Even if Disney doesn't consent to adding a disclaimer before the new
version of 101 Dalmatians, it seems like some people are trying to
educate the public and prevent unprepared people from bringing one of
these dogs into their life. This article appeared in the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette Sunday, November 17:
"Dalmatian breeders say owning the dog can be troublesome"
The popularity of black and white spots is making local Dalmatian
breeders see red. They've moujnted a campaign that accentuates the
negative characteristics fo the breed they love. They're hoping that
people won't buy a real, live Dalmatian after seeing the beautiful,
adorable puppies in Disney's "101 Dalmatians".
"We are so scared about what this will do to our breed," said Libby
Simendinger of West Deer; president of the Greater Pittsburgh Dalmatian
Club, Inc. "Breeders who really love their dogs will not try to cash in
on the movie," she said.
Members of the national Dalmatian club refused to let Disney use their
puppies in the movie. Filming was ultimately done in England.
"We know that a lot of Dalmatians will be poorly bred to supply the
demand created by the movie," said breeder Dorothy "Dotsie" Keith. They
will be bought by people who don't understand what Dalmatians are like.
Then when things don't work out, they will be turned into shelters.
"This happened five years ago when the cartoon version of the movie was
re-released. We expect it to be considerably worse with this movie."
Thinking about buying a Dalmatian puppy? The 25-member Greater
Pittsburgh Dalmatian Club is buying newspaper adverti***ts asking you
to call the club first.
Simendeger, who owns Popcorn, 10, and Charlie, 4, fields the calls
from prospective buyers. "I spend a lot of time and effort trying ot talk
people out of buying a Dalmatian."
"Dals are wonderful dogs, but they are not for everyone," said Nanci
Good of Cheswick. She has been breeding Dalmatians for 23 years and
currently owns three. "They have a high energy level. They need a fenced
yard, space to run and a lot of attention.
Dalmatainowners and breeders interviewed for this story are brutally
honest about the breed that they love.
The worst of it:
- The breed has a genetic defect that causes about 10% of the puppies to
be born deaf.
- They have a high incidence of kidney stones.
- Many have temperment problems, including aggressive behavior and
biting, that no amount of love and training can overcome.
"These faults are the result of bad breeding," said Keith, who has been
breeding Dalmatians in the Philadelphia area since 1960. She's owned
Dalmatians since she was 12 years old, but swears that "Dotsie" is a
family nickname for Dorothy and not a reference to her preference in
"Deaf dogs and dogs with bad temperaments should never be bred. But
the puppy mills and the bad breeders don't care. They'll keep breeding
them: and these traits will be passed on to another generation of
Keith is well-known to state legislators, as well as dog fanciers,
because she is a volunteer lobbyist for a number of dog clubs.
Legislation that would require health guarantees from the so-called pupy
mills is one of the pending laws she's concerned aobut.
Keith and other breeders blame Disney movies and marketing for a
drastic increase in the popularity of Dalmatians and an increase in
health and temperment problems.
The local and national Dalmatian clubs advise that no Dalmatian should
be purchased or adopted unless it has passed a BAER test for deafness.
The proper name is Brain-stem Auditory Electronic Response testing, and
it's been available for the past six or seven years. Breeders can pay
$20 to $100 per canine ot have their dogs and puppies BAER tested. They
travel many miles to do so, because the test is generally available only
at veterinary schools. The clubs recommend that no Dalmation puppy be
purchased without written proof of BAER testing.
Experienced owners and trainers can train deaf dogs to obey hand
signals, but the average dog owner probably cannot.
And even with special training, "deaf dogs can never be outside unless
they are on a leash," Keith said. "You wouldn't be able to call them
back if they ran toward a road. Deaf dogs are easily startled and
likely to bite if someone, especially a child, comes up behind them."
Breeders of purebred dogs generally advise would-be buyers to make
sure a breed's temperament and lifestyle matches their own. Start by
looking at the breed's background.
Dalmatians were bred centuries ago in Europe to guard horses in
stables. Somewhere along the line, they also became coach dogs - running
alongside horse-drawn coaches. Their job was to protect the passegers an
dhorses and guard the coach and luggage during rest stops.
In this century, firemen adopted Dalmatians to guard the horses who
pulled fire wagons. They are still sometimes seen in fire halls, where
they serve as mascots.
"These dogs are very active. As coach dogs. they were bred to run for
miles and miles," Simendinger said. Tehy still need a lot of exercise and
"They need a family who will work with them, play with them, and spend
a lot of time wiht them," Simendinger said. "They are very
Dalmatians are not a breed that fares well when left alone for eight
hours while family members are at worka nd school.
Fail to meet a Dalmatian's needs and desires, breeders warn, and the
dogs may vent their frustration in very unpleasant ways: chewing and
demolishing furniture, digging up linoleum or biting people.
"They can do extensive damage if they knock you down," Keith said,
"even though it may be meant as good-natured play. It's one reason I
don't recommend the breed for children younger than 5 years old."
On the plus side, longtime breeders and dog show judges Alfred and Esme
Treen describe Dalmatians as "alert, fun-loving, dignified and loyal...
a delightful home companion."
Simendinger and other club members like to think that their own dogs
are carefully bred, diligently trained and representative of all teh good
things that Dalmatians can be.
Many of the local club's dogs compete in dog shows. Simendinger's
Popcorn and Charlie both have advanced obedience degrees. They are also
certified therapy dogs, making regular visits to elderly persons in
nursing homes and with children in schools.
Nanci Good's favorite dog, 4 year old Rio, will be visiting theiters
when the Disney movie opens. They were invited by the theaters.
"We have mixed emotions about this," Good says. "We agreed to make
the appearances as long as they let us hand out literature about the
breed. We just don't want to see people making impulse purchaces."
The Greater Pittsburgh Dalmatian club can be reached at (412)
(Article written by Susan Fuoco, staff writer)