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Choosing a Dalmatian: Where to Look for a Dalmatian and What to Look for
from the Dalmatian Club of America


If you have decided to purchase a Dalmatian puppy, we advise you to look at as many litters of puppies as possible in order to observe the differences in both appearance and temperament found in the breed. Show-potential puppies cost more than pet quality puppies. A show puppy will be your pet too, but pet quality will not be suitable for showing or breeding. Different breeders have different opinions as to what they judge to be a pet versus a show pup, and even the most promising pup at eight weeks of age may not evolve into the adult that the breeder predicted. Therefore, if you think you may be interested in showing or breeding Dalmatians, carefully study the Dalmatian Standard to understand the technical points, faults and disqualifications specified for the show ring. Go to several dog shows to see Dalmatians in competition and talk to the breeders and owners at the shows who have the dogs which appeal to you.

The American Kennel Club offers breeders the option of placing their puppies on either full or limited registration. Full registration allows the dog to compete in all AKC events, and permits any purebred puppies produced by the dog to be registered. Limited registration allows the dog to compete in any AKC event except conformation classes, and precludes registration of any puppies produced by the dog. Limited registration is another tool, along with spay/neuter contracts, through which breeders protect the breed by preventing the breeding of pet quality dogs. The AKC permits the breeder to lift the limitation on the registration one time during the life of the dog. The owner cannot have it lifted. If you acquire a pet-quality puppy on a limited registration and you think you would like to have a litter, you must take the dog back to the breeder to have it evaluated, and discuss with the breeder the possibility of having the limited registration lifted.

Temperament in the Dalmatian varies widely throughout the breed. The type of temperament your particular Dalmatian exhibits is a result of both his genetic background and his subsequent environment and handling. When looking at a litter of Dalmatian puppies for prospective purchase, it is advisable to observe them in a group if possible. Watch how they play with each other and, if they have been removed from their normal play area, how they go about exploring the area they are in. The pup who tends to be a "bully" may be tougher to handle as an adult than you want. Conversely, the pup who avoids joining in play, who startles easily, or who shrinks away from being handled may be too timid to make a good pet. The best temperament is shown by the middle-of-the-road pup who shows natural curiosity, can hold its own in a crowd without being aggressive or withdrawn, and who doesn't struggle and claw when it is picked up.

While the Dalmatian is a highly adaptable dog, the new owner should carefully consider the kind of environment the dog will experience in his or her home and the kinds of reactions to that environment expected from the dog in a given situation. If you have an aged parent in your home or very small children, you will want a quiet, calm, tolerant dog. If you live alone and want a pet who will double as an alarm dog or who has a shot at the next World Frisbee Championship, you will want a more alert, keen Dalmatian. Meet the breeder's adult dogs and see how they behave. Breeders tend to reproduce the kind of temperament they like, and much can be predicted about your new puppy's temperament by seeing the adults the breeder has on hand. Of course, training has a lot to do with how your dog acts around people, but the basic temperament and attitude of the dog will be little modified by formal training, if at all. A careful analysis of your particular wants and needs will guide you in choosing the Dalmatian which will suit you best and which will be, with proper care, your perfect companion.

In view of the foregoing, it should be fairly obvious that you are not likely to find a well-bred pup of good temperament in a pet store. Most pet store pups come from "puppy mills" which are huge breeding kennels where the females are bred nearly every season and the puppies are sold in bulk to the pet shops. These animals are not bred carefully for temperament and correct type as are a private breeder's; they are bred strictly for profit. The pups receive minimal veterinary care, no real socialization, and are often shipped to the pet shops in packing crates of 8 or 10 puppies per crate. These pups are then divvied up among the regional pet shops and are subsequently housed as you see them in the stores: in metal cages where, among other things, they learn to urinate and defecate right where they eat and sleep. This habit can make them extremely difficult, if not impossible, to housebreak once they go to their new homes. These puppies, being of dubious pedigree to begin with, do not receive affectionate human contact in their early weeks of life. Handled like inert merchandise, they often have physiological and psychological problems which time cannot cure.

Also beware of the so-called "backyard breeder" who has bred a pet bitch for frivolous reasons, such as "I wanted to get my money back out of her" or "I wanted the kids to witness the miracle of birth". Such people do not take the time to learn about the breed and plan a breeding that results in improvement. Their bitch is likely not of breeding quality, and their choice of the sire of the litter is probably based on convenience ("The dog down" the road") rather than his suitability for their bitch. They generally do not have the experience or facilities to raise a well-socialized, healthy litter. They often do not know about deafness or other health problems and may not have wormed or vaccinated the puppies properly. The best way to find out if the person is a backyard breeder is to simply ask whether they exhibit their dogs in AKC shows (conformation or obedience classes) and how long they have been in the breed. If the answers are "Oh, no, we don't show her, she's just our pet" and/or "What do you mean, how long have we been in the breed?", you are talking to a backyard breeder. All in all, you are best advised to buy your puppy from a reputable and experienced private breeder. You will have a well-adjusted, properly vetted pup of indisputable pedigree; a pet you can be proud of.

Once you have chosen your puppy, paid for it and received the papers from the breeder, the rest of its education is up to you. Training in the elementary niceties can begin right away, but remember that you have a baby in the house and his or her attention span is short. Housebreaking is the first order of business and you can help tremendously by taking your pup outside immediately after he eats and after he wakes up from a nap. As soon as he relieves himself outside, lavish praise on him. It is smart not to let him go off to play afterwards because then he will forget that the reason he went outside in the first place was to eliminate. Instead, bring him back in and play with him inside. Take him to play outside a bit later, as a separate event from going out to eliminate. Most puppies catch on very quickly and you will be able to tell, if you keep an eye on him, that he needs to go out. Many puppies circle on the floor in an ever-decreasing radius; it is your job to anticipate and take the pup outside. As he catches on to the idea, he will go to the door when he needs "out". Remember, lots of praise when he performs outside, even if he also sprinkled the rug before you got to him. Praise for doing the right thing will put your Dalmatian on track faster than punishment for doing the wrong thing.

We recommend that you purchase a crate for your Dalmatian. This is a welded wire or molded plastic house for your dog in which he can stay, in the house, during those times you are not around to supervise. All dogs have a "denning instinct" and your dog's crate will become, in his mind, his own "den" or "cave". He should never be punished when in his crate; it is his little home. Crating will help immeasurably with housebreaking since a normally clear dog is loathe to soil his bed and will "hold it" while he is crated. (This is where pet shop dogs become difficult because they are used to messing in their own beds). The crate is also handy when you have company and want the dog confined. It is a comfortable and safe place for your dog to ride when traveling in the car. When you must leave the house for an hour or two, your dog is where he is secure and cannot cause damage to the house or himself. Be sure to buy a crate which will accommodate your Dalmatian comfortably when he is full-grown.

Do not eliminate the idea of obtaining an adult Dalmatian rather than a puppy. Some breeders have adult Dalmatians available for placement in suitable homes at any given time and the Dalmatian "rescue" associations always have dogs in need of loving people. Most Dalmatians adjust readily to a new household and are completely settled in within two to four weeks. Adult dogs have the advantage of being housebroken already and being past the chewing stage. Depending on the individual dog, an adult may also be already crate-trained, trained not to bark, not to lie on the furniture, not to jump up on people, and may even have had formal obedience training. If you acquire a puppy, you have to do all this yourself. Adult Dalmatians usually do very well in situations where the owner is at work all day or with elderly people who want a companion but feel they cannot "keep up" with a puppy effectively. The Dalmatian Club of America or your local Dalmatian club, the Mid-Florida Dalmatian Club, can put you in touch with the nearest Dalmatian rescue league, or breeders who occasionally place adults. Rescued dogs should be thoroughly examined by a veterinarian and also evaluated for temperament by experienced breeders before being placed.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

This publication has been reposted from and with thanks to the Dalmatian Club of America: http://www.thedca.org/redbook.html#QA

This publication has been approved by the Board of Governors of the Dalmatian Club of America, October 16, 1994. 3rd Edition. Copyright 1994. 

The Dalmatian Club of America acknowledges and commends Linda Hazen Lewin, Chairman, Mary Johnson, Elaine Lindhorst and Judie Rivard, who have written this publication for the Dalmatian Club of America, in order to enlighten the reader on behalf of our beloved breed.