Best known as the star of Disney's 101 Dalmatians, this sleek and athletic Dalmatian dog breed has a history that goes back several hundred years. They started out as coach dogs, but have also had many other roles, including hunter, fire dog and circus performer.
The origin of the Dalmatian is unknown. The spotted dogs are known to have travelled with the nomadic bands of Roma, also known as gypsies, and it is unclear where they may have first appeared. The Dalmatian got its name while living in Dalmatia, a province on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea, the area now known as Croatia.
Throughout their long history, Dalmatians have been used for a variety of tasks, never specialising in one area. They were used as Dalmatian guard dogs, shepherds, rat-catchers, retrievers, circus dogs, and coach dogs.
It was in England that the Dalmatian was developed as the definitive coach dog. It was used to clear a path for the horses, to walk beside the coach or under the coach between the axles. He guarded the horses and the coach when they were at rest. To this day, the Dalmatian has a natural affinity for horses.
This affinity led the Dalmatian to another career path in the United States. Here, he became a firefighter's dog, running with the horses to the fire, watching over the equipment during a fire, and sometimes even rescuing people from burning buildings. When the excitement was over, they would escort the fire engines back to the barracks and resume their duties as watchdogs. Today, most Dalmatians are companions and family members, but many fire stations across the country still have Dalmatians as mascots.
Born to run, the Dalmatian is an energetic dog with an endless capacity for exercise. He loves attention and has a strong desire to please, making him easy to train through positive encouragement, such as food rewards, praise, and games.
He is a smart dog with a sly sense of humour, and will do his best to make you laugh. The Dalmatian is alert and interested in everything going on around him and makes an excellent watchdog.
- Atopy (environmental allergy)