Carriage Dog Trials

5th September 2012 - in General

Without doubt Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians sparked a desire among many people to go out and buy the breed best known for it's spots, but with the breeds popularity came a damaging reputation, once many owners found themselves unable to cope with this highly energetic dog. The Dalmatian is one of our ancient breeds. It's origins are obscure, but it's history over the centuries illustrates better than anything it's versatility as both working dog and companion to man.

Dalmatians were used in the 19th century to guard passengers and their possessions when horse drawn carriages were people's primary form of transport and when highwaymen, rather than today's speed cameras, were the Victorian traveller's main occupational hazard! They have a natural affinity with their equine friends and also made good stable dogs, protecting the resting horses and carriages and keeping down the ever present rat population.

In the early 1900s, seeking to preserve and test their heritage as a carriage dog, Americans began to run road trails. The Dalmatian was then tested in it's ability to run beneath the coach. In the 1940's the American rules were changed to include riders on horseback, and in the 1980's the Trials began to experience a revival. And in 2003 the first British Carriage Dog Trials were set up in the U.K to promote and test this wonderful breed for what they had simply been doing for hundreds of years.

The purpose of a Carriage Dog Trial is to demonstrate the use of purebred Dalmatians as a companion to man in one of the roles they have been bred to perform. Competitors compete as a ridden handler, or as drivers or groom in a carriage. To carry out the function of a carriage dog, Dalmatians have mainly needed to be bred and trained specifically for the task. The Dalmatian, apart from it's trademark spots, must also be well constructed, strong, muscular and capable of endurance. The construction and build of the Dalmatian enables their trot gait to match that of a horse's trotting gait for a long period over distance. The Kennel Club's breed standard requires, amongst other things, that the Dalmatian should be"....a carriage dog of good demeanour, capable of great endurance and a fair turn of speed...".

A carriage dog trial is a performance event, with endurance and obedience. It provides a means of determining the degree to which the qualities necessary to be a good carriage/road dog, are present in the dog being tested. It also demonstrates the Dalmatian's ability to behave in the public places in the presence of distractions in the form of people, horses, other dogs and inviting smells, in a manner that will reflect positively on the breed. It is essential that the dog demonstrates willingness and enjoyment of it's work throughout. It also needs to be under control of the rider or driver at all times. These qualities are essential to its successful use as a horse and rider or horse and carriage escort. With this in mind, the obedience component of the trials includes :

  • Demonstration of willingness to work
  • Recall from a distance whilst the horse is moving away (Road Dog only)
  • Working close to hock/axle with and without distraction
  • Stay with the horse or carriage at a standstill or sit
  • Running at speed with the horse/carriage

Classes are run in either Bronze, Silver or Gold ranging from 6 mile to 25 miles endurance within a time scale. The dogs are vet checked throughout the competition to determine the fitness and stamina of the dog with overall points being given via the vet. For more information check out