Lagotto Romagnolo: Characteristics, Temperament & Puppies

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You might think a Lagotto Romagnolo just stepped out of an episode of "That '70s Show," but no, that's not a perm it's wearing. Those are the dog's natural curls and its coat even feels like human hair.

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In addition to their unique body and facial hair, Lagotto Romagnolos are also famous for their noses that have for centuries sniffed out Italy's truffles. According to the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America, these dogs are the only dogs regularly and specifically trained to sniff out this expensive delicacy, although other breeds of dogs can be trained to find truffles as well.

Lagottos are sturdy sporting dogs that love the water (they were bred as waterfowl retrievers) and their humans family members. Loyal, active (but not hyper), and easy to train, these dogs are perfect for outdoor types or anyone who wants active — but not overactive — pets.

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Lagotto Romagnolo characteristics

Although Lagotto Romagnolos aren't large dogs, they are strong animals and hard workers, originally bred to retrieve birds hunted by their masters. Males grow to a height of 17 to 19 inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 35 pounds. Females are only an inch or two shorter, weighing in around 24 to 31 pounds.

The hypoallergenic coats of these sporting dogs are a mass of tight curls that ring their bodies. They sport bushy eyebrows, whiskers, and a beard that can hide their other features if left untrimmed for too long. You can find Lagotto Romagnolos in brown, white, orange, sable, and shades of those colors. Their markings sometimes include a brown mask or other markings of colors that differ slightly from the main coat.

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Lagotto Romagnolo temperament & training

Because they are sporting dogs, the Lagotto dog breed takes to training well, according to the American Kennel Club. While you can keep your dog outside, these dogs need the mental stimulation of humans to stay happy. They have been bred to interact with humans and need the mental stimulation that comes from playing, training, retrieving, and other interactions with people.

Lagotto Romagnolo grooming

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Lagotto Romagnolos have a double coat of hair, not fur. Because of their tight curls, dirt, bugs, and other foreign matter can easily hide in their coats. They don't shed much, so don't worry about stroking, combing, and brushing the dog to keep an eye on its cleanliness.

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Talk to a professional groomer or a breeder for the best grooming schedule. Their hair grows fast — watch for matting and schedule regular grooming visits, although Lagotto Romagnolos don't need to be groomed as frequently as some of the more high-maintenance dogs sporting similar coats.

Ask a groomer what you can do at home, in terms of giving your dog a bath, brushing and combing it, and even giving it a trim now and then to tide it over until its next full grooming visit.

Lagotto Romagnolo exercise & health

Lagotto Romagnolos are built to explore the outdoors. Don't worry if you plan on exploring hilly terrains or forested trails — these hunting dogs are powerful and agile and will enjoy any strenuous outdoor workout.

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Feel free to toss a tennis ball or other safe object for a rousing game of fetch. Lagotto Romagnolos are placed in the sporting dog category because of their history of birding, which required them to retrieve birds in water, forested areas, rocky hills, and other terrain.

Inadequate exercise can cause weight gain, poor sleep, and nervousness in dogs. Because of their strength, Lagotto Romagnolos can handle active, 30-minute workouts. In addition to playing fetch, add an obstacle or agility course to your play times. These dogs love water, so don't worry about tossing a floating toy into a safe water area for them to dive in, fetch, and swim back — just watch out when they shake themselves off after they bring back the toy.

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Lagotto Romagnolos don't need daily exercise, but you'll want to keep an eye on your dog's weight, energy levels, sleep habits, ability to pay attention, anxiety levels, and other indicators that the dog is not keeping its metabolism up and burning enough calories.

With the right diet, plenty of exercise, and regular vet and grooming checkups, a Lagotto Romagnolo can live up to 17 years. You can feed these dogs a high-quality commercial dog food your vet recommends. Avoid feeding it "human foods" that contain additives, preservatives, food colorings, dyes, and other artificial ingredients. If you're using treats for training, subtract those calories from your dog's regular meals if you give the dog more than a few rewards.

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Lagotto Romagnolos are prone to many common dog problems, such as fleas, ear infections, weight gain, and other health issues. They are specifically prone to Lagotto Storage Disease, which is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that appears between four months and four years old. Lagottos suffering from this disease will eventually need to be euthanized.

Other potential health issues known to afflict Lagottos include hip and elbow dysplasia, neuroaxonal dystrophy, and cerebral ataxia. Make sure to provide your vet with this information and talk to her about preventive care during its puppy, adult, and geriatric years.

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Lagotto Romagnolo puppies

Lagotto puppies are energetic and family-friendly. They will show many of the same characteristics of any new puppy, including curiosity and apprehension as they get used to their new home.

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When Lagotto Romagnolos are puppies, start them out with two, 15-minute play periods to see how they react as they are building strength in their small bodies. If they are alert, not panting too hard, and eager to continue at the end of your short session, continue playing, but have water and treats ready.

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Unfortunately, Lagotto puppies might develop Benign Familial Juvenile Epilepsy. Get a puppy DNA test for this condition and make sure to discuss the condition with your vet so you'll know how to respond if your puppy starts having seizures or shows other signs of the condition.

Remember that puppies will be startled by noises such as a grandfather clock, vacuum cleaner, dishwasher, TV set, or phone ringing. You might want to introduce your puppy to these sounds while holding it so it understands these are simply sounds and not warnings.

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