The Dalmatian Standard

AKC Standard

The Dalmatian Club Of America Illustrated Standard

Dalmatian FAQ*

1. Why are they known as “Firehouse Dogs”

The Dalmatian breed is very old, with somewhat obscure origins, but Dals have always had a strong affinity with horses. When fire departments began, their fire wagons were horse-drawn. Dalmatians cleared the path for the horses to travel. At the fire, where there is always a lot of commotion and confusion, the Dalmatians would be there to help calm the horses and to be their mascots. Although horses are no longer seen in the modern firehouse, the Dalmatian may still be there.

2. Are Dalmatians a good breed for a family with children?

Dalmatians are a wonderful breed for a family with children. They are medium-sized, sturdy enough to tolerate children's horseplay, yet not so big as to be over powering. As with any dog, small children need to be educated about their pets likes and dislikes, and the dog should be trained to have proper behavior, especially around small children. It is important to purchase your puppy from a reputable breeder who has socialized the puppies with children, teenagers, and adults.

3. Are Dalmatians easy to train?

Dalmatians are intelligent and strongly desire to please their owners. With positive reinforcement techniques and consistently setting limits for appropriate behavior, the Dalmatian quickly learns to be an excellent canine citizen. Training classes are highly recommended for any dog, helping the owner learn how to train their new dog.

4. Do Dalmatians tend to be “hyper”?

Properly bred and raised Dalmatians are usually not “hyper.” Dalmatians do have high energy levels, as they have historically been bred to trot all day with the horse and carriage. Dalmatians should have daily physical exercise to help maintain their health and happiness.

5. How many spots should a Dalmatian have?

No two Dalmatians are spotted identically, thus adding to their uniqueness. For a show Dalmatian the number of spots is not as important as their evenness of distribution. The AKC standard describes the ideal Dalmatian, preferring spots ranging in size from a dime to a half dollar, pleasingly and evenly distributed. An exceptionally heavily marked or sparsely marked Dalmatian may be less preferred in the show ring, but that in no way diminishes their value as a loving family companion.

6. Are liver Dalmatians rare? More valuable? More expensive?

Liver-spotted Dalmatians are less common than black spotted Dalmatians, as recessive genes cause the liver color. Liver Dalmatians are not more valuable nor more expensive, but they frequently attract lots of attention.

7. What health problems do Dalmatians have?

A well-bred Dalmatian is a generally healthy dog requiring little special care. Dalmatians do have a unique uric acid metabolism, with high levels of uric acid excretion in their urine, which can make kidney and bladder stone formation a possibility. By paying attention to the dog's diet and providing plentiful water, the knowledgeable owner can usually prevent serious problems. In the rare severe cases of stones, established medical treatments are available.

8. What about deafness in Dalmatians?

A small percentage of Dalmatians born are born deaf in both ears. These dogs should never become a health problem for anyone, as the responsible breeder should have them euthanized before they are old enough to leave the litter. Dalmatians who are deaf in only one ear make perfectly good pets, but are generally inappropriate for breeding. The hearing status of any Dalmatian puppy should be documented by BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) testing, which is highly reliable and usually done in the puppy's second month of life.

9. How can I tell if a breeder is responsible?

The chances are, a responsible breeder will be a member of the Dalmatian Club of America, abiding by their code of ethics, and also be a member of a local Dalmatian Club or an all-breed dog club. The responsible breeder will supply detailed education and guidance about the breed, but will furthermore likely ask the prospective buyers many questions about the puppy's prospective home and family environment. The responsible breeder will have a written sales contract with a health guarantee, a four or five generation pedigree, and the shot and worming records of the pup. Of course, the litter should be AKC registered, and companion animals will usually have a limited registration or spay/neuter contract. Responsible breeders are very careful where they place their pups and keep in contact with the buyers for many years.

10. How can I find a responsible breeder near me?

The Dalmatian Club of America has a national breeder referral service that can be found on our web site at or telephone 708/687-5447.  The American Kennel Club also has a breeder referral program at their web site

11. Why do responsible breeders require spay/neuter?

Responsible breeders require spaying or neutering of companion animals because they do not want to see the indiscriminate or uninformed breeding of Dalmatians, which could lead to a degradation of the breed's quality and reputation. Only the top quality show specimens should be considered for breeding, and the rest of the litter should be spayed or neutered. Spayed or neutered dogs make wonderful pets, and the owner never has to worry about a female coming in season or the male becoming an unintentional father.

12. What testing and evaluations should be done on puppies?

All reputable breeders will have done hearing testing of the puppies and both parents. The parents and ancestors also frequently have had general canine screening tests, such as OFA, CHIC, CERF, thyroid, etc. The breeder will have assessed the puppies' temperaments to best match each one to its future environment.

13. Should I expect or demand a written contract?

Yes, a written contract is expected of a responsible breeder. This includes the A bill of sale,” the health guarantee, a statement about AKC papers, and any spay/neuter requirements.

14. Should I buy a dog from a pet shop?

No reputable breeder will sell puppies through a pet shop. Pet shops tend to get their dogs from puppy mills, which are large commercial breeding establishments which cannot possibly give the personal care to properly raise and socialize a litter and provide long-term guidance to every owner. Pet shop puppies should certainly be avoided.

15. Should Dalmatians be kept on a special diet?

Because of the Dalmatians high uric acid excretion, they should not have an excessive amount of protein in their diet. Commercial dog foods are usually well tolerated, but extra proteins, such as meat and table scraps, should be avoided.

16. Are older Dalmatians good to acquire?

Older Dalmatians can make wonderful pets. There may be a period of adjustment to a new home, but they quickly bond with their new owners and learn their new routines and environment. Acquiring an older Dal has the advantage of avoiding the sometimes-challenging puppy stages of chewing and housebreaking.

17. What is “Rescue” and is that a good way to get a Dalmatian?

Some Dalmatians who are no longer wanted by their owners become “Rescue” Dalmatians. Dedicated volunteers try to find a better home environment for the abandoned dog. While not every “Rescue” dog is appropriate for every environment, and some dogs with severe health or temperament problems would not be suitable for any placement, “Rescue” provides a wonderful opportunity to acquire a loving Dalmatian who needs a better home.

18. How can I find out more about Dalmatians?

There are many books on Dalmatians, the foremost being “The Official Book of the Dalmatian” by the Dalmatian Club of America. The web site of the Dalmatian Club of America, is full of valuable information about the Dalmatian and the Club. Go to a dog show in your area and meet the Dalmatian fanciers and breeders there. Feel free to ask questions and get to meet some of the Dals in person. The web site of the American Kennel Club also has a wide variety of canine information.

*FAQ provided by the Dalmatian Club Of America


Flaming Pointer

Breed Health Information & Other Canine Health Information*

Dalmatians, like many other breeds, can be prone to certain health issues. Be sure to purchase your Dalmatian from a reputable breeder who has done all the proper heatlh testing required for that breed.

Breeders that truly care about the future of the breed and the quality of puppies that they produce will try to ensure that each breeding is an attempt to "better the breed" as a whole. This includes ensuring their dogs are genectically good specimens, healthy, have excellent temperaments, and represent the AKC breed standard to the best of their knowledge prior to breeding.

Listed below are some of the health-related terms you should be familiar with.
Note: Even if your dog does come down with one of these health problems,

    A responsible Dalmatian breeder will have all dogs/puppies BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) tested (hearing tested). There is a link between deafness and the pigmentation genes (piebald or merle genes) responsible for white in the coats in several breeds. Dalmatians are one of the breeds that can be genetically prone to deafness.
Bladder Stones
    Dalmatians can be prone to urinary or bladder stones. Diets low in purines (not low protein) can help prevent and control this condition. Make sure your Dalmatian gets plenty of fresh water daily and has several opportunities to potty during the day.

    Many breeders will have their dogs CERF tested to ensure that the eyes are free of genetic defects. A recently discovered issue in Dalmatians called iris sphincter dysplasia (ISD) involves the pupil of the eye. The current standard CERF test will not discover this irregularity. The eye should be examined before it is dilated to ensure that the pupil enlarges and contracts properly in darkness and in direct sunlight. Dogs with this irregularity will most likely squint when out in full sunlight and their eye color may appear darker due to the enlarged pupil.

OFA or PennHIP
    Responsible, reputable breeders will have their breeding quality dogs assessed by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or PennHIP to ensure that their dogs are free from hip displaysia. Elbows may also be assessed.

    Dalmatians can be prone to allergies and allergy related skin conditions.

    Epilepsy is a problem in many breeds. Dalmatians as well as many breeds, have recently begun showing up with more Epileptic seizures. It is a very traumatic & heartbreaking experience for any family to have to go through. Ensure that the breeder guarantees the health of your new family member.

    Breeders may test the thyroid level on their dogs.

    *JLS Dalmatians



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.

*Dalmatian Club of America


You Can't Change Their Spots, But You Can Change The Color!

There are many color variations in the Dalmatian breed. The only two recognized colors are the Black and the Liver, but there are others that do pop up.

The probability of blacks and livers occurring in a litter can be determined by a common system that was developed by Gregor Mendel that was first tested with the use of peas. In doing so, he was able to make a Punnett Square to predict which traits are most likely to occur in a breeding.


Alleles are parts of a parents genes that are passed on to their offspring to determine in this case the color of the spots. Each parent passes on two alleles but which alleles passed on is determined by probability.

Figure 1 shows an example of such a probability chart. B is the dominant gene for black, and b is the recessive gene for liver. Two dogs are bred; one parent is black with no liver factoring, and the other parent is liver in color. Alleles are carried on from both of the parents, and using the Punnett Square we are left with the outcome. Four of the four puppies born are Bb meaning 100% of the litter will be black and liver factored.

For a liver to occur, both of the alleles must be bb(homozygous) or two recessive genes of the liver. Since the B(black) is dominant, the outcome of a BB to a bb will always result in an all black spotted litter.

A dog with the genes BB/bb can be called Homozygous and a Bb is considered Heterozygous because both allels are not the same.

The above example can also be used to reduce the chance of undesirable traits showing up such as blue eyes, patches, bad bites, feet, etc..

Unfortunately, there is always a risk to probability, and in Dalmatians we can get colors other than black or liver.

None of the following color should be considered rare or 'special' in any way, shape or form!

Brindle- a Dalmatian that has brindle spotting all over

Brindle Tri- A Dalmatian that is predominately black or liver spotted but exhibits brindle points on the legs, muzzle, above the eyebrow, down the throat, etc.

Tri- A Dalmatian that is predominately black or liver but exhibits a fawn-rust color on certain points such as the throat, muzzle, chest, feet etc..

Lemon and Orange- NOT to be confused with liver! Lemons tend to be a custard color to a rich gold and oranges tend to be an even darker gold to rust color. Whether the dog has black pigmentation or liver pigmentation determines if it s a lemon or an orange.

Blue- Most blues look grey but they are all in fact considered blue. Blue Dalmatians are spotted all over with this color.

White- A Dalmatian with no spots.


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