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Labrador Retriever vs. Dalmatian: Breed Differences & Similarities

Thinking a Dalmatian or a Labrador Retriever might make a great canine companion for your family? These two breeds may share a few similarities, but they are also quite different. Find out what you can expect before deciding which one to welcome into your home.

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: June 11, 2021 | 10 min read

Labrador Retriever vs Dalmatian

There is no doubt about it, the Labrador Retriever and the Dalmatian make fantastic family dogs. The question is, are you seeking the nation’s canine sweetheart? Or are you looking for your very own Pongo pup?

They are equally similar and different, which means they appeal to different types of families. Here in this Labrador vs. Dalmatian guide, we will discover which pup will better suit you and your family. They are both large-sized dogs who need plenty of exercise. So, these guys are not for families with inactive lifestyles.

They both adore their family and would do anything for them. Labs are known for their friendly demeanor, and Dalmatians make a great guard dogs. But there’s much more to it than just that, so let’s get down to all things canine comparison.

Breed Comparison

Labrador

  • Height 21.5-24.5 Inches
  • Weight 55-80 Pounds
  • Temperament Friendly, Active, Outgoing
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Dalmatian

  • Height 19-24 Inches
  • Weight 45-70 Pounds
  • Temperament Dignified, Smart, Outgoing
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 11-13 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Breed History

You might think canine history is something you can skip, but it’s one of the most important aspects of family dog research. Not only is it interesting to know where your soon-to-be canine bestie came from, but it can also tell you what he is going to be like as a family pet. Let’s see how their history compares.

Labrador

Brown and Black Dogs Sitting Next to Each Other
The Labrador is consistently ranked as America’s favorite dog breed.

For thirty years, Labrador Retrievers have been consistently ranked as America’s favorite dog breed according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). Out of almost 200 recognized dog breeds, that’s a pretty impressive feat! He was one of the first dog breeds selected for their human assistance skills. Whether that be a guide dog for the blind, in search and rescue, or as a therapy dog.

This purebred pup dates back to the 18th century in Newfoundland, Canada. Labs are traditional waterdogs of their homeland and were bred to drive fish into nets and retrieved ducks for his master.

He was a small-town dog until he was discovered by traveling British noblemen. They were so impressed by his water hunting skills that they took him back to England to standardize the breed. And this was when the world’s love affair with Labradors began.

Dalmatian

Two Spotted Dogs Lounging Next to Each Other
The Dalmatian’s history is a little spotty, but we know they spent time going between European borders.

The Dalmatian usually finds himself between 50th and 60th place in the AKC popularity contest. He is not as popular as the Lab, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t as suitable as a family pet. He just needs a particular type of family, is all.

His beautiful coat has always put him in favor with wealthy families and royalty. And his spotlight in the Disney hit film, 101 Dalmatians, means there aren’t many people out there who do not know what a Dalmatian is!

The Dal’s history is not as well documented as the Labs, but it is believed he is also centuries old. He spent his years traveling around Europe with Romani Gypsies, running and guarding the crew.

He was named after Dalmatia, where he spent a lot of time. To put it into a geographical perspective, this area is now recognized as Croatia. We know for sure he travelled in line with horses. His comfort with equines means he is also excellent as a ranch dog.

Appearance

Yellow and Spotted Dogs Standing Outside
Surprisingly, the Dalmatian is considered to be more colorful than the lab since it comes in more colors.

These two breeds are almost totally different in their appearance. They are both large-sized dogs, have long tails and long drop-down ears. And really, that’s their only similarities.

Their appearance is one of the main factors families base their decision on. Although you might prefer a pup based on their appearance, remember it’s more important to focus on their personality.

Labs are slightly larger than Dalmatians, but not by much. Labs weigh between 55 and 80 pounds. Compared to the slenderer Dal, who weighs between 45 and 70 pounds. Labs are also taller by just half an inch.

The Lab is a stocky and powerful-looking pup with a thick otter-like tail. The Dal is more athletic looking with longer legs and a slimmer waistline, and a long thin tail to match.

The Lab has a thick, dense, medium-length, double-layered coat that is relatively coarse to the touch. His thick coat was much-needed for protecting him in the icy waters of Canada, but this also means he sheds heavily during the shedding seasons. The Dalmatian has a very short and fine coat that feels satiny and almost like velvet. Adding even more glam to his appearance!

Labradors have three choies of solid coat colors, black, brown, and yellow. The Dalmatian has one standard coat that is solid white with darker spots all over his body. The most common spot color is black, but he can also have brown, lemon, or orange spots. Some Dal’s sport a mixture of different colored spots.

On occasion, the Dal can also have different colored eyes, or even completely blue eyes. Dogs with this condition tend to have a higher rate of deafness. Overall, the Dal is the more colorful breed out of the two dogs. Fun fact – all Dals are born completely white and will develop their spots after three or four months!

Temperament

Close up Faces of a Yellow and a Spotted Dog
Both breeds are energetic and are loyal to their families.

Both dogs are equally similar and different in their personality. Typically, temperament is the most important factor when choosing between the two.

Let’s start with their similarities. Both breeds both adore humans; above all, their families. There is nothing either of these guys wouldn’t do for their loved ones. It is this affinity for people that make them both great family pets.

They are also both high-energy dogs. Although this comes with extra responsibility, it also means lots of fun! A game of fetch, tug of war, or hide and seek with children never fails to delight either dogl. If you seek canine companionship and fun, look no further. They are both gentle with children and make a wonderful canine sibling.

Labradors are known for their friendly and well-mannered nature, which is one of the many reasons why they are so popular. He is quick to make friends and would even invite an up-to-no-good intruder in for a cup of coffee and cake if he could. In fact, it’s because of his friendliness that he’s often compared to Beagles, or compared to Golden Retrievers, rather than more reserved pups like the Dal.

The Dalmatian is much more reserved and aloof with those he hasn’t met before. He is also suspicious of strangers and makes a great watchdog. He’ll be quick to let you know when someone is approaching your home.

This aloof nature makes him more protective. Because of this, he likes to be by your side all the time to make sure you are safe and well. This can make the Dalmatian an anxious pup when left alone. Although Labs like to spend every waking minute with his family, he is also relaxed enough to spend a few hours by himself.

Exercise

Running Yellow Dog and Spotted Dog
Expect to spend at least 60 minutes a day exercising your Lab or Dal.

Both breeds have intense energy. They are definitely not couch potatoes by any means. They need 60 minutes of daily exercise, without fail, to be happy and healthy.

Many people take on the Dalmatian thinking he is a glamorous pup that prefers the luxury of laps instead of exercising, but this is not the case. If we had to choose, the Dal actually needs the most intensive exercise out of the two breeds.

They are both intelligent and curious canines who need to be mentally stimulated throughout the day. On top of their hour of outdoor exercise, they both need to be played with. Dog toys are a great way to stimulate their brain and keep them out of mischief when you cannot play with them.

The Dalmatian has lots of explosive energy, so he is bound to love chasing toys and running around the yard. Labradors will be forever happy with a paddling pool in the yard.

Training

Black Dog and Spotted Dog Sitting Outside
Both the Lab and the Dal are smart and can be trained, but the Dal can be more stubborn.

Both dog breeds are very intelligent. The Labs are easier to train out of the two. He is a naturally clever canine, but he is also super eager to please his people. These traits make him a dream to train, and why he is regularly chosen as an assistance dog.

The Dalmatian is not as quick to learn commands. Plus, he has an independent, headstrong streak which can make him stubborn at times.

For both the Lab and the Dal to be obedient and well-mannered, they need early training. By teaching them both basic commands from an early age, you can instill obedience and respect into their routine. Positive reinforcement training is the best way to train both of these guys. The Labrador is more likely to be motivated by yummy treats than the Dal because he is a greedy pup.

Socialization is one of the most important aspects of dog training for all dogs. But, this is particularly true of dogs who have a protective streak, such as the Dalmatian. Socialization is the process of exposing pups to other dogs, animals, humans, and environments. Not only does this build their confidence, but it also teaches them that most times, other dogs and people are not a threat.

Once the Lab is socialized, he is often forever polite. But protective dogs like the Dal need to be regularly socialized throughout their lifetime to remind them of their manners.

Health

Sleeping Brown and Spotted Dogs
There are some genetic concerns to consider for both breeds.

Both dogs are reasonably healthy canines. The Dalmatian’s life expectancy is 11 to 13 years, and the lifespan of the Lab is slightly shorter at 10 to 12 years. They are both purebred dogs susceptible to certain health conditions more so than others. Whichever breed you choose, be sure to ask your breeder for the relevant health certificates.

The heavyset Labrador is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia. This is typically caused by gene inheritance and/or unequal and quick bone growth. This results in increased wear and tear of the affected joints, eventually causing reduced mobility and painful arthritis.

The Lab also suffers from a variety of eye conditions. The two most common eye concerns to be aware of are cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy. Exercise-induced collapse is another condition that affects the Lab, and all reputable breeders will test for this.

The Dalmatian is also prone to hip dysplasia, and it is a common concern in larger dog breeds. A reputable breeder will only breed healthy dogs with good hip scores.

The Dal community is also affected by higher rates of deafness, with research showing up to 30% of the population are born deaf. All reputable breeders will test for this using a BAER test. Dogs with unilateral deafness (one ear) will usually lead a normal life. But those with bilateral deafness (both ears) will require special considerations and an experienced dog owner to take on the extra responsibility that comes with it.

Nutrition

Brown and Spotted Dogs Eating From Dog Bowls
High-quality kibble that is formulated for large-breed dogs is recommended for the Lab and the Dal.

Both breeds are large and active dogs meaning they have similar nutritional requirements. The Labrador eats between two and four cups of kibble a day, whereas the Dal will consume slightly less at two cups of food a day. Like all dogs, you should feed them the best quality nutrition you can afford. Both will require food designed for large breed dogs to meet their large breed needs.

The Labrador is a greedy dog, and so you will need to take extra care to monitor his weight. The Dalmatian isn’t as obsessed with food compared to the Lab. But that doesn’t mean you can leave a roasted chicken on the counter and leave it unattended!

As large active dogs, you need to be aware of gastric torsion, a life-threatening condition. Be sure never to exercise your dog immediately before or after mealtimes, and feed them smaller meals throughout the day.

Grooming

Yellow Dog and Spotted Dog Among Purple Flowers
These two breeds are very different when it comes to their grooming regime.

There is a huge difference in grooming needs between the two dogs. This is one of the main reasons families compare and contrast these two breeds.

The Dalmatian’s short and sleek coat is easy to care for, only requiring one quick brush a week to keep him looking healthy and shiny. He is an average shedder who doesn’t cause too much hassle for dog owners. A curry brush or rubber mitt is the best grooming tool for the Dal.

And then there’s the Lab. With his thick, dense double coat, this guy can create a full-blown hair tsunami during the shedding seasons if not managed. He needs at least two to three brushing sessions a week throughout the year.

During the shedding seasons, he requires daily brushing to manage his heavy shedding. A de-shedding brush is the best grooming tool to tackle his coat. His high grooming maintenance is something all families need to consider.

The Lab will need more frequent bathing than the Dal too. Most Labs should be bathed once every month or two, depending on how dirty he gets on his adventures. The Dal only requires bathing once every three to four months.

All other grooming needs, such as twice-weekly dental cleaning, weekly ear cleaning, and monthly nail trimming, are the same. Remember to always use doggy products (not human products) on your pups!

Puppy Prices

Black and Spotted Puppies
Expect to pay $800-$1,500 for either breed.

Purebred puppy prices of both dogs are usually the same. The starting price for a puppy starts at around $1,000, reaching up to an average of $1,500.

If you are looking for a pup from a popular breeder or one from an award-winning bloodline, you can expect to pay much more than this. Both the Lab and the Dal are purebred dogs, so breeders registered with the AKC tend to be the crème of the crop.

If you come across a puppy being sold for less than the average price, it could be a sign that they are not a responsible breeder. Or worse, part of a puppy mill. So, please do not be lured in with lower puppy prices.

You also need to consider the ongoing cost of taking care of a dog. Based on their average health, similar size, and comparable activity levels, both the Lab and the Dal cost practically the same to care for across their lifetimes.

Final Thoughts

Both of these breeds are lovely canines suitable for the important role of being the family pet. But as you can see from the comparison above, they are different from one another in many ways.

The Lab is the classic family pup that is friendly with everyone and much easier to train. Whereas the Dalmatian is more active and alert but much lower maintenance when it comes to grooming. But as long as you can meet the Labrador or the Dalmatian’s needs, you are bound to find a fun and loving pet in either dog breed!

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