Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Lagotto Romagnolo
Average Cost to keep/care for a Lagotto Romagnolo
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Lagotto Romagnolo is native to Italy where these handsome dogs were originally bred to retrieve game on land and on water. They have always been highly prized in their native Italy not only for their retrieving skills, but also because they boast having a tremendously keen sense of smell and are therefore often used to search out highly sought-after truffles in woodland areas of the land. Today, the Lagotto Romagnolo although lesser known and seen here in the UK, remains a popular working and companion dog in their native Italy.
It's thought the Lagotto Romagnolo has been around for centuries and that the breed is one of the oldest on the planet. Lagottos were bred in Italy as a water dogs and retrievers and their history has been well-documented throughout history with paintings depicting similar looking, handsome dogs dating as far back as the 1400's. As such, the Lagotto is one of the most ancient breeds with many other more recent water dog breeds being descendants of the Lagotto.
Their name “Lagotto” means “duck dog” in the Venetian/Romagnan dialect and the Romagnolo comes from Gilberto Grandi’s description which states “the breed is the equivalent of an Irish Water Spaniel”. Similar dogs have been used since the 7th Century BC to retrieve ducks which includes during the Etruscan period more especially in and around Romagna marshlands. However, things started to change at the end of the 19th Century when the number of ducks decreased and as such the Lagotto was used to search for truffles, a highly-prized fungus.
The origins of the breed can be narrowed down to the lowlands and marshlands of Comacchio and Ravenna where they were highly prized retrievers and gundogs throughout the ages. Today, the Lagotto remains popular in their native Italy both as working dogs and family pets thanks to their charming looks and loyal, affectionate natures.
Lagottos were bred to other dogs which resulted in few pure lines being left and the breed almost vanished altogether, but thanks to the efforts of enthusiasts, vets and other people interested in preserving the breed, they were saved from extinction.
The Lagotto Romagnolo was recognised as a breed by the Italian Kennel Club in 1993 and their popularity elsewhere in the world has led to more breeders producing good examples of the Lagotto in many countries which includes here in the UK. However, very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year which means that anyone who wants to share their home with a Lagotto would need to register their interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list.
Height at the withers: Males 43 - 48 cm, Females 41 - 46 cm at the withers
Average weight: Males 13 - 16 kg, Females 11 - 14 kg
The Lagotto Romagnolo is a handsome dog and one that commands a lot of presence. They are small to medium in size and quite squarely built which gives them a sturdy appearance which is accentuated by a dog's curly, woolly coat. There is a distinct difference between both male and female dogs. Their heads are moderately broad with dogs having slightly convex skulls and slight, but noticeable stops. Eyebrow arches are well developed, and muzzles are strong being almost as deep as they are long. They have straight nasal bridges and large noses that boast well opened nostrils. Their jaws are powerful and large with tight lips and covered in bristly, long whiskers.
They have quite large eyes which are set nicely on a dog's face without being too close. Eye lashes are well developed, and eye colours can range from ochre to a dark hazel as well as brown to match a dog's coat colour. The Lagotto always has an alert, intelligent expression which adds to their endearing looks. Ears are quite large and triangular having rounded tips. They are wider at the base being set just above the level of a dog's eyes. Their ears hang down when relaxed but are slightly raised when a dog is excited or alert.
The Lagotto has a strong jaw and they can either have a scissor or a pincer bite, although a reverse scissor bite is also allowed under their breed standard. Their necks are quite short, but powerful and muscular being slightly arched with no dewlap. Their shoulders are well muscled and quite well laid back. Front legs are powerful and well-muscled showing a good amount of bone.
The Lagotto has a strong compact body with their toplines falling from the wither to the croup. Their backs are muscular with dogs having short, wide and extremely powerful, slightly arched loins and wide, long and sloping croups. Their chests are well developed reaching down to a dog's elbows. Bellies are slightly tucked up adding to a Lagotto’s athletic, streamlined appearance.
Their hindquarters are strong, with dogs having powerful upper thighs. Their feet are compact having strong nails and webbing between a dog's toes which is why they are such strong swimmers. A Lagotto's front feet are virtually round with tight, well arched toes whereas their back feet are a little more oval shaped and the toes are not so arched. Tails are set as a continuation of a dog's croup and taper towards the tip hanging down when at rest, but when excited dogs often carry their tails over their backs although never curled.
When it comes to their coat, the Lagotto Romagnolo boasts having an extremely waterproof coat that's woolly and rough to the touch that forms extremely thick curls. Their undercoat is clearly visible being softer and dense. The curls form all over a dog's body, but they are looser on their head which forms their eyebrows, whiskers and beards. A dog's cheeks are nicely covered in thick hair and the curls on their ears are very wavy and open. Inner ear flaps are covered with hair and tails are covered in bristly, woolly hair. The accepted coat colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
Dogs can have a brown or dark brown mask which is acceptable under the breed standard.
It is worth noting that the accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration can differ from those set out in the breed standard which are as follows:
Lagottos can have brown or dark brown masks with pigmentation being anything from light to a very dark brown.
When a Lagotto Romagnolo moves, they do so with a smooth, free and tireless action showing plenty of drive from behind.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is only given as a guideline.
Although the Lagotto is first and foremost a working dog, they do make wonderful family pets providing they are given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation to keep them busy and happy both physically and mentally. They are known to be exceptionally good natured around children and love nothing more than to be part of a family.
They are best suited to people who lead active, outdoor lives and who would like to have an energetic, intelligent canine companion at their side. They are not the best choice for first time owners because they need to be handled and trained by people who are familiar with this type of dog’s specific needs. The Lagotto does boast having quite a high prey drive having extremely good hearing as well as a very keen sense of smell. They can also spot their prey in the distance which means that when they are being trained, attention must be paid to the "recall" command right from the word go.
They love being in and around water which means care must be taken as to where and when they can run off their leads just in case a dog decides to jump in any of the more dangerous water courses. They also love to dig which can become a problem if dogs roam around a garden which often sees a Lagotto happily digging up flower beds and lawns.
Lagottos form very strong bonds with their owners and as such they like to be with them and are never happy when left to their own devices for any length of time which could see a dog developing some unwanted and destructive behaviours as a way of relieving their stress. They often suffer separation anxiety when they are left alone for long periods of time.
Lagottos are a good choice for first time dog owners because they are so amenable and people-oriented, loving nothing more than to please and to entertain their families. They are particularly good with young children and older people too although playtime can get a bit boisterous at times. With this said, anyone sharing a home with a Lagotto would need to ensure they have the time to dedicate to an intelligent and active, yet sensible little dog.
Although Lagottos are very social by nature, they have working and hunting dogs in their lineage and as such they have a high prey drive. As such, care should always be taken as to where and when a dog can run free more especially when there is livestock or wildlife close by.
Lagottos have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They are known to be a little mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever, they quickly learn what pleases an owner and how to get their own way when they want something.
Lagottos are known to be highly adaptable dogs and providing they are given enough daily physical exercise combined with as much mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in they are just as happy living in an apartment in town as they would be living in a house in the country.
Lagottos form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out, so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.
The Lagotto is not known to be a “barker” or yappy little dog even though they have a very acute sense of hearing. With this said, if there are strangers around, a Lagotto can be quite vocal which is why they are such good watchdogs.
Lagottos adore being water having been bred for centuries to be “water dogs” and they will take to the water whenever they can no matter what the weather. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Lagotto off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they cannot get out of the water on their own.
Lagottos are extremely good watchdogs and as previously mentioned, they sleep with one eye and one ear open which in short means if there are strangers about, they are quick to let an owner know something is going on.
The Lagotto is an intelligent dog and one that thrives on being around people loving nothing more than to please. As such, in the right hands and environment, they are easy to train and thoroughly enjoy the one-to-one attention they are given during a training session.
It's important to teach puppies the "basics" as soon as they arrive home and to start their training in earnest once they have had all their jabs. Socialising puppies early in their lives helps them grow up to be more outgoing, confident characters and enrolling them into puppy classes is the best way to get their training off to a good start in a safe and controlled environment.
The key to successfully training a Lagotto is to make their training sessions as interesting and as diverse as possible and to indulge their natural retrieving instincts rather than to try and curb them. Younger dogs find it hard to stay focussed if there is too much repetition in a training session and the same can be said if the session lasts for too long. As such, shorter more interesting training sessions are much better than longer and more repetitive ones.
Like all puppies, Lagottos are incredibly cute and it is all too easy to spoil them when they first arrive in new homes. However, once a puppy is nicely settled, owners must start out as they mean to go on which means laying down rules and boundaries, so a puppy understands what is expected of them. It also helps establish a “pecking order” and who is alpha dog in a household. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
The Lagotto Romagnolo forms very strong bonds with their families and this includes the children in a household. They thrive in a family environment and thoroughly enjoy being involved in everything that goes on around them. They are very gentle and good natured around children although any interaction between toddlers and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure playtime does not end up getting too boisterous.
When well socialised from a young enough age, the Lagotto generally gets on with other dogs they meet and if they have grown up with a family cat in the home, they usually get on well together. However, if a Lagotto meets any other cats, they would think nothing of chasing them off. As with other breeds, it's best to be careful when they are around smaller animals and pets just to be on the safe side.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Lagotto Romagnolo is between 15 and 17 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
The Lagotto Romagnolo is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these unusual and handsome dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Lagotto puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different, and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Like other breeds, Lagottos can gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight, it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Lagottos are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Lagotto Romagnolo breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club recognised breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Lagotto Romagnolo.
It is mandatory for all KC Assured Breeders to use the following tests on their dogs and all other breeders are strongly advised to follow suit:
BVA/KC hip dysplasia schemeThe Kennel Club also strongly recommends that all breeders use the following schemes on their dogs:
As with any other breed, Lagottos need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Lagotto puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or, so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to save more active activities and games for outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Lagotto puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
Keeping vet appointments
As previously mentioned, Lagotto puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be fully up to date.
Older Lagottos need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Living with a Lagotto Romagnolo in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Lagottos need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Lagottos don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
The Lagotto boasts having a curly, dense non-shedding coat. The downside is that they need to be regularly trimmed by a professional dog groomer, but this makes keeping their coats tidier that much easier in between visits to a parlour. The curls on a dog's face and head are longer and looser than on the rest of a dog's body. This forms their distinct and heavy brows as well as their whiskers and beards which tend to get a bit messy after a dog has eaten. As such special attention must be paid to their mouths making sure they are kept nice and clean once a dog has finished their food.
One thing that is worth bearing in mind is that a Lagotto's puppy coat is extremely soft and dogs only develop their curls very slowly as they mature. In short, their adult coat only really grows through when they are around 2 to 3 years old. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections, bearing in mind that the hair found just inside a dog’s ear canal must be regularly removed, ideally by a professional dog groomer when they are having their coat’s done.
The Lagotto is a high energy, intelligent dog and as such they need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded dogs. They need to be given a minimum of 2 hour's exercise a day with as much off the lead time as possible. If they are not given the right amount of mental stimulation and exercise every day, a Lagotto would quickly get bored and could even begin to show some destructive behaviours around the home which is their way of relieving any stress they may be feeling.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible, so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these high energy, alert dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble. Because they love being in and around water, care must be taken when walking a Lagotto off their leads anywhere near any dangerous water courses, just in case they decide to jump in and need rescuing.
With this said, Lagotto puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing serious problems later in their lives.
If you get a Lagotto puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy eaters, but this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise, so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Lagotto puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 12 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Lagotto Romagnolo must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Lagotto can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Lagotto Romagnolo, you would need to register your interest with breeders and agree to being put on a waiting list because very few puppies are bred and registered with The Kennel Club every year. You would need to pay anything upwards of £1500 for a well-bred KC registered pedigree puppy.
The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Lagotto in northern England would be £25.32 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £54.56 a month (quote as of March 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry making sure it suits the different stages of a dog’s life. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of this, you need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Lagotto Romagnolo and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Lagotto Romagnolo would be between £70 to £110 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a healthy, well-bred Kennel Club registered pedigree Lagotto Romagnolo puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
Lagotto Romagnolo puppies are quite a rare breed in the UK which means that well-bred puppies command a lot of money. As such, with Lagottos there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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