You may have heard that Dalmatians are “hyper”, and that they don’t make good family pets. The truth is that each Dalmatian is as unique as the spots on its coat. Some have a lot of energy. These dogs need plenty of exercise, both mental and physical, to keep them out of trouble. Other Dals are couch potatoes who will be happy to lounge around the house. Some want to be the only dog (or pet) in the house, while others would rather be with other dogs than with people. Some Dals bond with one person, while others love everyone. They are individuals, with unique needs. Some of these qualities are innate, while others are learned responses.

The best way to find a Dalmatian with a personality that will fit in your household is to work with a rescue group. Rescue groups are very concerned about finding permanent homes for the dogs in their care. These dogs have typically been living in foster homes, so their personalities and energy levels won’t come as a surprise. If you’ve always wanted a Dalmatian, but have been scared off by stories of dogs that were badly behaved, please consider adopting a rescue Dalmatian. Chances are, there is a compatible dog waiting for a home.

If you are looking for a Dalmatian, please visit our adoption page. If you have a Dalmatian, and you need advice about how to deal with some of his or her health issues or personality quirks, contact us. We are committed to helping people and Dalmatians live happily together.

The five keys to happiness in living with a Dalmatian are:

  1. Exercise – Dalmatians are endurance athletes. They can travel as far as a team of horses, and just as fast. While each Dalmatian has a different exercise tolerance, it is a good rule of thumb that a young, healthy dog will need at least an hour of exercise per day. Running is the ideal exercise for a Dalmatian, whether it is as your jogging partner, or perhaps following on a leash as you ride a bike. Other good forms of exercise include chasing a ball, agility training, flyball or playing at the local dog park. If running isn’t an option, long walks at a brisk pace are good for both of you. Even senior dogs require regular exercise. Because their endurance isn’t as great, they will do better with several shorter walks, than a single long one.
    Dalmatians need mental exercise, as well as physical exercise. They were working dogs for many generations, and they are excellent problem solvers. Sometimes they solve problems you don’t want solved, like how to open the refrigerator, cupboard, or even the front door. Give your Dalmatian activities to occupy his or her mind, such as a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, or a toy that dispenses treats.
  2. Socialize – Dalmatians are very social creatures. While some Dals may have concerns about interacting with other dogs, nearly every Dalmatian craves interaction with people. This does not mean that all Dalmatians want to be approached by strangers. It just means that they are curious about the world, and want to be out in it with you, instead of waiting for you to come home. Introduce your Dalmatian to new people and situations, but pay attention to signs of stress. (See communication)
  3. Nutrition – Avoid health problems by feeding your Dalmatian a diet that is high in carbohydrates, with 20-24% protein from a source that is low in purines. If your Dalmatian is allergy prone, try a limited ingredient diet, such as fish and sweet potato. Supplement your Dals diet with fruits and vegetables, but avoid giving dogs grapes, raisins, onions, avocados or tomatoes, as they are toxic. Also avoid spinach and peas, as they are high in purines. When giving fruits, make sure the seeds or pits have been removed, as these can also be toxic.
    Feeding fruits and vegetables to dogs
  4. Training – Dalmatians are curious and intelligent. This can be a blessing or a curse. To make it a blessing, be sure to take your Dalmatian to obedience training. Positive training methods using treats are more effective than training methods that emphasize punishment, because they are more fun for both of you. This doesn’t mean that you should let your Dalmatian do whatever it wants. Setting limits and enforcing them consistently are the key to teaching your Dalmatian to be a respectful member of your household. For more information about positive dog training, visit Positively.com
    Because Dalmatians love challenges, rewards and attention, we recommend that you also teach your dog something you will both enjoy, such as tricks to perform for your friends and family; a sport you can enjoy together, such as Frisbee, fetch, flyball or agility; or if your Dalmatian has the right temperament, you might train him/her to be a therapy dog. To learn more about therapy dogs, visit The Delta Society web site
  5. Communication – The key to any successful relationship is good communication. This makes communicating with dogs challenging because we don’t speak the same language, and our body language is also different. We expect dogs to understand our spoken commands, but we also need to learn enough of their language to understand what they are trying to tell us. There are several excellent books on canine communication. One of my favorites is Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know, by Alexandra Horowitz. Patricia B. McConnell, PHD has written a couple of excellent books on understanding dog behavior, The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs and For the Love of a Dog: Understanding Emotion in You and Your Best Friend. We highly recommend these books as a starting point in learning to communicate with your Dalmatian.

One thing to be aware of when adopting a Dalmatian is urinary health. Dalmatians are susceptible to urinary stones. This is be a very painful and potentially fatal condition. Bladder stones can be prevented by providing lots of fresh drinking water, plenty of opportunities to urinate, sufficient exercise and a healthy diet that is low in purines. For more information on urinary stone prevention, visit the following links:

Urine Concentration Is Key Indicator of Bladder Stones
The Healthy Dalmatian Diet: Preventing Urinary Stones and Allergies
Thoughts on Feeding Your Dalmatian

For more information about dog behavior, communication or training, visit our Amazon.com book store.

For more information about caring for Dalmatians, visit the following links:

Dalmatian Rescue of Colorado
Dalmatian Club of America

If you are interested in joining the Puget Sound Dalmatian club, or purchasing a puppy from a member, please visit http://www.pugetsounddalmatianclub.com/

Dalmatian napping with a feline friend