Dalmatian Temperament and Personality - What are they like?
All dogs are individuals so their behaviors will differ from dog to dog just like humans. That being said there are generalised traits for each dog breed that are most likely to be present within each individual dog. The Dalmatian temperament is a very unique combination of high energy, playfulness, stubbornness, loyalty, sensitivity and intelligence. Dalmatians were used as working dogs to run alongside horse and carriage for protection. This is because of their high endurance and energy output combined with their extreme loyalty and guarding instincts. They were then later used to clear the streets for fire carriages. They are still used today in many firehouses as mascots but are very useful as guard dogs for the open firehouse environment. This history means Dalmatians have a very large ranged temperament and each individual Dal can differ greatly depending on upbringing, training, treatment etc.
Dalmatians are a very interesting breed because of their large ranging and complicated temperament. Dalmatians are known in general to be:
- High energy
- Potentially aggressive, usually in the right way
Generally Dalmatians love humans. They need strong, assertive human leaders within their family to guide them through today’s complicated society, as well as giving them the large amounts of love and attention they require.
We will expand on these below as there is a lot to say about the positive and negative traits of the Dalmatian breed.
Dalmatians are very intelligent animals. Although they are not at the very top of the intelligence list, they are excellent pets to train and love to learn. They will easily learn routines, specific words and playtime games and activities. There are a few different ways to measure intelligence in dogs, head over to this article for more detailed information on how smart Dalmatians are. Sometimes Dalmatians are described as ‘dumb’ because of the potential deafness in the breed (often unnoticed in poor breeding standards), their stubbornness and independent thinking. Without the correct treatment, training or guidance Dalmatians will think for themselves, create their own rules and can become quite destructive and partake in bad behaviours – giving them a bad reputation in some circles.
Aligned with a Dalmatians intelligence comes stubbornness. Because of their independent thinking, Dals require a strong leader or they will appoint themselves to the position. They require hard lines when it comes to rules and training, any grey areas will be taken advantage of for example: letting them on the couch occasionally, then expecting them to know the rule of “don’t get on the couch”. Being a strong leader and being stubborn yourself is more important when they are growing from puppy to adult, they will look for loopholes in the rules and challenge you on certain things to test the boundaries. Adopting older Dalmatians may be a bit more of a struggle if they are a product of bad treatment or poor training practices, their stubbornness can make it difficult to correct these bad learnt behaviors.
Dalmatians are very sensitive and emotional animals. They can get very happy and can become extremely excitable when playing, and then can be quite sad when left alone, and very upset when told off for bad behavior. Dals do not take well to negative emotions, behaviors or treatment. Even an argument between family members will upset your Dalmatian. They respond really well to positive reinforcement training and will respond very poorly to any negative training methods such as yelling, hitting or scolding. They are known to pout and have long memories. Hitting a Dalmatian is the absolute worst thing that can be done to the breed.
Dals are intune with their owners emotions, they will feel sad and happy alongside you.
Dalmatians are extremely loyal to their family. They have a strong desire to please and protect their owners. Don’t be surprised to find your Dal at your side most if not all of the time. They love to be included in every aspect of their owners life, even getting upset when not invited into the bathroom. Because of this they are prone to separation anxiety, so training is a must as they grow from puppy to adult. Teach them that it’s okay to be left alone by slowly increasing this alone time. This is not the breed for full time workers who are never home. That being said, in today’s society it’s impossible to take your dog everywhere, so Dals need to be trained how to spend time alone. This strong sense of loyalty Dals have may turn into aggression with other people or animals they deem a threat, especially when they are on their own territory.
Guarding/protective instincts and aggression
Dalmatians make excellent guard dogs for the family home. Guarding and protecting is part of their breeding history and working dog past. Not known for barking, if a Dalmatian barks, it is always for a reason. Training a stop command for barking is recommended as they can get carried away. They are territorial and will alert their owners to intruders by barking. They can be known to become aggressive if they deem another person or animal to be a threat, with a scary sounding bark or growl. It’s important to socialise a Dalmatian with both humans and other animals to help with this potential aggressive quality that’s present in some Dals at bay. They are not known for attacking or biting in general; some individual dogs may depending on history, treatment, training and the general temperament of the specific Dal and/or a specific situation.
Because of their natural instinct to guard and protect, it is recommended to train a Dalmatian how to harness these instincts and act appropriately in certain situations. This will help to avoid any issues with visitors, other animals, family members, children etc.
High energy and playfulness
Dalmatians love attention from people and love to play. They have a very high energy output with great endurance. The desire to please their humans makes them great at fitting in with exercise routines such as running, hiking, bike riding, skating or any other fitness activities that allow them to run alongside. They love to learn and play so training them to perform tricks and play games is definitely recommended.
Dals need lots of daily exercise. Skipping a day here and there due to rain won’t hurt, but they really need lots of exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Without it they can become unhappy and concentrate their frustration on destructive behaviours such as chewing, scratching or digging.
Families with small children need to be careful when it comes to Dalmatians and playtime. Dals can get quite excited during playtime, with extreme movements and fast running a danger for kids. Although they don’t mean it, a Dal can easily knock over and injure a small child. A well known and general rule when it comes to children and all dogs – Never leave a child alone with a dog, no exceptions.
The Dalmatian temperament is quite unique among dog breeds. They absolutely love being a part of a loving family, and strive to please and protect them. Dals can be perceived as annoying and mischievous to those who don’t understand the breed, but if you want a dog that will always be by your side, be full of love and energy and protect you and your family, a Dalmatian is definitely worth considering.