Traits & Characteristics

Dalmatians playing at the beach


The Dalmatian is a distinctively spotted dog, however, no dog is more normal in its make up than the Dalmatian. It is free from abnormalities and exaggeration. Other than its spotting, which will be discussed in detail later, no features are peculiar to this breed. Balanced in all proportions, it is an active, medium sized dog, displaying the stamina, strength and musculation needed to keep up with horses for long periods of time. In addition, the Dalmatian is elegant and graceful enough to enhance the appearance of any horse and carriage. BALANCE and proportions should satisfy the eye and give a sense of perfect harmony both in repose and action. STRONG, MUSCULAR, ACTIVE. The Dalmatian conveys the impression of substance combined with elegance and perfect balance, never overdone. CAPABLE OF GREAT ENDURANCE. With its purpose as a carriage dog so important, the Dalmatian should have the ability to trot long distances alongside a coach. FAIR AMOUNT OF SPEED. This is interpreted as meaning an ability to accelerate with a quick burst of speed when necessary. While it must have the stamina to go all day, it must also have an action that is economical in order to conserve energy, Although the Dalmatians purpose as a carriage dog is obsolete, the standard is written with this in mind. Stamina is a must for this breed is achieved only with a combination of soundness, firm topline, correct rib cage, correct boning, good feet, correct angulation and sufficient exercise to produce good hard muscles

Temperament of Good Demeanour

Outgoing and friendly, not shy or hesitant, free from nervousness and aggression. The Dalmatian is easy to get along with and loves people. It is intelligent, alert and always friendly. An extrovert, and well known for its characteristic grin.

Head and Skull

The Dalmatian is not a head breed, but the head must be in proportion to the rest of the dog, clean looking smooth and free of wrinkle. The topskull and muzzle should be about the same length. The topskull is nearly as broad as it is long and it is almost flat with a slight. centre groove starting at the occiput, coming down the stop between the eyes and extending onto the muzzle to the nose leather. The stop is not pronounced but a subtle rise where the muzzle blends into the upper head. From the side, toplines of the skull and the muzzle appear approximately parallel. The muzzle is never weak nor pointed. The lips are clean and dry. There are no flews or dewlaps.


Please remember that a Dalmatians eyes are “round, bright and sparkling” A dog with a blue eye should not be shown.


The ears should be set on rather high. When alert the base of the ear is level with the top of the skull. They should be of moderate size, rather wide at the base gradually tapering to a rounded point. The ears should be fine to touch, carried close to the head. There should be white breaking up the colour on the ears, sometimes seen as marbling, though spotted ears are preferred.


Any bite other than scissor bite incorrect.


A Dalmatian requires fairly long cervical vertebrae to give it that graceful arched neck which is desirable. It should have a good flow of neck into the shoulder to assist in forming the symmetrical outline. While many Dalmatians have been trained to hold the head high in the ring, when trotting freely the head is thrust forward to achieve kinetic balance and is only slightly higher than the topline.


The standard requires a moderately oblique shoulder. The angle between the scapula and humerus is slightly more than 90 degrees. Shoulders should be well laid back and also of good length for muscles and tendons to function properly. With correct angulation the scapula, together with the humerus act as shock absorbers. the two combined lift the leg, giving the rhythmic stride called for in the standard. Length of scapula and humerus should be equal. Front legs should be perfectly straight right down to the foot, with a slight spring of pastern. They should be about the width of two legs apart and should be evenly boned the entire length.


The chest should be viewed from three angles. From the front, it is deeper than it is wide and it is well filled. From above, it is wider at the shoulder than at the loin. From the side the pro-sternum is only slightly visible in front of the forelegs, but the lower portion of the chest extends to the dog’s elbow. A chest with a long rib cage is described as “well ribbed back” which give plenty of room for the lungs to expand, which is necessary for endurance. The underline of the chest gradually slopes upward from midway along the rib cage to the end of the ribs. The Dalmatian has only a moderate tuck up. The back should be level in motion and in natural stance. In a properly constructed dog with good muscle development the topline from the withers to the onset of tail remains level whether the dog is standing or moving. There should be well defined withers, but with no interruption to the flow of neck into the shoulders and back. The loin should neither be excessively long nor short. If anything, the Dalmatian is slightly longer than high from point of shoulder to point of buttock, withers to ground. The extra length of rib cage, not loin. The arching of the loins should not be exaggerated and comes from strong musculation.


Correct hindquarters on a Dalmatian are also important as it is a dog who must be able to gait for many kilometres up and down hills. It is a “moderate” dog with a normal front angulation, and therefore requires a stifle which is moderately well bent. The Dalmatian should convey endurance and a fair turn of speed. If it had excessive angulation it would tire itself and without angulation, would not cover the ground. The hindquarters should be strong. The outline of well developed muscles should be clearly seen on the buttocks, legs and second thigh. The pelvic slope should be approximately 30 degrees. The thigh and second thigh should be long and the hock to the ground short. Muscles should be well developed in inner and outer thighs as well as the second thigh (calf muscle). The hock should be vertical to the ground when standing. Hocks should be well let down to give good endurance.


It is a moderate tail set. The tail is an extension of the topline, flowing with the back line after taking into consideration the slightly arched loin. At rest the Dalmatian may carry the tail low, but on the move or when alert it is carried with a slight upward curve. A traditional sabre carriage.


Good legs and “cat feet” are very important. Strong feet and thick tough pads are a must for an endurance dog. Feet should turn neither in nor out.

Gait / Movement

Movement tells us much about the Dalmatians structure, which is not always revealed when it is standing still, for it reflects its physical co-ordination, balance for the body and soundness. The dog seeming to exert a minimum of effort to cover the ground. When judging the Dalmatian in the ring, the length of stride should be in proportion to the dog, steady in rhythm of 1,2,3,4. Front legs should not paddle, nor should there be a straddling appearance. Hind legs should neither cross nor weave. Judges should be able to see each leg move with no interference from another leg. Drive and reach are most desirable. When a dog moves away from the judge in a straight line, the hind legs conceal the fore, the hind foot covering the spot the fore foot has just left, not overreaching.


The coat should be of uniform texture with hair on the ears and head shorter and softer. It is a single coated dog.


In both varieties the colour of the spots should be dense and have a sheen. The black should be a shiny jet black. There is no definite description laid down as far as the liver colour is concerned, but it should be a rich liver brown. The ideal is a colour which cannot be mistaken for black in average light at a reasonable distance (e.g. across a show ring.) Variations of liver colour on the one dog or greyish markings on a black spotted specimen are undesirable. Spots should not run together but be round and well defined. Balance of markings is a feature. Most dogs have groups of spots close together. A few spots that join are acceptable, provided they can be seen to be spots. They should not form a conglomeration of ugly proportions. Clear definition of spots is important. The edges should not blend into the ground colour so as to appear grey or have a dark halo. Spots in size FIVE to a TWENTY cent coin. Spots on the body are larger than those on the head, legs and tail. The ears should be spotted, but this is not essential just as spots on the tail are not essential. For some reason many liver dogs have smaller spots than blacks. Tick marks, or flecks are not spots and are undesirable. Tick marks are smaller than a one cent piece and are rather more like flecks appearing on the coat. Optical illusion can be created by uneven spotting regarding conformation and gaiting. Spotting is the one unique feature of the Dalmatian and is an essential part of the breed type, although confirmation should not be sacrificed to spotting alone. However the significance of good spotting must not be denigrated or this unique and identifying feature of the breed could be lost. Perfect markings have never been achieved and it is safe to say they never will be.


Balance is of prime importance and should not be sacrificed to size alone. Dogs slightly larger or smaller than the ideal standard should not be excluded from placings if they present a balanced picture. The belief that the dogs only ran under the axle is incorrect. The Dalmatian was equally at home alongside, in front of, or behind the coach. Remember, overall balance.


Blue eyes, patches, tri-colours and lemon spots highly undesirable.
Patches, Dalmatian pups are born pure white, although shadows of spots may be seen on the skin at birth. A patch is clearly visible at birth and usually found on the ear or face. A patch is an area of solid colour, a rich deep black or liver, usually with a velvety texture. It is sharply defined with an absence of white hairs. To determine between a solidly marked ear and a patch, turn the ear over to see if there are any white hairs. The presence of white hair, no matter how small an amount, would indicate a solidly marked ear. Tri-colours, a black spotted tri-colour is a dog with black spots and tan/brown spots. A liver spotted tri-colour has liver brown spots and light orange or lemon spots. The tri-colour spots generally appear on the front of the neck, chest, inside legs or around the vent.
Lemon/orange spotting. Lemons have black nose and eyerim pigment, where oranges have brown nose and eyerim pigment. Black and liver spotting are the only acceptable colours. Dalmatians with Patches, Blue eyes, Tri-colours or having lemon or orange spotting, should not be exhibited. Bronzing can occur during a “coating out” period. On the black spotted variety it is seen as a bronze tinge around the edges of the spots and/or on the surface of spots. Livers are affected similarly, the spots tending to develop a halo of gingery colour. Bronzing must be assessed in relation to the rest of the dog and should be considered similar to a coated breed being out of coat or having dropped coat temporarily.

Judging The Dalmatian

A good Dalmatian must be of good breed type, balanced, sound in movement, well spotted and of good temperament. One of these things on its own is not enough.
Remember the Standard describes a dog free of exaggerations and abnormalities. Please judge the breed to leave it that way.

*Reference Dalmatian Club of NSW (July 2012)

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