Made famous by the iconic Disney film, 101 Dalmatians, the spotty dog is an eye-catching canine that has become a much sought-after family pet. And while the Dalmatian is actually the only truly polka spotted dog, this gorgeous coat pattern can be found in many forms on a host of other breeds. From speckles and ticking to splurged merle, why not join up the dots in your search for your perfect pooch with our guide to 20 of the best spotted dog breeds.
The ultimate spotty dog, the Dalmatian is immediately recognizable as the only true spot dog. With its short coat that has a cool white base, their spots should be nicely rounded and well-spaced all over their body.
While the black spotted Dalmatian is the first that comes to mind, thanks to the 101 Dalmatians movie, the spots can also be brown (liver spotted) as well as lemon and are caused by what experts believe is the ‘extreme piebald’ gene. And while this creates their gorgeous spotty look, these genetics is also linked to an increased risk of deafness, with around 12% of all Dalmatians suffering from some level of hearing loss.
As a medium-large sized breed, these agile and long-limbed dogs are playful and pretty easy to train although they are known to have a stubborn streak which needs a confident handler. But they are people-orientated and love to spend time with their humans, making Dalmatians loving family dogs.
English Springer Spaniel
Springer by name, and springy by nature, the energetic and totally loveable English Springer Spaniels are characterized by a splodgy coat, which includes smaller speckles across its soft fur as well as muzzle and chest. The speckles and splodges are typically black or brown on white, further enhanced by its feathery coat, which does need regular grooming to keep this muck-loving pooch looking neat.
Bred as a working dog – they were originally bird hunting dogs in 19th century England – English Springer Spaniels are now a hugely popular family pet, thanks to its fun-loving and loyal nature. And with a reputation of being pretty impossible to wear out, these on-the-go dogs need an active family to keep up with them but make rewarding household pets.
Catahoula Leopard Dog
Originally from Louisiana, where it is the state dog, the Catahoula Leopard dog was bred to round up feral hogs and is a smart cookie that has bags of stamina and high energy levels. With their beautiful blue eyes, which can also be a mix of blue and brown, the Catahoula is a distinctive pooch with a strong build that can be on the dominant side if not socialized and trained well. And their personality means they make excellent security and guard dogs.
Color wise, it is the spotted merle pattern of their coat that means we can include the Leopard Dog Catahoula on our spotty breed list. With a short coat that is prone to shedding, the Catahoula Leopard Dog comes in a choice of colors, including red, blue merle, black and gray which create and almost leopard-like pattern to their fur.
German Shorthaired Pointer
The spots are distinct on the German Shorthaired Pointer breed, creating a handsome dog that knows he is something special. And with his gorgeous short coat, this is a dog that loves to show them off!
German Shorthaired Pointers typically have a brown head, with a white body coat which is densely populated by brown, freckle-like spots to create the spotty dog look. An inversion pattern – pale brown spots on a dark, liver brown fur – is also accepted by the American Kennel Club. Their fur is soft and is not prone to excessive shedding.
Originally bred as a hunting dog, the German Pointer is consistently in the US’s top 10 most popular dog breeds and it is easy to see why. Not only are they a good-looking brown and white spotted dog, but they also have a loving and energetic personality, making them a good choice as a family dog. They do need a lot of exercise, however, so would suit an active family with older children.
Australian Cattle Dog
Also known as Blue Heelers, the Australian Cattle dog has a beautifully speckled coat that comes in blue or red with or without black spots, creating a rich mottled pattern in their medium length fur. But the downside of this gorgeous spotty coat is that the Australian is prone to heavy shedding so needs a regular grooming routine.
With notoriously high stamina and a drive for exercise, the Australian Cattle Dog is a natural herder, and was originally cross bred from Dingo Collies and black and tan Kelpies to create the cattle dog it is today. As well as a working dog, this breed can make good family dogs although with their tendency to herd, they can round up small children as well as other pets by nipping at their heels.
If you are thinking of welcoming a Blue Heeler into your family, you need to have a decent amount of outdoor space and an active lifestyle to burn off all that cattle dog energy. And they are excellent to train, with many excelling in agility and other canine obedience sports.
Not to be confused with the Blue Heeler, the Australian Shepherd – or Aussie as it is widely known – are also cattle dogs, with a smart brain and the energy to match.
A medium sized dog, the Aussie has a fluffier coat than the Heeler, but is equally prone to excessive shedding. Their coat is a classic merle pattern in either blue or red merle, with a substantial amount of white and a splattering of mottles and spots in a range of colors, including black, tan and gray. The result is a striking looking dog, especially with the blue or two-color eyes that are often seen in the breed.
While the Aussie is robust, as a breed they are prone to some congenital diseases, including hearing loss and hip/elbow dysplasia. As working dogs, they are also natural herders so can have strong guarding instincts. But with sufficient training and handling, they can make fun and loyal family pets who love nothing more than an active life with their favorite humans.
Elegant and lithe, the English Setter is a stunning breed and with its mottled appearance, is one of the most sought after spotted dog breeds. Bred as a bird dog – it was originally used for hunting waterfowl – the English Setter also sports a silky medium to long coat that features beautiful feathers on their ears and lower body. And as it sheds, this means the English Setter needs a regular brushing routine.
The colors in their spotted coat can vary, but most have a white base, flecked with brown or black spots, or speckled patterns in a range of colors, including orange, blue, tricolor, lemon and liver. The resulting patterns on the English Setter’s coat is known as belton markings.
Easy-going and eager to please, as a popular spotted dog breed, English Setters makes lovely family pets, but they do have a high prey drive, so will need consistent training from an early age.
This dog’s name gives a clear clue to the type of spotted dog breed it is, with a distinctive black and blue ticked pattern covering its body. Their short coat is stunning and also low maintenance as they are not high on shedding. The typical pattern of the Bluetick Coonhound is white, black and tan coat which is ticked with white as well as brown or black to create the mottled, spotty markings.
The Bluetick Coonhound makes the perfect hunting companion although due to its high prey drive, are not that common as household pets as they can be energetic to handle. But the Bluetick Coonhound is loyal and affectionate if trained, socialized and handled properly, as well as given plenty of space and time for exercise. But if you do choose to welcome a Bluetick Coonhound into your family, you need to be prepared for one of the most vocal spotted dog breeds. These pooches are prone to emitting a unique baying sound, especially if they are bored or anxious.
The intelligence of the medium-sized Border Collie is widely known, making them one of the world’s leading working dogs and renowned herding dog breeds. And even as domestic companions, they still love a job to do, making them the perfect canines for dog agility sports. However, as any Border Collie owner will tell you, their intelligence and need for stimulation can have a downside, as the breed can get anxious and exhibit destructive behaviors if left to get bored.
The claim to be one of the most popular spotted dog breeds can be seen in the dotted, merle or ticking pattern that can be found on many Border Collies, who have a luxuriant long coat. Typical colors you can expect in this spotted breed include black and white, tan, and a stunning blue or red merle that has varying degrees of speckling to create the dotty look.
There are two types of Corgi, the Pembroke and the Cardigan Welsh Corgi breeds and both can have spotted coats. Their medium length coat can in a range of colors, including red, sable, fawn, black and tan with or without white markings. They can also be multi-color with a merle effect in their fur – the most popular being blue merle – as well individual spots that can appear on their coat.
Even as young pups, the Corgis’ fur is thick and is prone to high shedding and they also have fox brush like tail so a good brushing routine is a must. As family pooches, these little dogs have a big personality, with high energy levels and a trainable attitude that make them a bundle of fun. But with a history of being a herding dog, they do need exercise to stave off boredom and keep any destructive behavior in check.
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Jack Russell Terrier
These little dogs with a big attitude are one of the most popular small breeds, both in the US and the UK and make for an energetic companion dog that is great fun for families as well as individuals. And while they may not be covered in spots, the Russell Terrier often sports patches and large spots to qualify for our spotty dog list. Ticking patterns can also develop as they age.
Most Jack Russells have a white coat base and a wiry short coat that is easy to care for and maintain. Many are then tri-colored, with black and tan the most typical spot colorways. Their small floppy ears are also velvet soft and are normally solid colored to add a cute, quizzical look to this adorable small dog.
Confident, intelligent and with bags of energy, the plucky Jack Russell Terrier works well in families, and with children as they can be easily trained and love to be part of their pack. They can, however, be stubborn so consistent training and handling is key to a fun time with this loving little companion.
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From the mini Russell Terrier, we now come to the lofty Great Dane, a gentle giant that has its very own spotty variety – the harlequin. The Harlequin Great Dane is a handsome large dog and is the closest breed to the classic Dalmatian spotty dog.
The Harlequin has a distinct white coat that comes with beautifully random markings of black spots. But unlike the Dalmatian, the Harlequin’s spots are not as uniform and come in both small and larger sizes across the body. Ordinary Great Danes can also have a spotty twist to their coat, especially those with a blue merle patterned coat. And with their short fur, the spotted Great Dane is easy to care for as it is a low-shedding breed.
As with the Dalmatian, the Harlequin’s spots are genetic, so they are also prone to being born with hearing problems or total hearing loss. And, as they are so large, all Great Danes are susceptible to dysplasia of the hips, elbows and shoulders.
If you love your teacups as much as spots when it comes to dogs, then the Chihuahua could be the spotty dog of your dreams. These pint-sized pups make wonderful companions, and their silky soft fur is a delight. And as they can come in a wide range of colors and markings, spotty Chihuahuas are not unusual to find.
Both the Deer Head and Apple Headed Chihuahuas often sport spots, ticking and mottling on their fur, which can be single color spots or multi-colored.
Named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua, this breed is one of the smallest pups you can find and their typical colors are black, gold, chocolate, cream and fawn. Add in merle or splodges and you have one of the cutest spotty dogs with a big personality, all in a package that weighs no more than six pounds!
Sticking with the toy breed theme, we now turn to the quirky Chinese Crested, which is either hairless, except for a tuft on its head, or powderpuff, which has a luxuriously silky coat.
It is the Hairless Chinese Crested that earns its place in our top 20 spotted dog breeds but is a little unusual in that the spots are sported on its skin, rather than the coat. These little dogs with spotted skin will have a scattering of white dots all over its body, with a particular concentration on the chest area. Obviously shedding is not an issue with this breed but care needs to be taken to protect their delicate skin.
As pets, the Chinese Crested are excellent companion dogs, and are as at home on the couch as they are playing on the carpet, but they don’t need excessive exercise so are wonderful apartment pets.
Braque Francais Pyrenean
The beautifully named Braque Francais Pyrenean hails from France where it was bred to be a hunting dog. Thought to be the ancestor of all of today’s shorthaired pointers, the Braque is a muscular medium-sized hunting breed, with long legs and a dense short coat. While you can get these hunting dogs in a solid base coat color, usually chestnut, they frequently have lovely chestnut and white spotted coat patterns, offset by a solid chestnut colored face, with expressive hazel-colored eyes.
With a natural retriever instinct, the Braque loves water as well as working hard. And, as a family pet or companion, he is a joy, thanks to his calm demeanor and highly sociable nature.
Also known as the Great Pyrenees, this large size breed is usually found with a solid white coat, but they can also be seen with black or tan spots on their lovely long fur. Hailing from the Aragón region in north-eastern Spain, the Pyrenean Mastiff was originally used as herding dogs, to protect livestock grazing in the mountains and is built to weather tough terrain.
Similar in looks and size to the Bernese Mountain Dog, the Pyrenean Mastiff is muscular and strong, and thanks to its herding instincts can be stubborn and strong-willed. They also need plenty of exercise and consistent training so need a confident handler to bring out their best. And they are excessive shedders so need a robust grooming routine. But as family pets, the Pyrenean Mastiff is gentle with children and loyal to his human pack.
American Hairless Terrier
The US’s only ‘home-grown’ hairless breed, the American Hairless Terrier hails from Louisiana where it is descended from Rat Terriers. This mini dog is actually born with a downy coat, but this falls out as the pup grows to leave the body hairless. And this hairlessness often reveals dogs with freckles all over their skin. The skin of the American Hairless Terrier is pigmented, with spots sprinkled over the paler parts.
Smart and inquisitive, this cute breed has a jaunty terrier attitude and makes a fun and loving family dog. And due to his hairlessness and minimal shedding, he is also a good choice as a hypoallergenic pet.
Renowned for their spunky attitude and ‘big dog in a little body’ demeanor, the Dachshund is a super-popular family pet that is both feisty and sweet and great fun to own. And while the classic color for the breed is either solid tan or black and tan, the Weiner also comes with its own take on spots.
Known as dapple Dachshunds, the spotty appearance comes from a beautiful merle pattern that some Doxies can have, made up of two colors (usually black and blue) or multi-color for a stunning marble spot effect. You can also get double dapple Dachshunds, which mixes a kaleidoscope of colors with solid white for an eye-catching dog you’ll love to own.
Dachshunds do make good family pets, although they are stubborn and can be a little ‘over-confident’. They can also be prone to spine and knee problems due to their short legs and elongated body shape.
Bred as Italian hunting dogs that were used for sniffing out truffle delicacies, the Lagotto Romangnolo is a relative newcomer to the popular spotty dog list, and they are steadily growing in popularity. And a significant reason has to be how fluffy, curly cute they look, in a similar vein to the popular ‘designer breed’, the Doodle.
A warm, pale honey color, their coat is soft, relatively short and curly, bordering on woolly, accompanied by a luxuriant beard, ears, eyebrows and whiskers! While many Lagotto Romagnolo are a solid color, some pups carry a fading gene which slowly adds in a spotty and speckled roan look to their fur.
Their teddy bear looks also belie a tough dog with plenty of stamina. They are also energetic and playful and need plenty of exercise, but the efforts are worth it for this otherwise laid-back and affectionate dog.
Our final contender for the top 20 spotted dog breeds is the Fox Terrier, which has a short coat that can be either smooth or wired haired. The color of Fox Terriers is either bi or tri-colored and depending on the pattern, have a large piebald spotted look, typically across the saddle area of the back. The usual colors for a Fox Terrier are tan, white and black, creating a strong look on its short, wiry and curly coat.
Relatively small in stature, there is feisty confidence about the Fox Terrier, who has a jaunty walk and a vocal manner that says he means business! He is also robust, low maintenance when it comes to grooming and is eager to learn and have fun.