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The Lagotto Romagnolo (say it with us: Luh-go-tow Ro-maan-yolo) is an Italian dog breed that remains relatively rare in the U.S. This dog is growing in popularity, though-especially as word grows about her world-renowned reputation as an eager truffle hunter.
Denise Peters, director of the Lagotto Romagnolo Dog Rescue, says she was originally drawn to the breed because of their personality. The Lagotto is agile, friendly, and eager to learn. This clever disposition means potential owners should be ready to invest time in positive reinforcement-based training for their pup. As a part of the sporting dog group, Lagotto Romagnoli need frequent outlets for their physical energy as well as mental stimulation to keep them happy.
"The Lagotto Romagnolo is becoming a lot more popular," Peters says. "People want the Lagotto because they always look like a teddy bear, and they are so very cute. But you really need to be on top of your game training the dog."
With a thick coat of teddy bear curls, it's easy to fall in love with a Lagotto Romagnolo dog at first sight. And it's not just looks that draw you in-these adorable dogs are also allergen-friendly. While no dog is truly "hypoallergenic," their double-coat of wooly curls rarely shed, so they could be a good fit for people who tend to sneeze around dogs.
As a medium-sized dog, a fully grown Lagotto Romagnolo typically reaches 19 inches in height and weighs between 24-35 pounds. Their beautiful curly coats can come in an assortment of colors including brown, orange, cream, and white. In fact, Lagotto Romagnoli are often mistaken for goldendoodles or Labradoodles because of their tight curls.
Despite their appearance as a "teddy bear" dog, the Lagotto is not your cuddly couch potato. Sandy Mignogna, founding president of the Lagotto Romagnolo Foundation and breeder behind Dolce Vita Lagotto Romagnolo, describes the dogs as having a "Type A" personality that's always ready to learn.
"The Lagotto needs stimulation and enrichment and interaction," Mignogna says. "I tell prospective puppy owners, if you are looking for a dog to hang out with on the sofa at the end of the day, it's not the breed for you. But, if you're looking for a dog that is up for an adventure and wants to learn, it's right up your alley."
Instead of lounging, Lagottos will want to be on the go. And as former waterfowl retrievers, one of their favorite pastimes is swimming. Mignogna describes them as eager participants in any pool party, lake gathering, or ocean adventure. Some Lagotto will enjoy retrieving a ball from the water, while others simply like to soak.
Lagotto Romagnolo puppies have a reputation for being timid if they aren't well-socialized, so it's important to introduce them to different people and animals while they're young. They can be slow to warm up to strangers, but they're ultimately loving to those who earn their affection. They're great with kids, and other dogs can be good additions to your Lagotto's life, too-especially if introduced during puppyhood.
If a Lagotto is not well-trained, this breed can be a bit of a boundary-pusher by barking frequently, digging in the yard, and not listening to her owner. But if you invest time in consistent positive reinforcement training, it's hard to imagine a better dog. These bright pups are loyal to their humans, active companions, and quick learners.
Regardless of whether your Lagotto Romagnolo lives in a mansion or an apartment, being engaged is key to their well-being. She's happiest when she's challenged-and if she can please you by completing a task, this good girl will be thrilled. As long as she has her need for tasks and exercise fulfilled, she'll be happy wherever she lives.
These pups will bond closely to their immediate family, and they crave social interaction with those humans throughout the day. The Lagotto should not be left alone for long periods of time, or else she can choose to make her own entertainment (as in, barking or digging).
Given their sharp noses (perfect for truffle hunting!), a Lagotto will get a kick out of interactive dog toys and scent games. You can also play games that require her to put her nose to the test, such as teaching her how to find a hidden treat or playing hide and seek.
"The nice thing about this breed is that they really are up for any hobby that the owners find interesting," Mignogna says. "But, they definitely excel at scent work. They love it. A half-hour of scent work will tire their brains out more quickly than a two-mile walk."
Early socialization is vital for Lagotto Romagnoli, who can struggle with shyness. But once they overcome their early reservations, they'll be by your side like curly-haired shadows. Potential owners need to be prepared to give their Lagotto all the attention she asks for.
Adrienne Perry, former President of the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America and the breeder behind Allegro Lagotto, says owners need to personally devote time to positive reinforcement training. If they don't, then the highly intelligent Lagotto will find ways to keep herself entertained-and you might not like the results.
"If you don't have time to train the dog, this isn't really not the dog for you," Perry says. "They're not a first-time dog owner's dog. They are very much a wonderful dog for anybody who really wants to do dog sports. If you like to teach things, this dog will be very fun for you because they are quick and communicative."
The Lagotto's curly coat needs to be brushed once a week, and even more frequently if she's spending time running around outside. Perry recommends keeping those curls trimmed short if your Lagotto will be spending lots of time swimming, otherwise you'll find yourself in constant combat against mats.
Along with grooming, you'll want to brush her teeth and trim her nails regularly.
Lagotto Romagnoli generally live between 15-17 years old. While the breed is generally healthy, they can suffer from hip dysplasia-where the joints in the hip begin to break down and cause severe pain. A joint supplement can reduce inflammation and improve mobility, but owners should talk to their veterinarians before adding any vitamins or supplements to their dog's diet.
Potential owners should ask Lagotto Romagnolo breeders about the health testing recommended by the official breed club. The Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America also recommends focusing on experienced breeders who can show a consistent line of healthy dogs that are well-tempered.
Be vigilant of any health issues, and take your Lagotto to the veterinarian regularly.
The Lagotto Romagnolo is renowned for her sense of smell, and originally served as a water retriever for Italian hunters. The breed's thick, water-repellent coat kept the dogs warm as they dove into the wetlands to fetch birds. As the swamps of Italy were reduced, Lagotto Romagnolo transitioned to become truffle-hunting dogs in the late 19th century.
Today, the Lagotto Romagnolo is the only dog bred specifically to find truffles across all types of terrain. Despite the breed's long history, Lagottos are a relative newcomer to the U.S. dog scene. The original breed organization, called the Club Italiano Lagotto, was formed in 1988 in Italy. The Lagotto Romagnolo was recognized by the Italian Kennel Club in 1991, but these dogs didn't receive American Kennel Club acknowledgement until 2015.
Since then, the Lagotto has become a competitive breed on the national stage. In 2020, a Lagotto Romagnolo named Orca won the Sporting Group's AKC National Championship. Other Lagotto Romagnoli have made impressive showings at professional and amateur scent competitions alike, including The North American Truffle Dog Championship.
- The Lagotto Romagnolo's truffle-hunting abilities are featured in the documentary The Truffle Hunters, alongside other truffle-digging dogs.
- The world's largest white truffle, weighing 4.16 pounds, was discovered in Italy by a Lagotto Romagnolo in 2014. The prized fungi sold for $61,250 during an auction.
- Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby named her Netflix project "Douglas" after her own Lagotto Romagnolo.