Activities For Lagotto Romagnolos

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Introduction

The Lagotto Romagnolo is a curly haired dog breed that hails from Italy. Although these dogs were originally developed to retrieve birds from the cold water of the marshes that were found in the Romagna region, when the marshes were drained in the 1800s, they were found to excel at hunting truffles. Since that time, they have been bred for this purpose rather than as a hunting dog and they have developed an excellent sense of smell. While they have not been bred specifically for water work in the last two centuries, many of these dogs retain their ancestor's retrieving instincts and love of water.

Flyball

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Any Day
Moderate
Normal
15 - 45 min
Items needed
Flyball Jumps
Flyball Box
Activity description

Flyball is a fast-paced dog sport that takes fetch to a higher level, with teams of four dogs racing relay style down the flyball track, which is punctuated by four hurdles placed at every ten feet. At the end of the track is a flyball box, which releases a tennis ball when triggered by your dog, for them to return to you. While the modern Lagotto Romagnolo is typically bred as a truffle hunting dog, they were originally developed as water retrieval dogs, and many of them still retain their retrieving instincts, and they are very athletic, making them well-suited to competing in these types of competitions. 

Step
1
Health check
This activity is typically quite strenuous, particularly on the competitor’s heart and joints. It is essential that your dog is seen by a veterinary professional before starting this endeavor in order to ensure that their cardiovascular and respiratory systems are healthy enough to benefit from the exertion. They may also recommend that your dog’s bones and joints be examined by x-ray to ensure that they are in good shape, and in the case of dogs eighteen months and under to be sure the growth plates in the joints have properly matured.
Step
2
Training
While the amount of training required for the sport of flyball pales in comparison to training for things like agility training or canine freestyle dance, they do have to master jumping over the hurdles and learn how to correctly activate the flyball box that releases the tennis ball for them to retrieve. Many trainers find it easier and more efficient to initially train the dog to jump the hurdles from the end of the flyball track to the beginning rather than the other way around.
Step
3
Register to compete
The two official flyball organizations in North America, the United Flyball Association (U-Fli) and the North American Flyball Association (NAFA), both require that competitors register with their groups before entering competitions that they host. Due to the high speed that is displayed during these competitions, it can be extremely challenging to make accurate judgments with the human eye. Most flyball races are instead judged by employing digital or electronic scoring systems, and the scores tracked throughout the dog’s flyball career through their registrations.
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Scent Discrimination

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Any Day
Cheap
Hard
5 - 30 min
Items needed
Metal and Leather items
Clicker
Scent
Activity description

Dogs have a much keener sense of smell than humans do, with 220 to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, compared to the four or five million that we have. They are able to use their noses to track and categorize a number of things that we can barely detect, and this skill is often utilized to find game, hidden substances like drugs and explosive components, and even missing people. The Lagotto Romagnolo breed has a very refined sense of smell due to their development as a truffle hunting dog which began sometime in the 1800s when the demand for water retrieval was reduced due to the draining of the marshes in their native homeland. 

Step
1
Clicker training
The skill of scent discrimination is often easiest to train by utilizing a clicker since timing is particularly important when training your dog to discriminate between scents. The job of the clicker device itself is simply to click, making a short but clear and distinctive sound, your job is to pair that sound with a reward so that your dog knows what they have done correctly. Start by simply clicking the clicker and immediately giving the dog a treat so that your dog associates the sound of the clicker with the reward. Once your dog associates the click with the treat, you can start using the clicker to reinforce simple commands such as sit or lie down in order to cement their understanding.
Step
2
Preparation
Scent discrimination, when used in obedience trials, is typically based on how well the canine is able to find an object that has the scent of their handler on it. You can start training for scent discrimination by using either a specific strong scent such as vanilla extract, by utilizing scents used in other scent work, such as birch or cypress, or by simply jumping right to your own scent. The AKC requires that your dog be able to scent on both metal and leather objects for discrimination competitions. It is crucial that you are careful not to accidentally add fresh scent to control objects, so if you are working with your own scent remember to use gloves or another barrier, such as a towel, when handling the control objects.
Step
3
Discriminate
Start with a sample scent and just one scented item to help your dog make the connection between the scent and the match. Once your dog has grasped the concept, add another item, this time unscented. Your dog is likely to be uncertain at this point, and this is when the clicker will be most valuable for shaping the behavior. Ignore all activities related to the unscented object, but click if your dog looks or moves toward the correct object and treat when they are fully facing in the correct direction. Once they have mastered this part of the training, you can add in more unscented objects, eventually teaching them to also retrieve the item.
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Dock Diving

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Sunny Day
Moderate
Normal
15 - 45 min
Items needed
Dock
Target
Long pool or body of water
Activity description

Dock diving, also known as dock jumping, is a competitive dog sport that was introduced in 1997 in which your canine companion runs to the end of a thirty-five to forty foot dock and jumps off into a long body of water in pursuit of a specified target, aiming for either the longest or the highest jump possible. The target that your dog is aiming for can either be suspended over the long pool, or flung as far out into the pool as possible. The sport of dock diving is a competitive activity in which dogs run to the end of a thirty-five to forty foot dock and jump off in pursuit of a target that is either suspended over a long pool or flung far out into it. While not all Lagotto Romagnolos love the water, many of them do retain the water-loving ways that they were originally bred for as water retrieval dogs. 

Step
1
Learn to swim
It is important that your dog is comfortable and confident in the water before they jump into the deep end, so to speak. Many Lagotto Romagnolos truly enjoy the water while others may be more hesitant to jump in and it is important that they are never forced or intimidated into the water but gently coaxed instead. If your dog is not initially a strong swimmer, it may be best to continue swimming sessions on their own until your dog is confident and competent in the water before starting their participation in dock diving.
Step
2
Jumping in
There are two different methods that are commonly employed in order to motivate your dog to achieve the longest or the highest jump that they can. In the chase method, the dog is placed in a stay at the far end of the dock, and their handler moves to the jump off point. The handler then releases them from the stay and throws the target as far out into the water as they are able to. When utilizing the place and send method the target is either suspended over the pool beforehand, or the handler walks the dog to the jump-off point, throws the target into the water, then walks the dog back to the start of the dock before allowing them to retrieve the target.
Step
3
Compete
There are many different levels of Dock Diving competitions that can be found both nationally and internationally, at many different levels, from simple county fairs to competitions put on by major kennel clubs such as the AKC and the UKC. Some of the diving opportunities and smaller competitions will require little to no fee for entry, but larger, officially sanctioned competitions tend to cost around twenty to twenty-five dollars per splash.
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More Fun Ideas...

Make a Digging Box

This breed of dog is a natural digger, a very helpful trait when they are looking for truffles, but an annoying one when they begin digging in your flower garden or backyard. One way to help them to satisfy their urge to dig without putting random holes in your yard is to give them a designated digging box in the yard filled with soft dirt or sand.

Truffle Hunting

The Lagotto Romagnolo dog was developed not only for retrieving game such as waterfowl from the lakes, but also for hunting truffles and although truffle farming and hunting is currently a more popular pastime in European countries, it is slowly gaining a foothold here in North America as well.

Conclusion

These dogs are both physically and mentally active and need appropriate ways to channel that energy or they can become destructive in their search for something to do. Fortunately, they are also intelligent and agile animals that can enjoy a number of different types of activities which will exercise both their minds and their bodies, keeping them occupied and happy.