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Dalmation relaxing on a sun lounger

“Spot” is a tried-and-true name for our canine companions, which speaks to the charm and character of those delightful splotches adorning so many different breeds. If you want a Spot of your own who lives up to the name, read on to learn about some of the most popular spotted dog breeds and what makes them special.

1. French bulldog

The French bulldog is a famously sociable and loving breed beloved around the whole world. These playful and charming pups love rousing games of fetch just as much as curling up with you on the couch for some relaxing TV time. While Frenchies come in many solid color varieties, you can often find spotted varieties with black or fawn markings on otherwise white coats. These spots can vary in shape in size from small dots to large splotches over the back and eyes.

Spotted frenchie

Facts about the French bulldog

2. Dalmatian

Perhaps the most iconic spotted coat in all of dogdom belongs to the Dalmatian, a large breed with a unique personality, famous for protecting fire stations and getting dog-napped by fashionable fictional villains. These intelligent and energetic dogs take to training well and are a great fit for active and dedicated people up to the task. First-time dog owners might want to look for a more manageable pooch, though, especially if your household has small children. Their breed standard markings range from a dappling of black spots to larger black splotches all across a white coat of short hair.

Close up of a brown and white dalmation

Facts about the Dalmatian

  • Breed groupNon-sporting group
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 11-13 years

3. German shorthaired pointer

If you like the sometimes dense packing of Dalmatian spots, you might like some varieties of similarly athletic German shorthaired pointers. These robust hunting dogs come in varieties of liver (a shade of brown) ticked with white markings, giving their coat a densely dappled appearance. These white markings help the GSP virtually disappear into the shadows and among trees and brush, making them stealthy and effective hunting companions.

German shorthaired pointer dog by the water

Facts about the German shorthaired pointer

  • Breed groupSporting group (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 12-14 years

4. Australian cattle dog

Another pooch with fine spots throughout its fur is the Australian cattle dog, a high-energy breed built for herding and other rustic duties dating back to its days as farm dogs. With their need to chase and wrangle animals, these dogs demand exercise, but if you can harness this dog’s boundless energy, you’ll have an incredibly loyal and hardworking friend. Their coats are usually finely mottled red or blue with black, blue, and brown spots, giving some the nickname of “blue heelers.”

Australian cattle dog close up

Facts about the Australian cattle dog

  • Breed groupHerding group (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 12-16 years

5. Bluetick coonhound

As the name implies, these hounds have  grayish-blue coats ticked with white, black, or red markings throughout. The effect is very similar to the Australian cattle dog, breaking up the dog’s profile in shady spots. A high-energy hunting dog at its core, the bluetick coonhound is active and lively, making it a good choice for families with older children who like to move. Be ready for some noise, however, as they love to bawl and bark in true hound fashion.

Bluetick coonhound close up outdoors

Facts about the Bluetick coonhound

  • Breed groupHound group (AKC)
  • Intelligence — Average
  • Barking — Often and loud
  • Life span — 11-12 years

6. Catahoula leopard dog

With bold, irregular dark spots over coats of many different colors, the Catahoula leopard dog mirrors its jungle-dwelling namesake in appearance. Protective, active, and dedicated, these dogs reward devoted training and diligent owners with a hardworking companion ready to guard, herd, or simply be a workout buddy. A true American original, the Catahoula was named the official state dog of Louisiana in 1979.

Catahoula leopard dog close up

Facts about the Catahoula leopard dog

7. English setter

With a distinct “belton” spot pattern prominent on the face and body, paired with a medium-length feathered coat, the English setter conveys a distinguished and complex look. Originating centuries ago first as hunting dogs, English setters are energetic, playful, and protective which make for great family pets. However, families with small children should plan for early training and socialization, as these boisterous pups are sometimes unaware of their own size and strength.

English setter sitting on grass

Facts about the English setter

  • Breed groupSporting group
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — When necessary
  • Life span — 10-12 years

8. Jack Russell terrier

A small pup with big spots, the Jack Russell terrier is a beloved breed for their mischievous energy and wit. While some individuals can be tricky to train at first, these dogs make excellent companions decked out with large dark spots of black or tan. And some like the iconic Wishbone (from the eponymous 90s children’s show) might teach you a thing or two about classic literature.

Jack Russell terrier chewing stick

Facts about the Jack Russell terrier

  • Breed groupTerrier group (AKC)
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — More than average
  • Life span — 10-15 years

9. American bulldog

American bulldogs are celebrated for their stocky build, protective spirit, and, of course, their characteristic short coat and black and brown splotches that are often just as broad and defined as the breed itself. While training is a must for this powerful breed, willing owners will have a devoted guardian in the end.

Three American bulldogs on grass

Facts about the American bulldog

10. Australian shepherd

The Australian shepherd (which actually first originated in California from dogs brought over from Spain) sports a patchwork of black, blue, and red across a luxurious double-layer medium-length coat, to go along with a set of striking blue eyes. With plenty of energy, a playful nature, and affection to spare, this beautiful spotted dog will be right at home with anyone ready to match its enthusiasm.

Brown and white Australian shepherd laying on grass

Facts about the Australian shepherd

  • Breed groupHerding group
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — More than average
  • Life span — 12-15 years

11. Great Dane

The immense Great Dane often comes with some massive spots, too. You’ll likely see large expanses of color covering lighter base coats like white, bridle, and fawn, but darker, solid color varieties are common, too. The term for a white Dane with black patches is “harlequin” and this coat pattern is among the most sought-after by prospective puppy owners. While the size may be intimidating, pet parents often soon find how gentle these giants can be.

Great Dane lying on grass

Facts about the Great Dane

  • Breed groupWorking group
  • Intelligence — Medium
  • Barking — Average
  • Life span — 10-12 years

12. American cocker spaniel

Smaller and more laid back than the English springer spaniel (another spotted sporting breed), the cocker spaniel is a perennially popular pup. This sociable and loving breed makes a strong first impression with a splendid long, silky coat often accompanied by roan or black markings. All of this combines to make them a popular family dog great for households of all shapes and sizes.

Black and white American cocker spaniel

Facts about the American cocker spaniel

  • Breed groupSporting group
  • Intelligence — High
  • Barking — Average
  • Life span — 10-14 years

How to spot problem spots

Spots are charming and all, but sometimes out-of-place or irregular spots can be a cause for concern. Dog fur naturally changes throughout their lives in some breeds. With the Dalmatian, for example, a puppy is born an all-white dog and will develop its spots as it matures into adulthood. It’s also not uncommon for spots to fade a little over time as a dog gets older.

However, you should be on the lookout for sudden changes to your dog’s coat, including things like new spots of discoloration or redness on the skin. For instance, hot spots, which are red sores that can appear anywhere on your dog’s body, can be a real cause for concern. Hot weather, infections, and all sorts of problems can cause severe cases of these unpleasant spots, so make sure to consult with your veterinarian if you notice this issue.

It's unusual for newly-colored coat spots to occur and/or to indicate any kind of health issue. But if there is pigmentation or depigmentation of the skin in that area, it is worth talking to your veterinarian to look for a cause.

Dr. Eric Irish


Coats that lose their previous luster and texture might also be a sign of malnutrition or other dietary problems. So while your dog’s spots might simply start as cute accessories, keeping an eye on them and overall coat color can be invaluable measures of your dog’s overall health.