Labrador vs Dalmatian: Which Is The Best Family Dog?

labrador vs dalmatian

The Labrador vs Dalmatian debate takes a look at two great family dogs. But how similar are they? Both Labradors and Dalmatians are similar sizes. The breeds are both intelligent, confident, and active. So they can both take well to training, and need plenty of exercise. However, these breeds do have some key differences! Let’s take a closer look at the Labrador vs Dalmatian debate to see which is better for your family.

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Labrador vs Dalmatian Background and Purpose

Although a breed’s history might not affect how much you want them as a pet, it can be really interesting to learn. Plus, a breed’s background can influence its modern behavior and natural instincts! Let’s take a brief look at the differences between Dalmatian vs Labrador breed origins.

Labrador Retriever History

The Labrador breed is a retrieving dog that belongs in the sporting group. This breed originally comes from Newfoundland, Canada, where they worked alongside fishermen. Labs were brought across to England in the 1900s, where the breed was standardised.

Modern Labradors suit a variety of roles. Many are still used as gundogs to retrieve game. But, a lot are used as family pets and companions, thanks to their loving personalities. Labradors are also now often used as working dogs in the police, or as guide dogs and therapy dogs. So how different is this to the Dalmatian?

labrador vs dalmatian

Dalmatian History

The origins of the Dalmatian breed are still up for debate. But most people associate them with a region that used to be called Dalmatia, along the Adriatic Sea. Originally, Dalmatians were used as ‘coach dogs’. They were to trot alongside coaches and horses, but also guard them when their owners stepped away. Dalmatians were kept by caravans of Romani people who roamed around Europe, and also by British nobility. These dogs even accompanied firefighters in Britain back when fire engines were pulled by horses!

Like Labs, Dalmatians are now more common as family pets, and aren’t often used to guard horses or homes!

Labrador vs Dalmatian Appearances

Dalmatians and Labrador Retrievers can seem quite different when you take a look at them! But, even in appearance, the two breeds have more in common than you might think. Let’s take a look at how these two popular breeds differ in their appearances.

Size and Body Shape

Labradors and Dalmatians are actually quite similar sizes, but Labs can be slightly bigger. Labs will grow up to 24.5 inches tall as adults, weighing between 50 and 80 pounds. Dalmatians, on the other hand, can grow up to 24 inches tall, and weigh between 45 and 70 pounds. Of course, these are only averages. So, you might find dogs from either breed that fall outside of these numbers! Females tend to be smaller than males in both breeds.

Both dogs have healthy body conformation, with long snouts, floppy ears, and long tails. They are both athletic breeds, but Labs tend to look a little stockier than Dalmatians.

Coat and Fur Color

Dalmatians have a sleek fur coat that comes in a striking white with either black or liver spots. Dalmatians don’t actually get all of their spots until they are about a month old. And some can grow up completely white!

Labs, on the other hand come in three recognised colors: yellow, black, and chocolate. These vary in shades, and they can also come in controversial dilute versions – champagne, silver, and charcoal. Labradors also have a short coat. But, they have a wider tail than the Dalmatian, which is often called otter-like. They can also be fluffier around their ruff than Dalmatians.

Labrador vs Dalmatian Personality

One of the most decisive factors when choosing your new dog is its personality. It is really important that your dog fits in well with your family. Let’s find out more about the Labrador vs Dalmatian personality to see which would fit your family best.

Labrador Temperament

The Labrador breed is known for being a great family dog. Labs are friendly, confident, and happy as long as they are socialized well from a young age. Labradors fit in well in families with young children, and often with other animals too. However, you will find differences in temperament between the working strain of Labrador and the show strain.

Working Labs tend to be more serious and less playful. They are great for people who are looking for a working dog that they can train and communicate with over long distances. Show Labs are known for being more outgoing and friendly. If you’re looking for an affectionate Lab that you can play with, the show strain is right for you. However, this type can be slower to mature than working Labs. Both types of Lab are intelligent and will take well to positive, reward-based training. And, both types will need plenty of exercise to stay happy and healthy.

Separation Anxiety

One issue that could potentially affect Labs is separation anxiety. These are social dogs that love spending time with their families. So, being left alone for long periods of time can cause them distress and anxiety. As intelligent dogs, Labs need plenty of stimulation to avoid destructive behaviors. They are best suited to families that have plenty of time to dedicate to their dog.

Dalmatian Temperament

Dalmatians are known for being proud, intelligent, and affectionate. They can be a great choice for families with children, as they are often very playful dogs! However, to encourage this best temperament in your adult Dalmatian, you need to socialize your puppy well from a young age.

Dalmatians are known for being great around strangers and other animals. So, if you already have other pets, a Dalmatian can be a good choice. These dogs are especially good around horses!


As the Dalmatian was originally used in part as a guard dog, there may be a tendency to be wary of strangers in dogs that aren’t properly socialized. It is really important to socialize your Dalmatian well from a young age. This will minimise any potential for aggression, and will ensure that your Dalmatian grows up to be happy and confident in new situations.

Labrador vs Dalmatian Trainability

Both the Labrador Retriever and Dalmatian breeds are intelligent dogs. So, they will both take well to training. For best results, you should train your dog from the time you bring it home. Positive, reward-based methods are the best way of building a strong bond with your dog when training.

Obedience training is important in dogs of this size, especially if you have homes with other small animals, or young children. Big, playful dogs, like these breeds, can get over excited and knock over young children as they charge around the house. This can result in young kids getting accidentally hurt. But, training your dog well can help to control this!

Importance of Socialization

As well as training, good socialization is another important part of bringing up a puppy. Socializing your puppy to new people and experiences will help them to be more confident and friendly as an adult dog. Socialization is really important to minimise any potential aggression in a breed. Although both of these breeds are known for being friendly, affectionate dogs, socialization will help to encourage this ideal temperament.

Labrador vs Dalmatian Exercise Needs

Both of these breeds are high energy dogs that need plenty of exercise every day. Labradors and Dalmatians both originally had very active lifestyles. Dalmatians ran alongside horse and carriages, whereas Labs would retrieve game and fish for its hunting owners! So, both breeds have plenty of stamina and energy that they will need to burn off. Don’t over exercise them as puppies, as this can lead to joint problems.

But make sure they get plenty of time to run around outdoors as adults. You may even want to teach them dog agility to burn off some of this energy. Neither of these breeds will suit families that never go outside. They need plenty of physical stimulation, otherwise they can suffer from health problems like becoming overweight.

Labrador vs Dalmatian Potential Health Problems

Every dog breed is prone to some potential health issues. This doesn’t mean that every dog will be unhealthy, though. With the right lifestyle and care, you can encourage the best health in your dog. But there will always be some potential issues that you should be aware of.

Labrador Health

Here are some health issues that are commonly known to affect the Labrador breed:

Luckily, dogs can be tested for many of these health problems. So, get your puppy from a reputable breeder who can provide health tests and certificates. This will minimise your risk of getting a dog who is prone to these issues.

Dalmatian Health

Here are some of the health problems Dalmatians can be prone to:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Allergies
  • Urinary stones
  • Epilepsy
  • Skin problems
  • Deafness

Many of these issues can be tested for in adult dogs. So, just like the Lab, make sure to source a Dalmatian puppy from a reputable breeder who can prove the good health of the dogs they are breeding from. Good diet and general care will help to encourage the best health possible in your dog, no matter what their breed.

Labrador vs Dalmatian Lifespan

As both of these breeds are relatively healthy, you can expect them to stay with you for a long time. The average lifespan of the Labrador breed is 12.5 years. Whereas the average lifespan of the Dalmatian is 13.3 years. This doesn’t mean that all Labradors and Dalmatians will only live this long. Some can live much longer! Especially if they are given the right care throughout their lives and chosen from a reputable breeder.

Labrador vs Dalmatian General Care

Every single dog breed will need some level of general care from you. But, the amount the need varies from breed to breed. So, you may find that one suits your lifestyle a little better.


Labradors are known for being moderate to heavy shedders. Their fur will end up pretty much everywhere in your home! And, the amount of shedding will increase over peak seasons. Dalmatians will shed a little too, but nowhere near as much as a Lab. So, if you choose to bring a Labrador home, be prepared to have to clean up his fur after him!


Grooming can be a great way to keep on top of shedding fur. Labs have much higher grooming requirements than Dalmatians. You should brush your Lab a couple of times a week to control shedding, and will need to bathe them regularly so they don’t get smelly.

Dalmatians are more of a ‘wash-and-wear’ breed. You can brush them once a week to get rid of any loose fur, and they will only need occasional bathing. Both breeds will need their ears checked and their nails clipped regularly.


It is important to make sure that your dog has a healthy diet and is getting enough food. However, you should also be wary of overfeeding. One problem that many Labrador owners run into is a greedy or overweight dog! Labs can have a tendency to overeat if you let them, which can lead to problems like obesity. So, make sure you attend regular check ups with your vet to keep on top of your dog’s health and weight.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

Labrador vs Dalmatian Puppy Price

It is important that you always choose a reputable breeder when finding a new puppy. Reputable breeders will put the health of their puppies before profits. Puppy mills will do the opposite, and will churn out puppies for profit without caring about the health of any of the dogs involved.

You can expect the initial Labrador puppy price to range anywhere from $800 to $1200. But, Dalmatian puppy prices can range from $500 up to $1600. If you’re looking for a cheaper puppy, you can turn to rescue centers rather than puppy mills. Rescue centers are a great way to give a dog a second chance, and you can know a little more about your dog’s personality before bringing him home.

Labrador vs Dalmatian – Which is Best?

These two breeds are pretty similar in their size, body shape, and temperament. But, they have very different fur colors and grooming needs! Both dogs suit active homes and can live well with other animals and small children. But, Labs will shed more, and Dalmatians can cost a lot more as a puppy!

Do you have either of these breeds at home? Let us know which one you chose to have as a pet, and why! We would love to hear about your experiences with these breeds in the comments!

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References and Further Reading

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website


  1. I’ve had both through the years, and both breeds are excellent family dogs. I have a 2 year old Chocolate Lab male and we just adopted a 10 month old female Dal. Within 48 hours of her coming into our home they have become inseparable, and the Dal has even begun working on building friendships with our two cats (the younger one will do it, the older cat doesn’t socialize with canine peasants).

  2. Had my first Dalmation as a puppy aged 4 months. Great with people and most other friendly dogs. Was a little more aloof aged12 … took him out daily. Even with regular showers, he always smelled off but gave so much joy to everyone and most of my friends offered to have him if l went away. He passed away only 5 months ago. He found a cancer in his hip by smell and our vet confirmed and removed it. He would eat anything and everything. But was in great condition, very easy boy. He also had stones in his urethra so medication helped … Vit C, and special dry food. A wonderful memory and he had a special best friend dog … a mixture of Ridgeback and Dane. I missed him so much and after about 6 weeks l saw a similar looking Rescue dog aged 7. Much bigger, incredibly friendly with me. Have now had him for 4 months. He has a great personality, except with many other dogs. Am o without him. He loves our routine. He buries him on a few levels. 50lbs in weight has been hard hoisting him into my car. He wl hop in without a problem as long as there is a small cheese puff in the boot. He now loves his food and l can take him to a park where there are no dogs. He keeps an eye on me so that l won’t go without him. He buries all his toys and bones, only to resurrect them when he feels like a new game. He had an ear infection when l picked him up from the foster family. I discovered he was deaf in one ear and had arthritis in his left front paw (which l have been treating with turmeric, black pepper, coconut oil, fish oil and magnesium powder paste insisted food) This has made a significant improvement. He prances when he runs and comes straight to me most of the time, with a big grin. Very elegant Dalmation. They are wonderful dogs as friends and love attention . Have also had Golden Retrievers … also family oriented … but Dalmatians are such charming personal dogs … cheers and spot the spots … Regina

  3. Working on my 5th Dal. The last I’ve had a year who was the rescue. All five loves people it was great with family. Number for would bark at the doorbell but not the person. If a stranger came in and sat on the couch she would ask permission to sit on their laps. She would put her chin email app then one paw and when given position will curl up one person’s lap.. also at night she will chase deer out of the yard but will not leave the yard.. the 5th was on Prozac when I got him. I win them off at and I see no difference in them, he is a sweetheart

  4. As an owner of 2 labradors preceeded by a dalmatian for 13 years, I totally disagree with this author’s assessment regarding the behavior of a dalmation. The dal is a one person dog, skiddish
    and unpredictable. Never would I recommend as a family dog. My dal was gorgeous, hired a behavioral specialist who said I picked the wrong breed.