Dalmatians are energetic, playful, tough, and known to be sensitive to human emotions. Their combination of traits meant that they were initially used to run with passenger carriages, keeping the horses calm and potentially protecting the carriage and its inhabitants from any potential threat.
This practice continued in the 1700s when fire brigades used similar horse-drawn carriages to attend fires. When they weren’t running with carriages, the dogs lived at the firehouse, providing similar protective and calming duties. Their presence was so prevalent that they became known, and are still often referred to, as Firehouse Dogs.
While the use of motorized vehicles meant that Dalmatians no longer ran alongside fire carts, many are still kept at firehouses as companions and watchdogs.
The Dalmatian is a medium-sized breed that is energetic and strong, loyal and faithful. The breed was developed as a coach dog. Typically deployed in small packs, these dogs would run alongside coaches. They were used to protect the inhabitants and contents of the coaches, but they were also used because they had an unusual ability to be able to calm and soothe the horses that pulled the carts. Even when danger was present, Dalmatians were able to prevent the horses from panicking and bolting, which could cause injury to people and damage to any goods being transported.
Although today they are more likely to be kept as companion dogs and family pets, thanks to their playful nature and loyal attitude, they can still be seen in firehouses and even accompanying fire crews as they attend to emergencies.
The 5 Traits That Made Dalmatians the Ideal Firehouse Dog
There are many breeds of dogs capable of running at the same speed as horse-pulled carts. Some are great as guard dogs, and some have the stamina and attention to be able to fulfill this job all day long, but it was the Dalmatian that became the most popular firehouse dog thanks to its combination of beneficial traits. Some of the reasons that the Dalmatian became the breed of choice for this role were:
The first fire trucks were essentially carts that were pulled by people, but once horses took over the pulling duty, it wasn’t long before Dalmatians joined the fire crew. One of the duties of the Dalmatian was to run alongside the fire cart, effectively clearing a path for the firefighters to get through.
The Dalmatians needed to keep up a good pace, maintaining the same speed as the horses, and they had to do so until they reached the scene of the fire. Once the fire was extinguished, the dogs would have to make the run back. Their high levels of stamina are still present today, and owners can have a hard time wearing out their Dalmatian pets.
2. Calming Nature
Arguably, the greatest reason that the Dalmatian was chosen over any other breed of dog was for their ability to calm the horses. Horses are naturally afraid of fire, and they can become spooked when near large crowds of people. Dalmatians were able to calm the horses when they were near the scene of a fire and kept them calm on the run to the scene of the fire.
3. Guarding Duties
Dalmatians are very loyal, and they make excellent guard dogs. They were initially used as cart dogs, and they protected against thieves and pickpockets. While this was not as important when accompanying fire carts, the dogs would protect the cart and the horses while the firefighters were putting out the fire. They would also use these same traits to help guard the firehouse itself and prevent thieves from getting in.
4. Loud Bark
One of the reasons that the Dalmatian makes such a good guard dog is that it has a loud bark and isn’t afraid to use it when necessary.
The dogs would clear a path for the ensuing fire cart. A small pack of Dalmatians would typically run ahead of the cart and would bark a warning to ensure that people got out of the way of the horses. This trait was also beneficial when warding off thieves and even potential predators.
Even today, the breed is known for barking when it senses some kind of threat, and owners are advised to teach the “quiet” command.
While horses get spooked by fire and some loud noises, Dalmatians are seemingly unflappable. This unshakable nature led to an untrue myth that Dalmatians are deaf. People claimed that they were able to accompany and protect the horses because they could not hear the sound of the sirens or other loud noises, but this has been disproven.
With that said, Dalmatians are known to be more prone to deafness than other breeds, and the hearing can be negatively affected in one or both ears of afflicted dogs.
Dalmatians are known as firehouse dogs because, having shown their prowess as cart dogs, they were utilized to accompany fire carts and would reside in the firehouse. They are still kept in some firehouses today, although they are not needed to run in front of carts or to steady the nerves of potentially skittish fire cart horses. They are now used as companions for the fire crew and to provide guarding and protective duties at the firehouse itself.
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