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Are Dalmatians Smart? Breed Facts & FAQs

Ed Malaker

By Ed Malaker

dalmatian on mulch

Dalmatians are a popular breed due to their attractive dark-spotted appearance and starring role in Disney’s “101 Dalmatians.” However, many people wonder if their intelligence matches their appearance. It does! These smart dogs can learn complex tasks, so keep reading to learn exactly how smart they are and many other interesting facts about Dalmatians.

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Measuring a Dog’s Intelligence

A scientist named Dr. Stanley Coren developed a system for measuring a dog’s intelligence. It involved testing how fast a dog could learn a new command and how well they retained it. For instance, a dog that could learn a new trick in five tries was smarter than one that required 10 attempts. The system also evaluated a dog’s ability to obey a known command on the first try. Dogs that obeyed more commands on the first try were considered smarter than dogs that didn’t.

Criticisms of the Testing Procedure

Unfortunately, many people feel that since Dr. Coren’s testing system only tested a dog’s ability to learn a new command, it is not a good measurement of their IQ. Another problem is that the research team only tested the most popular pure breeds, ones accepted by the American Kennel Club or the Continental Kennel Club, which left out many rarer breeds and all mixed breeds.

How Does the Dalmatian Compare to Other Breeds in Terms of Intelligence?

Dalmatian standing
Image Credit: skeeze , Pixabay

The Dalmatian was one of the lucky breeds to take the intelligence test that Dr. Coren created. Their score caused them to rank #62, which puts them in the above-average category. They can learn a new command in 15–25 tries and can obey an order on the first attempt 70% of the time. Other dog breeds in the above-average category include the Yorkshire Terrier, Newfoundland, and Giant Schnauzer.

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What Are the Smartest Dog Breeds?

The smartest dog breeds include the Border Collie, Poodle, Rottweiler, Labrador Retriever, and German Shepherd. Many of these dogs can learn a new command in fewer than five repetitions and will obey an order on the first attempt better than 95% of the time.

Other Kinds of Intelligence

Other types of intelligence that the Stanley Coren test doesn’t consider are instinctive and adaptive intelligences, which can be as important as the dog’s ability to learn and follow commands. Examples of instinctive intelligence include the natural ability to herd animals or analyze perceived threats when protecting something or someone. Adaptive intelligence is a dog’s ability to learn on their own, which helps them with problem-solving.

dalmatian dog on a leash walking with the owner
Image Credit: absolutimages, Shutterstock

Other Interesting Facts About Dalmatians

  • While the classic image of a Dalmatian is a dog with a white coat and black spots, there can be variations in coat color. Some Dalmatians may have liver (brown) spots instead of black, and others may have a patchy or mottled coat, which is known as a “lemon” or “tricolored” Dalmatian.
  • Dalmatians have had diverse roles throughout history. Besides being carriage dogs, they have been firehouse mascots, guard dogs, circus performers, and even war dogs. Their versatility and intelligence make them adaptable to various tasks and environments.
  • Dalmatians have remarkable endurance and stamina, as their history of running alongside horse-drawn carriages required them to keep a brisk pace for long distances.
  • Dalmatians are prone to certain health conditions, including a genetic predisposition to deafness, with a significant percentage of Dalmatians being partially or completely deaf. They are also likely to get urinary stones.
  • On average, Dalmatians have a lifespan of 10 to 13 years.

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Dalmatians are ranked 62nd on the Stanley Coren intelligence test, meaning they have above-average intelligence. They can learn new tricks in 15–25 repetitions and will obey commands on the first attempt 70% of the time. However, this ranking doesn’t consider the Dalmatian’s ability to learn independently or their instinctive intelligence, and we believe that they would score quite high on any tests in those areas too.

Featured Image Credit: Joseph Thomas Photography, Shutterstock

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