When a fire truck zoomed past with a Dalmatian dog in the front seat, three children started discussing the dog’s duties.
'They use him to keep crowds back,' said one child. 'No,' said another, 'he's just for good luck.' A third child brought the argument to a close. 'They use the dogs,' she said firmly, 'to find the fire hydrants.’
When the horse and carriage were the primary means of transportation, Dalmatians were used to protect horses by barking away other dogs on the roads and preventing the horses from being stolen from the stables.
They were able to run long distances. Their distinctive spotted coat made them stand out.
The Dalmatian became the dog of choice to run along the horse-drawn fire wagons and to protect the firehouse and the horses. Just like the Budweiser commercials, the horses and Dalmatians formed strong bonds.
At one time most fire companies were volunteer or were operated as a private business. Often the company that got to the scene first to put out the fire was the one paid by the property owner or insurance company. People were not always on duty at the stations as they are today. The dogs worked well in protecting the horses and the equipment from thieves.
Through the history of the Dalmatian as fire dog, there have been many stories of the dogs rescuing victims and trapped firefighters. Like many traditions there is also an element of superstition in the use of the Dalmatian as mascot.
But as many people found out after falling in love with the 101 cute puppies in those movies, they are not usually the best pet for the typical family. Following the success of the movies, many puppies were produced by unscrupulous breeders and Dalmatian rescue organizations were overwhelmed.
Some Dalmatians may like children, but don’t count on it. They have been bred as working dogs and guard dogs. They need a lot of activity and training. Because they don’t handle weather extremes well, they shouldn’t be outside-only dogs. They are not easy to house break. About 30% are partially or totally deaf and they are prone to various health problems. Source
And they shed. A lot. The white hair sticks to dark colored things and the black hair gravitates to light things.