The Italian water dog Lagotto Romagnolo combines many qualities: Thanks to their weatherproof coat, dogs of the breed can do heavy work in freezing temperatures and are loyal playmates in the house. In Germany, there are two clubs that deal with breeding the breed and mediate puppies.
Distinguishing Features of the Woolly Retriever
The long-legged water dog is medium-sized and almost as long as it is tall, which makes it appear very robust. His woolly curly fur grows the same length all over his body and gives him his friendly Schnauzer face. For males, the FCI standard defines an ideal height of 46 cm, for breeding 43 to 48 cm are permissible. They weigh between 13 and 16 kg. Bitches ideally stand at 43 cm, with heights between 41 and 46 cm at the withers not being considered a fault. They weigh a maximum of 14 kg, but should not weigh less than 11 kg.
Important characteristics according to the breed standard
- The head is trapezoidal when viewed from above and about as long as it is wide with a visible stop. The muzzle is slightly shorter, wedge-shaped, and broad. The lips are tousled with hair and quite tight so that the brown pigmentation of the skin on the mouth can be seen in the side view.
- The nose is large, with wide-open nostrils and a pronounced median furrow. It can be light brown or dark brown in color.
- A key distinguishing feature of the breed is the round, widely spaced eyes. Depending on the coat color, they are sometimes lighter, sometimes darker in color, just like the edges of the eyelids.
- The hair makes the rounded-tipped lop ears look even longer than they are. When alert, they lean forward slightly and make the head appear wider.
- The length of the powerfully built body corresponds approximately to the height at the withers and the chest is rather flat. The neck is relatively thin but robust. The sternum is long and forms a straight line, the chest broadens towards the back. The stomach is not drawn up too much.
- The fore and hind legs are almost vertical (when viewed from the front and side). Dewclaws are absent in the Lagotto dog.
- The tail is never carried curled over the back but raised when excited. Like the rest of the body, it is profusely covered with medium-length fur.
Coat and colors: Dense ringlets are the distinguishing feature of the Lagotto Romagnolo
The thin skin does not wrinkle all over the body and can be pigmented in any shade of brown. The dense woolly hair has to be shorn regularly, like sheep’s, so that it doesn’t grow too long and become knotted or form cords. The optimum hair length after shearing is 4 cm. The topcoat rolls up in fine curls so that the undercoat underneath becomes visible, which grows very densely and protects the dog even when working in ice-cold water. The curls only grow a little softer on the face and frame lips and eyebrows.
Permitted colors and color combinations
- Brown, off-white, and orange are the permitted basic colors. Brown coat colors are the most common, with all shades allowed.
- White lagottos should have brown or orange markings, distribution doesn’t matter.
- Orange roan and brown roan with spots on the body are also acceptable colors.
- Tan markings (eyebrows, chest, paws, belly) and brown mask (dark coloring on the muzzle) also occur.
The Story of the Lagottos: Hunting Helpers in the Marshes of Italy
Small, curly water dogs were used to hunt birds at aristocratic courts as early as the 15th century. The so-called Vallaroli or Lagotti were hunters who hunted for coots and other waterfowl in the marshy areas of Italy, which were still common at the time. After the wetlands were drained, the Vallaroli turned their attention to truffle hunting, with the curly-haired Lagotto dogs again proving very useful and talented.
Care and Health: Not Exactly Easy to Care for, but Robust
The average life expectancy of the Lagotto Romagnolo is around 14 years. He can romp outside for hours in any weather and even swim in icy water. Its dense undercoat completely repels moisture and keeps it warm. Unfortunately, the breed is affected by various hereditary diseases that can be detected and avoided with genetic testing.
Hereditary epilepsy is very common in Lagotto Romagnolo. In some studies, up to 32 percent of dogs studied are affected. Affected puppies have their first seizures at an early age.
The so-called storage disease is a neurodegenerative hereditary disease that is progressive, i.e. it gets worse with age. The first symptoms appear between four months and four years of age. According to studies from 2013, up to 11 percent of the breed get the disease. Symptoms include uncontrolled movements of the eyes and limbs, which progressively limit movement.
Progressive cerebellar abiotrophy
Cerebellar abiotrophy (CA) is another neurological condition that affects a disproportionate number of Italian Water Dogs. The progressive death of Purkinje cells in the brain leads to balance disorders and motor deficits, which are already noticeable in puppyhood.
Fur care for the barking ball of wool
In order to keep the woolly hair supple and in length, it must be clipped regularly. Daily combing through the curls should be part of the routine for every holder. If the hair becomes too long or if unusual curls get stuck in the undercoat, knots and felt strands form. The Lagotto has an individual haircut and should not be styled like a poodle with a crown.