Along with being intelligent, energetic, and alert dogs, Dalmatians have a great deal of stamina, which means they need physical and mental outlets in the family environment. These sports can provide the challenges Dalmatians need: agility, flyball, tracking, rally, traditional obedience training, and scent hurdling (in which the dog goes over four jumps and picks up one of four articles previously scented). Dalmatians also bond with people in animal-assisted therapy. As sensitive dogs, Dalmatians respond well to a reward-based approach to training, although food rewards should be given in small pieces to prevent weight gain.
The Dalmatian is one of the oldest breeds in existence and it is believed that the breed dates back more than four thousand years. Evidence of the Dalmatian wasn't documented until the 1700's, although pictures of the breed date back thousands of years prior to first documentation. The exact origin of the Dalmatian is highly disputed; however, most people believe that the breed developed in Dalmatia, a region in Croatia bordering the eastern Adriatic Sea. The name Dalmatia comes from the ancient Illyrian language meaning "land of shepherds" and it was from this area that the breed received its name. Dalmatians were used to chase rats out of the fire stations and horse stables of old London. They also guided the horse-drawn fire wagons through city streets and safeguarded the fire equipment from vandalism and theft. This tradition endured even after the old wagons were replaced with more modern fire engines and today Dalmatians enjoy status as the iconic fire house dog. The first Dalmatian was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1888.