The Carriage Dog, the Dalmatian

Ever since the movie about the 101 Dalmatians, this spectacular spotted dog has grown in popularity. The Dalmatian’s history however goes beyond that of the movie. He is also known as a “carriage dog” or a “firehouse dog”. Before the “horseless carriage”, horses were used to pull the fire wagons and the dog became a common sight around the Fire Stations in the United States. The dog was used as a protector of the carriage, trained to run beneath the wheels and protect the horses by keeping other farm dogs at bay. The Dalmatian is an all around guard dog and protector and has also been used as a hunter.

The Dalmatian is an easy care breed, a simple wipe down of the coat will keep him clean. His white coat with many spots is spectacular in appearance. The puppies are born all white and gradually as they get older the spots begin to appear. The coat has short stiff hairs which shed year round so a brisk rub down with a towel several times a week will help to loosens the hairs and prevent fall out on the furniture. The standard of the breed describes the coat very specifically: “white must show in the ears” and “there must be only black or only liver spots” not a combination of the two. In the United States blue eyes are acceptable but the European and the English standards call for black or brown eyes.

He is generally healthy, but the breed does carry an inherited deafness trait. The Dalmatian is also a breed that is known to have some skin problems associated with allergies. There is little hip dysplasia in the breed but as with all larger dogs it is necessary that he be x-rayed to rule this out.

The temperament of this dog is steady but protective. He does not do well with children unless exposed to them early on. He is intelligent and requires a job to do to be at his best, therefore obedience training is a great option if you have one of these dogs in an urban setting. Plenty of exercise is the key. Joggers are great owners for Dalmatians as they adapt very well to jogging along with their owner and protecting him from stray dogs! He is the stable dog of choice in Horse establishments.

Since the movie, the Dalmatian has become a generally popular dog, which is not always the best thing for any breed. He has been over produced by breeders who have bred these dogs for the lure of the dollar rather than the quality of the breed. This often leads lots of these puppies showing up in pet stores. People buy on impulse, having no idea that what they will actually end up with is a dog who is protective, who needs a lot of exercise and with all the usual housebreaking and training which is always necessary for a family pet. As is usual when this occurs, there are a number of Dalmatians who have ended up in shelters. Fortunately the National Club does have an active “rescue” group which can be located by visiting the pages of the A.K.C. web page.