October 2, 2009
Photo of "Pauli" courtesy of Paisley Dalmatians
When most people think about firefighting and dogs, the Dalmatian is the most recognized mascot.
The true origin of the Dalmatian is unknown, although it is believed to have originated in India. Paintings and figures of spotted dogs have been found in ruins as old as 5,000 years. Numerous written references to spotted dogs occur throughout history. The modern Dalmatian, notwithstanding his name however, was developed in Great Britain.
The Dalmatian weighs between 25 and 55 pounds and are between 19 and 23 inches tall. This is a physical breed with a strong muscular body that allows them to run great distances without tiring. Their white coat is short with black or liver (brown) spots.
Dalmatians are comfortable around horses and seem to have an affinity for keeping the horses calm. This was especially noticeable and was developed, as Dalmatians became a society dog and were trained to run alongside women’s carriages. It was during this period that they became known as Coach or Ladies dogs.
The position to the side and rear of a carriage where the Dalmatian would run became known as coaching. In the 1700’s Dalmatians were used to protect horses that pulled English stagecoaches. Two Dalmatians would run next to the horses as they pulled the coach and when other dogs tried to run out at the coach, the Dalmatians would chase the other dogs away.
Over the years, Dalmatians formed a bond with horses and this worked out to the horse owner’s advantage, as the dogs would ward off horse thieves. Coach drivers with a Dalmatian had the luxury of sleeping indoors as they knew their dogs would watch and protect the horses.
It was during this time that horse drawn fire fighting equipment was emerging and the Dalmatian was all ready well recognized for their carriage dog skills so it was a logical step to begin working with the fire services.
Fire horses spent hours waiting in the firehouse waiting for a call and then once on the scene of the fire were required to spend hours standing around. It became the job of the Dalmatian to be a stable mate and guardian to the firehouse horses, helping keep them calm.
The dogs would run with the horse teams to the fires and once there, would protect the equipment and the horses. These dogs are dedicated to their owners and the breed adapted easily to the new role of firehouse working dog.
As with most breeds, Dalmatians are not for everyone. These are high-energy dogs that require regular training and exercise. If you aren’t able to give a Dalmatian the time and effort required, you will be better served to find a different breed.