Michelle Segal reveals that this rare but remarkable breed, the Lagotto Romagnolo is a treasure trove of fun and affection for any family lucky enough to own one.
If you want to stand out from the crowd, taking a walk with your Lagotto Romagnolo could do the trick. This unusual breed is still something of a conversation piece in Australia, where they remain rare, and being put onto a waiting list for a pup is not uncommon.
This gorgeous dog, with its distinctive curly coat, was originally bred to hunt water foul in Italy as far back as the 1300s, and became renowned as a formidable hunting partner. When the Lagottos’ marshland hunting grounds began drying up in Italy’s north, owners of the breed decided to tap into this dogs amazing sense of smell and began using the Lagotto to sniff out and find truffles in the hills of Romagna in the country’s north. The breed took to this job with gusto due to its amazing concentration skills and very strong sense of smell. It proved to be a tough worker and was protected from bush thorns and spikes by its thick, curly coat.
Today, the Lagotto is not so much a truffle hunter as it is a family companion, known for its gentleness, strong loyalty and non-shedding, hypo-allergenic coat. Despite its medium size, the Lagotto is very much a family pooch and breeders emphasise that it will want to be an indoor dog and considered one of the pack.
Debra Howell has lived with Lagottos for a number of years, and is clearly a fan of the breed. I have a male called Australian Champion Tartufo Zabaglione (Vinny), just over two years old. These dogs are very amenable with people and other dogs, says Howell. Vinny lives with a Whippet, Schipperkes and Weimaraners. However, they are more suited to families and active people. They seem to like water and Vinny loves to chase the ducks in the dam. I have found him easy to train, except that when he gets in the dam, he wont come out until the ducks fly away!
A stand-out feature of this breed is its amazing coat of curls, but it does come with responsibility for the Lagotto owner. Experts stress that if you don’t have the time for weekly grooming, you should consider another breed.
Once a year, the Lagotto’s thick, woolly coat needs to be completely clipped and then maintained with shorter clips a few times a year. The coat should not be kept permanently short. Each week, the coat needs to be brushed with a comb to keep the curls from matting.
The Lagotto’s coat does require grooming and regular trimming to keep it tidy, as the coat does not shed like some other breeds, warns Howell. Their coat has a curl and can be somewhat like a sheep’s fleece.
A huge plus to the Lagotto’s coat is its non-shedding property, making this dog a pleasure to have inside if you are house-proud. Even better is the fact that the coat is non-allergenic, making it the perfect breed for people susceptible to allergies.
Energetic and loyal
This stunning pooch is not only eye-catching and interesting, it also has a wonderful nature, making it great fun to be with. Because of the close working relationship the Lagotto used to share with its hunter guardians, the breed still forms close bonds with its owners and will need to be taken in as one of the family, not left in the yard to its own devices. It is extremely loyal and affectionate to its family and will want to do anything it can to please its owners.
The Lagotto is not known to suffer from any major health issues, although its recommended that you ask your breeder for hip scores if possible to prevent buying a pup with potential hip dysplasia problems.
Like all breeds, the Lagotto should be socialised from an early age, but is known to get on well with other animals. It will be an effective watchdog, alerting you to anyone approaching your property.
Breeders emphasise that this dog is bright and energetic and will need a good dose of daily exercise. As a hunter and retriever of water fowl, the Lagotto was bred to be a strong swimmer, and today it still has an inherent love of swimming. A good daily outing and swim with its guardian would top the list of treats for this pooch! If you do not have the time to dedicate to play and exercise each day, its best to avoid this breed.
There are no Lagotto Romagnolo clubs in Australia, so for further information or to find a breeder, visit the Australian National Kennel Council at www.ankc.org.au
In New Zealand, please contact the New Zealand Kennel Club via www.nzkc.org.nz