Lagotti Romagnoli | Brilliant Truffle Hunters

  1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs?
  2. In popularity, Lagotto Romagnoli are ranked #99 out of 192 AKC-recognized breeds. Do you feel the average person on the street knows what he is?
  3. Few of these dogs really “work” anymore. Although “cute” is most often used to describe him, he’s a tremendously hard-working dog with great stamina. How has he adapted to civilian life? What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house?
  4. A strong Sporting dog requires a special household to be a perfect fit. What about the breed makes him an ideal
    companion? Drawbacks?
  5. What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate?
  6. At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthiness (or lack thereof)?
  7. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind?
  8. What is your ultimate goal for the breed?
  9. What is your favorite dog show memory?
  10. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.

Pattie Fischer

Pattie Fischer, of Bella Fiore Lagottos, has been raising Lagotto Romagnolos since 2013. Pattie’s breeding program focuses on health and temperament suited to working Lagotti in the areas of scent detection and service work. Raising this breed to help people with medical and allergen health issues has become her passion.

Pattie is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, Associate Nose Work Instructor, and an affiliate of Puppy Culture and Avidog International, using both protocols for raising and breeding since July 2015. She has also obtained certification as a Pet Food Nutrition Specialist and is currently working on an advanced certificate in the same studies. She is also currently training to become a certified gluten detection trainer to help people with gluten sensitivity train their dogs.

I live in Washington state on the North Olympic Peninsula in the small town of Sequim (pronounced Skwim). I am the Executive Assistant to the Vice President for Finance and Administration at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington. Not much else happens in my life “outside” of dogs. I am either raising and training puppies, taking training courses for dog trainers or training scent detection with a special focus on gluten, Parkinson’s Disease, and truffles.

Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? Most Lagotti owners are shocked when someone asks them, “Is that a Lagotto?” Most people do not know about Lagotti and usually mistake them for Doodles. When I explain that it is not a Doodle but a Lagotto Romagnolo, the usual response is “A La-whata whata?” I try to take time to explain what a Lagotto is, give a brief history and describe some of the wonderful attributes of this amazing breed. I think this breed is one of the best kept secrets in the dog world.

How has the breed adapted to civilian life? I think the majority of the Lagotti in the US spend most of their time as companions. However, in Italy and other countries in Europe, they are still very much working dogs used mainly for hunting truffles. They are the only breed in the world specifically bred to hunt for them. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, we have many working Lagotti who are wonderful truffle and mushroom hunters. We are in one of the few places in the US that have truffles and many varieties of mushrooms that grow naturally. I would say we are in the Lagotti’s perfect idea of heaven—truffles and water!

The Lagotto has adapted well to civilian life with some characteristics that are very suitable to family life. They can be very loving, attentive and loyal. However, the Lagotti is not a good fit for everyone. They can be sensitive and don’t do well with harsh correction. They love to be a part of every aspect of their owner’s life and want a close relationship with their families. Some Lagotti, more than others, have a natural affinity for children and can be wonderful companion for them.

I always say “The really great thing about Lagotti is they are very intelligent. The really bad thing about Lagotti is they are very intelligent.” They need to have mental stimulation to keep them happy and to keep them from becoming bored. If they don’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation, they will find their own form of entertainment and that is not always a good thing. I know that can be said of other breeds, too.

The Lagotti can make excellent scent detection dogs and can have a very positive impact on families that have them for medical or allergen alert dogs. Our breeding program is focused on breeding Lagotti that excel at medical scent detection as well as have the temperament and work ethic qualities of a service dog. We currently have several dogs placed in homes for gluten and other allergen detection, diabetic alert, as well as families who have a family member in the autism spectrum. We also have two of our dogs working to detect Parkinson’s Disease and will be adding two more of our Lagotti to the Parkinson’s Disease detection program this year.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? Lagotti, more than any other breed I have had, really want to have a relationship with its owner/family. They love to go for car rides, hiking, the park and swimming. They really enjoy spending time with their family even if they are just cuddling on the sofa. They really thrive on interacting with humans especially for training or other types of mental simulation that combines an activity with spending time with their family.

One of the drawbacks to the breed is that most of them love to dig. Since the Lagotto is the only breed in the world specifically bred to hunt truffles, their desire to dig was encouraged by this activity. As a result, they can be fairly destructive to the yard if left alone to entertain themselves.

Prior to becoming truffle dogs, they were lowland waterfowl hunters. While that trait has been mostly bred from the breed, some Lagotti still retain the desire to chase squirrels, birds and other critters.

What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? It is very important to me to raise the healthiest dogs with the best temperaments that I possibly can. To that end, we do health and genetic testing on all of our dogs as well as provide them with the best vet care, nutrition, vitamin supplements and environmental enrichment we can. I am also constantly training and taking courses to have the best knowledge I can for my program as well as for my families. When you focus on education, breeding and raising dogs this way, it becomes all-consuming and very expensive as prices of food, equipment, toys and training continue to increase making it harder to do the best for your dogs.

People think that we are making money hand over fist breeding and selling puppies. I have people contact me regularly because they “think it would be fun to have puppies” or they think they can make “lots of money” breeding. It takes a lot of time, money, heartache, stress, passion and love to raise dogs the proper way. It is definitely not a “get rich quick” scheme.

Social media can be a double edged sword. People can say anything they want, true or not, and it can damage your reputation in a blink of an eye. The political climate has really had a huge impact on how people treat each other. For me, it is about personal relationships and supporting each other. Social media allows me to keep in contact with my puppy families that I would not have otherwise. I can share in their triumphs as well as their sorrows.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? We begin looking at their structure when puppies are about five weeks old to identify conformation show prospects with our final conformation selection when the puppies are eight weeks of age. The eight week mark is generally the age they will look like a miniature version of their adult selves. It kind of gives us a peak into the future.

The dog’s olfactory system is the only system that is fully developed when it is born. For scent detection, we begin identifying the puppies with best scent curiosity during early scent introduction at the same time we do early neurological stimulation. From day three to day 16, we introduce the puppies to truffles and Parkinson’s Disease samples everyday as well as introduce as many other odors as possible. I take notes on how the puppies act and interact with the different scents to help us identify which odors the puppies are drawn to and which odors they don’t like.

For service dog qualities, we begin watching the puppies at about five weeks of age. We begin having puppy parties every weekend when the puppies are about four weeks of age. We invite families and friends to come over to help us socialize the puppies. Our goal is to provide the puppies the opportunity to meet as many different people as possible before they go to their new homes, around 11 weeks old. These parties allow us the opportunity to observe how the puppies interact with people of all ages, sizes, ethnicities as possible. We particularly pay very close attention to the puppies who are really drawn to the children.

None of the puppies will be chosen for their prospective program until after we do the temperament test. Temperament testing allows us to see the puppy in a more holistic way. The puppy can have a wonderful structure, great nose, etc., but it also must have the courage, biddability and temperament to succeed.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? It is very important for a new judge to study and understand the breed standard. While this breed is a very ancient breed, possibly dating back to the 1500’s, it is still rare in the US. The Lagotto Romagnolo breed standard can be considered not as restrictive as other, more recognized, breeds. It is important to view them through the lens of the breed’s standard and not assume it should be the same as other breeds. For example, the height of the breed has a range of two inches with a ½ inch leeway on either side of the measurement. The breed is not required to have a scissor bite, although that certainly would be the preferred.

My ultimate goal is to preserve the breed as intended based on the breed standard with a focus on temperament, biddability, courage and resilience as well as structure. My hope is that the breeders will health test, including DNA testing, to ensure the best possible representatives of the breed will move the next generations forward.

My favorite conformation dog show memory just happened in 2019. It was the first time I was showing my one-year-old Lagotto, Angelus mei Lumiel Perfetto, without any assistance. I am not the best handler so, to my surprise, she took best of breed over a champion male.

My most favorite dog sport memory was Bella passing her very first odor recognition test through the National Associate for Canine Scent Work. After Bella had alerted to the odor, birch, and passed the test, it was probably one of the most emotional moments in my life with dogs. As we were leaving the building, she was happily trotting alongside me, when we both looked each other in the eyes. The look on her face told me she knew she had done something really special; she was the happiest I have ever seen her. I had to fight back tears of happiness. This was the moment I knew I had an amazing relationship with this dog. One of trust, communication and love. There is no better feeling in the world!

The Lagotto Romagnolo is an amazing animal. They seem to be part dog, part cat, part goat, and part human. They amaze me every single day! They have a need to be with humans and will thrive when they are allowed to be part of everyday life with their families. They are sensitive and need to know that they can trust that you will not put them in situations they are not comfortable with. In my opinion, the best activity for a Lagotto is scent work. It will create a bond of trust and communication that is unlike any other relationship with previous dogs. The sport will also help the dog to become the dog it was meant to be, seeing the world through its nose.

Kathy Haglof

Lagotto Lady Kennels is situated on 25 acres of beautiful rolling land, surrounded by many lakes in Lindstrom, Minnesota. Besides working with my dogs, I enjoy outdoor yard work, planting trees and creating fun environments for my animals (dogs and horses). Horse back riding in the many state parks is what I do to get away and re-charge
my batteries.

Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? As of lately, because of the popularity, more people are recognizing them. If not, people always ask if they are some sort of “doodle”.

What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? My experience is they make really nice family dogs. They are very loyal to their people, and want to go everywhere you go. They also like to snuggle and love attention, making them a great family pet. As used in the old days to guard ships, a Lagotto always knows when someone is at the door, and will alert you, which in my opinion, is a good thing.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? These highly intelligent working dogs need structure in their lives—they need mental stimulation, without that, they tend to get bored, get into trouble “picking up undesirable habits”. Training is not just a “one time deal”, a well behaved dog is continuously being trained. To keep them happy, I suggest teaching tricks, nose work, obedience, agility or dock diving. In other words, do something with them as they are happiest when they have purpose, a job to do.

What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? It takes deep pockets to be a responsible breeder. I compare breeding to farming, as sometimes you have a good crop, while others you don’t. It’s not that easy. As prices climb with vets, food and health testing, the cost of properly raising pups is not cheep. As for the social climate—when people hear you are a breeder, they think of puppy mills, which couldn’t be farther from the truth, at least for the professional level breeders as we jump through so many hoops to produce quality dogs. And then, there is always the big debate about adopting from a shelter rather than purchased from a breeder.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I like to see them at around eight weeks old, sometimes sooner I know if I have a potential show prospect, it’s something you just know. They go through awkward growing spirits, so again at a year old, I feel as though I really know what I have based on build, movement and enthusiasm to be in the show ring.

What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Please read and understand the breed standards. Also, if they get the opportunity to speak to some breeders, in fact several, to ask questions specific about the breed.

My ultimate goal for the breed? Fantastic temperaments and health are a priority. To achieve the “perfect” Lagotto traits, you must study and understand bloodlines “Genetics” and where your desired traits are coming from and move forward generation after generation to create your desired line of Lagotto. New out-crosses are also vital to keep the breed strong.

My favorite dog show memory? Not sure I really have one, all I know is when a handler is showing one of my dogs, I view from afar because if they spot me, its over.

In addition to being extremely intelligent, they are sensitive and intuitive. They can read a humans moods without question, and can be skeptical of strangers. I have heard, that with no formal training, they have the ability to detect epileptic seizures coming on, or blood sugar levels—some lines seem to be more perceptive than others. They like being by their “humans”, they are quirky, funny and are most happy when they have a job to do.

Judith Martin

Judith Martin – exhibitor breeder in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers since 1993. Imported first Lagotto Romagnolo from Croatia in 2005; first one in Arizona. We gathered a group of passionate owners to form our first breed club in May 2007. I served as Founding President. I continued working on the newsletter and serving on various committees. I served as President again 2016 to 2018. I am currently serving as Corresponding Secretary of LRCA.

After the first imported Lagotto, the next 3 were imported from Italy. Since that time, I have kept home bred Lagotti for my show/pet dogs. I currently have 12.5 year old Vando and 3.5 year old Ori.

I lived in SE Michigan when I began as an exhibitor breeder of Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers. In 1993 I moved to central Arizona upon my husband’s retirement in 1997. In 2005, I imported the first Lagotto Romagnolo into the state of Arizona. At first there were just a couple of dedicated breeders who also imported Lagotti and we showed our dogs in available venues.

In 2007, we found enough fans of the breed to start our breed club and once we had enough registrations to qualify for Miscellaneous, folks started to note the many qualities of a medium size dog, that doesn’t shed, is smart, and very trainable.

We knew when we started our parent club that protecting the breed would be important because of the visible qualities. The size, the “cuteness factor” the intelligence and trainability were going to make this breed skyrocket into the public consciousness. As carefully as we progressed, the ready availability of puppies overseas that are sent without contracts, has given rise to a population of new breeders who know little more than this is a breed that is cute, and will sell quickly and easily.

Rising to #99 in AKC breeds in such a few years is a bit of a concern. In my early years no one had any idea what the breed was, but today I find about half the people I meet either recognize the breed or have at least heard of the “truffle hunting dog”. Some folks will ask if they are doodles and my response is always, “No, this is a purebred of ancient lineage.”

I have never forgotten my first trip to the International Lagotto Specialty in Italy in 2007 where I met a full time truffle hunter whose dogs would run in the forest for six hours a day. I always tell prospective owners that these dogs have been bred for this level of activity and they must provide their pups with sufficient physical and mental activity for them to be contented pets. It matters not if they live in an apartment or on a large estate, the owner must supply the opportunity for activity.

Due to the sporting dog temperament and physique, the Lagotto is proving to be excellent in agility, dock diving and nose work, and some owners are exploring lure coursing and barn hunt. In the Pacific NorthWest there are a lot of Lagotti that are regularly hunting and finding delicious native truffles, and also imported varieties that have been introduced. Last year, one of our club members’ Lagotto located the largest truffle found in the US. Pecan Truffles are also native from Texas up to Tennessee and places East. Truffle hunting Lagotti are not yet common in this region, but there is likely to be a growing awareness. I recently moved to Central Texas and there is almost no knowledge of local truffles but I am committed to investigating that activity. We started training late this fall and my 3.5 year old female can find the Oregon truffle scent that I plant for her, but we have not found any native truffles.

Due to the intelligence, devotion, and tractability of this breed, they are proving to be excellent Therapy Dogs, and some are being trained as detection dogs.

Vando is 12.5 years old and has been a Therapy/comfort dog since 2013. While not typical of all Lagotti, many in our breed are proving to be well suited for visitation in hospitals, schools and events. He is currently in a READ program in our local elementary (see photo) and we make weekly visits to our Juvenile Justice Court where Vando sits with youth awaiting their court appearances. Size and non-shedding coat is a plus in public situations.

Since we are retired, our outside activities tend to include our dogs. Traveling the country with our dogs, visiting folks in our breeds, and puppy owners keeps it fun.

Grooming is one area that separates, show homes, working homes, and pet homes. In a recent simple Facebook survey on our club information page, the majority of folks wanted advice on grooming. The old Italians would tell us to trim the dog two times a year with a shave down. They said to shave a couple months before showing and let it grow into proper length. Many of the Italian breeders I met, kept their dogs separate from their household, and didn’t sleep with their dogs like many American families prefer. Now we hear owners who end up with frequent bathing and brushing which creates matting and thus requires shaving down the coat all the time.

On my first visit to Italy in 2007, I visited several highly respected breeders. Each of the breeders kept their dogs in kennels separate from their homes with no dogs inside which helped me understand why many of our imports arrived with shyness or anxiety issues. It took me almost a year to train my first Lagotto to be comfortable around strangers, and my second import was rehomed due to unacceptable level of shyness for a show/breeding dog. I knew that once the puppies were raised in typical “American-style” in the homes of their breeders with lots of socialization, we would see much of that issue go away. We still recommend our puppy owners continue with plenty of continual socialization for our breed.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? My introductory letter to breed inquiries states that this dog is not the one for every family, and not a first choice for a family with no dog experience. They are highly trainable, but must be trained. We see a variety of energy levels in a litter and must evaluate the energy levels of the prospective families. I remind people that the breed is tolerated by many folks with allergies, but that is not always the case. Their current growing popularity is due to adorably cute puppies, medium size and non-shedding coats. We want to make sure they are not too cute for their own good.

What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Judges need to keep in mind that this dog has a purpose, and when judging in the ring, they need to ask themselves if this exhibit looks like it could run in the forest for six hours and come out looking the same; the perfect conformation with the perfect coat should be one and the same. We do not want to see the selected dog be the result of talented grooming.

My goal for this breed is for us to protect the robust health of this breed, to maintain the proper conformation to do the work it was bred for, to have the temperament to remain a lovely family dog.

Sandy Mignogna

I discovered the breed in 1997 and visited Italy to meet with breeders for the first time in 2002. I have travelled to Italy over 15 times to attend their National Specialties and World Dog Shows and to be mentored by breed specialists. I served as the LRCA’s President, as a Director and as on multiple committees and I am presently a judge’s mentor. I started breeding and showing dogs in 1992. I graduated from Penn State University and worked in the corporate world but I am now retired pursuing my full time dog passion.

I live in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Outside of dogs, I love to travel anywhere and everywhere. I also love to trail ride with my horses.

Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? While the breed has definitely grown in recognition in the past several years, I don’t think they are yet recognizable by the majority of people. I do find dog enthusiasts at training centers and AKC conformation shows are definitely more aware of the breed though.

What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? I would agree that in the US, the breed is not utilized as it is in Italy as a working breed. This can lead to challenges in living in a home situation as they are a breed that needs to be engaged mentally and on a lower level, physically. As long as their owners are committed to engagement and making them a member of their household, they do very well. I think their nature of wanting to please their owners and their physical and mental stamina that is needed while working as a truffle hunter carries over into the non-working life as a family pet in that they are easy to train and can be utilized in a variety of fun and active dog sports.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? I find them to be a breed that needs a lot of mental stimulation and interaction with “their people”. They have a great get-up-and-go attitude and are eager to try any activities their owners want to do with them. This makes the Lagotto a really fun breed to train and they excel in many dog sports, such as scent work, agility, obedience, dock diving, etc. Because of their need for activities and needing guidance and boundaries to be content members of the household, they may not be a great fit for first time owners or busy families that are just looking for a couch potato at the end of a busy day at work or with kids.

What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? Unfortunately, in recent years the demand for the breed has been greater than the supply. Now that the recognition of the breed is growing, people are wanting a Lagotto without understanding their needs, they are attracted to the breed because of their mid-size, cute and cuddly appearance, non-shedding coat and the fact that they are considered allergy-friendly. In very recent years, many inexperienced and/or unethical breeders have been breeding to meet the demand and are breeding without doing the proper health testing on the parents, being aware of temperament issues and breeding structurally unsound dogs which are also lacking in breed type. Too many people are interested in the “now” puppy and are not doing their homework and waiting for a puppy from an experienced and diligent breeder who places health, type and temperament as a top priority.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? All puppies in a litter are cute and it is easy to start to fall for one because of unique color or markings but in my opinion, true conformation qualities of type and movement and that “show spark” can not be analyzed until a minimum of seven to eight weeks. Of course a full evaluation is not possible in this breed until maturity, closer to one and a half years.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? In Italy, there are three parts of the Lagotto breed that are so important to the breed that three separate awards are given at specialty events. They are head, coat and structure/movement. The first, head type—without proper expression/head type we lose the essence of the look. But more importantly though, if we lose the head type which is so important for the breeds’ function, we also lose the elements needed for greatest scenting abilities—a wide muzzle with a strong underjaw, both of which allow for a blunt muzzle which is conducive to a broad nose and sinuses. Second is coat, which should be dense, double coated and curly. Lagotto should NEVER be over-groomed so that the curls cannot be evaluated. Third is structure/movement—a Lagotto is a sturdy, compact, robust, square breed built for stamina over rough terrain, there is no over-exaggeration of angles or movement. These qualities help the breed to optimally perform his job as a truffle hunter and also reflect those of his original function as a water dog. Without proper structure and movement he cannot perform his job effectively.

My ultimate goal for the breed? The breed is still a relatively healthy breed and I would like to keep it that way. I was the founding President of the Lagotto Romagnolo Foundation Inc, which was formed to protect the health and longevity of the breed through education and scientific research. I would like to see breeders who are putting emphasis on breeding healthy and conformationally and temperamentally sound dogs. This way we can maintain the breeds history and functionality as it was developed in Italy for a specific purpose.

My favorite dog show memory? I am the only owner and breeder of the first and only Lagotto Romagnolo bred in the US that has won Best of Breed at the breed’s National Specialty, Westminster, the National Championships and the National Dog Show. He was the number one breed ranked LR in 2018. All five accomplishments are pinnacle milestones to achieving a breeders’ show dream come true!

Adrienne Perry

Adrienne Perry is the Judges Education Coordinator for the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America and has worked on both versions of the AKC standard. She is a past president of the club, serving five consecutive terms on the board. She is a breeder of merit in lagotto as well as in her original breed, Rottweilers. She is currently a provisional judge in Lagotto, and hopes to add a variety of working and sporting groups to her judging roster soon.

We are located in Tucson, Arizona. I’m retired and working on my breeds for judging.

Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? Not necessarily, and that’s a good thing. We are all worried about becoming very popular, very fast. And this isn’t a breed for everyone!

What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? A mature lagotto is a lovely pet with a nice “off switch”. Up to the age of two however, they can be very busy and demanding. A Lagotto would make a really nice “dog sport dog” they are very agile, intelligent and connected to their owners.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? He is too smart/busy for the average dog owner, especially if they came to this breed because they are listed as hypo-allergenic and the potential owner lacks previous dog experience because of allergies. If you can lay down the rules (in a positive way, they are a very soft breed) and get through crate training and puberty, they are very cuddly and easy dogs to be around. Some lines seem slow to house-train.

What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? We are still trying to enlarge the gene pool here. So most of us are still importing. Due to many early imports not having great hips, we have a rather unbalanced gene pool of certain popular sires that did produce good hips. Importing is hard, you HAVE to visit, you HAVE to develop relationships with foreign breeders. Breeders need to be more open about problems, that their dogs have (dentition issues, size inconsistency, lack of testicles, heart issues, temperament). A lot of foreign breeders do not health test at the same levels that we do (though I believe that we are driving the market on that and it is changing since I first started). Also in many countries, breeders do not practice the same puppy raising protocols as most reputable American breeders. In many places, they are raised as kennel dogs. Getting a soft, unsocialized kennel dog puppy at 16 weeks can be a nightmare! On a recent trip to Italy, friends and I visited around six breeders, we met a grand total of one house dog! Anyhow, there are still nice dogs available, but you need to be able to go and meet the breeders and see the dogs yourself. I would not import if you cannot do that. My first two were from Switzerland and Sweden, respectively, largely this was because their breeding requirements and philosophy on puppy raising seemed similar to mine, countrywide. It gave me a feeling of security!

We are a very global community, I think we have social media to thank for that! Mostly, it’s a good thing.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I think there are two key times, one about eight weeks and another closer to 16 weeks. At eight weeks they have no legs, and no neck and they all seem to look too long in hock. The athleticism seems to be nicely apparent at the older time period, and the hair should be starting to curl well and the carriage of the tail has begun to figure itself out and bite is probably what it’s going to be (though it can change up to three years!) You might also have a good idea of temperament at this point, though the breed goes through a fairly marked secondary fear stage around 9-15 months.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Athleticism: This is a working truffle dog, they should give the appearance of having “the strength and endurance to work all day in difficult and challenging terrain” (AKC Standard). Make sure that they really could. Though the standard does not have a weight DQ, it does have suggested weights.—a dog that is too substantial (a word that does not appear anywhere in our standard) can not possess the necessary endurance. Such a dog might measure in, but is really too much dog on his legs to do his job.

Rears: We do have quite a bit of breed drag in terms of good, strong rears. He shouldn’t be a dog without the powerful loin, and long slightly sloping croup. If you find a good rear reward it! Make sure to do a good down and back, while we are seeing better turn of stifle than we did ten years ago, we are still seeing dogs that are too close behind, or hocky going away. Dog could be cleaner coming back as well—and a lot of those same dogs look fine on the
“go around.”

Hallmarks: Our breed hallmarks are the a) Headpiece (slightly shortened muzzle to skull ratio, with wide muzzle and nose, nostrils and strong underjaw), b) the Coat (curly and rustic in presentation) and c) the Square body silhouette with more leg than body. Missing any one of these is to miss type entirely.

My ultimate goal for the breed? I think to find our last genetic marker (for Cerebellar Abiatrophy) and to reduce the shy temperaments. Also to find a magical way to bring newbie breeders into the fold so that they are making good choices—so hard to approach someone to say “I think you need some mentorship” but we need to find a way to do just that, before our numbers explode.

Personally, I would like to breed dogs that excel in dog sports as well as in the conformation ring. But I want to produce dogs that are sound in body and mind.

My favorite dog show memory? I’ve been very fortunate to be able to show in Europe, the pickup date for my two imported dogs always seemed to correspond with a major dog show.

My original imported dog was able to finish both his Swiss and his German Championships (as well as his FCI International Championship) owner handled by me, and on one trip we beat the Top Dog in Germany, the day after the Europaseiger show in Dortmund, so absolutely everyone was there. I’ve got that one on video, the entire crowd gasped when he took the CACIB over the “home town dog” and then he went on to beat a Group 8 winning bitch for the breed as well. That’s still a “pinch me did that really happen moment”! He showed 11 times in Germany and Switzerland and ten times was rated V-1, always over competition. Stateside he was an AKC Grand Champion with a UD, TD, NA and RE, and he was a Juniors dog as well. I guess that’s more a memory of a dog than a dog show. But for me, what he was able to do is what the breed should be able to do—everything!

Janet Smith

My website is I have been involved in showing and breeding dogs most of my adult life. There is nothing I enjoy more than sharing stories about my Lagotto. My Lagotto are adorable, loving, comical, curly, family orientated, friendly, smart and my best furry friends.

My Lagotto are successful AKC and IABCA show dogs, loving family dogs, working therapy dogs, verified truffle hunters and talented service dogs.

I am proud to be a Certified Puppy Culture breeder and AKC Certified Evaluator. I am an avid amateur pet photographer and retired Special Education Teacher. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, professional groomer and pet lover.

I founded Charlie’s Caps—Hugs for the Head program.

I am proud to be an active participant with the
following organizations:

  • Pets for Vets
  • Anchor Therapy Service Dog Training
  • Pet Pals Hospice program
  • ADPT
  • TDI

I have volunteered for many years at local animal shelters and rescue centers. I am an avid advocate for pets. I live in Rocklin, California. Outside of dogs, I am a retired Special Education Teacher of 30+ years. I tutor family’s children who are struggling in school and help them to get back on track. I offer supportive dog training to help with fixing family dog problems that crop up. I do therapy dog work at Ronald McDonald House and local memory care facilities. I support the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America and I am on the nominating committee. I am a loving grandma to three grandbabies under the age of two years. And I love to shop and use my cell phone and Cannon camera for amateur photography.

Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? Surprisingly no. Everyone asks what kind of Labradoodle, Goldendoodle or Poodle mix is my dog. When I explain, I hear, “Oh, I have never heard of a Lagotto before. How do you spell it?”

How has the breed adapted to civilian life? The biggest surprise for us was how much energy, drive and desire to work they have. I quickly and happily learned that it was important to keep our Lagotto engaged in activities that bring them joy such as learning tricks, therapy dog work, nose work classes, daily walks and more than expected times to snuggle and be a curly companion at home.

What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? Coco has been taught to retrieve items. She can find things and pick them up when asked. I find my Lagotto to be alert dogs and that is comforting when the house is left empty or my husband travels. They are a “non-shedding” breed and I love I don’t have hair all over to be cleaned daily. Because I am retired, and my grandchildren live out of state, I love they easily adapt when my grandchildren visit. They also adore the company of my neighbor’s children. I love that they will snuggle as long I want on the couch together.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? The Lagotto loves its human family. They are protective, loving, extremely intuitive and loyal. The Lagotto wants to be with his or her family. They do not do well left alone for long periods of time. They want to be a part of your daily life whether it is nighttime sleeping, morning activities, work, family gatherings or recreation. The Lagotto is not the breed for someone who plans to leave the dog alone for extended periods of time. They want to be with their family. They are the ultimate family dog. I don’t place a Lagotto, adult or puppy, in a home where the family works full time and the dog is left to wait for their return. This creates undo stress and unhappiness for the dog. The Lagotto is joyful with their family. They can go to doggy daycare, but don’t do well with an hour walk by Rover or Wagg. Being a sporting dog, Lagotto needs a fair amount of stimulation. This can be mental as well as physical activity. They need to be actively engaged in nose work games, trick training, fetch, hiking, swimming, water activities and more. Many of our dog’s paddleboard, truffle hunt, visit with elderly family in care facilities, go to outdoor cafes for brunch and also work in a service dog capacity.

What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? It is important to realize that Lagotto is not a curly, cute, teddy bear couch potato. It is difficult to remember that this teddy bear is actually an active, energetic, ball of curiosity, love, fun and mischievous being.

The coat requires regular grooming which I am always happy to teach my Lagotto families. Otherwise it requires a trip to the groomer every other month in order to keep the coat curly and beautiful. It is important for Lagotto to eat high quality foods and supplements and see a family veterinarian for regular preventative care. Pet insurance should be an added consideration for all dogs due to new procedures available for keeping pooches healthy. Additionally, we have learned that monies should be set aside for incidentals such as pet friendly hotel fees, interactive toys, puzzles, training classes, games, truffles, crates, treats, dog beds and anything else to spoil your most adored Lagotto. It is also not uncommon for the family of a Lagotto to enjoy all of the new Lagotto items available such as Lagotto branded t-shirts, mugs, hats, photos, stuffed animals, Lagotto Club calendars, jewelry and more. And if you want to show your Lagotto in AKC shows, you’ll need funds for that. Additionally, don’t forget a professional photo shoot!

Because the Lagotto is a relatively new breed to the United States, recently receiving AKC recognition in 2015, a prospective family should consider that the price of a Lagotto puppy is higher than average. It is important to choose a breeder who is knowledgeable about the breed, does health testing and raises puppies with sound temperaments.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? We go to great lengths in our breeding program to ensure we have a strong foundation. All of our adult Lagotto in our breeding program are CHIC certified and have prominent pedigrees. This sets up each litter for the best possible outcome. For a show-prospect puppy we look at them at age five weeks and eight weeks initially to assess basic confirmation. As the puppy grows, we assess temperament and at five months a show prospect would have a Penn Hip x-ray to assess the quality of their hips. Temperament and hips are important to our breeding program.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Movement of Lagotto is important to understand. The standard states that the “gait/movement should be an energetic trot with reach and drive. Lively and balanced.” In the sporting group it is important to see the Lagotto movement as described by the standard and not compared to the movement of a Golden Retriever, Irish Setter or Clumber Spaniel. The extended trot is what makes the Lagotto, a Lagotto.

Coat: AKC describes the coat as having a “woolly texture, never twisted to form thin cords, semi-rough on the surface, with tight, ring shaped curls, with visible undercoat. The correct clip is un-pretentious and contributes to accentuate the natural, rustic look typical of the breed.” In short, this means the Lagotto should not be over groomed to look like a Poodle or Bichon, but instead should show its lovely rustic curls and sporting appearance.

Temperament is essential. Lagotto should be happy and excited to be in the ring.

The Tail: The AKC describes the tail; “At rest carried scimitar like or straight; when excited it is decidedly raised. When moving the tail is often carried level with the back. When working or excited can be raised higher, also scimitar like, but never curled or straight up. Tail tapers towards the end. It is covered with woolly and rather bristly hair.”

My ultimate goal for the breed is to twofold; To ensure that the breeds original purpose for sport and companionship is preserved and to protect the breed from over population from not following the breed standards as it gains notoriety in the United States.

My favorite dog show memory is from our first benched show at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Not only did our Lagotto win BOB and an Owner-Handel placement, but we represented the Lagotto to more than 100 people that came specifically to the bench show to meet this new breed, the Lagotto. I was so proud to introduce our three Lagotto and they represented the breed perfectly.

Hakan Swahn

We live in New York, across the street from Central Park where Oscar gets his daily exercise and playtime. Very often with his best friend Muffy which whom he had puppies last February.

I am the owner of Aquavit Restaurant here in midtown which is a Nordic two-star Michelin restaurant. He does not get to taste truffles there but keeps digging for them in Central Park.

The average person does not know yet what a Lagotto is but it is getting better. When Oscar was born he was deemed to be a Poodle or some variety of a doodle. Now, six years later, there are quite a few here and the interest is on the rise. Seems like the demand has really exploded and that there are not enough puppies in the US for all who wants one. Oscar was born in Sweden from champion parents. I had to promise his breeder to show him in the US but as a complete novice I gave that task to a wonderful AKC handler, Jimmy Dickson, who quickly guided Oscar to become an AKC champion.

There is no question that his nose is the most prominent asset. Although he is just a family dog his favorite “game” is to look for hidden treats in the apartment and after an hour every morning in the park he is exhausted from the myriad of scents that must be explored. I may be wrong but every morning he sniffs and licks my right knee which incidentally is due to get a replacement this spring. I actually think he can smell the osteoarthritis in the knee.

Like most dogs Lagottos vary in all aspects although there are common threads. They are very loyal and playful. Full of mischief and very intelligent in their attempts to outsmart you. They need exercise but not as much as most people think. If they are allowed to just run loose they are the happiest but many, like Oscar, are not interested in chasing balls all day long. They are very trainable and love tasks but rend to pull on the leash and most Lagottos welcome visitors with a few barks.

I think Lagotto breeders are fortunate as this is a breed on the rise and demand his high which is also reflected in the high puppy cost in the US. The challenge is for the community to breed with the health of offsprings being the most important aspect and make sure that breeders are approved by the lagotto club. I think there is also a trend towards allowing dogs in places where they have not been welcome before. With some restrictions many communities now allow them in restaurant and shops with owner consent which is a big leap forward.

When do I start to see show-worthiness? Since I am not a professional breeder I find it hard to see when they are really young but at 18 months you can tell if you have some experience with the breed and personality in the ring can only be judged after actually trying. A big challenge for the breed was the lack of judges with good knowledge of the breed but this is now getting much better and the club has recently made some very good revisions to breed standard. The most important aspect is to remember that a Lagotto is a working dog and should have that rustic look with power
and intelligence.

My ultimate goal for the breed? I hope there will be more introductions of top quality offsprings from European dogs to dilute the gene pool in the US while not compromising the breed standard.

My biggest memories were participating in the National in Philadelphia they first year the breed was accepted in the AKC as well as being in the Westminster. Watching your cute family members strutting around the ring with his handler was really special.

It may be one of the cutest breeds around, especially as a puppy, but the real bonus is that they are not just cuddly and cute but that they also require some work and commitment from the owner.

Carolyn Talbert

Carolyn and Jim Talbert have been involved with the Lagotto Romagnolo breed since 2010 with their first Lagotto, Gelato. Since then, they have been actively competing in Conformation, Scent-work, Dock Diving, Fast CAT, and Canine Good Citizenship. Their Lagotti are multi-titled both domestically and abroad, earning awards at Westminster, Royal Canin AKC National, LRCA National Specialty, Crufts, and World Dog Show in Moscow. Jim Talbert serves as the AKC Delegate and President for the Lagotto Club of America (LRCA). In between grooming and training their Lagotti for competitions, Carolyn serves as Membership Chair and Breed Mentor Apprentice for the LRCA. The Talberts are also active members of their local All-breed kennel club. Visit their website at

We live in the coastal region of Virginia. My husband, Jim, and I are gainfully employed, working full time. I have served as a Landscape Planner for a local municipality for over two decades. We are also active in our church and enjoy spending time at the lake with our grandchildren and “dock divers.”

Do you feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? In the last four years, since July of 2015 when the AKC granted full recognition of the breed, the “street-cred” of the Lagotto Romagnolo has definitely improved! Although, we still get the “What kind of doodle is your dog?” question, we delight when someone asks, “Is that a Lagotto?!” As the breed continues to gain popularity, many more are recognizing the breed, and frequently inquire about the temperament, health, and grooming aspects of the LR.

What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? The Lagotto Romagnolo is a most keen, energetic, affable, and loyal breed. They are easily trained and should be frequently challenged to learn new tasks and hone their manners. They bond very quickly and strongly with their humans, but if left on their own too much, they will start to get into mischief and can develop undesired behaviors. Many dog owners focus on physical exercise with their canines, and while this aspect is important, the Lagotto benefits as much from the mental stimulation of conquering new challenges while spending quality time with his/her most beloved human. Their keen sense of smell aids greatly around the house, as they can find just about anything! Mine have been helpful in finding reading glasses that fall in between cushions, under beds, etc. and you will certainly know when a stray piece of kibble gets stuck under the refrigerator, stove, or under their crate, as LR will incessantly sniff and dig to free it. You might as well resign to helping them soon retrieve “the smell,” so the household can be restored to peace.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? At the end of the day, rich in activity, there is nothing more satisfying than to have cuddle time with one’s Lagotto. As important as exercise (physically and mentally), the Lagotto also needs adequate down-time. A trainer once enlightened me to the fact that constant exercise for any dog, does not always tire him/her out, but instead, much like a well-conditioned athlete, it builds endurance— requiring more and more increasingly to tire the canine. That said, creating spaces for down-time (most often including their humans in the same room) will allow the LR to settle and be a wonderful asset to the household. They love their crates as respite from a busy day. As mentioned above, do not under-estimate the value of mental stimulation. Give the LR a puzzle to solve (teach a new trick, provide a new interactive toy, etc.) and add some good loving for a winning combination!

What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? Breeders face a huge commitment towards investing significant time to properly socialize their puppies and/or adult dogs. Lagotto Romagnolo is a very keen, yet sensitive breed. They will startle at new people, places, and things, and therefore, deliberate, ongoing exposure to new circumstances is most important to develop a confident LR. Early neurological stimulation and exposure to new sites and sounds during the first twelve weeks are crucial. The extra, ongoing investment by breeders during these formative weeks, as well as educating their respective puppy owners (into adulthood and beyond), pay big dividends in the LR’s overall well-being and establishment of a good home-life with forever placements.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? Between six and nine months is a good time to start introducing a show-prospect into the show ring. Keeping in mind from above (the importance of early intervention of new experiences), the LR puppy should be happy and not stressed in the ring. In other words, keep it fun at this stage! If the LR puppy shows signs of moderate stress, he/she may not have the best temperament for showing. Therefore it is even more important to keep it fun and/or be mindful of “fear periods” in their development. If moderately stressed, one should stop exhibiting and try again later when the Lagotto’s readiness has seasoned. For the show ring, the LR should be sound, both mentally and physically, and sometimes they may require a little extra time to get there.

The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? The parent breed club stresses that coat, head, and square body type are the hallmarks of the LR breed. While all three are important qualities, I find often that more emphasis/attention is placed on the coat type than the other two qualities. For me, head type and movement are equally as important as coat type. To have a broad, wedge-shaped head with a short, wide muzzle with a blunt profile nose is critical to the purpose of the LR, a.k.a. Scent-work. Also, the leg to chest depth of the LR should be 56% leg to 44% chest. I see many LR that are short in leg, presenting more of a 1:1 ratio, and according to the breed standard, the LR should have slightly longer leg than depth of chest.

My ultimate goal for the breed? I would like to see all LR breeders completing DNA testing on their sires, dams, and progeny. I would like for Lagotti to receive their CHIC numbers prior to breeding – testing for hips, patellae, and DNA markers for known LR diseases. Above all else, the health (body and mind) of the breed is most important. Breeders should also be checking and selecting for sound temperament, taking the time to assess and follow their adult dogs and their offspring.

My favorite dog show memory? It has to be traveling to CRUFTS in 2016, and watching our boy win “BEST DOG” in Birmingham, England among sixty Lagotti Romagnolo! We flew into Paris, rented a car, and drove into the UK via the Chunnel—all while fighting the stomach flu and in between purges, having the teenaged Chunnel attendant from Dover sharing with us about his breeding of Guinea Pigs and his Mum’s good cooking!

Lagotti Romaganoli puppies are a bit of a “bait and switch.” Often, what color(s) you see as a puppy, change significantly over the lifetime of the LR. Most Lagotti coats will lighten (or “fade” depending on how you see it) between 12-24 months. What once was a dark orange or chocolate brown as a puppy will lighten to primarily cream or mocha as an adult. The brown lagotti will often develop a silvery-gray illusion, often caused when the white guard hairs start to become prolific. So don’t be alarmed when your teenager LR starts to lose his/her saturated dark coat color(s) of its youth!

Katrien Van Gemert

We live in a small town called Esch in the south of the Netherlands. Besides the daily care for our dogs, I work as a groomer and physical therapist/chiropractor for dogs and cats. For the last two years, I have been focusing on writing and publishing the first book about breed specific grooming for the Lagotto Romagnolo. After all work is done, I do like to draw. I hope to find more time for this in the near future.

Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? I believe that not many people would recognize Lagotti in daily life. Most often the first wild guess is Labradoodle or Cockapoo.

What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? Lagotti are determined and need brainwork and enrichment. They are very affectionate and build a strong emotional bond with their owner. They can be as flexible and agile as a cat or a monkey. They make you smile. Beyond this I believe that a good working dog will make an excellent pet. Extreme active and unfocused behavior isn’t what I am search for in a working breed.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? They are wonderful to live with if you want a dog that wants to work with you. They will challenge you and they will push/test boundaries. They can be quite vocal, but they do settle if you entertain them/keep them busy/occupied. Lagotti like to sleep in the window, on your kitchen table or on the back of the sofa.

If you do not have enough time to spend with your dog a Lagotto is not for you, as even the most obedient lagotti can get their owners to do what they want them to do.

What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? I would say that them being vocal might be the most common issue regarding social climate. But I guess that’s not your question here.

In the current time of social networks and blurry communication I am most worried about incomplete health information. Something that might find its origin in the human emotions that come with breeding. Whereas I believe that open and transparent communication about health and temperaments will educate us all to breed a better dog. I find that breeders start to be more and more reserved, when it comes to health and temperament, to keep the conversation going. Let’s hope we can empower and build trust so there will be room for open and honest communication.

Potential puppy buyers have changed over the years, their trust in breeders seems bigger than ever, however their knowledge about the breed and its flaws has lessened than in the past. There is a need for responsible breeders that are educated and are willing to educate their potential puppy.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? Good question. First day is first selection! But over the years I learnt that this is different for different lines. I tend to pick at day one in most lines and then at five to six weeks of age. The pups that stay will be reevaluated after the bite has changed.

What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? The key point for me is to please remember the general body proportions that are specifically described in the breed standard, which are getting more and more rare to find. The lagotto is an almost square breed with more length of leg than depth of chest! The ideal length of leg is 56% to 44% depth of chest and the chest reaches the elbow. Lagotti also have a rather narrow front.

My ultimate goal for the breed? In an ideal world we breed together for better general health and temperament and where individual goals will be set aside to preserve the breed. After temperaments and health, I hope that we can maintain the breed type.

My favorite dog show memory? There are so many moments I treasure for different reasons. For sure my fondest memories are those I have shared with other people. Maybe it is not the one individual show result that is my favorite memory, but the many interesting conversations with other people within and outside the breed about breeding a better dog.

The Lagotto is a wonderful companion dog and great worker. Their truffle work in difficult terrains asks for flexibility, balance and endurance. They should show their typical working mentality and drive. Also remember they should have a natural (rustic) appearance. For grooming it is essential to preserve their natural look. No blown-out coats and eyes should always be visible.

Kendal Walters

Kendal Walters started in the Lagotto Romagnolo breed in early 2014 with a spunky roan girl that soon became one of the first ever Lagotto AKC champions. This began her journey in loving, showing and raising these water loving dogs. Her love of showing started many years before while participating in 4-H cattle showing and livestock judging. It wasn’t until adulthood that she started exhibiting and breeding dogs.

Kendal served on the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America board in 2016 and 2017 and is currently serving as Recording Secretary. She is also an active member of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America and was honored with an Outstanding Breeder Achievement award in 2019 by the PWDCA. She has bred many AKC champions and grand champions in both Portuguese Water Dogs and Lagotto Romagnolos.

Kendal holds a Master of Science in Agricultural Education from Texas Tech University. She is married to David Walters, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, and they currently reside in Illinois with their two sons.

I currently live in Mascoutah, Illinois, but relocate every two to three years due to my husband’s job in the military. I have two school-aged children which keep me busy in school and sports activities. I’m also very involved with our church.

Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? No, I regularly tell my new puppy owners to be prepared to be an ambassador for our breed. Most often we will get asked if we have a Poodle or a doodle so it is important for each Lagotto owner to know the history of the breed and be able to give a short explanation to interested individuals.

What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? This breed is definitely ‘cute’ but they also have a strong desire to ‘do’ and learn. While they make excellent pets, this is a breed that needs a ‘job’ or activity to truly develop into their full potential as a pet or show/performance dog. They are very sporty dogs as a whole and I haven’t had one yet that didn’t take to the water. Playing nosework games around the house or going to the lake for some water retrieval are excellent activities for a typical Lagotto.

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? The Lagotti are an excellent size for a companion dog with enough sport and energy to be a great companion to all members of the family. They can be protective (particularly using their bark) and should be properly socialized like any new pup from the get-go with people coming in and out of the home as much as socialization outside of the home.

At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? From birth I look at heads, bone and consistency in a litter. I may have puppies I’m drawn more to but until they get up on their feet and start moving around I don’t get too attached. By five weeks I usually have a couple favorites but don’t make final choices about who I will hold onto for show prospects until eight weeks or later. I also have to be willing to admit if a puppy doesn’t turn out how I’d hoped which is never fun to do.

My ultimate goal for my breeding program is to improve with each generation structurally, produce healthy dogs, breed dogs with a consistent ‘type’ and be an approachable breeder that engages with everyone in a positive and encouraging way. My hopes are that if I am able to do these things successfully, then my breeding program will result in improvement to the breed as a whole.

Elizabeth Williams

I live in Oregon and most of my life activities do involve the dogs. I have been a professional dog trainer and breeder for 31 years (Rottweilers and Shiba Inu), have had the Lagotto breed for just over eight years, participate in dog related activities (conformation, performance events and several lesser known dog sport activities) and I am the President of the Lagotto Romagnolo Foundation, Inc.—an organization working worldwide to protecting the health and longevity of the breed through education and scientific research.

Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? The breed is quickly gaining in popularity and recognition in a very large part because of its size and non-shedding coat.

The ‘average person on the street’ is gaining interest often by the physical characteristics without much research into the breed’s origins, working nature or health concerns. This is a lovely looking breed and it is easy to see how easily people could be enamored by it at first glance.

How has the breed adapted to civilian life? This breed still does ‘work’ hunting truffles in European countries and in the USA. It is really not far from its origins as a working dog and it is now gaining in popularity as a companion dog. Without proper understanding of the history and nature of the breed many people are now bringing the Lagotto into their homes and finding some challenges that they are unprepared for.

While this breed has many lovely attributes, the quick rise in popularity has many people purchasing dogs from Breeders that have not necessarily been as concerned with sociability and health. These dogs raised and working outdoors in rural areas are being brought into large cities and busy lives without an outlet for those inherent skills. As with many ‘new’ breeds there can be a big difference in the temperament of dogs depending on their origins.

As the shift from ‘working dog’ to ‘companion dog’ is growing ethical Breeders worldwide are focusing breeding programs on proper conformation, genetic health and stable/social temperaments in order to insure the breed’s nature as a good family companions and sport dogs.

The Lagotto Romagnolo Foundation conducted a worldwide breed Health and Behavior survey. You can find information about the results of the behavior survey here:

What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? The Lagotto is not a typical “Sporting dog” because its job has been scent work and they have been bred away from many of the typical hunting traits. The Lagotto is an active breed but not as physically demanding as many of the other breeds in the Sporting Group. They are however a breed that needs mental stimulation through focused training/activities and/or scent work activities. They can be very destructive as puppies and well into adulthood if not given more productive things to do. They love learning and can be a very fun dog to train in any activity. They mature emotionally/mentally slower than some other breeds which also can contribute to unwanted behavior further into adulthood if not properly trained and given outlets for mental activity.

As you can see from the Behavior survey results, the breed overall does very well with their family in the home and the majority do well in new environments outside the home with other people and dogs.

However, there is a large percentage of Lagotti that are challenged with people, dogs and other environmental situations outside the home. The breed tends to be very alert and aware of changes to the environment which can be difficult for people that do not understand the breed. They are very quick to alert bark to anything and everything—‘bark first and then see what it is’!

While I feel it is true of all breeds, the Lagotti is a breed that must be well socialized to the world early and often throughout the first 18 months. Their world becomes very small when they are not exposed to new people, places and things early and many people new to the breed are finding themselves with fearful and reactive dogs when they are outside the home.

In the past year I have had many inquiries about the breed from around the country where they have been told by trainers and veterinarians to avoid getting a Lagotto because of fearful/reactive behavior. This is unfortunate for our breed that among professionals in the companion dog population they are getting
this reputation.

The coat of the breed does require frequent grooming and care, though for companion dogs keeping it trimmed shorter with routine combing and bathing. The ‘rustic’ look of the hair is a key feature of the breed, they should not be overly groomed or sculpted for the show ring.

Our breed has several serious health concerns that require testing before breeding. We are fortunate that there are genetic tests available to identify dogs as carriers or affected for some of these diseases. There are also current studies looking for the links to additional neurological issues in the breed. More details about these can be found at:

  • Hip Dysplasia—the current OFA database reports that 24% of Lagotti evaluated are dysplastic.
  • Patellar Luxation—an issue in the breed but many
    breeding dogs are not being evaluated.
  • Eye Health—cataracts are not uncommon in the breed. All breeding dogs should be evaluated yearly or prior
    to breeding.
  • Genetic Diseases: Panel genetic testing from MyDogDNA or other labs can identify whether dogs are clear, carriers or affected.
  • BFJE—Benign Familial Juvenile Epilepsy is a
    neurologic disease.
  • LSD—Lagotto Storage Disease is a progressive
    neurological disorder.
  • Hyperuricosuria (HUU)—6% of Lagotti are carriers of this disease that predisposes dogs to form stones in their bladders or sometimes kidneys.My ultimate goal for the breed? When properly bred, socialized and trained this is a very lovely breed. It has a lot to offer as a family companion, show-dog, scent work and all around sport dog.As a Breeder, exhibitor, competitor and overall breed enthusiast I would love to see more people committed to educate, mentor and focus on the well-being of the breed.Therese WilliamsI live in Washington State in a city called Bellingham, which is 20 minutes from the Canadian border. I am a retired dean of a small college, and now spend my time with breeding dogs and working on home projects. I also sit on a couple advisory boards at the college I retired from.Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? The breed is still very new to most people. They are fascinated with them once they learn about them, but it is a rare day for anyone to know what they are, where they came from or what their purpose was originally, and what they are best known for now.

    What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? The more I am around them, the more I learn how smart and clever the breed is. While they do enjoy some sort of “job” they enjoy activities that keep them active and make them use their brains. If you have talked with other breeders, you will find that many are being trained for various tasks for every day life. I have several dogs of my breeding that are doing therapy work, but also many that are active truffle hunters. Other breeders have reported training for various scent based skills, such as mold, peanut butter, and of course, chronic illnesses, such as seizures. They are also very good watch dogs and will alert when they detect or see something or someone out of place. I have a great story of an owner who’s Lagotto woke her up in the middle of the night and wouldn’t stop barking until she got up to see what he wanted her to see. He led her to the living room where she found her husband collapsed on the floor, having a heart attack. The paramedics told her that if she had not got up, her husband would likely have died. I have one girl that kept sniffing a spot on one of my breasts and as it turned out, that is where a very small cancerous tumor was found. These dogs seem to have a sense about them and bond very closely with their owners.

    What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? The Lagotto is a little different from your “typical” sporting dogs in some ways. While driven to work when asked to, the Lagotto is a less compulsive, meaning when you let them know the work time is over, they are fine with that and happy to just “hang” with you or play, or sit on the couch. I tell people they will be as busy as you need or want them to be, but are also happy to just be close. The biggest drawback is that they do need some sort of activity daily that burns off their energy, and if it also involves thinking or problem solving, that is best. If you don’t have time to take a long walk, throw the ball, or otherwise run off that energy, you could end up with some destruction issues. Lagotti are very smart, and if you don’t have something for them to do, they will make up their own game, and it may not be one you enjoy. They like to dig, especially when they are young, and the landscaping they do is likely not what you had in mind.

    What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? I think the one of the biggest social issues that any dog breeder faces is the sort of shaming we get from the misconception of some animal rights groups that all breeders are bad and run puppy mills. Nothing is further from the truth. Being a responsible breeder, having all your dogs health and structural tests done, being part of a breed club, following the rules, only breeding dogs that meet the breed standard, raising healthy and well socialized puppies, showing your dogs or doing other events, is a lot of work and takes tons of time and is not cheap. Many people also believe that you should only adopt a dog from a shelter. Adopting a shelter dog or taking in a rescue is wonderful thing to do and I have always had a rescue dog of some sort on our home. Not everyone can do that however so they turn to a breeder for specific traits they need for the dog to be a good fit in their household. That could be a certain temperament, a particular size, shedding versus non-shedding, activity they want to do, etc. I just wish that publicly, responsible breeding practices had a bigger voice and that the various breeding practices (backyard breeder, puppy-mill and responsible breeder) were better defined and understood by the general population.

    At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? A breeder starts to look at the development of each puppy right after they are born. You watch they act, how they respond, how they move, and as they get closer to eight weeks of age, their overall structure. Pat Hastings, and AKC judge and author of the “Puppy Puzzle” says that at seven and a half to eight weeks of age, the proportions of the puppy are roughly the proportions they will have as adults. That can be used as a good guideline. The Lagotto has some specific angulation that is part of the standard, so you also want to assess that as well. The show ring can be a little intimidating so having a puppy that seems to have that “it” factor; the temperament and attitude that they own the ring and want to let everyone know it would be optimal. Those puppies don’t come that often and certainly not one in every litter.

    What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Our breed standard is not the easiest to learn for any judge and a new one may have to consult it before going in the ring, just to remember most of it. One such part of the standard is the bite. The Lagotto can have a scissor bite, a straight or even bite and also a tight “reverse” bite, which most breeds would call an underbite. That throws a lot of judges, and they tend to lean towards the dog with the normal scissor bite if they are unsure, even if that dogs may not have the best overall structure when compared to a dog with a reverse scissor bite. When the Lagotto first began in the show ring, some judges seemed to like them more fluffed out, such as with a poodle. The Lagotto Romagnolo is a working and rustic dog with well defined curls, and should never be fluffed and over-groomed, but they should not look or be matted an unkempt looking either.

    My ultimate goal for the breed? The goal is to develop the breed in this country to be a healthy, well-rounded pet and working dog. As most breeders began with dogs coming from other countries and imports still being common, it is important to increase the breed diversity as well. The other goal is to continue to monitor the overall health of the Lagotto. Since I obtained my first Lagotto in 2005, we have added more genetic tests to our mix as various genes that can cause issues are detected and the specific gene or genes, isolated. Continuing to collaborate with other breeders around the world about any health issues is at the forefront.

    My favorite dog show memory? Of course, winning your breed is always an easy answer, but I love getting to know the other competitors and networking. Sure, there is a competitive aspect as shows and some are a bit over the top, but I show because it is supposed to be fun. The day is stops being fun for me or the dogs is when I hang it up.

    The Lagotto Romagnolo is a delightful breed, but not the breed for everyone. People really need to educate themselves and meet a Lagotto before they consider one. Dogs are a commitment and these dogs can live 14-16 years or so. They are also very sensitive and do not do well with hard training.

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