Dalmatians have served as war dogs, shepherds, ratters and bird dogs, but they are probably best known for their association with firehouses. The breed's intelligence and active nature make this spotted dog a natural worker, but the Dalmatian's affinity for another animal -- the horse -- brought the dog into the world of firefighting.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, horses pulled fire trucks. Dogs served as their protectors from horse thieves; they also cleared the way for the horses as they charged to the scene of a smoldering building. Dalmatians, as a breed, seemed to form tight bonds with their horses that resulted in a sense of trust. Author Marsha Giesler writes that Dalmatians served as distractions that appeared to help appease horses' natural fear of fire as they approached blazes. Dalmatians even served with their barks, acting as forms of sirens in those early days of firefighting; and they also guarded equipment, the horses and the carriages as firemen fought blazes. Giesler says the Dalmatians kept other dogs from scaring the horses.
300 Years Ago to Today
Firefighters in Great Britain first used the dogs to assist in service, but Benjamin Franklin is accredited with introducing Dalmatians to firehouses in the United States. Although the dogs no longer serve as important a purpose in present day fire stations, their strong tie to the service means they always have a place with firefighters. Many fire stations today have a Dalmatian as a mascot and pet.