The Lagotto Romagnolo is considered to be the best known truffle-hunting dog, especially in and around water. Apart from that, dog lovers are proving to be ever greater fans of these sporty canines as companion dogs.
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Typical water dog
“Is that a poodle hybrid?” - presumably all Lagotto owners will be on the receiving end of this question at some point. This is because Lagottos bear some resemblance to its famous relative. However, it has more physical similarities to two other water dog breeds: the Spanish Water Dog and the Portuguese Water Dog. In terms of size, the Lagotto is between the Standard and Medium Poodle, reaching 41 to 48cm in shoulder height and weighing between 11 and 16kg. It has a robust build, almost square-shaped head, lop ears and a tapering tail that reaches just below its ankle. The Lagotto is found in numerous colours, though mostly subdued natural tones. Dogs of this breed are often off-white or different varieties of brown. Their wavy fur that is slightly oily (due to them originally working in the water) doesn't moult, but does require regular shearing.
From water to truffle dog
Like all water dogs, the Lagotto Romagnolo was originally a companion to fishermen. Its ancestors lived in Romagna in northern Italy, where it assisted with hunts in swamps, guarded homes and boats and tracked down coots. However, owners of these dogs primarily focused on their outstanding sense of smell after the swamps were drained in the 19th century, and therefore used them more and more often as truffle hunting dogs. This led to the Lagotto's hunting instinct continuing to decrease over the years. Truffle hunters of the 20th century also crossed other breeds ranging from Poodles to Pointers in a targeted manner, though their focus was on the best characteristics for truffle hunting rather than appearance. Only in the 1970s did targeted Lagotto Romagnolo breeding commence thanks to committed fans of the breed. Their aim was to breed these primitive water dogs.
Risks involved with increasingly popular water dogs
Water dogs have now achieved greater renown, not least because of the famous Portuguese Water Dog Bo belonging to the family of the former US president Barack Obama. As ever though, risks are involved when demand for certain breeds increases quickly. Too many people breed without sufficient background knowledge and too many potential buyers only focus on the appearance. In addition, the incorrectly used label “dog for allergy sufferers” is contemplated rather than the needs of this breed.
Clever curly-haired dogs
The Lagotto Romagnolo is considered a friendly and easygoing dog. It isn't aggressive and has little to no hunting instinct – depending on the line. It forms a close bond with its human family and is always up for shared adventures. The Lagotto is usually tranquil at home as long as it has been stimulated in a species-appropriate manner. Although it is attentive and draws attention to unfamiliar situations, it generally doesn't tend to yap. Lagottos adapt well to its human family's routines – regardless of whether it's a family with children or elderly person. These cheerful curly-haired dogs soon win friends with their charm and cuddly appearance, though they are the opposite of lapdogs.
Training the Lagotto
Friendly communication, positive reinforcement and consistency form the best recipe for training a Lagotto Romagnolo. First-time owners too can teach basic obedience in this way without any problems if they have acquired the necessary know-how beforehand, because a Lagotto is happy to carry out the wishes of its caregiver if they have a special bond. Humour helps with all the small details of training: your Lagotto will probably always be somewhat stubborn and a bit of a rogue, but you will probably appreciate this as an owner of the breed. Attend puppy play sessions at a canine association and dog school with your pup. Here you will receive valuable tips regarding training and will also be able to make friends with other dog owners. Your dog will also enjoy the company of its fellow canines.
Health of the breed
A dog from a reputable breeder runs a very low risk of suffering from a genetic disease. Breeders do relevant groundwork by monitoring parent animals for signs of elbow and hip dysplasia, as well as luxating patella and only deploying dogs with perfect clinical results for breeding. Equally, they should be genetically tested for lysosomal storage disease. This is a neurological disease that leads to deficiency symptoms in the brain and nervous system, which generally prove fatal. Breeders who wish to play it safe avoid carriers of the disease. In addition, some lines are affected by an autosomal recessive form of epilepsy. There is a genetic test for this disease – discuss this with your breeder and ask to see the results. A responsible breeder will be happy to discuss and give you answers regarding their healthcare provision.
Diet of the Lagotto Romagnolo
A high-meat, species-appropriate diet
The Lagotto Romagnolo's dietary requirements are the same as every other dog: it needs a species-appropriate food with a high proportion of meat, meaning a high-quality wet or dry food. If you wish to follow the BARF method of feeding your dog just raw meat, you should acquire knowledge of this beforehand or choose suitable BARF products that make this type of diet more straightforward. The same applies to possible tasty treats as to the main food: they should be free of grain and sugar and made up primarily of meat. You can give your dog dental care snacks, for instance, and help keep its teeth healthy at the same time. Rawhide bones or dried cattle ears give your Lagotto something different and enjoyable to chew. Fresh water should always be freely available to your canine companion – you're best off taking a water bowl with you on long days out.
Change of diet
When a puppy or adult Lagotto enters your home, you definitely shouldn't change their food straight away. You should slowly get them used to a new food if you wish to make a change.
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Grooming and more
The Lagotto requires shearing two to three times a year
Although Lagottos hardly moult at all, these nature lovers soon bring dirt into the home. Their fur doesn't need brushing, but should be shorn two to three times a year. Look for a dog groomer or get help from experts should you wish to do it yourself later on. Many Lagotto owners shear their dogs in spring and late in autumn so that large amounts of snow don't get stuck in long fur during winter.
Take good care of their ears, eyes and paws
Many Lagotto owners pluck the hairs out of their dog's ears every few weeks, since these can cause problems. However, plucking sometimes results in small wounds that can act as a gateway to bacteria. You're best off talking to your vet about how best to take care of your Lagotto's ears and should always keep an eye on them. If necessary, use an ear cleanser for dogs to clean them. Make sure your dog's fur doesn't get in its eyes and trim the fur between the paws during winter to protect them from clumps of snow or ice.
Bathing your Lagotto
It isn't necessary to give your dog a bath very often, but it may be the case that your dog has rolled in faeces, for instance. If this happens, give it a bath in lukewarm water and use a mild dog shampoo. As a water dog, the Lagotto will usually make the most of outdoor bathing opportunities.
Activity for keen tracking dogs
Lagottos love spending time outdoors. Many enjoy having the opportunity to swim regularly. Outings alone aren't sufficient though, as the Lagotto likes to carry out tasks as a former working dog. It is well suited for types of dog sport from agility to flyball and dog dancing. Try things out to see what is most fun for you as a team. You should only start sport-related training with adult Lagottos and should always make sure that your canine companion isn't overwhelmed. Many owners bring their Lagotto joy with search games and some with truffle hunts for which the breed is famous. Caution is advised though, as you should check whether this is permitted in your country before getting things underway. Some Lagotto owners even train their dogs to track bedbugs – yes, you read it right! Lagottos are also well suited to training as rescue or therapy dogs.
Is a Lagotto Romagnolo right for me?
These cheerful dogs are a good fit for people who are happy to take on the responsibility and time commitment needed with this breed. Originally a working dog, the Lagotto needs plenty of time outdoors to let off steam along with tasks that prove intellectually stimulating.
Is the Lagotto suitable for my living situation?
The Lagotto is a wonderful companion regardless of whether you live alone or as part of a family with children. If your children are still young, you should pay special attention to ensuring your Lagotto has opportunities to retreat and teaching your offspring from a young age how to treat animals with respect. A Lagotto Romagnolo generally gets on well with fellow dogs and other pets, provided that they receive appropriate training as puppies and young dogs.
Is the Lagotto suitable for first-time owners?
The Lagotto is a suitable dog for first-time owners if they carry out extensive research into dog training before the Lagotto enters their home and then attend a dog school together.
Going on holiday with your Lagotto
The breed is well suited to being part of the gang on holidays. Many hotels now accept dogs as guests – find out before your trip. Hiking holidays in particular are a good opportunity to unwind with your Lagotto. If you're off to the Caribbean though, leave your dog in good hands. For instance, you may leave them with relatives or friends with a dog who it already knows.
Is the Lagotto Romagnolo a dog for allergy sufferers?
We often read or hear that Poodles or water dogs such as Lagottos are ideal for allergy sufferers since they don't lose any fur. Unfortunately this definitely doesn't make them dogs for allergy sufferers, since they don't react to fur, but special proteins in the saliva, skin flakes or urine of certain types of animal. Nevertheless, it's possible that some allergy sufferers don't react to some breeds. Before you take a dog into your home to test this out, you should definitely speak to your doctor beforehand as well as having an in-depth discussion with the breeder, who can allow you longer visits.
Where do I find my Lagotto Romagnolo?
Get your Lagotto from a reputable breeder
The Lagotto Romagnolo breed has become more and more popular in the last few years. Unfortunately this leads to some people seeing it as an opportunity to make a quick buck and breeding without belonging to an association, without specialist knowledge or carrying out relevant health examinations. A reputable breeder will adhere to the mandatory requirements of breeding. Only breeders belonging to an association will give you a Lagotto Romagnolo with a pedigree certificate. Lagotto breeders are rare and usually have a list of potential customers. Demand often outstrips supply, meaning that you have to wait for your dream puppy or put up with travelling long distances. You can make good use of this time to prepare for your dog's arrival and to find out more about the breed and suitable types of sport or training.
If you don't strike it lucky, try a similar breed
A top tip for people who don't wish to invest a great deal of time or research in looking for a Lagotto Romagnolo is to check out different breeds. These include the Poodle, which is similar to the Lagotto in terms of character and doesn't moult. The Spanish Water Dog can be an alternative for you too. If you're looking for an adult dog, it's certainly worth doing online research into international animal welfare organisations, as these often rehome water dog hybrids from animals shelters in Italy or Spain. Of course, this requires in-depth preparation as well as a thorough health check-up.
We wish you a great time with your cheerful water dog!