What to Know About a Lagotto Romagnolo

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on April 28, 2022
7 min read

The Lagotto Romagnolo is also called the Romagna water dog. In fact, the name Lagotto Romagnolo means "lake dog from Romagna". This dog was bred to work as a water retriever. Lagottos are the only purebred dog in the world that is officially recognized as a specialized truffle hunter.

They are a medium-sized breed with wooly, curly fur. This ancient working breed also makes a relatively relaxed and affectionate companion. Lagottos are good family dogs. If you live in an apartment and want a Lagotto, you’ll have to create time to exercise your dog. 

If you’re a water sports fan, a Lagotto is your ideal companion. These dogs are not only excellent swimmers but also enthusiastic and ready to jump into the water. Your dog will be at their best when they’re out and about.

Lagottos are medium-sized dogs standing at 17 to 19 inches for males and 16 to 18 inches for females. They weigh anywhere between 28.5 to 35 pounds for males and 24 to 31 pounds for females. These dogs can live up to 15 years although some even reach 17 years.

Lagottos love water. The people who developed this breed wanted a dog that could swim away to retrieve ducks. Lagottos are known for their thick, curly coats that are both water-resistant and low in shedding

Today, these dogs are prized among truffle collectors. The Lagotto Romagnolo is a world-renowned truffle hunter. They do well with outdoor activities and should be exposed to sufficient physical activity every day. When they’re not active, Lagottos love to relax with family members around the house.

In most cases, walks are not enough to tire a Lagotto. Although people with apartments may want to have a Lagotto pet, this dog’s ideal home is where there’s ample outdoor space. However, if you live in an apartment but spend lots of time outdoors, that would work out fine as well.

The Lagotto Romagnolo is affectionate with their owner. These dogs need to be trained throughout their lives to maintain proper behavior.  Naturally energetic and intelligent, if they are not offered enough physical stimulation through play and activity, they can be mischievous. Thankfully, Lagottos can be trained easily with the right guidance.

The breed lives a generally healthy life. However, it is mostly up to the breeder to follow professional standards when doing their work. Before adopting or buying a dog, ensure that they have been screened for health conditions. It is also important to know about preventing common dog pests like heartworms. Ask your vet what to do to prevent heartworms from infesting your dog as they can be fatal. Other health issues you should know about include:

Juvenile epilepsy. This condition causes seizures in puppies that begin at 5 to 9 weeks of age but may resolve spontaneously by the time they are 8 to 13 weeks. Some dogs that have severe seizures may also show signs of other neurologic conditions between the seizures. 

Storage disease. This condition is also called Lagotto Storage Disease (LSD). It occurs only in the Lagotto Romagnolo breed. LSD is a serious neurodegenerative disease that ultimately leads to death. A dog that has this condition shows signs of neurological disease. For instance, you’ll notice that your dog has coordination problems, no longer acts normal, and has facial or eye twitches. This condition can also cause your dog to become aggressive.

Hip dysplasia. Like in many other dog breeds, hip dysplasia can be a problem for Lagotto Romagnolos. When a dog experiences abnormal growth in one or both hip joints, the result is a degenerative condition. The severity of hip dysplasia may necessitate surgery, which will help to alleviate the pain for the dog.

Elbow dysplasia. This condition causes developmental problems in a dog’s elbow joint. An elbow joint is made up of three bones, the radius, ulna, and humerus. Should a problem in any or all of these bones cause them not to fit together, it may cause pain, arthritis, and loss of function in the affected limb.

Lagotto Romagnolo is a working breed that needs to be kept well-exercised. They also require proper nutrition and grooming to stay in top shape.

Grooming. Lagottos rarely shed. They are accordingly easy to groom. Their curly coat needs to be regularly checked for stuck-on dirt and debris. These are active dogs and easily get dirty when playing outside. Some owners shave some hair off to help keep their dogs clean and cool during the hot summer months. Consult your vet about flea and tick control products that are safe for your dog. Although no dog is truly hypoallergenic, the Lagotto is a good choice for people who have dog hair allergies.

Lagottos have hairy ears that help keep water away from the internal ear. The hair can overgrow and easily trap dirt and wax. Check your dog’s ears to know when to remove excess hair from their ears.

Lagotto Romagnolos grow long and curved nails. As a result, their quick (the blood vessel inside the nail) is longer than it is in other breeds. To avoid the agony of cutting into this blood vessel, be extra careful when clipping and filing the nails. Hurting a dog when doing their nails can cause an aversion toward this activity. 

Do not neglect oral hygiene. According to the American Kennel Club, it's estimated that most dogs show signs of gum disease by the early age of three years. Gum disease can lead to tooth loss, jaw damage, and even heart problems. Avoid this by daily brushing with a dog-friendly toothpaste and the regular professional cleanings your vet may recommend. 

Exercise. As with many other sporting breeds, Lagottos require an active, engaged lifestyle. You should offer your dog sufficient mental stimulation to keep them happy.

Feeding. Feed your Lagotto on a high-quality canine diet. It can either be home-prepared food or commercially manufactured. Make sure to check with your vet to ensure you are feeding a balanced, nutritionally complete food. Watch your dog’s calorie intake, especially on the treats you offer during training or other activity. Also, before you offer your dog any of your food, check which ingredients in human food can be harmful. Brush your dog’s teeth every day to keep their dental hygiene in perfect condition. Remember to keep your dog hydrated by offering enough clean water.

Training. Lagotto Romagnolos are quite vocal and can bark a lot. To work on this to at least control the behavior, you’ll have to dedicate quality time to do bark training. Working with Lagottos is not tiresome as they are natural human pleasers. As such, your dog will respond well to reinforcement training. You can begin training your Lagotto as early as about eight weeks old. This consistent training makes them adaptable and helps them tolerate other pets.

The Lagotto is an excellent family dog. They actually love spending time with family members and other people they like. Whether you live in an apartment or a country home, a Lagotto will make an amazing companion. These dogs are easily socialized to live well with children. They can get bored and lonely if left alone.

Thought to be one of the oldest of all the water dogs, the Lagotto Romagnolo goes back to at least Renaissance Italy. This breed of dogs was developed in the marshlands of Ravenna as waterfowl retrievers.

When the marshlands were drained during the 19th century, the work for which the dogs were bred almost disappeared. New work surfaced for Lagottos. Their incredible tracking ability and heightened sense of smell immediately admitted Lagottos to the search for truffles. They are still used for this job today. The best quality and most expensive truffles come from Northern Italy, and Lagottos are highly prized there for their ability to locate truffles. 

At some point during the 1970s, Lagottos almost became extinct due to crossbreeding with other dogs. People wanted their scenting and hunting traits so much that pure breeds almost totally disappeared. However, their resourcefulness means that a lot of people were concerned about preserving the breed. So their numbers have since increased and they continue to be used by truffle searchers all over the world.

Lagottos are expert hunters. This makes them avid diggers. You may have to train puppies well in order to stop them from digging all over the compound. If you’d rather help your dog satisfy their natural need for digging, buy them a sandpit. 

It also helps to provide your dog with sufficient water time. You can do this by taking them with you when you go fishing or do other water sports. Having a pool at home may also help satisfy their love for a splash. As for their health, it is important to talk to your vet about what to do about breed-specific conditions.

The Lagotto Romagnolo has a sharp sense of smell that is best suited for hunting and retrieving. However, these gentle dogs are excellent family pets who require attention and love. If you’re looking for a calm and loyal companion to go fishing with, then consider owning these intelligent dogs. They’re ideal for the countryside as they are for city life. Their warm and welcoming personalities make them suitable for children as well. They are easily trainable and will adapt to a variety of lifestyles.