Lagotto Romagnolo

If you enjoy Truffles then you have the Lagotto Romagnolo to thank. This ancient sporting breed from Italy is the most prominent Truffle dog around. But it wasn’t always that way.

Indeed, the progenitor of all water retrieving dogs, has a long history of working the marshlands of Romagna.

They look like teddy bears, love to snuggle with their humans like teddy bears; and make wonderful, loyal family companions.

So what’s the story behind this ancient water dog from Italy; and is this breed right for your home?

Here is what you need to know about the Lagotto Romagnolo.

History

From centuries of driving waterfowl into nets to nosing down the delicious delicacy of Truffles; the Lagotto Romagnolo has long been a staple of the Italian community. And seemingly, until the late 20th century, unknown to the rest of the world.

Backing up, the Lagotto originates out of Italy and dates as far back as the Renaissance age as a waterfowl retriever. In fact, the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of Great Britain claims that the breed has been working the marshland since the 7th century BC. Helping fetch game into nets, beat down the hunting paths, this dog was a loyal sidekick of the marsh men also known as the Valleroli.

Yet, during the 19th century, the draining of the marshlands left the breed without much of a role. Of course, those close to this breed knew full well the importance the dog could still serve. There was a rewarding and significant opportunity awaiting for the Lagotto Romagnolo. Truffle hunting.

Along with the Poodle, Beagle and Belgian Malinois, just to name a few; this breed is the premiere Truffle dog. They still perform this role today. Thanks to their keen senses and noses, the culinary delicacy can be found easily by using a pig or dog. 

However, the Truffle industry wasn’t enough to keep this breed in the spotlight. Unfortunately, during the 1920’s, interest in the breed began to dwindle. And in the 1970’s, interest was so low, that extinction was almost certain to happen. Thankfully, a few fanciers and enthusiasts of the breed would embark on a campaign to resurrect the breed.

By 1988, the Club Italiano Lagotto would form and in 1995 the FCI would grant the breed recognition. During the 1990’s, the rest of the world would get a glimpse of the breed. In 1992, the Italian Kennel Club gave the breed recognition. Meanwhile, the breed began appearing in countries like Canada, the United States, Netherlands, Australia and Great Britain.

In 2006, the United Kennel Club made the decision to grant the breed recognition. The American Kennel Club would follow suit nearly ten years later granting recognition in 2015. Today, the breed is still Truffle searching and is still a fan of waterfowl hunting. Furthermore, they have become search and rescue dogs, therapy animals, and true companions. The American Kennel Club lists the Lagotto Romagnolo as the 114th most popular breed in the United States.

Size

Most kennels list the Lagotto Romagnolo as a small to medium size breed. The American Kennel Club states that males should stand between 17 to 19 inches. Females should range 16 to 18 inches.

With regards to weight, a male can weigh between 28.5 to 35 pounds, while a female should fluctuate between 24 to 31 pounds.

Personality and Temperament

The Lagotto Romagnolo is the kind of dog that can very active but not hyper. They can also slouch around the couch without issue. Whether it is out and about, or staying in, the Lagotto just wants to stay by their master’s side. They are sweet, loving and love to attach themselves to you closely.

Eager to please and simple to train, this is a sporting dog, that loves to work. Their waterproof coat and webbing on their toes make them ideal swimmers. This is two reason the breed was such a successful water retrieving breed for centuries. The other part is their amazing sense of smell and intelligence.

You should be active if you want to own a Lagotto Romagnolo. This would be the ideal fit in lifestyle. This doesn’t mean you have to be an Olympic athlete or anything, but walks and trips to the dog park is certainly a key to this breed’s happiness. That and close interaction with the family. The breed wants to be an integral part of the family. 

Other dogs get along fine with this breed. They may be a bit shy or have reservations with strangers at first. Children do well with this breed but breeders caution supervision.

Although their coats require some grooming, this is a very low maintenance breed. They aim to please you first. It is in their blood to make life easier for you. While they may enjoy an easy Sunday afternoon on the couch with you watching football, don’t get it wrong, this breed does enjoy a challenge.

All in all, this is a very loyal and lowly demanding breed. The Lagotto Romagnolo is an ultimate family dog that can shine at the lake, in the marshes, or on the couch. They love the company of other dogs, older children and mostly their owner. Expect plenty of love, affection and interaction between you and this breed.

Health

Lagotto Romagnolo enthusiasts consider the breed to be generally healthy with a life expectancy of 15 to 17 years. There’s no reason you can’t expect that long either. Of course, when you buy yourself  a  Lagotto Romagnolo, it is best to make a purchase from a reputable breeder. Someone who can provide you with the proper documentation and health clearances. The last thing you want is a dog from a puppy mill. Additionally, you’ll want to schedule regular visits with the veterinarian to maintain good health.

There is one unique progressive disease that people now call the Lagotto Storage Disease or LSD for short. LSD, indeed, is a progressive disease that ten percent of this breed suffers from. It is seemingly rare among other breeds. This LSD can result in behavioral issues like aggressive behavior, bad moods and restlessness. The typical timeframe a dog will show signs is between four months to four years. LSD is a neurological disorder that causes cerebellar ataxia, but fortunately there is testing available to avoid breeding dogs with LSD.

Cataracts may be found with this breed. The cloudiness of the crystalline lens is somewhat common in modern dog breeds. This can cause night blindness at first and then result in complete blindness. 

Patella Luxation, or when the knee cap slips out of its original place or groove, can be found with the Lagotto Romagnolo. In fact, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is a leading authority on orthopedic issues. Their long and comprehensive list of over 100 dogs found this breed to be 76th on the list with a 1.7 incidental rate. This ranks them among the company of the Cocker Spaniel and Flat Coated Retriever.

Staying with the orthopedic subject, Hip Dysplasia, which affects most medium to large breeds is prevalent with the Lagotto Romagnolo. The malformation of the hip joint, which causes pain, discomfort and lameness affects 26.1 percent of the breed, according to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. That number ranks them 24th along with breeds like the Bloodhound and American Staffordshire Terrier. Moreover, from 2011 to 2013, the OFA found that 23.7% of this breed dysplastic from 198 evaluations.

The breed fares better with Elbow Dysplasia. This is an abnormal growth in the elbow, which is the most common form of elbow pain for dogs. The OFA found the breed to have a 1.4% dysplastic rate out of 140 evaluations ranking them 104th. That ranking puts them in the company of breeds like the Boykin Spaniel and Akita.

The Lagotto Foundation claims the breed in 2002 began showing symptoms of Benign Familial Juvenile Epilepsy. From the thousands of surveys the foundation had put out, 46 percent are said to be carriers, 3 percent affected and 51 percent are normal. Testing is also available for this form of epilepsy to avoid unhealthy and unethical breeding.

Care

A Lagotto Romagnolo should have an owner who can provide them with adequate amount of attention. Interaction and outdoor activity is important for this breed to remain happy and healthy. They need plenty of mental and physical stimulation. The Lagotto should get one long walk per day or two shorter walks. Visits at the dog park, or walks along hiking trails should suffice their energy requirements.

Early socialization is key to raising a friendly and sociable dog. This goes for the Lagotto Romagnolo as well. You’ll need to be firm and consistent. They may seem like strictly companion dogs, but they are sporting dogs looking for a role or purpose within the family.

They shouldn’t be left outdoors and should remain close indoors with family as much as possible. The breed may exude a bit of prey drive, which you can train them out of as a puppy.

Trimming their nails monthly will help prevent against overgrowth and splitting of the nails, which is painful. Check their ears routinely for any type of infections. They are low maintenance and most of your efforts will likely focus around cutting or clipping their coats.

In summary, if you have smaller children and other dogs, your Lagotto Romagnolo should do fine under supervision. You’ll want early socialization and plenty of mental and physical stimulation such as obedience and agility.

Feeding

There’s no specific diet regimen for the Lagotto Romagnolo. However, you should emphasize a quality dry kibble formula with meat as the first ingredient. Turkey, chicken, beef and fish should suffice their dietary needs. You’ll want a formula that’ll incorporate all of the minerals and vitamins that is sufficient to a proper balance. Fruits and veggies are obviously crucial as well. Consult your veterinarian if you have specific questions relating to dietary needs.

The recommendation owners of the Lagotto Romagnolo seem content with is a feeding of 2 to 3 cups of top quality kibble. You can break that up into two meals per day to reduce the opportunity of Bloat and obesity. Keep treats and bones to a minimum.

As always, you should provide the most important nutrient, fresh drinking water.

Coat

The reason the Lagotto Romagnolo was able to flourish as a water retrieving breed was thanks in large part to their double waterproof coat. They are infrequent shedders and are a good fit for those with allergies to pet dander. Occasional grooming and at least once a year cutting or trimming of the curly coat is necessary to maintain its integrity. The coat should be evenly curly and the texture should feel wooly. 

The American Kennel Club says that the coat can come in six color options: Brown, brown roan, off-white, orange, white and brown, white and orange.

Brown mask is the only allowable marking for the Lagotto Romagnolo coat.

Fun Lagotto Romagnolo Facts

  • The Animal Planet claims that only 500 of the Lagotto Romagnolo exist in the United States.
  • This breed began appearing in old Italian painting from the mid 15th century, most notably by the works of Andrea Mantegna.
  • The American Kennel Club says that the Lagotto is the only speciality breed  for the purpose of Truffle finding.
  • The word Lago is Italian for “Lake.”
  • The Canadian Kennel Club gave the breed recognition in 2012.
  • 2016 would mark the first time ever that the Lagotto Romagnolo would enter into competition at the Westminster dog show.

Closing Words

Even though this breed is very important to the people of Italy, and has been very significant to hunters, peasants and those in the Truffle industry, the Lagotto Romagnolo has been rather rare elsewhere.

However, it is their unique appearance, loyalty to their family and their great ability to track down scents that make them so popular in their home country. With those traits and more, it is only a matter of their short time outside Italy until this breed starts catching on with dog lovers around the world.