Lagotto Romagnolo in Autumn Leaves
Lagotto Romagnolo Standing in Grass
Three Lagotto Romagnolo Dogs in Snow
Lagotto Romagnolo in Snow
Four Lagotto Romagnolo Dogs
Lagotto Romagnolo Side View in Snow
If you’re thinking Italian sports car, think again. This curly-coated dog is an Italian truffle hunter who is generally smart, energetic and fun-loving. The medium-sized Lagotto requires regular trims at home or by a professional groomer.The Lagotto Romagnolo (pronounced la-goh-toe ro-man-yo-lo) descends from Italian water retrievers who were later used to seek out truffles. His thick, curly coat has a woolly texture and covers the entire body, including the face. He doesn’t shed much, but requires regular trimming.

True to his heritage as a working dog, he’s highly energetic. Balancing out the Lagotto’s high activity level is an affectionate, tractable nature. He’s generally easy to train and is alert enough to make a good watchdog.

Thanks to his keen sense of smell, the Lagotto is well-suited to dog sports, such as nose work and tracking, and he can also typically perform well in agility, flyball, obedience and rally. It’s not unusual for him to enjoy swimming, as well. This energetic dog will thrive with a long daily walk or other active exercise.

The bright and happy Lagotti (plural) do best with families who can provide them with plenty of companionship, exercise and training. Lagotti are loyal, preferring family members to strangers, but should never be shy or aggressive.

Quick Facts

  • A Lagotto’s coat can be off-white, white with brown or orange patches, brown roan, various shades of solid brown, with or without white, or orange, with or without white. Some dogs have a brown mask or tan markings.
  • The Lagotto is the only dog specifically bred to hunt truffles.
  • Dogs resembling Lagotti appear in paintings dating to the 15th century.    

The History of the Lagotto Romagnolo

The Lagotto is a water retriever that originated in Italy. The curly-coated dogs were first used to retrieve waterfowl in marshes and lagoons. In fact, in the dialect of Romagna (the historical region from which the breed takes its name, now part of Emilia Romagna), the words “Càn Lagòt” mean “water dog.”

Later, farmers and landowners began to use the dogs to seek out truffles — not the chocolate kind, but the fungi highly prized by chefs. The dogs’ keen sense of smell and protective, tightly curled coats made them ideal for the purpose of hunting truffles in wooded and thorny forests during fall and winter.

By the 1970s, however, interest in the dogs had waned, and the breed might well have disappeared. Fortunately, Italian dog lovers took steps to preserve them. In 1988, they founded the Club Italiano Lagotto. Since then, interest in the breed has spread to many other countries, including Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States. In the U.S., the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America represents the breed. The American Kennel Club began registering the breed with its Foundation Stock Service in 2001 and recognized the Lagotto as a member of the Sporting Group in July 2015.    

Lagotto Romagnolo Personality and Temperament

This generally affectionate dog is known for being smart and lively. Whether he’s seeking out truffles or just playing fetch with you, his hunting style is exuberant and efficient. He usually enjoys the company of his family and sticks close to them. That dedication, combined with his intelligence, tends to make him highly trainable.

The Lagotto’s sense of hearing is as keen as his sense of smell. He’s not yappy just for the sake of being yappy, but you can expect him to sound the alarm if strangers are nearby. 

Lagotti can be a good choice for families. They are sturdy, active and typically loving toward children. Lagotti usually get along well with other dogs and cats, if they are introduced to them at an early age and raised with them.

Is the Lagotto Romagnolo perfect? Well, no dog is. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, food-stealing and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised.

Start training your Lagotto puppy the day you bring him home. He is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.

If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like the one for kennel cough) to be up-to-date, and many veterinarians recommend limiting exposure to other dogs and public places until the puppy series of vaccines (including those for rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until his puppy vaccinations are completed.

Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see their puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.

The perfect Lagotto doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Look for a puppy whose parents have nice personalities and one who has been well-socialized from early puppyhood.    

What You Need to Know About Lagotto Romagnolo Health

All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on her puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

The Lagotto can develop certain health problems, including:

These conditions are not widespread in the breed, but you should be aware of them as you seek out your puppy.

Breeders should have up-to-date health certifications from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), showing that both of a pup’s parents are free of these conditions. For instance, through DNA testing and appropriate matchmaking, breeders can reduce the likelihood of producing puppies with juvenile epilepsy.

It can be difficult to predict whether an animal will be free of these conditions, which is why it’s important to find a reputable breeder and insist on seeing independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries, such as OFA, come in.

If a breeder tells you she doesn’t need to do those tests because she’s never had problems in her lines, or because her dogs have been vet checked or if she gives any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of her dogs, walk away immediately. And, if you think that health testing is only important for show dogs, think again. Even dogs intended to be pets should have parents who are screened for genetic diseases.

Careful breeders screen their dogs for genetic diseases and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in many cases, the dogs can still live good lives. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what caused their deaths.

Will your Lagotto get any or all of the diseases mentioned above? Not necessarily, but it’s smart to know the possibilities.

Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the more common canine health problems: obesity. The breed standard calls for the Lagotto to weigh a svelte 24 to 35 pounds. If you can’t see your Lagotto’s waist or feel (but not see) his ribs, it’s time to cut back on the snacks. Keeping a Lagotto at an appropriate weight is one of the easier ways to help ensure a healthier dog for life.    

The Basics of Lagotto Romagnolo Grooming

The Lagotto’s dense, curly coat sheds little, which makes him attractive to people who dislike dust bunnies, but the trade-off is that he requires regular trimming by a professional groomer or a well-trained owner.

When clipped, the Lagotto’s curls are 1 to 1 1/2 inches long, evenly distributed over the body. On the head and face, the curls are longer and not as tight as they are on the body. The hair forms heavy eyebrows, whiskers and beard, known as furnishings. The eyes should be visible, not covered by hair.

No fancy clips are needed for the Lagotto. He’s not a Poodle. When he’s groomed, he should have a natural, rustic appearance, with the coat clipped or scissored to the lines of the body. The tail is trimmed into sort of a carrot shape, wider at the base and pointed at the end.

A monthly bath will help to keep him clean without affecting the coat’s natural ability to repel water. Be sure you don’t blow dry or brush out the Lagotto after a bath, unless you want him to look like a Chia Pet.

Plan to pony up for professional grooming, or learn how to trim him yourself. You’ll need to gently comb the coat — especially behind the ears, between the toes and where the legs meet the body — and bathe him between professional appointments to help keep the skin healthy and the coat tangle free. Removing excess hair from the ear canal can help to prevent wax and dirt from building up.

A Lagotto puppy coat is soft and develops its curl gradually. The coat doesn’t achieve its adult appearance and texture until the dog is 2 to 3 years of age.

The rest is basic care. Trim the nails every week or two, and brush his teeth often — with a vet-approved pet toothpaste — for good overall health and fresh breath.    

Finding a Lagotto Romagnolo

Whether you want to go with a reputable breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.

Choosing a Lagotto Romagnolo Breeder

Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.

Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances and what it is like to live with these dogs, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes to avoid those problems.

Start your search at the website of the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America. Its code of ethics specifies that members must never sell their puppies to or through pet stores, and that dogs who are bred must be certified by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hips, and have their eyes examined by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist before the first breeding and every two years thereafter. It maintains a breeder referral service and tips on finding a healthy, well-bred puppy.

The Lagotto is a rare breed. Don’t expect to be able to purchase one on a whim. You may face a wait of several months or even a year or two before a puppy is available. Some people travel overseas to purchase from breeders in other countries. If you go this route, it’s important to be familiar with regulations for exporting and importing dogs. And, it’s just as important as it is in this country to interview a foreign breeder carefully.

Look for a breeder who is active in her national breed club and a local club too, if possible. She should regularly participate with her dogs in some form of organized canine activities, such as conformation showing, obedience or other dog sports, or therapy dog programs. She should sell her puppies with written contracts guaranteeing she’ll take the dogs back if, at any time during their lives, the owners cannot keep them.

Ask the breeder to provide you with documentation that your prospective puppy’s parents were cleared for eye issues and hip and elbow dysplasia by the OFA. Hip clearance by the PennHIP method is also acceptable.

Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from a website that offers to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It could save you money and frustration in the long run.

Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.

Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store or another source, remember that old adage “let the buyer beware.” Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100 percent guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals) and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And, don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization or other reliable source for healthy puppies. 

And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Lagotto might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult Lagotto, if one is available, may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health. You may be able to find adult dogs to adopt through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home.

If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.

Adopting a Dog From a Lagotto Romagnolo Rescue or Shelter

There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Keep in mind, however, that the Lagotto is a rare breed. Few are found in shelters or through breed rescue groups. If you want to search, here’s how to get started.

1. Use the Web

Sites like Petfinder and can have you searching for a Lagotto in your area in no time. These sites allow you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Lagotti available on Petfinder across the country). can help you find animal rescue groups in your area.

Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed, so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.

2. Reach Out to Local Experts

Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Lagotto. That includes vets, dog walkers and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.

3. Talk to Breed Rescues

Most people who love Lagotti love all Lagotti. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America may be able to put you in touch with a dog who needs a new home and may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for Lagotto rescues in your area.

The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice.

4. Key Questions to Ask

You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:

  • What is his energy level?
  • How is he around other animals?
  • How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
  • What is his personality like?
  • What is his age?
  • Is he housetrained?
  • Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone?
  • Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Lagotto, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers a Bill of Rights for Adopters that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Puppy or adult, breeder purchase or rescue, take your Lagotto to your veterinarian soon after acquiring him. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.