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Dalmatians: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Dalmatian temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Dalmatian dog breed

A good Dalmatian is a dependable, dignified gentleman, yet high-spirited and playful. A good Dalmatian, I said.

Unfortunately there are a good number of poorly-bred Dalmatians around, mostly produced when unknowledgable pet owners watch the 101 Dalmatians movie and think it might be fun to make spotted puppies and sell them for big bucks. These poorly-bred pups often end up with serious temperament flaws.

In addition, even a good Dalmatian needs plenty of exercise and companionship. Too much confinement (especially without the companionship of his family) and too little mental stimulation lead to boredom, hyperactivity, and destructive behaviors.

This athletic, vigorous dog has great endurance and a working heritage and should be taken jogging, hiking, or biking on a regular basis, or otherwise allowed to romp in a safe, enclosed area.

Challenging canine activities such as advanced obedience and agility (obstacle course) are also highly recommended.

Some Dalmatians greet strangers with enthusiastic jumping, while others are politely reserved. Some have mild protective instincts. Unfortunately, skittishness and/or aggression are seen in some lines, and plenty of socialization is required to promote a stable temperament.

Usually good with other family pets, the Dalmatian is especially fond of horses.

This breed is an independent thinker, but in the right hands is capable of learning and doing anything. Owners who don't understand the necessity of leadership or training will find him an impossible handful.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is medium to large and built like a sleek athlete
  • Has a short easy-to-brush coat
  • Thrives on vigorous exercise and interactive family activities
  • Is usually polite with everyone

A Dalmatian may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • Vigorous exercise requirements
  • Rowdiness and exuberant jumping, especially when young or not exercised enough
  • Destructiveness and barking when left alone too much
  • Aggression or fearfulness in some lines, or when not socialized enough
  • Stubborness, requiring a confident owner who can take charge
  • Constant shedding -- 365 days a year!
  • Serious health issues

A Dalmatian may not be right for you.

  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Dalmatians have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament  is less predictable than the inheritance of physical  traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

Books by Michele Welton

dog icon"Respect Training for Puppies"  (or "Respect Training for Adult Dogs" ) is a step by step guide to help you bring out the best in your pup so you can enjoy a calm and well-behaved dog, no matter what his age. Get your book today.

dog icon"11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy"  is a comprehensive guide to keeping your dog mentally, physically, and emotionally happy and healthy so you can enjoy a longer lifetime of companionship. A healthy dog is a happy dog, so buy your copy today.

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More traits and characteristics of the Dalmatian

If I was considering a Dalmatian, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Potential unstable temperaments. The movie "101 Dalmatians" set this breed up as a fad breed, which means unknowledgeable people tried to cash in on the breed's popularity by breeding every Dalmatian they could get their hands on. This resulted in a high number of Dalmatians with neurotic or hyperactive temperaments. Things are better now, but you still need to be careful of your sources!
  2. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Dalmatians are energetic dogs who need much more exercise than a few walks. They need regular opportunities to run and vent their energy and do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored, which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing. Bored Dalmatians can make a shambles of your house and yard.
  3. Bounciness. Young Dalmatians (up to about two years old) romp and jump with great vigor, and things can go flying, including small children and infirm people.
  4. Constant heavy shedding. Dalmatians shed only once a year – for 365 days. In other words, they shed constantly and their coarse white hairs cling tenaciously to your clothing and furnishings. One reason Dalmatians are turned over to rescue groups is their shedding.
  5. Stubbornness. Dalmatians have an independent mind of their own and are not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and some are willful, obstinate, and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. Read more about Dalmatian Training.
  6. Serious health problems. Dalmatians have an unusual urinary system that is genetically prone to forming urinary stones. Stones are especially dangerous in males because a stone can easily "block" a male's narrow urinary tract. This can be life-threatening. Thus, male Dalmatians require lifelong monitoring of their diet and urination habits.

    In addition, one-third of all Dalmatians cannot hear, or can hear in only one ear. Read more about Dalmatian Health.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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