998)
2. The New Dalmatian
Alfred & Esmeralda Treen
Howell Book House, (1992)
3. The Dalmatian
Eleanor Frankling
Howell Book House, (1971)
4. Expert Obedience Training for Dogs
Winifred Gibson Strickland
MacMillan Company, (1972) 
5. The Complete Book of Dog Obedience
Blache Saunders
Howell Book House, (1974)
6. How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With
Rutherford & Neil
7. Understanding Your Dog
Dr. Michael Fox
Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, (1972)
8. Dog Owners Veterinary Handbook
Delbert Carlson & James Griffin
Howell Book House, (1980)
9. Family Dog
Richard A. Walters
D. P. Hutton & Co., Inc., (1963)
10. The Complete Dog Book
Official Publication of the American Kennel Club
Howell book House, (1979)
11. The Dalmatian
Anna Katherine Nicholas
T.F.H. Publications, (1986)
12. Junior Showmanship from Hand to Lead: The complete handbook for Junior Handlers
Mary A. Miller
Alpine Publications, (1994)
13. The Dalmatian: An owners guide to a Happy Healthy Pet
Patti and Rod Strand
Howell Book House, (1995)
About Dalmatians:

Dalmatian: Coach Dog, Firehouse Dog, by Alfred & Esmeralda Treen 

The Dalmatian, by Eleanor Frankling 

The Dalmatian, by Anna K. Nicholas 

About Training:

How to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With, by Rutherford & Neil 

Understanding Your Dog, by Dr. Michael Fox 

How To Be Your Dog's Best Friend, by the Monks of New Skete 

The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete

Mother Knows Best, by Carol Benjamin 

The Evans Guide for Housetraining Your Dog, by Job Michael Evans 

People Pooches Problems, by Job Michael Evans 

Good Owners, Great Dogs, by Brian Kilcommons 

Don't Shoot the Dog! The New Art of Teaching and Training, by Karen Pryor

Veterinary Assistance:

Dog Owners Veterinary Handbook, by Delbert Carlson & James Griffin


This publication has been approved by the Board of Governors of the Dalmatian Club of America, October 16, 1994. 3rd Edition. Copyright 1994. 

We acknowledge and commend Linda Hazen Lewin, Chairman, Mary Johnson, Elaine Lindhorst and Judie Rivard, who have written this publication for the Dalmatian Club of America, in order to enlighten the reader on behalf of our beloved breed.

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