About the breed -
**OCT 2020** - I have decided to write an extra caveat due to the increasing puppy enquiries I am receiving and the concern I have regarding some of the inaccurate and misleading information about the Lagotto Romagnolo. Advertised as 'A lovely curly coated dog , an ideal family pet that is great with children and other pets" , " a fun loving dog who enjoys being with people" "Can be cheeky but in a fun loving way". Yeah right!! None of these is something I would put as a 'headline' for a Lagotto . Think Border Collie with a curly coat! High maintenance, hard work, reserved and somewhat suspicious of strangers although love their own humans and group of dog friends. In general Lagottos do not bound up to meet either new dogs or humans as they are not particularly interested in being sociable with either and much prefer their own space. Probably the antithesis as say a Labrador!
The Lagotto arrived in the UK in 1996. There were very few, perhaps 150 or less in the UK when Cia first came into my home back in 2004. I was working with a breed that was relatively unknown both in the UK and Europe. They are still a relatively young breed and we are still getting to understand and learn the particular nuances of the Lagotto. I sometimes describe them as a mix of collie, spaniel, sheltie and terrier so quite a combination! Lagottos are used to finding truffles outdoors, living as working dogs In Italy, similar to border collies being used on working farms. Their working traits are still very much alive and sometimes this does not match our ideal image of a well behaved pet dog living alongside us. Take the lovely curly coat away and I suspect the Lagotto would not be as popular due to the hard work needed with this breed.
It's not a breed I would advise for a first time dog owner unless you know you will get regular and ongoing support from your breeder and are aware of the amount of work, training, energy and time required in training these dogs especially over the first year of having a Lagotto. Certainly the learning curve for you as the owner will be much greater than with many other breeds such as a Labrador , cocker spaniel or cockepoo!! For those that have previously owned dogs don't expect all your previous dog knowledge to work with these guys. They are very intelligent and can be stubborn if they find they like doing something which isn't desirable by the owner. In my experience they are not a very forgiving breed and it needs to be worth their while for them to change their minds about something.
This is a working dog!
They need regular socialisation and training and this needs to be on an ongoing basis or it may affect their behaviour. They are very clever and liable to outsmart their owners if you are not continually one step ahead of them. They must get used to regular handling and grooming from day one otherwise it may take extra training and effort if this has been left too late in their development. Get to a groomers within 12 weeks of age and have the coat clipped off. Make sure you are getting them used to brushing daily. You have grooming responsibilities for the rest of the life with this dog so the sooner you get started with habituation for your puppy the easier and less stressful t's going to be for you both!!
They are certainly at their best when they are working or have a 'job' due to their particular energy levels. Many owners have found them to be challenging and been surprised at the amount of time and energy required in keeping up with these dogs. They go through what I would describe as exaggerated "fear periods' compared to other breeds so understanding, knowledge and patience will be required to help your dog successfully transit through these periods. Research has shown that Lagottos can be particularly noise sensitive so this is something to be aware of. They are sensitive dogs and take gentle handling although need firm and consistent boundaries.
In conclusion this isn't a dog that you raise as a puppy and think they know everything and can happily live alongside the family. This is a dog that you will always be kept on your toes with due to its natural working instincts and high level of intelligence. You will have to continue to keep up with good training and socialisation practices otherwise behavioural problems may well occur.
The Lagotto Romagnolo (water dog) is a very old breed dating back to Roman and medieval times. A picture of this dog can be seen in an Italian Fresco by Andrea Mantegna dating back to 1456. This small to medium breed was used for centuries as a water retrieving dog by the Valloroli in the Marshlands of Comacchio and Romagna in Italy. With their owners, the Lagotto were used to beat the hunting grounds of Ravenna diving for hours in to the water retrieving game. With the gradual reclamation of the Marshlands in this part of Italy the breed gradually lost its’ function as a waterdog and evolved as a truffle dog with its unbeatable sense of smell and it’s sharp aptitude for searching.
By the 1970s the breed was risking extinction and thanks to a small group of Lagotto enthusiasts this fantastic breed was saved. ‘ The Club Italiano Lagotto’ was finally formed in 1988.
Today the Lagotto is unique as it is the only pure bred dog in the world recognised as a specialised truffle searcher although they have certainly not lost their ability to retrieve on both land and water.
These dogs may look cute and cuddly and they are, but first and foremost they have had years of breeding to form functional working dogs and can be quite a demanding breed. They are small to medium size and are very clever with an abundance of energy (you can however get the odd couch potato). Agility, heel work to music and gundog work are just a few of the things they are well suited to.
This is not I breed I would recommend for the first time dog owner. They are intelligent and can also be quite manipulative. They learn very quickly and you need to be continually one step ahead of them .They can learn bad habbits’ as quickly as they learn good ones! Like most dogs they like routine and consistency. The breed is late in maturing and because of its independence and quickness to learn they can make up their own mind about things which can be quite challenging for their owners.
If you are thinking about getting a Lagotto and have had no experience it is essential you attend dog training classes immediately to understand training and behavioural requirements of this breed. Consistency and calmness is extremely important when living with a Lagotto due to its sensitivity. Ongoing training is necessary with this breed and if not followed through problems will occur.
They are very affectionate and loyal dogs.They can be reserved with strangers which is a trait of the breed but once known to them they won’t forget you and you will receive an extremely enthusiastic greeting. They can be quite vocal, and make good warning dogs. They are gentle and sensitive dogs as a breed and extremely loyal to their humans.
If you are precious about your garden then this breed is perhaps not for you however if you would enjoy some help in the garden then they are ideal! Being truffle hunters they like to dig but they like to dig for anything! They love to swim and you will have your own personal water dowser. Unfortunately this can also include mud!
A word about getting a Lagotto!
( I get many puppy enquiries and what I find most disappointing is that a good majority of people who are looking for a puppy have never met or even seen a Lagotto! Please do not even consider buying a Lagotto until you have met one, preferably several! The Lagotto Romagnolo Association hold different events throughout the year where you can ask to attend so that you get the opportunity to meet the dogs and their owners!)
Lagotto come in different colours. Generally there is off white, orange, brown, brown roan and brown and white and sometimes with some tan colouring.
The Lagotto require clipping around 3-4 times a year coat if you require low maintenance. As they are a non-moulting breed the coat matts really close to the skin aka felting, so the clip can appear quite extreme. I clip my own dogs approximately once or twice a year as I regularly scissor which keeps the coat neat and tidy. The coat texture can vary from dog to dog and is not due to it colour.
Many puppy people are reluctant to clip the lovely fluffy coats off their babies but it really does improve the texture of the adult coat therefore making it easier to manage. Getting youngsters habituated to clipping early also makes for a dog content to be clipped rather than it being stressful for all! If you intend to use a professional groomer rather than DIY get recommendations, word of mouth and get the pup there at about 14weeks when everything should be fun!
Generally the Lagotto are a healthy and robust breed. If breeding from Lagotto eye testing and hip scoring is advisable. Although we seem fortunate to have only had one case in the UK, hereditary cataract is found in mainland Europe. BVA and JE testing is required before mating.
I have been grooming Lagotto for the show ring ever since I entered the dog show world in 2005. As well as grooming my own dogs for the past 15 years I also groom other Lagottos for individuals who show or who want to learn how to groom a Lagotto correctly. Having shown abroad I have had the opportunity to learn different methods of grooming from other successful European Lagotto breeders.
I hold grooming workshops for the Lagotto Romagnolo Association for people who want to know how to groom their own Lagottos or inform their own groomers on how best to trim and care for the Lagotto coat.
If you are interested in attending one of these workshops please contact the Lagotto Romagnolo Association club secretary to attend one of the workshops. If numbers permit workshops can be held in different locations throughout the UK.
Professional groomers are welcome.
A note about Health Testing!
Health testing is a very important part of being an ethical and caring breeder and wanting the best for our dogs. There are several health tests that are required by the Kennel Club and breed clubs in unison. Some are mandatory and some are suggested. For a full list of health testing requirements please see the UK Kennel Club website and the Lagotto Romagnolo Association website. All dogs I breed from are fully health tested and all my puppy owners will receive copies of these health tests.
Health testing is important not because the dogs have health issues but to PREVENT any potential future health issues. The more testing we can do, the better we can improve on the health and welfare of the Lagotto Romagnolo!