They’ve been around for over 130 years, but Dalmatians only officially entered our hearts and imaginations in that timeless Disney feature, 101 Dalmatians.
They’re cute, intelligent, funny, and they always outsmart the bad guys, Cruella and her henchmen.
Despite their lovable character and adorable spotty smiles, they’re pretty rare, though.
Why is that?
Is there something in their character or genetics that makes them unsuited to normal family life?
Perhaps they’re not quite what the movies make them out to be.
If you’re seeing spots and wondering whether it’s time to add a Dalmatian to your family life, read on to figure out if they’re the best fit for you.
How popular are Dalmatians?
Dalmatians were first registered with the AKC in 1888.
Each year, the AKC publishes a list of their most popular breeds, based on the number of puppies registered with them in that year.
In 2014, the AKC first published this annual list, and Dalmatians ranked 66 out of 200 listed dog breeds.
Over the next four years, they climbed steadily, reaching 56 out of 200 in 2018. After this, they weren’t included in the list at all.
According to the UK Kennel Club‘s registrations for utility breeds, Dalmatians ranked 8 out of 30 registered breeds in 2020.
Why might Dalmatians not make great family pets?
Dalmatians are incredibly energetic, and they need tons of exercise to burn off this excess energy. If these needs aren’t met, they’re prone to mischief.
Can you blame them?
It’s like a toddler that’s bouncing off the walls from boredom on a rainy day.
And they get bored quickly because they’re brilliant.
Their smarts, size, and high energy levels make them excellent at completely destroying a home or yard in a remarkably short time.
While Dalmatians are intelligent, they aren’t fast learners.
Maybe they get distracted too easily?
So, while training is essential for these pups, you’ll need lots of patience to get through it, and it will probably take longer than with other dog breeds.
Then, there’s the alpha male syndrome.
These pups love being in control and will do anything to get their way.
They’ll wilfully do naughty things and manipulate you, just to see if they can. So you must constantly show them that you’re the boss.
Otherwise, you’re in for a hard time.
These pups are incredibly social and don’t do well when left alone.
They either act out, getting super destructive, or they mope and act all depressed.
So, if you’re away during the day, this is probably not the best breed for your home.
They want to be part of the family fun and won’t do well if you chain them up in the backyard while you’re having fun.
It’s reported that these strong dogs can break their leash and scale a 6-foot wall just so they can get to the family that’s having fun without them.
Due to their boundless energy and needy nature, Dalmatians are often too bouncy and busy for small children.
In all their frolicking, the Spotty probably didn’t even see the kid standing there before knocking him clean off his feet.
If they’re not well socialized, Dalmatians are often either aggressive or incredibly timid with other dogs. That’s not great for a trip to the dog park.
Just like your paranoid aunt, they’re also prone to being high-strung.
If you get a Dalmatian, you’ll have to lock all your food away, even fruit and vegetables. They take everything they can reach, and they can reach rather high.
Kids also can’t eat safely around them since these pups will snatch it away without so much as blinking.
It’s just how they do things.
Then, there are the health concerns.
Dalmatians are prone to deafness, which develops as they get older.
That’s not great, and it usually can’t be reversed.
So, now you have a high-strung, playful fireball in your house that can’t hear when you call him. Not a pretty picture.
Some Dalmatian pups are even born deaf – we don’t know why.
So, if you’re purchasing a pup from a breeder, make sure it’s a reputable one who gets their pups tested.
Also, have the breeder demonstrate that your pup isn’t deaf, just to be sure.
Dalmatians are also prone to bladder stones, which are incredibly painful and require veterinary intervention.
Then, there’s glaucoma, a painful eye condition that could leave your pup blind if not treated in time.
As with many other dog breeds, older Dalmatians often develop cataracts, which could also lead to blindness.
Dalmatians are also prone to a form of allergy called atopy.
Here, they have an allergic reaction to pollen, dust, or mold that causes their skin to itch. While this is treatable, the poor pup will suffer quite a bit.
To alleviate the itching, they scratch and bite at their skin, damaging it in the process. This could lead to further infection and pain, which is horrible for the poor dog.
If you live in an apartment, this probably isn’t the right dog for you unless you have enough time and energy for really long daily walks or runs.
These pups do best in places where they can run and romp all day long, with tons of human companionship.
What qualities do they have to make them great family pets?
Don’t let all the negative stuff in the previous section put you off these spotty pups, though.
Dalmatians are sensitive, loyal dogs that will lay down their lives for their people.
They’re great with older kids – you know, when the kids are bigger than the dog, he doesn’t knock them over as easily. Dalmatians are also excellent watchdogs, being super alert and protective.
Dalmatians show their submissiveness by smiling.
It looks weird, though, since they lift their upper lip, similar to snarling when they do this.
Once you get to know them, it’s adorable. For new people, this may be startling, even alarming, since a huge dog showing their teeth is usually a bad thing.
Can I adopt a Dalmatian?
Sadly, there are lots of Dalmatians in rescue centers.
You see, people watch the movies and see the cutesy little Dalmatians outsmarting Cruella.
They think, hey, I want one of those!
While these pups are brilliant, they don’t act like the ones in the movies.
People don’t realize that these huge dogs need lots of love, companionship, exercise, and training.
They feel overwhelmed by these needy dogs and ship them off to the rescue shelter.
Dalmatians are one of the 10 dog breeds most often abandoned because their needs are so high.
So, yes, you can adopt a Dalmatian. They need you.
Dalmatians are intelligent, loyal, and totally rambunctious.
These lovable pups are amazing dogs, but they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.
They’re needy and attention-seeking, so you need to spend a lot of time with them.
They also have boundless energy that must be used daily.
Otherwise, they get bored and get up to mischief.
Then there’s the genetics that makes them prone to deafness, eye diseases, and allergies.
That aside, these pups make excellent guard dogs and loyal family pets if you’re willing to spend the insane amount of time and energy needed to keep them happy and occupied.
So, if you’re contemplating adding some spots to your family, think carefully before taking the plunge.
They’re a hand full, but totally worth it.