written by and adapted from The Dalmatian Club of America
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. 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. Again, common sense should prevail regarding your own particular circumstances.
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 eye 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.
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 by a trained technician. 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. ((**NOTE: Paradise Spots Dalmatians does NOT believe in euthanizing puppies just because they are deaf...deaf puppies, if we have one, are only placed in homes that have adequate experience/knowledge of training deaf dogs))
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. 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. ((***NOTE: See LUA vs. HUA for more information on how the problem of high uric acid is being bred out of the Dalmatian breed))
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.
More Health Information:
Training, Housebreaking and Socialization
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 clean dog is loathe to soil his bed and will "hold it" while he is crated. 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.
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. 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.