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Is A Dalmatian Right For You?

Puppy buyers frequently acquire a Dalmatian puppy, or any breed for that matter, without doing enough research. The release of the live version of "101 Dalmatians" created a demand for Dalmatian puppies. This resulted in unscrupulous commercial breeders and irresponsible backyard breeders producing poor quality dogs with the idea of making a fast buck. These people will sell to anyone who has the purchase price in hand. Unfortunately, not all the people who buy a puppy are really suited to Dalmatian ownership so many of these puppies will be abandoned to shelters or relinquished to already overburdened rescue organizations within the next year. Before you make a mistake that may cost you hundreds of dollars and may cost an innocent puppy its life, please read the following carefully.

It is easy to see why people want a Dalmatian. They are among the most beautiful of dogs. The striking outline, the colorful decoration, the aristocratic bearing, and the effortless movement are enough to make one's heart beat faster. There is probably nothing cuter than a Dalmatian puppy. Unfortunately, it is this great appeal that has caused a problem with homeless Dalmatians.

Historically, the Dalmatian's purpose was to accompany carriages. The dogs traveled under the axle, between the lead horses, or alongside and cleared the road of stray animals. They also served as guard dogs. To be able to fulfill this purpose the Dalmatian had to be capable of covering great distances and also had to be protective. Therefore, genetically, the Dalmatian is predisposed to be very active and somewhat territorial. It is extremely important for prospective owners to understand the activity level. A well-bred dalmatian is highly active and requires opportunity for exercise. A fenced yard and an owner willing to throw a ball are usually all that is needed.

It is easy to see why people fall in love with Dalmatians!

Irresponsibly bred Dalmatians are frequently hyperactive. Even frequent exercise may not settle them. Since the Dalmatian essentially came from working temperament, they should be confident, alert the family to strangers, and, if need be, protect their family. To ensure that the dog does not become aggressive, it is necessary to provide ample opportunity for socialization. The dog must meet a variety of people and other dogs as a puppy so it can learn to distinguish friend from foe as an adult. Puppies that are not given ample socialization may become aggressive or fear-aggressive, that is they snap or bite because they are afraid of people.

Dalmatians are very intelligent yet they have a reputation for not being very bright. In fact, they are often too smart for their own good. They are just like small children who enjoy playing one family member against another when they sense inconsistency. They have a tendency to be independent thinkers with a touch of class clown. This can be a hard combination to deal with for inexperienced owners.

Novice owners should definitely plan to attend both puppy kindergarten and a basic obedience class. Be sure the class will be taught using motivational methods such as praise, treats, toys, etc. Dalmatians do not do well with jerk and pull training. Talk to the instructor before the class. Be sure he/she does not have any pre-conceived notions about the breed. In most places, there are no licensing requirements to become a trainer so check out the instructor's credentials. Instructors who are associated with the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors or with an AKC all-breed or obedience club may be a good choice. Even a very well trained Dalmatian may occasionally surprise an owner by coming up with some unusual behavior. It is just their way of being sure they are never taken for granted.

Dalmatians are house dogs. They are very social and need to be part of the family. Dalmatians who are confined to a yard or kennel away from family activities frequently become barkers or diggers. This is not to say a Dalmatian cannot be left alone during the day while the owners are at work. It is just that when the rest of the family is spending time together at home, the Dalmatian wants to be apart of it. The short coat renders them unsuitable to live outdoors in cold climates. If you work during the day you will have to have some arrangement such as a doggy door to let the Dalmatian in and out. Most Dal owners provide their dogs with a sweater or coat if they will be outside for more than 10 or 15 minutes in colder climates. Dalmatians are fairly large dogs. An adult male will be around 23" tall and weigh close to 60 lbs. A female will be slightly smaller.When you combine the size with the activity level you have some interesting possibilities. Imagine a 60 lb. dog running across the yard at full speed and then leaping up to greet you. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that you are going to be hit with a noticeable force.

Dalmatians make good pets for older, well-behaved children.

Dalmatians are not usually a good choice as a companion for small children. A Dalmatian puppy grows quickly and is incredibly active. Their size and activity level may be intimidating for toddlers. One good wag of a tail (and a Dalmatian tail is the closest thing to a perpetual motion machine yet) can send a young child flying. It may be amusing the first time but it does not take long for the child to become fearful of the rapidly developing puppy. Dalmatians make excellent pets for older, well-behaved children.

Dalmatians shed. This bears repeating. Dalmatians shed. Owners are fond of saying that Dalmatians shed twice a year, six months in the spring and six months in the fall. The hair has barbed ends and sticks to everything. Daily brushing keeps shedding to a minimum but there is no way to stop it altogether. If anyone ever finds a way to create an energy source from Dalmatian hair, the multiple Dal household will be rich beyond their imagination. Many people with allergies find they are allergic to Dalmatians. Fastidious housekeepers or those fond of wearing black and navy unadorned by short white hairs may find the breed unsuitable.

Dalmatians have a uric acid anomaly that can lead to the formation of urate stones. This occurs more frequently in males than in females. For this reason it is necessary to feed a low purine diet. Foods such as organ meats, game meats etc. are highest in purines.Beef, poultry, and lamb are high in purines. Cheese, eggs, and most vegetables are low in purines. Most Dal owners feed non-beef based foods or vegetarian foods. Purines form crystals in the urine. The crystals can clump together and form hard, smooth stones that can block the urethra. An obstruction is not only painful but can be life-threatening. Care in selecting food, access to water, frequent "potty breaks", and monitoring the ph of the urine can prevent obstruction. A Dalmatian should never be fed a generic or department store brand dog food. A Dalmatian who is a stone former can usually be managed on a special diet and medication. Stone formers should never be bred.

Dalmatians can be born deaf. Other Dalmatians may have normal hearing in only one ear (unilateral hearing). The majority of Dalmatians have normal hearing in both ears (bilateral hearing). George Strain, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience at Louisiana State university has collected data on over 4000 Dalmatians. Incidence rates are 7.9% affected with total deafness and 21.8% affected with unilateral deafness. Responsible breeders use a method known as Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response Testing (BAER) to check the hearing of puppies at 6 - 7 weeks. This test is usually not available from your regular veterinarian as it requires special training and highly specialized, expensive equipment. It is usually done at a veterinary teaching hospital or a veterinary neurology specialty clinic.Reputable breeders also test the sire and dam. The lowest risk for producing deaf puppies occurs when both parents are bilateral hearing Unilateral deafness in even one parent doubles the likelihood of producing deaf offspring.

Dalmatians have a relatively low incidence of hip and elbow dysplasia but it is wise to select a puppy from OFA certified parents. Hip dysplasia is a mal-formation of the hip socket that can be painful. Severely affected individuals may have to be euthanized.

Eye problems are all but non-existent in Dalmatians but responsible breeders have their dogs eyes checked by a veterinary ophthalmologist and register the results with CERF.

Dalmatians may be "smilers." When a Dal smiles, he curls his lip and bares his teeth. It looks very much like a snarl but it is usually a sign of affection. A Dal may also smile to show submission or when he thinks he may be in trouble. Their theory being no one could be angry at a smiling dog. (It usually works!) However, for the uninitiated a "smile" can be a bit unnerving.

There is no right breed for every person. Each breed has its own good and bad points. Naturally there are both pros and cons to owning a Dalmatian.

Now that you have some of the facts you can decide if you really want a Dalmatian. If you think you are candidate for Dalmatian ownership, read on to find out how you can locate a reputable breeder. If you do not have the time to raise a puppy, consider a rescued Dalmatian.

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