If you're old enough to remember Pogo, he supposedly said something like "We have met the enemy and the enemy is us". Truer words were never spoken when it comes to the Dalmatian's reputation. Sometimes the damage is unintentional, sometimes it's just poor judgment, but at other times it's gross stupidity.
Several months ago I joined a Facebook Dalmatian list that is made up primarily of pet owners, plus a number of experienced Dal owners (mostly breeder/exhibitors) who are there to be helpful. Many of the list members are young, first time Dal owners, have rescue dogs, or purchased from backyard breeders or commercial breeders, so they are often inexperienced and have no one to turn to for help. The list can be fun, and lots of cute pictures and stories are posted. The list is also extremely frustrating, as misinformation is shared as fact and advice is given that is totally incorrect and occasionally dangerous. Members post requests for help or advice, but for every hundred responses, often only a few are correct or useful. The show folks on the list are generally in agreement on most things, but they are outnumbered by the clueless. Hopefully the person asking the questions is smart enough to recognize the valid answers - but in many cases that's unlikely, and it often seems as if they really just want support from readers who agree with them. Some even resent the answers that are not what they wanted to hear.
I've met many wonderful owners, and corresponded privately with those who requested extra help or advice, but many times I've had to bite my tongue and just stop reading. Many show people have signed on for awhile and finally signed off in frustration, but I vowed to stick it out because there ARE people who genuinely need help and or want to learn. Bite your tongue, Sue. Do your best. Try to make yourself useful. For every ten fools, there's probably at least one sensible person out there, and although they may not be posting perhaps they are just reading along and learning. At least I hope so.
This morning there was a post from a young man who has taught his dog to bite him - by pinching it's nose. He posted a picture of the dog with all his teeth showing. Says the dog does not bite hard. It's just for fun he says. What is he thinking??? Actually he is not thinking. It's our job as responsible dog owners to teach our dogs that it is never ok to put their teeth on a person. Ever. This guy makes a game of it, gets the dog all revved up, and then encourages him to bite. He thinks it's cool. When a number of us protested, he then posted a video of the dog biting him and dared us to complain. Won't it be just great when the video is shared, as it undoubtedly will be? A Dal biting someone, confirming that Dals really are aggressive. It will be really cool too, when the dog tries his teeth on someone other than his owner, a child perhaps, or in the excitement of a "game" forgets to bite softly. What made the situation worse was all the people who think this is perfectly OK. Not the responsible breeders on the list who try to educate their puppy buyers. Not the rescue folks on the list who have to deal with the poorly behaved dogs who need to be rehomed, or can't be rehomed. Certainly not those of us who remember all the bad publicity the breed received during the Disney era when so many Dals were euthanized because their owners no longer wanted them or couldn't manage them. Just the average uneducated Dal owner. The ones that drive me crazy.
One of the topics that often comes up on that list is why Dals have such a bad reputation. Why don't vets like them, why do people say they aren't good with kids or are aggressive, hyper or untrainable? Why do they show up on lists of breeds not good for first time dog owners? These same people delight in reciting their dogs escapades - the furniture they destroy, the mischief they get into, the excessive barking that doesn't bother them. They agree that all Dalmatians are hyper, steal off the counters and have separation anxiety, that they all pull and bark. They complain that show people are snobs because we won't let our dogs meet their out of control, snarling, lunging "furbabies". They make no effort to actually train their dogs, and they do nothing to help improve the breed's image. And then they wonder why the breed has a bad reputation.
Many of us work very hard on Dalmatian PR. We get our dogs out in public, train and show them in obedience and agility, enter barn hunts and coursing events, do therapy dog work, make our dogs available for "meet the breed" and fire station events and respond to countless email and Facebook posts. We explain that Yes there are bad Dalmatians, but there are many more bad owners. We explain that the breed is smart and trainable if you take the time to do it, that well-bred properly socialized Dals make great family dogs, and that although Dals can lively and enthusiastic, a dog that receives appropriate training and enough exercise is NOT hyper. We discuss how to recognize a good responsible breeder, and how to buy intelligently. We educate our own buyers and explain to them that their dogs will be the dogs that the public sees and judges, and it's important that their dogs present a good breed image.
We also explain that if they are not going to buy a well bred dog from a responsible breeder, then they should consider adopting a rescue dog. Don't buy a commercially bred dog, or one from a backyard breeder who is only doing it to make a buck. Do your homework, buy intelligently, train your dog, ask questions of knowledgeable people, and raise a dog that we can ALL be proud of. And then some idiot does videos of his dog biting him, and many of the list members think that's really cool, and that those of us who try to explain why this is such a bad idea are just know-it-alls, busy bodies and troublemakers. Someone recently posted asking if we thought the next Disney movie would be bad for the breed. Maybe, but not nearly as bad as many of the owners.
Enough. I'm out of there. I can't do this any longer. It breaks my heart to see Dalmatians trashed, and the damage is so often done by people who profess to love the breed. Shame on them.