CHRIS JACKSON and her husband, Mike, have raised dalmatians for 20 years.
''The first one was purchased as a pet for all the wrong reasons. We wanted a dog that was large and easy to groom, and we saw a dalmatian's picture in a book and said 'That's the one we want, it has spots.'
''No breed is right for everyone. In choosing the way we did, we were lucky to have picked a good breed for us. However, prospective pet owners should study their own needs, then research breeds,'' she says.
''I entered my first dalmatian in a show, and when I won, I was instantly hooked on showing,'' says Jackson, who owns the Long Last Kennels in Owings Mills where she boards ''no more than 20 dogs and gives them very personal attention.''
She keeps her dalmatians in the house and seldom has more than four. ''Others are in a co-ownership home with someone who wants a pet and is willing to let me show it. When I keep a dog and complete its championship, I will then adopt it out as an adult. The reason I do this is simply to give each dog the best life, the most attention and care possible,'' she says.
Two special members of the Jackson pet family are 6-year-old Shaster, who is a champion, and 1-year-old Carmel, who is being shown.
The dalmatian, according to breed information, is loyal, happy and seldom fights. It originated in Yugoslavia (Dalmatia is a coastal region of that country), although some sources list the breed as originating in Africa and Asia. Dalmatians were used as English coach dogs and are famous as a fire wagon and fire house mascot. Its popularity soared in the United States in the 1950s when Walt Disney produced the film, ''A Hundred and One Dalmatians.''
Jackson says, ''Running is very important to the dalmatian, and it is not fair to take one without the proper running space because they were bred to run with the horses behind coaches.''
Jackson also discusses the faults of a dalmatian, which include a possible deafness.
''Every breed has some faults. The dalmatian is very active and is extremely intelligent. He thinks things through, and when he decides what's right for him to do, he'll do it that way. Changing a dalmatian's mind is difficult.
''Also it has an inherited characteristic of deafness that may occur in one puppy out of a litter. Deafness can be in one or in both ears,'' she says.
Finding a deaf puppy in a litter is not easy for breeders or veterinarians. ''Hearing happens in a puppy when it is 14 to 21 days old, but a deaf pup will move with the others, show excitement like the others when he is only seeing the actions and feeling vibrations but not hearing.
''Testing can be done at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school, and there is a local neurologist who does it,'' says Jackson.
Dr. Sheldon A. Steinberg, professor of neurology and chief of the section of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, says ''We do test for this inherited deafness by putting small electrodes on the puppy's head then measuring the response to a click played into its ear. This is called an auditory brain stem evoked response,'' he says.
Local veterinarian Dr. Larry Gainsburg is a specialist in neurology who does this testing. His office number is 363-1373.
''A good breeder will not sell a deaf puppy,'' says Jackson. "And, buying a dalmatian, or any puppy, from a reputable breeder is the most important advice I can give.
''A reputable breeder will screen a buyer and will be honest if he feels the breed is not right for that buyer. These are the breeders who are generally showing their own dogs and know what is happening with their breed. Also they have a reputation to keep with their peers. Word gets around if a breeder is not good," she says.
''But, the absolute true mark of a reputable breeder is that he will give you a written guarantee of good health, hearing and temperament and will note in the guarantee that if the dog cannot stay with the buyer, for any reason at all, it must come back to the breeder, no matter what age it is.''
As president of the 23-member Central Maryland Dalmatian Club, formed just over a year ago, Jackson says new members are welcome. ''Our club members are a combination of people who have dalmatians just for pets and those who show.''
Anne Anthony is vice president, Debbie White is treasurer, and Elaine Thomas, secretary. ''We meet at the Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown on the third Wednesday of every month, and anyone interested is welcome and can call me at 356-7252,'' she says.