The Lagotto Romagnolo is an early breed of Italian water dog that was extensively bred with dogs of other varieties to increase their agility and scenting ability. Because of the combination of this fact and waning interest in the breed, the Lagotto Romagnolo was nearly extinguished by the early 1900s, but an interested group of dog lovers, breeders and veterinarians were able to reassert the breed, and it was included in the FCI in 1995 and the AKC as recently as 2015. The Lagotto is on the smaller side of medium and sports a distinctive curled coat of hypoallergenic hair that easily sheds water, with a visible undercoat to keep them warm.
Ancient history describes the Lagotto Romagnolo as a curly haired water dog that was the companion and hunting partner to hunters of waterfowl on the marshlands of Romagna, in northern Italy. It was a job that they excelled at; they could retrieve for hours on end and thanks to their water-resistant, double layered coat, they could even retrieve the ducks and coots from icy cold water. Towards the end of the 19th century, the marshlands of the Romagna area were drained, and these little water dogs had to find a new job, and they began to specialize in the hunting of truffles instead. They excelled at that as well. Those that employed the dogs as truffle hunters often bred for results rather than breed purity, however, and combining this breed with other breeds caused the number of purebred Lagotto Romagnolo dogs to dwindle. In the 1970’s a group of breeders, veterinarians, and fans of the Lagotto Romagnolo breed worked together to develop a genetic reconstruction program to prevent the little dogs from dwindling out of existence altogether. By 1988 interest had risen enough that the Club Italiano Lagotto was formed and by 1992 the breed was recognized by the Ente Nazionale Cinofilia Italiana in 1992. Their smart and lively nature piqued the interest of dog fanciers in places like Australia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Scandinavia, and the United States, and they were recognized internationally by the FCI in 1995, and finally, in 2015 the breed was recognized as a member of the sporting group by the American Kennel Club.
These small to medium dogs are powerfully built with a square profile. If ideally conformed, the length of the Lagotto should be nearly the same as the height at the withers. The muzzle is wide and slightly shorter in length than the skull and sports a nose that can range in color from flesh tone to dark brown. The eyes are round and large, but generally not pronounced and they can range from ochre to dark brown, occasionally even hazel. They also possess triangular ears that hang down almost to the jaw and a scimitar-shaped tail, which they hold erect when they are alert. Their coat is made up of a warm, soft undercoat covered by short, curly hair with a wooly texture, both of which easily shed water. They come in several colors, including brown, brown roan, off-white, orange, white and brown, and white and orange. These colors may be seen by themselves or may be accompanied by a brown mask.
This breed is a clean breed with little to no shedding or smell, and bathing is typically only needed on a monthly basis. This dog looks its best when its coat is allowed to dry naturally rather than blow drying the fur or brushing it out. Regular clipping of the coat, typically three to four times a year, will help to prevent the tangling and matting of the wool-like coat. As the coat grows back out, it is important to examine it regularly to remove any mats, grass seeds, or burrs, particularly near the animal’s joints, in its beard, and behind its ears. The Lagotto Romagnolo also has a tendency to grow copious amounts of excess hair in their ear canal and to prevent dirt and wax build-up, this will also need to be removed on a regular basis. The Lagotto is also an active breed, both physically and mentally, and they require a great deal of mental stimulation and exercise to be at their best. Fortunately, they enjoy a number of different activities that can help meet these needs, including walks, puzzle toys, swimming sessions, and even agility training courses. Unfortunately, they also like to dig, and will require training to prevent them from digging up the yard.