Designer Dalmatians Bring Smiles All Round | DogLife360
Dalmatians can and do smile

Designer Dalmatians Bring Smiles All Round

Do Dalmatians smile? Yes, they do! And we don’t mean an open-mouthed, tongue-lolling pant, we mean a big broad toothy grin of a smile.  What have they got to be so happy about?

That coat!  Those inky black spots splattered over that bright white background is so very modern art. It’s as if Jackson Pollock personally painted each dog. 

handsome dalmatian in nature

Do Dalmations smile?

Dalmations are divine, but aren’t all dogs?  Most dogs express rampant joy at seeing us arrive home, but the Dalmatian does it with a smile.  Yes, Dalmatians do actually break into a smile, they have extra muscles in their faces that enable them to grin, their faces actually pull back to reveal teeth.  Some people get terrified thinking it’s a sign of aggression but Dalmatian owners agree that it’s mostly a smile of joy (pro tip: check to see if the tail is wagging).   Coming home to be greeted by a broad Dalmatian grin, is something for a dog parent to boast about!  Perhaps they're grinning because they know they've got a fashionable coat.

stepping out with a Dalmatian

Dalmatians in fashion

Those spots turn heads.  The Dalmatian is so often in the media.  Apart from the famous 101 Dalmation movies we’ve seen them in countless glossies gracing a sweeping staircase with their profile.  Or in fashion editorials, posing with models both showing off their matching 'outfits'. 

stylish model and Dalmatian

Cruella, the new movie

This is why Disney’s new movie, Cruella, is a must-see.  Emma Stone stars as a young Cruella. This prequel to 101 and 102 Dalmatians takes us back in time to meet Cruella as a child and learn the reason for her passionate hatred for Dalmatians.  The highlight of the movie has got to be the drop-dead gorgeous Dalmation coat, except (spoiler alert) - let’s all breathe a sigh of relief here - it's fake fur! In this film, Cruella isn’t bad to the bone... yet.  Although our beloved Dalmatians don’t have major screen time they do offset the castle very gracefully. 

Dalmatian getting a big hug

How long have we loved Dalmatians? 

Dalmatians first appeared in England in 1780.  Their unflagging energy enabled them to run for long periods of time without tiring and they became sought after as coach dogs and became known as the spotted coach dog.  At a time when we traveled in horse-drawn coaches their job was to protect the horses and the people in transit.  Often two dogs would run alongside or even under the coaches as security.  At night they would guard the horses at the stables as horse theft was rife back then.  Their relationship with horses strengthened when they became companions to the horses used to pull fire wagons. When the fire siren went off the Dalmations would run out into the street barking to alert people to step aside for the charging fire wagon and then they'd run alongside the horses to the fire. Today many fire stations still use Dalmations as mascots and these heroic and loyal dogs have sometimes been known to drag firefighters from burning buildings. 


1. Energy

They have loads of energy.  They are not hyperactive but they do need to channel all that energy.  Many families can’t cope with their excess of energy and too many dogs are abandoned or left in animal shelters.  They need 2 hours of walking a day - split into two walks.

Adorable Dalmatian looking for attention

2. They are not destructive

They only destroy furniture and gardens if they’re not getting enough walks. They’re not destructive by nature but they have been known to be manipulative. They need to be trained and their human needs to constantly maintain the upper hand. It is said that the usual training methods that apply to all other breeds don’t apply to Dalmatians. They require their own kind of training because they become bored with repetitive activities. With this breed it is vital that you Choose the Right Behaviourist.

3. They shed a lot 

Their hair shaft has a short life, their coat is constantly being replacing with soft new hair.  And that coat requires heavy brushing, to keep the shed in check.  Learn about how to groom your dog at home, understand the needs of your breed from Julie Harris.

4. Fame has its price

On account of all those Hollywood appearances many a child has begged to have a Dalmatian as a pet, this fad has led to overbreeding, which creates poor genetic inheritance producing sickly dogs bred in awful conditions.  Remember Lucy’s Law, when you thinking of getting a puppy, choose only reputable breeders. 

an armful of Dalmatian puppies

5. They love companionship

They make loyal pets, they love connection.  When properly trained they are desperate to please you and will be very brave and loyal.

 6. They don’t like being left alone 

They may sulk, get depressed or be destructive if left alone for long periods of time. They are prone to separation anxiety. Watch Adem Fehmi's Games for Separation Anxiety to help your dog. They need a very strong human bond.

7. They are highly intelligent

Some people disagree, saying they're not very clever.  This has got to be because Dalmatians need their own kind of training, suited to the way their minds work. They’re originals! 

8. Do Dalmatians smile?

Not only do Dalmatians smile, but they also ‘smarl’ which is a smile with a snarl rolled together.  The trick is to watch the tail, if the tail is not wagging it’s a snarl, if it’s wagging then it’s a ‘smarl’. The truth is that their smile is a way of showing submissiveness. But 'smarl's' aside scientists say that it has been an evolutionary process that makes us think that our dogs smile, all dogs. They claim that dogs are masters of observation and manipulation and they have been honing this skill over generations, to charm us. When dogs 'smile' they are rewarded with applause and treats and they then know that this 'smiling' is the right way to keep us happy. So, over time dogs have learned to smile for us. Read the science behind Do Dogs Smile.

Do Dalmatians Smile? Yes they do!
Picture credit Rachel Ebel

9. Aloof with strangers

They take time to warm up to people, they are nervous and suspicious. But they adore their owners.  They need to be socialised to be good with other dogs.

10.  Clowns with poise

They are loved for the way they go from gallant to goofy and back to gallant again.  

A beautiful Dalmatian

11. They barely drool

This is no doubt one of the reasons why we consider them to have such poise and grace, no gobby goo!

12. Dals love their Dal people

Dalmation owners are known as Dal people and Dalmatians as Dals. Dals are devoted to their family.

13. Health ailments that dog this breed

Atopy is a sensitivity to pollen and dust.  They can suffer from epilepsy.  They are prone to deafness.  They can have bladder stones.  Hip dysplasia that leads to arthritis. 

14. They might be too energetic for little kids

Dalmatians are not like other dogs, their intelligence and energy can make them impossible to live with unless they are trained. They are not for everyone. If they are not trained they will be unmanageable. Get yourself a copy of Dalmatian Savvy and learn how to train your Dal .

16. They have a disconcerting growth spurt

The jump from puppy to adolescent is rather dramatic as their energy levels explode. Training them from a young age will stop any bad habits from forming. 

Dalmatian mother with her spotless young

17. They are born spotless

As newborns, they have pure white coats. And when they grow they each have an original coat, like fingerprints no two dogs are the same.

Wouldn’t we all love to step out with a well-trained designer Dalmation -  maybe even in matching coats? Read up more about Dalmations in our Breeds Directory.




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