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The Lagotto Romagnolo SHORT HISTORY OF THE BREED AND CURRENT SITUATION
BY LAGOTTO ROMAGNOLO CLUB OF AMERICA
T he Lagotto Romagnolo is a dog that has been specially bred to fi nd tru ffl es on all kinds of terrain; it is the only breed in the world specialized in tracking down this precious tuber. A typical water dog of small-medium size, it is a light mesomorph with a rather stocky trunk. Its general appearance is rustic, strong and well-proportioned and its utility as a working dog is immediately obvious. Th e expression is one of attentiveness, intelligence and vivacity. Th e Lagotto Romagnolo works enthusiastically and e ffi ciently, making the most of its inher- ent search-and- fi nd skills and excellent sense of smell. Th e hunting instinct has been suppressed so that it is not distracted by game. An a ff ectionate animal, it forms a close bond with its owner and also makes a fi ne, easy-to-train companion. Th e Lagotto Romagnolo has the restrained character of the true country dog, the typical appearance of a dog which has its roots in history and the gentle, attentive expression common to all dogs of Italian breed. A fi rst glance gives an impression of something historic and archaic that has miraculously survived to the present day—a living challenge to time and history. Many centuries ago the people of Italy developed a thriving trade with the Orient. Th is system of commerce involved continuous con- tact at every level, thus allowing the di ff erent populations to learn much about each others’ cultures and customs—and a knowledge of dogs was no exception to that rule. Th is explains why so manyar- chaeological sites, especially in north-west Italy, have revealed the presence of various canine breeds, especially a small water dog with a bristly, crimped coat. Th e Etruscan necropolis of Spina (near Fer- rara) contains updated representations of hunting and fi shing which consistently include a dog like the current Lagotto Romagnolo. Th e Etruscans reached the northern Adriatic between the sixth and fi fth centuries BC and maintained commercial relationships with many Eastern nations; this favored the introduction of this group of dogs into the northern Adriatic region. While it is true that the expansionism of many eastern popula- tions was responsible for introducing these breeds as far a fi eld as the British Isles, it should be noted that this happened centuries after the initial contact with Italian populations. When water dogs reached Spain via North Africa at the time of the Moorish con- quests, giving rise to the present-day Perro de Agua Español, they had already been on the Italian peninsula for centuries, especially in the wetlands and marshes of Romagna. It is thus quite probable that the Canis acquaticus of which Linneo spoke, de fi ning it as having “been around for some time” in the Mediterranean Basin, is none other than our Lagotto Romagnolo. In its morphology, the drawing made by Linneo bears a striking resemblance to the curl-coated dog of Romagna.
Another painting from the 1600s shows an almost perfectly conformed Lagotto Romagnolo as the subject of a painting by il Guercino" Giovanni Francesco Barbieri. Following the disappearance of the Etruscan civilization water dogs continued to fl ourish, remaining a common sight through- out Roman and medieval times, especially along the tract of coast that runs from Ravenna, through the Comacchio and Veneto lowlands to Friuli and the Istrian peninsula. In the frescoes of the Bridal Suite of Palazzo Ducale dei Gonzaga di Mantova, created by Andrea Mantegna in 1456 there is, in the scene representing the “meeting”, at the feet of the marquis Ludovico III Gonzaga, a dog which is apparently the same as today’s Lagotto Romagnolo. From the 16th century onwards books on folklore, local culture, customs and hunting are full of citations that mention the utilization of a small curly-coated dog used to retrieve water game. Th ese dogs carried out a number of activities, providing support for the vallaroli (or “lagotti”), picturesque folk who, prior to the sweeping land reclamation of the late 19th century, were the real soul of those game-rich lagoons. Th e vallaroli, who were granted use of the famous “tinelle” or “botti” (marshland hides made from bar- rels) for lowland hunting, generally accompanied the local gentry in the fascinating, yet di ffi cult practice of hunting. Th e vallaroli were also trained to fi nd tru ffl es: back then far less was known about tru ffl es and they were far more abundant. Th e inseparable companions of the vallaroli were the small Lagotto Romagnolos, guardians of boat and house, and excellent retrievers (especially of coots) way back when hundreds of small boats would “beat” the hunting ground and surround and kill fl ocks numbering thousands. Th e Lagotto Romagnolo would, often for hours on end, dive into the water whatever the season, even breaking through ice to swim under it and drag the fallen birds back onto the shore (an activity made possible by the animal’s compactly crimped coat and thick undercoat which forms a water-repellent layer that keeps the water o ff the skin. Th e name Lagotto Romagnolo derives, then, from its original “career” as a water dog. In the local dialect of the Romagna “Càn Lagòt” is synonymous with “water dog” or “wetland hunting dog with crimped, curly coat”. A sharp aptitude for searching, a steep learning curve and an unbeatable sense of smell, would, in time, make the Lagotto Romagnolo an e ffi cient tru ffl e- fi nder. Following the cleansings which, during several decades, constantly reduced the immense marsh of Comacchio and of Romagna, while mak- ing disappear almost completely the “Vallaroli”, Lagotto Romagno- lo also gradually lost its function of water dog andspecialized gradu- ally as a tru ffl e dog. Th e transition between these two functions ranges between 1840 and 1890. One can even a ffi rm that during >
270 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ANUARY 2020
The Lagotto Romagnolo
BY LAGOTTO ROMAGNOLO CLUB OF AMERICA continued
the time between the two world wars, almost all of the tru ffl e dogs of the tru ffl e hunters of Romagna and the adjacent areas were Lagotto Romagnolo. In subsequent decades the use of concrete pylons to sup- port grapevines and the steady disappear- ance of woodland has made the tru ffl e a somewhat rarer fi nd, especially on the plain. Th e Lagotto Romagnolo then turned out to be the perfect choice for searching in hilly woodland and thorny scrub during the autumn-winter period on account of its tightly-knit coat. Even as far back as 1920, the Lagotto Romagnolo was well known in the valleys of the Romagnolo Apennines, in the Valle del Senio, Valle del Lamone and especially in the Valle di Santerno. It should be born in mind that back then no-one was inter- ested in the Lagotto Romagnolo as a pure breed: the existing breeds were considered to be more than su ffi cient and the cross- breeds were often even more appreciated on account of their robustness, character and resistance to disease. Tru ffl e hunters have always bred their dogs on an entirely empir- ical basis (outside of any genetic rules), taking into account only the immediate, practical outcome: a brilliant tru ffl ing dog, whether Lagotto Romagnolo or not. In this manner, Lagotto Romagnolo, which had arrived in the valleys of Romagna “ fi xed” by the continuous couplings in narrow con- sanguinity carried out by the “Vallaroli” of the marshes of Comacchio started “to be polluted” by constant and unjusti fi ed introductions of foreign blood. However, merit where merit is due: the tru ffl e hunt- ers of that period did not let our Lagotto Romagnolo fall by the wayside, allowing it to survive—almost by miracle—to the present day in near-perfect phenotype and genotype form. Towards the mid 1970s a group of Romagna-based dog lovers decided to save the breed, which was risking extinction as a result of the incompetence, ignorance and negligence of owners: Th e group was led by the gentlemanly Quintino Toschi, President
Bridal Suite of Palazzo Ducale dei Gonzaga di Mantova, created by Andrea Mantegna in 1456
to lay the basis for the renewed purity of the breed. With the founding of the Club Italiano Lagotto (C.I.L.) in Imola in 1988, which now has 300 members all over the world, a fi rm foundation for o ffi cial acknowledge- ment of the breed on the part of E.N.C.I. and F.C.I. was created. O ffi cial recognition by E.N.C.I., with approval of the morpho- logical Standard drawn up by Dr. Anto- nio Morsiani (following years of biometric measurements on hundreds of subjects), was achieved in 1992. In 1995, thanks to the constant dedication of the Club and its technical bodies, provisional international >
of the local dog society and the E.N.C.I. breeder and judge Prof. Francesco Ballotta (who still remembered the Lagotti Rom- agnolo of his youth perfectly). Th ey were supported by dog expert, judge and world- famous breeder Dr. Antonio Morsiani and Lodovico Babini, a Romagna-born dog lover with extensive experience. Th ey were to set a genetic reconstruction program in motion that would save the Lagotto Rom- agnolo from the one-way tunnel to extinc- tion. Th e reuni fi cation of the two parallel stories of the Lagotto Romagnolo – the one that took place in the wetlands and the one that took place on the Apennine hills—were
S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ANUARY 2020 • 271
The Lagotto Romagnolo
BY LAGOTTO ROMAGNOLO CLUB OF AMERICA continued
In order to safeguard and coordinate proper morpho-functional selection at international level 1997 saw the estab- lishment of U.M.LAG (World Union of Lagotto Clubs—Unione Mondiale dei Club Lagotto Romagnolo), the presi- dent of which is Dr. Giovanni Morsiani. Lagotto Clubs in all the above-mentioned countries are members of this association and there is a constant stream of a ffi lia- tion applications from new clubs all over the world. To safeguard the breed against hereditary pathologies, the Italian Lagotto Club has, since 1992, been involved in the o ffi cial control of hip dysplasia in collabora- tion with the Centro di Lettura (Analysis Centre) directed by Dr. Cesare Pareschi of Ferrara. Th e C.I.L. recently acknowledged E.N.C.I. directives vis-à-vis hereditary
recognition by F.C.I. was won. In the mean- time the breed has enjoyed European and even worldwide success and the number of pups registered at the various F.C.I., British and American Kennel Clubs is constantly growing. For example, in Italy, 545 pups were registered in 1994 and nearly 900 in 2002—a near-doubling of births in just 9 years. In countries such as Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Great Britain the number of registered pups has increased tenfold— and in some cases a hundredfold. Th e rapid international di ff usion of the breed is high- lighted by the constantly increasing num- ber of pup registrations in countries such as Switzerland, Holland, Germany, France, Finland, Great Britain, Australia, and Th e United States.
genetic disease control, providing the Cen- tro di Lettura with the support of the F.S.A. (Animal Health Foundation) of Cremona, directed by Dr. Aldo Vezzoni. Th e Club’s Technical and Health Commission has, for years now, been carrying out careful in- the- fi eld checks and controls as regards the most common hereditary diseases a ff ect- ing water dogs with continuously-growing curly coats. Other checks are regarding the main hereditary eye diseases and some heart conditions. In order to maintain the original work- ing capacity of the Lagotto Romagnolo, the “Quintino Toschi” Italian Lagotto Club has, for some years now, organized tru ffl e- fi nding (working) aptitude tests and trials throughout Italy and has obtained excellent results in terms of both quantity and the perfecting of the breed’s functional quali- ties. Th is allowed us to draw up a Working Standards Proposal for the breed (together with Working Trial Regulations) that the Club sent to E.N.C.I. in 1999. Over recent years we have also trained Club judges to carry out the above Working Trials. At the annual C.I.L. Working Championships, disputed since 1999 in those Italian regions with good tru ffl e terrain, a good number of dogs—from both Italy and abroad - par- ticipate in the skills section and are also entered in the “aesthetic” exhibitions. We believe this to be a clear sign of apprecia- tion of our desire to maintain the original working characteristics of the breed. Th e skills tests allow the Clubs to monitor not only the morpho-functional characteristics of the breed, but also character, which has always been one of the Lagotto Romagno- lo’s strong points. From a morphological viewpoint the Lagotto Romagnolo has, over recent years, been consolidated even further. Our fre- quent, in-depth biometric checks made at conventions, rallies and Club meetings have highlighted that the breed’s morpho-func- tional characteristics are perfectly in line with the o ffi cial morphological standard drawn up in 1991 by Dr. Antonio Morsiani. For some time now, the Lagotto Romagnolo has shown good overall homogeneity, with constant transmission of characteristics down through the bloodline. A few years ago we contacted E.N.C.I.,suggesting that the morphologi- cal standard be clari fi ed by two additional observations vis-à-vis grooming and color of the coat. Th is has become necessary to pre- vent dangerous deviations from the breed’s true rustic nature which can be induced by exaggerated, non-functional grooming by professional handlers both Italian and for- eign. Otherwise, the original Italian Stan- dard is—and remains—the ideal portrait of our breed.
Painting by il Guercino" Giovanni Francesco Barbieri
274 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ANUARY 2020
LAGOTTO ROMAGNOLO THE
1. Where do you live? What do you do “outside” of dogs? 2. In popularity, Lagotto Romagnoli are ranked #99 out of 192 AKC-recognized breeds. Do you feel the average person on the street knows what he is? 3. Few of these dogs really “work” anymore. Although “cute” is most often used to describe him, he’s a tremendously hard- working dog with great stamina. How has he adapted to civil- ian life? What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? 4. A strong Sporting dog requires a special household to be a perfect fit. What about the breed makes him an ideal companion? Drawbacks? 5. What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our cur- rent economic and social climate? 6. At what age do you start to see definite signs of show-worthi- ness (or lack thereof)? 7. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? 8. What is your ultimate goal for the breed? 9. What is your favorite dog show memory? 10. Is there anything else you’ d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate. PATTIE FISCHER
amazing breed. I think this breed is one of the best kept secrets in the dog world. How has the breed adapted to civilian life? I think the majority of the Lagotti in the US spend most of their time as companions. However, in Italy and other countries in Europe, they are still very much working dogs used mainly for hunting truffles. They are the only breed in the world specifically bred to hunt for them. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, we have many working Lagotti who are wonderful truffle and mushroom hunters. We are in one of the few places in the US that have truffles and many varieties of mushrooms that grow naturally. I would say we are in the Lagotti’s perfect idea of heaven—truffles and water! The Lagotto has adapted well to civilian life with some charac- teristics that are very suitable to family life. They can be very loving, attentive and loyal. However, the Lagotti is not a good fit for every- one. They can be sensitive and don’t do well with harsh correction. They love to be a part of every aspect of their owner’s life and want a close relationship with their families. Some Lagotti, more than others, have a natural affinity for children and can be wonderful companion for them. I always say “The really great thing about Lagotti is they are very intelligent. The really bad thing about Lagotti is they are very intel- ligent.” They need to have mental simulation to keep them happy and to keep them from becoming bored. If they don’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation, they will find their own form of entertainment and that is not always a good thing. I know that can be said of other breeds, too. The Lagotti can make excellent scent detection dogs and can have a very positive impact on families that have them for medical or allergen alert dogs. Our breeding program is focused on breed- ing Lagotti that excel at medical scent detection as well as have the temperament and work ethic qualities of a service dog. We current- ly have several dogs placed in homes for gluten and other allergen detection, diabetic alert, as well as families who have a family mem- ber in the autism spectrum. We also have two of our dogs working to detect Parkinson’s Disease and will be adding two more of our Lagotti to the Parkinson’s Disease detection program this year. What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? Lagotti, more than any other breed I have had, really want to have a relation- ship with its owner/family. They love to go for car rides, hiking, the park and swimming. They really enjoy spending time with their family even if they are just cuddling on the sofa. They really thrive on interacting with humans especially for training or other types of mental simulation that combines an activity with spending time with their family. One of the drawbacks to the breed is that most of them love to dig. Since the Lagotto is the only breed in the world specifically bred to hunt truffles, their desire to dig was encouraged by this activity. As a result, they can be fairly destructive to the yard if left alone to entertain themselves. Prior to becoming truffle dogs, they were lowland waterfowl hunters. While that trait has been mostly bred from the breed, some Lagotti still retain the desire to chase squirrels, birds and other critters. What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? It is very important to me to raise the healthiest dogs with the best temperaments that I possibly can. To that end, we do health and genetic testing on all of our dogs as well as provide them with the best vet care, nutrition, vitamin supple- ments and environmental enrichment we can. I am also constantly
Pattie Fischer, of Bella Fiore Lagottos, has been raising Lagotto Romagnolos since 2013. Pattie’s breeding program focuses on health and temperament suited to working Lagotti in the areas of scent detec- tion and service work. Raising this breed to help people with medi- cal and allergen health issues has become her passion. Pattie is a Karen Pryor Acad-
emy Certified Training Partner, Associate Nose Work Instructor and an affiliate of Puppy Culture and Avidog International, using both protocols for raising and breeding since July 2015. She has also obtained certification as a Pet Food Nutrition Specialist and is cur- rently working on an advanced certificate in the same studies. She is also currently training to become a certified gluten detection trainer to help people with gluten sensitivity train their dogs. I live in Washington state on the North Olympic Peninsula in the small town of Sequim (pronounced Skwim). I am the Execu- tive Assistant to the Vice President for Finance and Administration at Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Washington. Not much else happens in my life “outside” of dogs. I am either raising and train- ing puppies, taking training courses for dog trainers or training scent detection with a special focus on gluten, Parkinson’s Disease and truffles. Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? Most Lagotti owners are shocked when someone asks them, “Is that a Lagotto?” Most people do not know about Lagotti and usually mistake them for Doodles. When I explain that it is not a Doodle but a Lagotto Romagnolo, the usual response is “A La- whata whata?” I try to take time to explain what a Lagotto is, give a brief history and describe some of the wonderful attributes of this
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Lagotto Romagnolo Q& A
Patti Fischer continued
will health test, including DNA testing, to ensure the best possible representatives of the breed will move the next generations forward. My favorite conformation dog show memory just happened in 2019. It was the first time I was showing my one-year-old Lagot- to, Angelus mei Lumiel Perfetto, without any assistance. I am not the best handler so, to my surprise, she took best of breed over a champion male. My most favorite dog sport memory was Bella passing her very first odor recognition test through the National Associate for Canine Scent Work. After Bella had alerted to the odor, birch, and passed the test, it was probably one of the most emotional moments in my life with dogs. As we were leaving the building, she was hap- pily trotting alongside me, when we both looked each other in the eyes. The look on her face told me she knew she had done some- thing really special; she was the happiest I have ever seen her. I had to fight back tears of happiness. This was the moment I knew I had an amazing relationship with this dog. One of trust, communica- tion and love. There is no better feeling in the world! The Lagotto Romagnolo is an amazing animal. They seem to be part dog, part cat, part goat, and part human. They amaze me every single day! They have a need to be with humans and will thrive when they are allowed to be part of everyday life with their families. They are sensitive and need to know that they can trust that you will not put them in situations they are not comfortable with. In my opinion, the best activity for a Lagotto is scent work. It will create a bond of trust and communication that is unlike any other relation- ship with previous dogs. The sport will also help the dog to become the dog it was meant to be, seeing the world through its nose. KATHY HAGLOF Lagotto Lady Kennels is situated
training and taking courses to have the best knowledge I can for my program as well as for my families. When you focus on educa- tion, breeding and raising dogs this way, it becomes all-consuming and very expensive as prices of food, equipment, toys and training continue to increase making it harder to do the best for your dogs. People think that we are making money hand over fist breed- ing and selling puppies. I have people contact me regularly because they “think it would be fun to have puppies” or they think they can make “lots of money” breeding. It takes a lot of time, money, heartache, stress, passion and love to raise dogs the proper way. It is definitely not a “get rich quick” scheme. Social media can be a double edged sword. People can say any- thing they want, true or not, and it can damage your reputation in a blink of an eye. The political climate has really had a huge impact on how people treat each other. For me, it is about personal relation- ships and supporting each other. Social media allows me to keep in contact with my puppy families that I would not have otherwise. I can share in their triumphs as well as their sorrows. At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? We begin looking at their structure when puppies are about five weeks old to identify conformation show prospects with our final conformation selection when the puppies are eight weeks of age. The eight week mark is generally the age they will look like a min- iature version of their adult selves. It kind of gives us a peak into the future. The dog’s olfactory system is the only system that is fully devel- oped when it is born. For scent detection, we begin identifying the puppies with best scent curiosity during early scent introduction at the same time we do early neurological stimulation. From day three to day 16, we introduce the puppies to truffles and Parkinson’s Disease samples everyday as well as introduce as many other odors as possible. I take notes on how the puppies act and interact with the different scents to help us identify which odors the puppies are drawn to and which odors they don’t like. For service dog qualities, we begin watching the puppies at about five weeks of age. We begin having puppy parties every weekend when the puppies are about four weeks of age. We invite families and friends to come over to help us socialize the puppies. Our goal is to provide the puppies the opportunity to meet as many different people as possible before they go to their new homes, around 11 weeks old. These parties allow us the opportunity to observe how the puppies interact with people of all ages, sizes, ethnicities as pos- sible. We particularly pay very close attention to the puppies who are really drawn to the children. None of the puppies will be chosen for their prospective pro- gram until after we do the temperament test. Temperament testing allows us to see the puppy in a more holistic way. The puppy can have a wonderful structure, great nose, etc., but it also must have the courage, biddability and temperament to succeed. The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? It is very important for a new judge to study and understand the breed standard. While this breed is a very ancient breed, possibly dating back to the 1500’s, it is still rare in the US. The Lagotto Romagnolo breed standard can be considered not as restrictive as other, more recognized, breeds. It is important to view them through the lens of the breed’s standard and not assume it should be the same as other breeds. For example, the height of the breed has a range of two inches with a ½ inch leeway on either side of the measurement. The breed is not required to have a scissor bite, although that certainly would be the preferred. My ultimate goal is to preserve the breed as intended based on the breed standard with a focus on temperament, biddability, cour- age and resilience as well as structure. My hope is that the breeders
on 25 acres of beautiful rolling land, surrounded by many lakes in Lind- strom, Minnesota. Besides working with my dogs, I enjoy outdoor yard work, planting trees and creating fun environments for my animals (dogs and horses). Horse back rid- ing in the many state parks is what I do to get away and re-charge my batteries.
Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? As of lately, because of the popularity, more people are recogniz- ing them. If not, people always ask if they are some sort of “doodle”. What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? My experience is they make really nice family dogs. They are very loyal to their people, and want to go everywhere you go. They also like to snuggle and love attention, making them a great family pet. As used in the old days to guard ships, a Lagotto always knows when someone is at the door, and will alert you, which in my opinion, is a good thing. What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? These highly intelligent working dogs need structure in their lives—they need mental stimulation, without that, they tend to get bored, get into trouble “picking up undesirable habits”. Training is not just a “one time deal”, a well behaved dog is continuously being trained. To keep them happy, I suggest teaching tricks, nose work, obedi- ence, agility or dock diving. In other words, do something with them as they are happiest when they have purpose, a job to do. What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? It takes deep pockets to be a respon- sible breeder. I compare breeding to farming, as sometimes you have a good crop, while others you don’t. It’s not that easy. As prices
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Lagotto Romagnolo Q& A
climb with vets, food and health testing, the cost of properly raising pups is not cheep. As for the social climate—when people hear you are a breeder, they think of puppy mills, which couldn’t be farther from the truth, at least for the professional level breeders as we jump through so many hoops to produce quality dogs. And then, there is always the big debate about adopting from a shelter rather than purchased from a breeder. At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I like to see them at around eight weeks old, sometimes sooner I know if I have a potential show prospect, it’s something you just know. They go through awkward growing spirits, so again at a year old, I feel as though I really know what I have based on build, move- ment and enthusiasm to be in the show ring. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Please read and understand the breed stan- dards. Also, if they get the opportunity to speak to some breeders, in fact several, to ask questions specific about the breed. My ultimate goal for the breed? Fantastic temperaments and health are a priority. To achieve the “perfect” Lagotto traits, you must study and understand bloodlines “Genetics” and where your desired traits are coming from and move forward generation after generation to create your desired line of Lagotto. New out-crosses are also vital to keep the breed strong. My favorite dog show memory? Not sure I really have one, all I know is when a handler is showing one of my dogs, I view from afar because if they spot me, its over. In addition to being extremely intelligent, they are sensitive and intuitive. They can read a humans moods without question, and can be skeptical of strangers. I have heard, that with no formal training, they have the ability to detect epileptic seizures coming on, or blood sugar levels—some lines seem to be more perceptive than others. They like being by their “humans”, they are quirky, funny and are most happy when they have a job to do. JUDITHMARTIN Judith Martin - exhibitor breeder
the “cuteness factor” the intelligence and trainability were going to make this breed skyrocket into the public consciousness. As care- fully as we progressed, the ready availability of puppies overseas that are sent without contracts, has given rise to a population of new breeders who know little more than this is a breed that is cute, and will sell quickly and easily. Rising to #99 in AKC breeds in such a few years is a bit of a concern. In my early years no one had any idea what the breed was, but today I find about half the people I meet either recognize the breed or have at least heard of the “truffle hunting dog”. Some folks will ask if they are doodles and my response is always, “No, this is a purebred of ancient lineage.” I have never forgotten my first trip to the International Lagotto Specialty in Italy in 2007 where I met a full time truffle hunter whose dogs would run in the forest for six hours a day. I always tell prospective owners that these dogs have been bred for this level of activity and they must provide their pups with sufficient physical and mental activity for them to be contented pets. It matters not if they live in an apartment or on a large estate, the owner must supply the opportunity for activity. Due to the sporting dog temperament and physique, the Lagotto is proving to be excellent in agility, dock diving and nose work, and some owners are exploring lure coursing and barn hunt. In the Pacific NorthWest there are a lot of Lagotti that are regularly hunt- ing and finding delicious native truffles, and also imported variet- ies that have been introduced. Last year, one of our club members’ Lagotto located the largest truffle found in the US. Pecan Truffles are also native from Texas up to Tennessee and places East. Truffle hunting Lagotti are not yet common in this region, but there is likely to be a growing awareness. I recently moved to Central Texas and there is almost no knowledge of local truffles but I am commit- ted to investigating that activity. We started training late this fall and my 3.5 year old female can find the Oregon truffle scent that I plant for her, but we have not found any native truffles. Due to the intelligence, devotion, and tractability of this breed, they are proving to be excellent Therapy Dogs, and some are being trained as detection dogs. Vando is 12.5 years old and
in Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers since 1993. Imported first Lagotto Romagnolo from Croatia in 2005; first one in Arizona. We gathered a group of passionate owners to form our first breed club in May 2007. I served as Founding President. I con- tinued working on the newsletter and serving on various committees. I served as President again 2016 to 2018. I am currently serving as Cor-
has been a Therapy/comfort dog since 2013. While not typ- ical of all Lagotti, many in our breed are proving to be well suited for visitation in hospi- tals, schools and events. He is currently in a READ program in our local elementary (see
photo) and we make weekly visits to our Juvenile Justice Court where Vando sits with youth awaiting their court appearances. Size and non-shedding coat is a plus in public situations. Since we are retired, our outside activities tend to include our dogs. Traveling the country with our dogs, visiting folks in our breeds, and puppy owners keeps it fun. Grooming is one area that separates, show homes, working homes, and pet homes. In a recent simple Facebook survey on our club information page, the majority of folks wanted advice on grooming. The old Italians would tell us to trim the dog two times a year with a shave down. They said to shave a couple months before showing and let it grow into proper length. Many of the Italian breeders I met, kept their dogs separate from their household, and didn’t sleep with their dogs like many American families prefer. Now we hear owners who end up with frequent bathing and brush- ing which creates matting and thus requires shaving down the coat all the time.
responding Secretary of LRCA. After the first imported Lagotto, the next 3 were imported from Italy. Since that time, I have kept home bred Lagotti for my show/ pet dogs. I currently have 12.5 year old Vando and 3.5 year old Ori. I lived in SE Michigan when I began as an exhibitor breeder of Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers. In 1993 I moved to central Arizona upon my husband’s retirement in 1997. In 2005, I imported the first Lagotto Romagnolo into the state of Arizona. At first there were just a couple of dedicated breeders who also imported Lagotti and we showed our dogs in available venues. In 2007, we found enough fans of the breed to start our breed club and once we had enough registrations to qualify for Miscel- laneous, folks started to note the many qualities of a medium size dog, that doesn’t shed, is smart, and very trainable. We knew when we started our parent club that protecting the breed would be important because of the visible qualities. The size,
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Lagotto Romagnolo Q& A
“My introductory letter to breed inquiries states that this dog is not the one for every family, and not a first choice for a family with no dog experience. They are highly trainable, but must be trained.” Judith Martin continued
On my first visit to Italy in 2007, I visited several highly respect- ed breeders. Each of the breeders kept their dogs in kennels separate from their homes with no dogs inside which helped me understand why many of our imports arrived with shyness or anxiety issues. It took me almost a year to train my first Lagotto to be comfortable around strangers, and my second import was rehomed due to unac- ceptable level of shyness for a show/breeding dog. I knew that once the puppies were raised in typical “American-style” in the homes of their breeders with lots of socialization, we would see much of that issue go away. We still recommend our puppy owners continue with plenty of continual socialization for our breed. What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? My introductory letter to breed inquiries states that this dog is not the one for every family, and not a first choice for a family with no dog experience. They are highly trainable, but must be trained. We see a variety of energy levels in a litter and must evaluate the energy levels of the prospective families. I remind people that the breed is toler- ated by many folks with allergies, but that is not always the case. Their current growing popularity is due to adorably cute puppies, medium size and non-shedding coats. We want to make sure they are not too cute for their own good. What is the most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Judges need to keep in mind that this dog has a purpose, and when judging in the ring, they need to ask them- selves if this exhibit looks like it could run in the forest for six hours and come out looking the same; the perfect conformation with the perfect coat should be one and the same. We do not want to see the selected dog be the result of talented grooming. My goal for this breed is for us to protect the robust health of this breed, to maintain the proper conformation to do the work it was bred for, to have the temperament to remain a lovely family dog. SANDYMIGNOGNA I discovered the breed in
of people. I do find dog enthusiasts at training centers and AKC conformation shows are definitely more aware of the breed though. What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? I would agree that in the US, the breed is not utilized as it is in Italy as a working breed. This can lead to challenges in living in a home situation as they are a breed that needs to be engaged mentally and on a lower level, physically. As long as their owners are committed to engagement and making them a member of their household, they do very well. I think their nature of wanting to please their owners and their physical and mental stamina that is needed while working as a truffle hunter carries over into the non-working life as a family pet in that they are easy to train and can be utilized in a variety of fun and active dog sports. What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? I find them to be a breed that needs a lot of mental stimulation and inter- action with “their people”. They have a great get-up-and-go attitude and are eager to try any activities their owners want to do with them. This makes the Lagotto a really fun breed to train and they excel in many dog sports, such as scent work, agility, obedience, dock diving, etc. Because of their need for activities and needing guidance and boundaries to be content members of the household, they may not be a great fit for first time owners or busy families that are just looking for a couch potato at the end of a busy day at work or with kids. What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our cur- rent economic and social climate? Unfortunately, in recent years the demand for the breed has been greater than the supply. Now that the recognition of the breed is growing, people are wanting a Lagotto without understanding their needs, they are attracted to the breed because of their mid-size, cute and cuddly appearance, non-shedding coat and the fact that they are considered allergy- friendly. In very recent years, many inexperienced and/or unethical breeders have been breeding to meet the demand and are breeding without doing the proper health testing on the parents, being aware of temperament issues and breeding structurally unsound dogs which are also lacking in breed type. Too many people are inter- ested in the “now” puppy and are not doing their homework and waiting for a puppy from an experienced and diligent breeder who places health, type and temperament as a top priority. At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? All puppies in a litter are cute and it is easy to start to fall for one because of unique color or markings but in my opinion, true con- formation qualities of type and movement and that “show spark” can not be analyzed until a minimum of seven to eight weeks. Of course a full evaluation is not possible in this breed until maturity, closer to one and a half years. The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? In Italy, there are three parts of the Lagotto breed that are so important to the breed that three separate awards are given at specialty events. They are head, coat and structure/move- ment. The first, head type—without proper expression/head type we lose the essence of the look. But more importantly though, if we lose the head type which is so important for the breeds’ function, we also lose the elements needed for greatest scenting abilities—a wide muzzle with a strong underjaw, both of which allow for a blunt
1997 and visited Italy to meet with breeders for the first time in 2002. I have travelled to Italy over 15 times to attend their National Specialties and World Dog Shows and to be mentored by breed specialists. I served as the LRCA’s President, as a Direc- tor and as on multiple commit- tees and I am presently a judge’s mentor. I started breeding and
showing dogs in 1992. I graduated from Penn State University and worked in the corporate world but I am now retired pursuing my full time dog passion. I live in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Outside of dogs, I love to travel anywhere and everywhere. I also love to trail ride with my horses. Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? While the breed has definitely grown in recognition in the past several years, I don’t think they are yet recognizable by the majority
280 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , J ANUARY 2020
Lagotto Romagnolo Q& A
“I would like to see breeders who are putting emphasis on breeding healthy and conformationally and temperamentally sound dogs.”
What special challenges do Lagotto breeders face in our current economic and social climate? We are still trying to enlarge the gene pool here. So most of us are still importing. Due to many early imports not having great hips, we have a rather unbalanced gene pool of certain popular sires that did produce good hips. Importing is hard, you HAVE to visit, you HAVE to develop relationships with foreign breeders. Breeders need to be more open about prob- lems, that their dogs have (dentition issues, size inconsistency, lack of testicles, heart issues, temperament). A lot of foreign breeders do not health test at the same levels that we do (though I believe that we are driving the market on that and it is changing since I first started). Also in many countries, breeders do not practice the same puppy raising protocols as most reputable American breed- ers. In many places, they are raised as kennel dogs. Getting a soft, unsocialized kennel dog puppy at 16 weeks can be a nightmare! On a recent trip to Italy, friends and I visited around six breeders, we met a grand total of one house dog! Anyhow, there are still nice dogs available, but you need to be able to go and meet the breeders and see the dogs yourself. I would not import if you cannot do that. My first two were from Switzerland and Sweden, respectively, largely this was because their breeding requirements and philosophy on puppy raising seemed similar to mine, countrywide. It gave me a feeling of security! We are a very global community, I think we have social media to thank for that! Mostly, it’s a good thing. At what age do I start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? I think there are two key times, one about eight weeks and another closer to 16 weeks. At eight weeks they have no legs, and no neck and they all seem to look too long in hock. The athleticism seems to be nicely apparent at the older time period, and the hair should be starting to curl well and the carriage of the tail has begun to figure itself out and bite is probably what it’s going to be (though it can change up to three years!) You might also have a good idea of temperament at this point, though the breed goes through a fairly marked secondary fear stage around 9-15 months. The most important thing about the breed for a new judge to keep in mind? Athleticism: This is a working truffle dog, they should give the appearance of having “the strength and endurance to work all day in difficult and challenging terrain” (AKC Stan- dard). Make sure that they really could. Though the standard does not have a weight DQ, it does have suggested weights.—a dog that is too substantial (a word that does not appear anywhere in our stan- dard) can not possess the necessary endurance. Such a dog might measure in, but is really too much dog on his legs to do his job. Rears: We do have quite a bit of breed drag in terms of good, strong rears. He shouldn’t be a dog without the powerful loin, and long slightly sloping croup. If you find a good rear reward it! Make sure to do a good down and back, while we are seeing better turn of stifle than we did ten years ago, we are still seeing dogs that are too close behind, or hocky going away. Dog could be cleaner com- ing back as well—and a lot of those same dogs look fine on the “go around.” Hallmarks: Our breed hallmarks are the a) Headpiece (slightly shortened muzzle to skull ratio, with wide muzzle and nose, nostrils and strong underjaw), b) the Coat (curly and rustic in presentation) and c) the Square body silhouette with more leg than body. Missing any one of these is to miss type entirely. My ultimate goal for the breed? I think to find our last genet- ic marker (for Cerebellar Abiatrophy) and to reduce the shy
muzzle which is conducive to a broad nose and sinuses. Second is coat, which should be dense, double coated and curly. Lagotto should NEVER be over-groomed so that the curls cannot be evalu- ated. Third is structure/movement—a Lagotto is a sturdy, compact, robust, square breed built for stamina over rough terrain, there is no over-exaggeration of angles or movement. These qualities help the breed to optimally perform his job as a truffle hunter and also reflect those of his original function as a water dog. Without proper structure and movement he cannot perform his job effectively. My ultimate goal for the breed? The breed is still a relatively healthy breed and I would like to keep it that way. I was the found- ing President of the Lagotto Romagnolo Foundation Inc, which was formed to protect the health and longevity of the breed through education and scientific research. I would like to see breeders who are putting emphasis on breeding healthy and conformationally and temperamentally sound dogs. This way we can maintain the breeds history and functionality as it was developed in Italy for a specific purpose. My favorite dog show memory? I am the only owner and breeder of the first and only Lagotto Romagnolo bred in the US that has won Best of Breed at the breed’s National Specialty, Westminster, the National Championships and the National Dog Show. He was the number one breed ranked LR in 2018. All five accomplish- ments are pinnacle milestones to achieving a breeders’ show dream come true! ADRIENNE PERRY Adrienne Perry is the Judges
Education Coordinator for the Lagotto Romagnolo Club of Amer- ica and has worked on both versions of the AKC standard. She is a past president of the club, serving five consecutive terms on the board. She is a breeder of merit in lagotto as well as in her original breed, Rottweilers. She is currently a provisional judge in Lagotto, and hopes to add a vari-
ety of working and sporting groups to her judging roster soon. We are located in Tucson, Arizona. I’m retired and working on my breeds for judging. Do I feel the average person on the street knows what the breed is? Not necessarily, and that’s a good thing. We are all wor- ried about becoming very popular, very fast. And this isn’t a breed for everyone! What qualities in the field also come in handy around the house? A mature lagotto is a lovely pet with a nice “off switch”. Up to the age of two however, they can be very busy and demanding. A Lagotto would make a really nice “dog sport dog” they are very agile, intelligent and connected to their owners. What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? He is too smart/busy for the average dog owner, especially if they came to this breed because they are listed as hypo-allergenic and the poten- tial owner lacks previous dog experience because of allergies. If you can lay down the rules (in a positive way, they are a very soft breed) and get through crate training and puberty, they are very cuddly and easy dogs to be around. Some lines seem slow to house-train.
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