OVERVIEW OF THE DALMATIAN
Dalmatians are athletic, intelligent and sometimes a little goofy. They were bred to be coach dogs, running alongside horseback riders and carriages to guard the horses against stray dogs and coaches while at rest stops. Their athleticism and intelligence were later used by firemen who let the dogs clear paths for their horse-drawn fire engines through town.
Known for their gorgeous spotted coats, dalmatians are great family dogs and require loads of activity. If they’re left to get bored without interaction with other dogs or their pet parents, they may act out with mischievous or destructive behavior to keep themselves entertained.
Adult dalmatians reach between 19 and 24 inches in height and can weigh anything from 48 to 70 pounds with males generally being larger than females. It’s important for these pets to be part of the family and to know what’s going on. If you love running and being outdoors, a dalmatian can be the perfect companion for you. There are, however, a few things you should know to make sure you can give them all the care they need.
DALMATIAN FOOD AND HEALTH
Dalmatians have some special dietary needs that are essential to keeping them healthy, pain-free and to keep your vet bills down. They are also prone to suffer from certain hereditary diseases. When buying a puppy, opt for a good breeder that can show you health clearances for the puppy’s parents, proving that they have been tested and cleared of certain conditions. Certified clearances you should look for in dalmatians include hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, von Willebrand’s disease and eye health from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF).
Hereditary deafness runs through all dalmatian bloodlines with around 8 percent of pups born completely deaf and 22 to 24 percent born with hearing in one ear. Puppies are born with their ears closed which open by 12 to 16 days old. Once again, buying from a reputable breeder should ensure that parents were tested and that the pups are tested for deafness before being sent to their new home.
Dalmatians have a very unique urinary tract system which is largely why their diet has to be carefully monitored. Their urine contains uric acid which can easily cause urolithiasis or urinary tract stones. The condition is very painful and if it becomes serious it will be fatal. It is essential that your dog has plenty of water available at all times and follows a diet low in protein, purines and fat.
Your dalmatian needs a maintenance level of protein to keep him healthy, with a restricted level of around 18 percent in a prevention diet. Products high in purine that need to be avoided include beef, sardines, pork, chocolate and yeast. Low pH foods that should also be limited include eggs, shellfish, maize, gluten and wheat.
The amount of food your adult dalmatian requires will hover around 2 cups daily, divided into two meals (stick to set feeding times). This should be adjusted to their activity level. There are many healthy options in dry, canned, home-cooked and raw varieties. Opt for vegetables such as sweet potato or potatoes, poultry, white fish and even certain fruits. Ensure your pet is urinating normally and ask your vet at regular intervals to check your dog’s urine for urate crystals.
Feeding your pup two smaller meals will assist in preventing bloat, which can cause quite serious illness with pain and vomiting. Besides avoiding the ingestion of large amounts of food and water, also avoid high-fat foods to combat this.
If you notice any skin allergies it can be due to your pup’s diet, although it may not be the only cause. Wheat, gluten, and dairy products can often cause allergies, so best to avoid these as far as possible.
LEASHES AND COLLARS FOR YOUR DALMATIAN
A dalmatian is a perfect companion for an active family or individual who loves long runs, cycling or skating. He may even fetch your running shorts for you as a hint to get off the couch. Your pet pal won’t do well if left in the backyard for all his activity needs, so make sure you’ve got the right leash to let him join you outside. If you don’t keep a leash on your furry companion, don’t be surprised if he makes an adventurous dash.
It is best to train your pup from a young age with positive methods and lots of rewards for good behavior. Since they can be headstrong, leaving training too late can make it harder to rectify bad behavior later. Training should be firm and consistent but never harsh as dalmatians are said to remember mistreatment.
Dalmatians are strong dogs so you’ll need an effective means to keep him at bay if needed, however, not something that will hurt him when tugging. Constant pulling on a collar around your puppy’s neck, regardless of his age, can cause serious damage. Opt for a harness with a lead around 10 to 16 feet long.
Adult dogs may do better in a strap harness that fastens with clips and does not require them to step into the harness to get it on. It is also adjustable so you may be able to use it from before they are fully grown to the adult stage.
BEST CRATES, BEDS, AND DOG HOUSES FOR DALMATIANS
Dalmatians are people-loving dogs and that means they want to be around you and your family as much as possible, including at bedtime. If you have a few dogs around, you may find your dalmatian needs some quiet time to relax, in which case he may just want to escape into a spacious dog house, but it is much more likely that he’ll choose somewhere quiet in your bedroom to take a nap.
If you do want to set up a crate for bedtime, make sure it is large and that there is plenty of space for your dal to stretch out on a comfortable and supportive pad. Most people, however, opt for a large dog bed that will support the pup’s body and can easily be moved around. The best types of dog beds for dalmatians are orthopedic beds, especially for older dogs. Get one that is slightly raised off the ground if your dog has any ailments as it makes it easier to get on the bed than a low, flat pillow. The frames of raised beds are also sturdy and will last a long time if you have a pup that loves chewing things. Since dalmatians shed a lot, getting something with a machine washable and removable cover is also a smart option.
BEST TOYS FOR DALMATIANS
Dalmatians have a great need for both mental and physical stimulation. That means there’s a range of toys that they will love to play with, chew, fetch and tug at.
Chew toys are a must for a dalmatian of any age, but let’s start with your puppy’s teething. Since dalmatians are big ‘chewers’ throughout most of their life, it’s important to teach them appropriate biting and chewing behavior from the very start to prevent things from getting out of hand later. Teething toys are not only a great way to do this but also help to relieve aching, itching and painful gums. As your pup grows you can switch to chew toys that are slightly bigger and stronger, so they don’t fall apart during the first chew session. Chew toys may include rubber toy designs, rawhide and chew bones.
When it comes to tug toys and fetch toys, both are a winner. Always choose durable, thick materials as your energetic pal will have no problem chewing through sticks and other flimsy items. Thick ropes for tugging and balls for fetch are good options.
For mental stimulation, puzzle toys with varying difficulty levels can keep them busy on their own. Trying to release a tennis ball or treats from an enclosed dispenser or holder will have your dog’s mind ticking with determination.
GROOMING INSIGHTS FOR DALMATIAN OWNERS
Dalmatians have fur coats that are conveniently dirt-repellent and non-oily, but there is one downside — they shed a lot. This means they need plenty of brushing to get the shedding hair off the dog before it gets onto your clothing and furniture. Puppies are born white and develop their spots as they grow. Getting them comfortable with grooming and making it a pleasant experience from a young age will make things a little easier when they’re older.
With his dirt-repelling coat, your pup only needs a bath around four times a year. If you wash your pup too frequently the natural protective oils from his coat and skin will be affected causing dryness and flakiness. Use a medium-soft brush to brush your pup weekly, and while you’re at it, make it a full grooming session to check his nails, ears, eyes, and skin.
Check for any irregularities, rashes, infections or redness. Your puppy’s eyes should be clear with no redness and ears should also be checked for redness or odor which indicates infection. Ask your vet for the best advice to keep your puppy’s ears healthy. In addition, nails need to be trimmed once or twice a month if your pet doesn’t wear them down naturally. Dog toenails have blood vessels in them which can make them difficult to cut without causing an injury. Ask your vet for tips, or better yet, get a professional groomer to do it for you.
You also want to make sure your dog’s dental health stays on point by brushing his teeth two to three times per week at a minimum. This is vital to remove bacteria and tartar build-up, prevent gum disease and eliminate bad breath.
BEST DALMATIAN ACCESSORIES
It’s easy to get carried away with stocking up on amazing accessories for your pet pal. Although not all of them are a necessity, there are a few we highly recommend you have on hand.
For grooming, make sure you have an appropriate brush to remove loose hair and dust. The best type for dalmatians’ short hair is a curry brush that has molded rubber teeth. This stimulates the production of natural oils while brushing to promote coat health.
Considering the importance of hydration for dalmatians to prevent bladder stones, we highly recommend that you invest in a collapsible water bowl for when you’re out running, hiking, or walking. A water bottle that comes with a foldable drinking bowl attached allows both of you to stay hydrated without taking up much extra space in a backpack or running belt.
You may even want to swap out your running belt for a multi-functional dog treat pouch, where you’ll be able to carry the water bottle, training treats, toys, and waste bags around your waist. Some dog-treat pouches also have a clip to attach your dog’s leash so you can hike together hands-free.
If you’re planning a long hike, you may want to get your pet pal his own dog backpack. The packs are contoured for a comfortable fit and designed so that your furry hiking buddy can move his legs naturally without any interference. You can also clip on a leash to guide him and make sure you stick together. The packs are generally designed from waterproof materials or quick-drying and durable fabric with zipper pouches. If you’re hiking in dim light, get something with reflective tape to keep you visible.
Most larger dogs can handle cold weather well, however, a dalmatian has a single coat of short hair which makes them slightly more susceptible to feeling the cold in snowy conditions. If you’re going out for walks, runs or playing in rainy, windy, snowy, and cold conditions, consider getting a dog jersey for your dal. It is also important to keep his paws safe from extreme temperatures both hot and cold. Running on hot pavement in summer, or treading around in snow and ice can both cause damage, dryness, cracking, and painful paw pads. You may want to get your pup a pair of booties or paw wax to keep his paws safe and healthy in drastic weather conditions.
To learn more about medium to large breeds like dalmatians, check out our breed hub page.