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Dalmatians Are Better In Movies Than As Pets
By Chantel Lott
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Dalmatians can make great movies, but they are not necessarily the best pet choice.
With the latest dalmatian movie hitting theaters in time for Christmas, many parents may consider getting a dalmatian as a family dog. John Harkness, laboratory animal veterinarian at Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said dalmatians are not ideally suited for family settings.
"They have several characteristics that lessen their appeal as the family dog," Harkness said.
One major problem with dalmatians is their aggressiveness, which can be treated but never completely cured. Dalmatians exhibit two kinds of aggression: dominance and territorial.
Dominance aggression targets family members. If someone pulls something out of the dalmatian's mouth or pushes it off of the furniture, the dog may interpret that action as a threat to its position in the family hierarchy. Dalmatians see people in the family as members of a pack in which some, such as children, are more easily dominated than others.
"The dogs may snarl or even bite if their dominance is threatened," Harkness said.
Territorial aggression is aimed more at guests, neighbors and service people rather than at the family itself. Dalmatians see these people as trespassers, and they go to great lengths to reclaim their territory. This characteristic may make dalmatians less suitable for large families or families that have more visitors.
"Dalmatians are hyperactive dogs. They need a lot of exercise and attention. They are unsuitable for apartments or people who are frequently away from home. A home with a yard for exercising is helpful," Harkness said.
Many dalmatians are predisposed to deafness and allergic skin disease. It is likely that dalmatian owners will have a lot of medical bills for the dog during its lifetime.
"They often must be treated for allergic skin disease and kidney disease," Harkness said.
If owners are willing to put forth some additional effort and money for vet bills, dalmatians can be wonderful pets. Their territorial aggression does make them good watchdogs, but they are stubborn, hard to distract, and difficult to discipline or change their behavior.
Obedience school is often a means used to place the dalmatians within the family. The dog must know that everyone in the family is dominant to the dog. Otherwise, the dog may feel the need to compete.
A dog is an extension of one's personality, and so each person's choice is different.
"Dalmatians are beautiful dogs and they make great movies, but these characteristics are not necessarily valuable for a pet in the home," Harkness said.
Contact: Dr. John Harkness, (662) 325-1137