When you hear the word "Dalmatian," you might think of the classic Disney film 101 Dalmatians. Starring Glenn Close, this film brought Dalmatians to the forefront of American consciousness. Nowadays, they're relatively popular dogs, although not as popular as, say, the German Shepherd or the Labrador Retriever. Part of what makes these pups so fascinating and problematic simultaneously is the notorious Dalmatian temperament.
If you're thinking of getting a Dalmatian, here's what you need to know about how your future canine friend will think and act!
Dalmatian Temperament: Depends on Who You Are
Dalmatians tend to have two personalities, as do most dogs. With strangers, these dogs tend to be aloof and suspicious. This personality trait makes them excellent watchdogs. However, with their family members, these dogs can be loving, kind, and exceptionally loyal.
It's essential to know these dogs' history to understand why they have these two personality sides.
Like most dogs, Dalmatians weren't always house pets. You couldn't go down to a Dalmatian rescue, take one home, and make it a member of your family. For the most part, historians aren't quite sure of the exact origin of the Dalmatian. Researchers believe that early Dalmatians migrated with bands of Roman gypsies, which may explain their mysterious origins. However, we know that the Dalmatian, though versatile, has made its mark on history as a coaching dog.
Although the breed's roots can be a little hazy, their athleticism, instincts, and affinity with horses are evident to everyone who deals with them. Despite its ability to adapt to other tasks, the Dalmatian became the favored carriage dog in England in the 17th century. Fashionable nobles and merchants did not travel without it.
Through many years, decades, and centuries of being a coach dog, the Dalmatian developed a very protective but often tricky temperament. These are loving dogs, but they require the right owner. As one local director of an animal society put it, "[Dalmatians are] wired, full of nervous energy, slow to learn, stubborn, have hearing problems, aren't real good around children and nervous and suspicious of strangers." That quote, though, doesn't quite tell the whole story.
Is It Easy To Train a Dalmatian?
Given this dog breed's history as a coach guardian and some temperament issues, you might be thinking that this breed would be hard to train. That's not true. For the most part, these dogs are easy to train.
You must train this dog correctly, though, because of its natural reserved tendencies. If you get one from a Dalmatian rescue, and it doesn't have the right training, you would need to gradually work with your pup to make sure they are well-behaved dogs. And you'll have to prepare yourself for some missteps along the way.
Without the right socialization, the Dalmatian temperament of being naturally aloof will make them scared of new situations. They'll be afraid of new people and new things. That will make their life, and yours, difficult.
To counter this, when your dog is young, you should start taking him or hear to pleasant but unfamiliar situations. Perhaps a new park or a restaurant where you buy your dog a treat. With enough time, your Dalmatian will learn that the world is not such a scary place after all!
In part due to the Dalmatian's unwavering loyalty to its family, these dogs are notoriously sensitive. When training your dog, please be positive and use a reward-based training method. If you yell or get mad, your dog may want to sulk or hide - neither of which is good for its long-term mental health!
How Can I Improve My Dalmatian Temperament?
If you have a Dalmatian with a bad attitude, you should know that not all hope is lost. It is possible to have you and your Dalmatian co-exist peacefully.
For starters, Dalmatians require plenty of exercises. If you're not getting your pup out for walks and playing with them regularly, there's a good chance that they are sitting at home bored. Unfortunately, boredom leads to behavioral issues. If you have problems with your Dalmatian temperament, the first thing you could try to do is give them more exercise.
You'll also need to make it clear that you're the "alpha dog" or the leader of the pack. Like most dogs, Dalmatians have a strong pack sense and need to look up to a leader. Since you probably don't have many Dalmatians in your home, you'll need to establish yourself as the leader. If you can do that successfully and resist manipulation, you'll have a much easier time training them and corralling any menacing behavior.
Finally, the genes that give Dalmatians that lovely white fur coat is also partly responsible for deafness. If you had a loving Dalmatian that's now becoming problematic, you might wish to take them to the vet. There's a chance that their hearing may be going, and your canine friend is not intentionally trying to drive you mad.
Dalmatian Temperament: These Dogs Are Not for Everyone
While those classic Dalmatian spots might make them look adorable, Dalmatians are not for everyone. You will have your work cut out for you to turn one of these dogs into a loving, happy family member. You can do it - there are plenty of amazing Dalmatians out there - but you may need to rely on the guidance of a vet or bring in a professional trainer if things get too out of hand.