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Lagotto Romagnolo

Nicole Cosgrove


The Lagotto Romagnolo is a medium-sized purebred from Italy. Its name translates to ‘lake dog from Romagna’, Romagna being a region in Italy. It was bred to be a hunting dog, specifically a water retriever so it would bring birds downed or injured from the water to the hunters. Today though it is a great hunter of truffles, the only dog breed used for this purpose and treasured in Italy. As well as being a truffle hunter it is also good at tracking events, rally, conformation and agility. It is also a great companion dog and works well as a therapy dog for people with disabilities and those who are autistic.

The Lagotto Romagnolo at A Glance
Name Lagotto Romagnolo
Other names Romagna Water Dog, Water Dog of Romagna and Lagotti Romagnoli (plural form)
Nicknames Lagotto
Origin Italy
Average size Medium
Average weight 24 to 35 pounds
Average height 16 to 19 inches
Life span 15 to 17 years
Coat type Water-repellant, long, dense, curly
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Brown, grey, black and tan, white, orange
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 114th by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – quick and bright
Tolerance to heat Good – can live in warm climates but need help in anything very hot
Tolerance to cold Very good – can handle cold climates
Shedding Low – will not be a lot of hair around the home
Drooling Low – not prone to slobber or drool
Obesity Moderate – watch its food intake and exercise
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – will need some commitment if being kept as show dog
Barking Frequent – will need training to stop it on command
Exercise needs Very active – needs committed active owners
Trainability Easy to train – eager to please and intelligent
Friendliness Very good to excellent with socialization
Good first dog Good to very good
Good family pet Very good to excellent with socialization
Good with children Very good with socialization
Good with other dogs Good but need socialization
Good with other pets Good but need socialization
Good with strangers Good but need socialization so their wariness does not to turn to suspicion
Good apartment dog Good due to size but would prefer to have access to a yard
Handles alone time well Low – does not like to be left for long periods, can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Fairly healthy but a few issues can include hip dysplasia, eye problems, epilepsy
Medical expenses $460 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $535 a year for grooming, basic training, license, toys and miscellaneous items
Average annual expenses $1140 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1,800
Rescue organizations Several including the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America Rescue
Biting Statistics None Reported

The Lagotto Romagnolo’s Beginnings

The Lagotto Romagnolo is known to have been around in Italy since at least the 16th century used as a water retriever in the marshlands of Ravenna and lowlands of Comacchio. In fact it is possible it is older even than that, as there is an image of a dog that looks exactly like the Lagotto Romagnolo in the work called ‘The Meeting’ by Andrea Mantegna from 1474. There is also a suggestion by some fanciers that the breed may even date back to an ancestor duck retriever in the 7th century. This breed is believed to be one of the foundation breeds of many modern water dogs. Take a look at the Poodle, Golden Retriever or Portuguese Water Dog’s background and there might be a Lagotto Romagnolo somewhere there.

For centuries it was kept by hunters in this role but then over time the marshlands where it was used were drained, and turned into farm land. By the 19th century the dog was left with severely declining numbers. However some Italian truffle collectors noted the dog had a high concentration level and a great sense of smell and decided to try using it to find truffles in the hills of Romagna and the open flat country. They proved successful and were retrained for the job of truffle hunting, in fact in the early 20th century they were exclusively used by hunters. Truffles were and still are a very expensive and highly prized cooking ingredient so this made the Lagotto Romagnolo an important dog. However interest in the dog and its numbers dropped after the war and by the 1970s the breed was close to disappearing.

New Lease on Life

Luckily for the dog Italian dog fans noticed the risk and took steps to halt the decline and bring back its numbers. The Club Italiano Lagotto was formed in 1988 and knowledge of and interest in the breed spread fro Italy to other countries such as Finland, France, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and of course the US. In the US a breed club was formed called the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America and it was recognized by the AKC in 2015. It is ranked 114th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This is a medium sized dog weighing 24 to 35 pounds and standing 16 to 19 inches tall. While its appearance can vary somewhat it is a well proportioned dog, muscled and squared. Its front legs are straight and it also has a straight topline. Its muscled shoulders and chest is part of what makes them great swimmers for retrieving water birds and great diggers for truffles. Its coat is dense, wooly and curly to offer it some protection from thorns and the water. Common colors are white, off white, grey, brown and rust. It has a large head on a powerful neck. The eyes are big and round and eye color can be dark brown or dark yellow depending on the color of its coat. The ears are triangular but rounded at the tips and hang down.

The Inner Lagotto Romagnolo


Lagotti (correct plural form) are very alert and make great watchdogs, as they will bark to let you know of any intruder. It is an intelligent breed, cheerful and social, loving and loyal. It does bark frequently so teaching it to stop on command is a good idea. It becomes very attached to its owner and likes to be a round people. It should be included with any family activity and needs active owners who are also ready to offer it mental stimulation too. It is a hard worker and if it does not have enough to do in the day it may start to act out, be restless and hyperactive, and destructive too.

The Lagotto likes to get lots of attention and does not like being left alone for long periods of time. Be warned it does like to dig so give it a spot in the yard or it will just claim several spots for its own, or all of it as its own! It is exuberant and lively and will stick close to you wherever you are. Keep in mind because of its natural draw towards water some will even tip over their water bowls to create a puddle to play in. It also will happily play in mud and gooey messes.

Living with a Lagotto Romagnolo

What will training look like?

It has a strong focus and is able to concentrate on tasks set with intensity, not being easily distracted. It is easy to train for people who approach it the right way, in fact it can be quicker to train than some other breeds as it can need less repetition. You need to be firm, consistent, calm and also positive. Set the rules and make it clear there is no getting around them but use methods to motivate that include treats, rewards and encouragement not punishment and scolding. It is eager to please and intelligent so taking training beyond basic level is a great way to keep it mentally challenged and stimulated. Make sessions geared towards what it likes to do and what it is good at, searching for things, agility and retrieving things.

Training should be started as soon as you bring it home, as should socialization. At a young age it can soak up what you want it to know, and develop good habits not bad. Expose it to different places, sounds, people, situations and animals. Allow to grow into a confident dog more happy and able to deal with life in an appropriate way.

How active is the Lagotto Romagnolo?

Lagotti are very active dogs and need to be homed with owners who are committed and happy to be active too. Often owners underestimate how much exercise a dog needs and then they are frustrated with having to go out all the time or they don’t take the dog out, and the dog becomes unhappy, unhealthy and hard to control. Because of its smaller size it can adapt to apartment living as long as it gets out 3 to 4 times a day for activity. Access to a yard though would be ideal where it can explore and of course dig. It can dig huge holes in just a few minutes so any flowers or vegetables you want to keep, protect! Make sure any yard is properly and securely fenced in.

It enjoys a variety of activities, swimming though funnily enough some are better at it than others, and some will just do a paddle. It has a lot of stamina so along with those walks it needs other opportunities like off leash time at a dog park where you can also play dog games including retrieving and hide and seek which it loves. As well as giving it plenty of physical activity make sure you keep it mentally engaged too. You can do that through different play and through training.

Caring for the Lagotto Romagnolo

Grooming needs

One thing to be fully aware of before you settle on the Lagotto Romagnolo is that it will require some commitment in terms of grooming. If you are keeping it to show standards it is definitely high maintenance, if not it is still going to be at least moderate to high. It will need professional clipping or stripping but there is some debate about how to care for the coat. Some say it should not be brushed at all just clipped a couple of times a year, some say it needs to be brushed and combed or it becomes a matted mess. Those against brushing say those mats should be carefully pulled apart without causing tearing. When showing the dog it is a working dog so should not be groomed or sculpted, it is not a Poodle.

If you opt to trim, keep it to about 11/2 inches in length and a bit longer around the head and that will be easy to look after. The hair will cover its eyes if left to grow so that will need clipping so they can still see! The hair around the ears will need trimming those inside will need plucking. Only bathe when it really needs one to avoid damaging its natural oils. Do not blow dry it or brush it after the bath or the coat turns into a fluffy ball. It is a low shedding dog and will not leave a lot of hair around the house. It is said to be good for allergy sufferers but if that is a priority before you buy, make sure the person with the allergies visits the dog to test that out.

The ears should be checked weekly for infections signs, like irritation, redness, discharge or wax build up and given a clean using either a warm damp cloth or dog ear cleanser and cotton ball. Give its teeth a brush two to three times a week at least, daily if possible using a toothpaste that is vet approved. Its nails should be trimmed when they get too long if it does not wear them down naturally with its activity. You can do this yourself but make sure you understand them. Unlike people nails, dogs have blood vessels and nerves in the lower part. If you cut too far down it will hurt the dog and cause bleeding. If you are unsure have the professional groomer do it for you or your vet.

Feeding Time

Lagotti Romagnoli need about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. How much can vary from one dog to another as things change like metabolism, activity, age, build and health. Be warned if you let it happen it will happily develop bad eating habits like stealing food so be clear about the rules!

How is the Lagotto Romagnolo with children and other animals?

With socialization and when raised with them the Lagotto is great with children. Its energy and playfulness makes it a great playmate for children and it is affectionate towards them too. Generally it is gentle but it is still a good idea to supervise it around small children, more for its sake than the childs! Small children tend to pull at tails and ears and so the Lagotto may need some help. Make sure that as well as teaching the Lagotto how to act and get along with children, you also teach the children how to approach, stroke and play nicely with the dog. Again with socialization it is usually good with other dogs and most other pets too. However since they have a history of hunting birds they are not the best dog to have in a home that keeps chickens or other pet birds.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This dog has a nice long life span of 15 to 17 years. There are some health issues to be aware of though, including hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, cerebral anomaly, LSD and neuroaxonal dystrophy and eye problems.

Biting Statistics

Looking at reports from North America of dog attacks causing bodily harm to people over 35 years, there is no mention of the Lagotto Romagnolo. Of course it is quite rare in this part of the world so the chances of it being involved are greatly reduced anyway. It is true though that this is not a dog that is aggressive towards people, and is not likely to be a dog to be scared or concerned about. That being said any dog no natter breed or size has some capability and potential for aggression. Sometimes there is a trigger we can understand, sometimes there is not. To help limit the odds make sure it gets enough attention and activity, that it has mental stimulation and socialization and training too.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Lagotto puppy will cost about $1800 for a pet quality dog from a trustworthy breeder, or even double that for a show quality dog from a top breeder. Even the former will have to put you on a waiting list as there are only about 500 puppies being registered a year. It would be tempting then to turn to over sources like pet stores, back yard breeders or even puppy mills. However there are a couple of good reasons to avoid doing this. You have no guarantees about the health of your dog and you are funding people who are negligent at best, cruel at worst. Worth mentioning is that checking out rescues and shelters is a great option. While you may not be likely to find a purebred Lagotto you may find a mix or even another dog that you fall in love with, and these dogs are desperate for people to give them another chance at a forever home.

When you have your puppy or dog there are some things you need to have at home like a crate, carrier, collar and leash, bowls and such. These will cost you about $200. Then there are initial medical costs you should have done as soon as you have your puppy. A vet needs to give it a physical exam, do some blood tests, deworm it, spay or neuter it, micro chip it and have its shots up to date. These will cost about $270.

Then there are ongoing annual costs to be sure you are ready for. The basic health care needs of flea and tick prevention, check ups and shots along with pet insurance will be at least $460 a year. Feeding your dog will be around $145 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats. Miscellaneous costs covering needs like licenses, miscellaneous items, toys, grooming and basic training come to about $535 a year. This gives an annual total starting figure of $1140.


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The Lagotto Romagnolo is a very energetic and lively breed with a lot of love and loyalty to offer its owners. Those owners though need to be prepared for the care its coat needs and the level of exercise it needs. It might just be a medium sized dog but it still needs a lot of activity and mental challenge. It also needs a certain level of attention and companionship. With the right owners it is affectionate, funny, hard working, devoted, happy and bright.

Featured Image Credit: Cemmerton, Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.