The Dalmatian is a coach dog which is easily recognized for its unique spotted coat. This ancient breed has been used as a guard dog, bird dog, trail hound, retriever, and most importantly a coach or carriage dog. The Dalmatian was once used to run in attendance on a coach. This ability was eventually transferred to its career as a firehouse dog. The Dalmatian once ran in front of horse-drawn fire carts to help clear a path for them as well as guide them to fires.

The Dalmatian is a muscular, mid-sized breed with a body similar to the Pointer. It generally stands between 19 and 24 inches high and weighs 45 to 70 pounds. Dalmatian puppies are born with white fur, and their spots become visible about 7 days later. During the first few weeks of life, the spots develop quickly, and they continue to develop in size and number as the dog ages. The coat of the Dalmatian is fine and short. Its spots are typically black or brown, and are uniform color. Occasionally the spots can be another color, such as lemon, orange, blue, tricolor, or brindle, but this is rare. The coat of the Dalmatian sheds heavily year-round. Its medium-sized, rounded eyes are usually brown, amber or blue. Its ears are thin and tapering and its feet are small and round.

The Dalmatian is highly energetic and playful, and it makes an excellent pet for an active family. It loves its owners and tends to experience severe separation anxiety if left alone for long. The breed is incredibly intelligent and has an excellent capacity for memory. If a Dalmatian is mistreated, the memory tends to stay with it. The breed should never be trained harshly; it excels at learning when it is handled gently, yet it can have a limited attention span. The breed can be trained by a knowledgeable trainer using rewards and gentle correction.

The breed is generally credited with endurance, stamina and health. The average lifespan of a Dalmatian is from 11 to 13 years. The breed can experience some health problems which include hip dysplasia, arthritis, deafness (a somewhat frequent problem in Dalmatians), and hyperuricemia.