Known for Disney’s 101 Dalmatians and for being the trusty side-kicks to firefighters of the past, the Dalmatian is a breed that children seem to love. But as a parent, bringing home a lively and active 60-pound dog can be a concern.
So, are Dalmatians good with kids? The friendly and playful nature of the Dalmatian makes them great playmates for older kids. According to the ATTS, they have one of the best passing rates (83.3%) for temperaments. As such, they’re stable dogs and don’t easily react negatively to unpredictable factors – like rowdy kids.
However, training and socializing is necessary for the child-dog relationship to thrive. We go over the top reasons Dalmatians are great for kids, potential pitfalls and how to get your dog “ready” to play with children.
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Table of Contents
- The Dalmatian’s Temperament
- Dalmatians Are Good With Kids
- Pitfalls: Dalmatians & Kids
- Training Dalmatians With Kids
The Dalmatian’s Temperament
Dalmatians aren’t your “typical” kid-friendly dogs. Still, that doesn’t mean they aren’t perfectly suited to handle the roughness of children. Most owners argue that they’re not just physically capable of dealing with kids, but also have the personality for it.
While there are certainly pitfalls of bringing a Dalmatian to a home with children, the dog’s kid-friendliness arguably comes down to the temperament. Of course, not all individual dogs will have the same temperament too.
Even so, there’s a lot you can gather on a Dalmatian’s kid-friendliness from the breed’s overall dog temperament test. And according to the American Temperament Test Society, Dalmatians scored a 83.3% passing rate – right around average rate.
Out of 359 Dalmatians that were tested since 1977, 299 passed with flying colors. The ATTS conducts their test by letting the Dalmatian onto a field with a long leash. They are then given a variety of stimulants to test their reactions.
There will be three highly trained judges on the field with them, giving them a pass or fail result. Dogs that show panic, aloofness or unprovoked aggression fail the test. So, 83% of Dalmatians were calm in the face of unpredictability, which kids often are.
Lively, Playful Dalmatians
It’s no surprise – Dalmatians are highly energetic but in a playful way. While their energy can be a little much for smaller kids, proper extensive training can help. On the bright side, these dogs are loyal to the family, including the kids.
Many Dalmatians tend to be cautious and aloof with strangers. That’s not to say they won’t be friendly, but it’ll take some time to warm up to them. When properly trained, though, Dalmatians will make wonderful watchdogs for the family.
Personality wise, a Dalmatian can be the energizer bunny, but might just as well be a couch potato.– Alagirl (Chrono of Horse)
When they’re with family, their clownish side really comes out. After all, they love to have fun and their outgoing personalities make them easy to play with. In a way, they’re very much like children: energetic, fun-loving and spirited.
It’s worth mentioning that Dalmatians can be high-strung and sensitive. That is, they’re can be easily upset. It’s why we recommend positive reinforcement, especially with a Dalmatian. Plus, they have “good memories” and will remember any mistreatment.
Dalmatians Are Good With Kids
Dalmatians are great companion dogs for children. Based on the ATTS’ test, we know that they are stable and dependable dogs. But specifically, what about their temperaments make them so attractive for homes with kids?
When it comes to loyalty, few dogs are as devoted as the Dalmatian. Not only are they reliable dogs, but also human-loving companions. As such, they tend to extend this loyalty to all their family members, including the children.
In fact, Wag Walking says Dalmatians are known for their loyalty. This just means they’re more likely to treat your kids with respect and care. They understand that children are “essential” to the pack, and as a result, shower them with love.
Dalmatians are smart to a fault, but very loyal to their humans.– Alagirl (Chrono of Horse)
When you have a dog as loyal as a Dalmatian, they won’t easily get distracted or persuaded to run off when you need them the most. And for the kid-dog relationship to thrive, they’ll need to have a dog that’s always there for them.
The Perfect Guard Dog
There is little known about the Dalmatian’s origins, other than the fact that they originated from the Croatia region of Dalmatia. Hence, the name. Even so, evidence points to these dogs first appearing as carriage dogs in 17th century England.
Carriage dogs would run alongside carriages in order to protect passengers from threats on the road. These threats range anywhere from wild animals to highwaymen (thieves). As such, these dogs were crucial to the wealthy and trade merchants.
Dalmatians were the dog of choice for this job. Not only did they have the athleticism and the speed to keep up, but were also a good size to be a deterrent. More importantly, the Dalmatians had the protective instincts to keep an eye out on the road.
He is the ideal guard dog, distinguishing nicely between barking for fun or with purpose. His courtesy never fails with approved visitors, but his protective instinct is highly developed.– Shattering Glass (GSD Forums)
These instincts have not gone away since their carriage dog days. They’re still vigilant and alert in the home, which make them excellent guardians for your kids. You can count on this breed to always be watching your children’s backs.
However, because of these very same instincts, they can become a little over-protective and or possessive without proper socialization. This dangerous behavior can lead to aggression should any other friendly people come close to the kids.
Dalmatians are more durable, sturdy and robust than you think. After all, there’s a reason why they were trusted to be firefighter dogs in the past. If they can handle building fires, there’s no doubt they’re capable of dealing with the “constant flame” of a child.
A fully grown Dalmatian can reach anywhere between 22 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder. And depending on the gender, it’s not unusual to see one grow up to 70 pounds. They’re not small dogs and as a result, can handle the rowdiness of children.
Not all dogs respond well to rough play. In fact, smaller and more fragile breeds tend to develop small dog syndrome, in which the dog reacts aggressively to larger dogs. Though, the same reaction can often be shown towards the much larger child.
Dalmatians, especially when well-trained, socialized and fully grown, typically won’t snap back at your kids for their childish actions. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be careful and supervise all interactions, but the chance of mishaps may be unlikely.
One of the best qualities of Dalmatians is that they’re fairly quiet dogs. And according to Cheat Sheet, they’re one of the 15 quietest dog breeds you can find! Unlike the vocal Husky, they may not bark at everything and anything on the property.
Though we would never recommend letting your Dalmatian play with an infant, the silent nature of the Dalmatian makes them ideal. Babies and loud barking don’t exactly mix well. So a quiet dog, such as a Dalmatian, wouldn’t likely wake up the baby.
My Dal is incredibly quiet – didn’t bark until he was 6 months old (and scared himself stupid). He really only alarm-barks.– The Spotted Devil (Dogz Online)
Sudden loud barking also isn’t ideal for smaller children that can get easily scared. If your child is afraid of the dog, getting them to play with each other will be that much more difficult. It’s why Dalmatians are one of our favorite breeds for kids.
Playful Like Kids
Most Dalmatian owners will tell you their dogs are playful and lively. In a way, they’re like the canine version of children: always wanting to have fun and enthusiastic about life. It’s why both kids and Dalmatians tend to get along very well.
Because of their past jobs, Dalmatians have a lot of energy and excitement. They needed to be active in order to withstand the long journeys made by carriages. Today, the same energy is present, though they enjoy expending it with fun play.
However, not all kids are suited to handle the enthusiasm of the Dalmatian. For timid and small kids, the personalities may not mesh well. You’ll need to assess the situation based on both the personalities of the dog and child.
Pitfalls: Dalmatians & Kids
As great as Dalmatians may be for children, there are some things to consider as a parent. Not all dogs of the breed will be the same either. So, it’s why it’s important for parents to understand the potential pitfalls that come with raising Dals and kids.
Overly Energetic Dogs
Some Dalmatians, especially younger ones, tend to be very excitable and energetic. And while this may be a good thing for active older kids, it can be potentially dangerous for smaller ones. After all, young kids are fragile.
Even if your Dalmatian is the sweetest dog in the world, their active personalities may lead the dog to unintentionally knock over a small kid. Plus, they sport a solid long tail that can easily whack a child in the face when excited.
When they get excited, you’ll be either pushed over, jumped on or wrapped tightly in a leash. So it’s crucial you teach your Dalmatian pup to calm down.– Marit Martin (Medium)
It doesn’t take much for a dog the size of a Dalmatian to hurt a child. In turn, this can lead to the child fearing the dog. If this happens, the child-dog relationship may be severely hindered and increasingly more difficult to nurture.
Strong Prey Drive
Yes, Dalmatians were originally bred for protection and guarding. However, did you know that the Dalmatian also worked as hunting companions too? They were excellent ratters and often dealt with vermin extermination.
For this reason, Dalmatians tend to have strong hunting instincts – or in other words, a strong prey-drive. Since their vermin hunting days, they’ve seamlessly transitioned into the world of dog sports, excelling as bird dogs and boar hunters.
And while this may seem like a “cool” fact of this breed, it can be troublesome for your kids. For example, if your small children are running away from the dog, this is a prey-like behavior. In some cases, they may chase them like a prey too.
This is why socialization and obedience training is so important for Dalmatians. Until they learn that kids are just kids and not prey, their instincts can potentially lead to mishaps. As such, you may want to teach your children “proper behavior” around the dog.
Training Dalmatians With Kids
When it comes to all medium-to-large dog breeds, training is essential when you have kids in the home. Dalmatians are no exception. The better they are at controlling their excitement, the better they’ll be for kids.
Respecting the Dalmatian
Training starts with the children. You’ll need to teach them proper behavior and lay out some “ground rules” for interacting with the Dalmatian. The point is to limit behaviors that can cause the dog to respond in a negative or aggressive way.
For example, loud noises may startle your Dalmatian. Similarly, pulling on their tails may cause pain, and as a result, cause the dog to “attack” back. Here are some suggested rules that you should consider for your kids:
- Don’t ever pull on the Dalmatian’s skin, tails or ears. This can be very painful.
- Never attempt to ride the backs of the dog.
- When playing, try not to make loud noises at or around the dog.
- Never run at the Dalmatian. Instead, always approach the dog slowly.
- Give the Dalmatian some space when he’s eating or playing with his toy. Don’t bother.
- If the dog is trying to jump on you, turn your back away from them.
- Never run away from the Dalmatian (prey-like behavior).
It’s also important to teach your children the communication signs of your Dalmatian. As most of them are fairly quiet dogs, growling and/or directed barking may be a sign that they aren’t too happy and shouldn’t be bothered.
Other behaviors, such as whining or tail-wagging, are also communication signs that your kids should look out for. The more your children understands the dog, the better equipped they will be to properly respond to your Dalmatian.
Obedience Training & Dalmatians
The good news is that Dalmatians are very smart dogs when it comes to obedience & working intelligence. According to Stanley Coren, a renowned canine psychologist, the Dalmatian breed is above average intelligent.
Specifically, they’re ranked the 62nd best performing breed out of 138 dog breeds. That is, the Dalmatian is capable of learning new commands with just 15-25 repetitions! Plus, they’re able to obey a known command 70% or better of the time.
In other words, obedience training shouldn’t be too hard – even for first-time owners.
I cannot stress how important basic commands are. Not only will it help develop trust between you and your Dalmatian, but will also give you better control. If your dog is jumping on your child, a simple “down” command tells them the behavior isn’t okay.
Now we’re not saying they need to learn a whole arsenal of tricks and commands, but at least: sit, down, drop it, heel and come should suffice. For more information on how to specifically teach your Dalmatian this, we suggest this guide.
Dalmatians are also sensitive dogs, so it’s best to always use positive, reward-based training when teaching your dog. And to further nurture the dog-child relationship, we suggest you bring the kids into training sessions at some point.
You can’t get rid of your Dalmatian’s prey drive. However, plenty of socialization early on is a good way to curb the instincts in adulthood. As such, your Dalmatian should be socialized with other children, dogs and even cats!
Socialization is how your Dalmatian will learn to become comfortable with society. When they’re exposed to various factors as a puppy, (such as people, sensations, sights, sounds and noises) they’re less likely to be scared of them as adults.
Also I want to add that socialization is more than just dogs interacting. It includes meeting as many different types of people.– Jen2010 (Dog Forums)
As such, socialization training is the best way for your Dalmatian to learn that kids aren’t prey. They’ll understand that they should not be chased and lunged at. In addition, they’re likely to learn that kids are just like them – always wanting to have fun!
According to the Humane Society, the “golden window” for socializing is between weeks 3 and 20. During this time, they’re able to courageously explore and satisfy their curiosity without the feeling of anxiety or fear.
To get your Dalmatian well-adjusted to playing with children, they’ll need to meet as many kids as possible – not just your family’s children! Ideally, you’ll want to let them meet children with all types of personalities, of all ages. Parks are usually a great place to start!
Do your own children with a Dalmatian? Let us know your experience in the comments section below!
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