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  • Temperament: Dignified, Smart, Outgoing
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 62 of 194
  • Height: 19-24 inches
  • Weight: 45-70 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 11-13 years
  • Group: Non-Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Dalmatian standing in three-quarter view facing forward
Dalmatian head facing left
Dalmatian sitting in three-quarter view
Dalmatian coat detail
Dalmatian puppies

Find a Puppy: Dalmatian

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

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.

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, 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 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.

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.

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.

COAT

The coat is short, dense, fine and close fitting. It is neither woolly nor silky. It is sleek, glossy and healthy in appearance.

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.

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dalmatian illustration

About the Dalmatian

The Dalmatian’s delightful, eye-catching spots of black or liver adorn one of the most distinctive coats in the animal kingdom. Beneath the spots is a graceful, elegantly proportioned trotting dog standing between 19 and 23 inches at the shoulder. Dals are muscular, built to go the distance; the powerful hindquarters provide the drive behind the smooth, effortless gait.

The Dal was originally bred to guard horses and coaches, and some of the old protective instinct remains. Reserved and dignified, Dals can be aloof with strangers and are dependable watchdogs. With their preferred humans, Dals are bright, loyal, and loving house dogs. They are strong, active athletes with great stamina—a wonderful partner for runners and hikers.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Dalmatian puppies

Find a Puppy: Dalmatian

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Dalmatian Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

A high-quality dog food appropriate for the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will have all the nutrients the Dalmatian needs. To avoid tipping the scales, watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.

GROOMING

The Dalmatian’s coat is a thing of beauty with its colored spots on a sparkling white background, and it doesn’t take much work to keep it in good condition. Occasional baths and weekly brushing with a horsehair mitt or rubber curry comb to pull away dead hairs will keep the Dal looking his best. His nails should be trimmed at least monthly. Because his ears flop down, they should be checked regularly—your breeder and your veterinarian can suggest a good routine and cleaning materials, and will show you how to care for them.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Frequent

EXERCISE

All Dalmatians need regular exercise to stay fit and happy. This exercise can consist of chasing a ball tossed across the backyard, running alongside a biking or jogging owner, or taking a nice, long hike through the woods. Since a puppy’s bones and joints aren’t at their mature strength until two years of age, be wary of strenuously exercising the dog before then. Dalmatians can be very high-energy dogs and can easily get into mischief if they don’t have enough opportunity for physical and mental exercise.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Energetic

TRAINING

It is very important that you expose your puppy to as many new and unusual but pleasant situations as possible as part of his training. If he understands that new places and people are nothing to be afraid of, it will not only make his life happier but will make life with him much easier for you. He should be taught to behave from the very beginning, but Dalmatians can be very sensitive, so positive, reward-based training is a must. Early socialization and puppy training classes will help to ensure that your Dal grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Agreeable

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Alert/Responsive

HEALTH

If your Dalmatian came from a reputable breeder, you will have a record of genetic health testing done on the parents. Deafness is present in the breed, and responsible breeders will have had the parents tested and will have entire litters tested to be certain that all can hear. A unilaterally hearing dog (deaf in one ear) can usually lead a fairly normal life; a bilaterally (both sides) deaf dog often cannot and will require special considerations. Kidney stones are also present in Dals. Your breeder or vet can tell you what you should feed to avoid the problem. Usually quite healthy, Dalmatians aren’t picky eaters and don’t require a lot of supplements to keep them looking fit.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • BAER Testing

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

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Dalmatian
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History

Many AKC breeds have obscure and disputed origins, none more so than the Dalmatian. Researchers have used ancient artifacts and writings to support theories placing the Dal’s birth in the British Isles, Europe, North Africa, and Asia. There is no doubt, however, that by the early 1800s the breed was closely associated with a swath of Central Europe along the Adriatic Sea, the region once known as Dalmatia.

Dalmatians have a job description unique among AKC breeds: coach dog. Their traditional occupation was to trot beside horse-drawn coaches, and to guard the horses and rig when otherwise unattended. Dals were alongside the caravans of the Romani people, commonly known as gypsies, during their ceaseless wanderings around Europe. This association with the peripatetic Romani helps explain why Dal origins are so difficult to pin down—as with the gypsies themselves, the world was their home.

British nobles, too, employed Dals as handsome accents to their livery. The English had a close affinity with the breed and gave it such nicknames as the English Coach Dog, Spotted Dick, and the Plum Pudding Dog (the Dal’s spots resembling the candied fruit and nuts that fleck Britain’s traditional holiday dessert). Back in the 1800s, when horses pulled fire engines, Dals began their long association with firefighters. These days, Dals accompany the famous Budweiser Clydesdales on parade.

Dals entered the AKC Stud Book in 1888. The Dalmatian Club of America holds road trials to test their dogs’ “coach dog” ability.

Did You Know?

Dalmatian puppies are born without spots.
The Dalmatian has frequently been found in bands of Romanies, and like its gypsy masters, it has been well-known but not located definitely in any one place.
The Dalmatian is also known as the English Coach Dog, the Carriage Dog, the Plum Pudding Dog, and the Spotted Dick.
Dalmatians are famous for being the "fire house dog", and they are often featured in older ads and spots riding on fire engines.
Authoritative writers place the Dalmatian’s first positive entry in Dalmatia, a region in the west of the former country of Yugoslavia, now Croatia, in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Dalmatian has served in many areas, including border sentinel in Dalmatia and Croatia, draft dog and shepherd, sporting dog, pack dog, performer, and above all, coach dog.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

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.

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, 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 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.

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.

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.

COAT

The coat is short, dense, fine and close fitting. It is neither woolly nor silky. It is sleek, glossy and healthy in appearance.

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.

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dalmatian illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
White & Black Check Mark For Standard Color 202
White & Liver Brown Check Mark For Standard Color 280
White & Lemon 211
White & Orange 213
White Black & Tan 219
White, Liver & Tan 443

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