Lagotto Romagnolo Breed Magazine - Showsight

THE LAGOTTO Judging from a working perspective by Jacki BarBieri

T he Lagotto Romagnolo is an ancient breed, originally a bird dog, that dabbled in tru ffl e hunt- ing. A hundred years ago or so, the breeds path of development deviated. Th e lakes began to dry up and in a short time, the breed was used solely as a tru ffl e dog. In the last century, the breed has been used very rarely as a bird dog until it started to work its way into other countries. Some countries, like England, have begun to use then as bird dogs again. I have trained around 70 Lagotto at this time and a few for birds. Th e smaller size and short muzzle makes it di ffi cult for them to handle large ducks, but they do amazing with upland retrieving and smaller birds. But the coat is amazing for water work, when in correct working coat it is impenetrable. Th e coat is highly unique to this breed. In the ones that have the ability and natural skill for birds, the drive and working style is di ff er- ent than most current successful bird dogs. Th e drive is not visibly intense and the working style methodical and slow. Th is comes from the selection of the dogs over the last century to work predawn to dusk covering large areas of ground. Th ey work intensely and daily for several months. Th e tru ffl e season is short so very few breaks the rest and recover. Th e job that they do is very di ff erent than other sporting group dogs. And in judging them I think its criti- cal to understand these things to prioritize the most important features in the breed. Th e first thing that will shock you is the bite, yes the dreaded reverse scissor. Say what? Reverse scissor in a bird dog! Yes, reverse scissor is aloud and should not be penalized. Often in young dogs (that have adult-sized proportions) the bite will be reverse. I have had several that were reverse until they were 3-5 years old that then changed to level. So why the reverse scissor bite? First, understand that it must tight no

more than ¼ " allowed and its preferred that the teeth touch. Th en understand its rela- tive to dogs correct expression. Th e under jaw should be prevalent it should create an upside down letter “C” when the mouth is closed. Th e under jaw should be wide and not narrow. Th e lips should never form a “V” or be a straight line. Th ey should come slightly below the upper jaw most of the time; if the under jaw is correct, the lips will be correct. Th is prominence of the under jaw will often create a reverse scis- sors especially young in life. Th e short wide muzzle and large under jaw are preferred and developed directly related to the job the dog was to do. Th e larger the under jaw, the larger the upper jaw. Th is creates the extra real estate for the most important feature of the breed—the nose. Th e nose should be as large as possible and with open nostrils. Another feature that is important is the back skull. When measured, it should be nearly as wide as it is long. Measure from ear base to ear base and from occipital bone to stop. Meeting the muzzle, which would be wedge shaped, wide and slightly shorter than the length of the rear skull. Th e function of these points create a large brain for a smaller dog and space for a large nose and olfactory areas. Th ey should be a dog of moderate substance. When you look at them, they should appear hardy, sturdy and robust, but not so much though that they could not be agile. Th ere is a dif- ference between being a dog with substance and a heavy dog that can not climb di ffi - cult terrain. Th ey should be square, but an optical illusion that occurs if the breed is with the wrong proportion of leg. A com- mon defect is a dog too short on leg (a throw back from the Spanish water dog). Th is often makes the dog appear very square, but in reality it’s square, because it’s to low on leg. Th e legs should be slightly more than 50% of the total height of the dog and the

chest should not come below the elbow, which often makes the dog with correct length of leg appear long. All of these fea- tures compliment the dogs working style and job demands. Th ey cover large areas of ground, which are often steep and filled with heavy brush. Th ey do both air scent- ing and ground tracking as they work. Th ey are looking for something that is buried under the ground a few inches to almost a foot for something the size of an eraser on up to the size of a fist. Th ere is no odor trail they are following nor open fields searching for lingering odor to follow back to source. Th ey must cognitively remember things that made them successful under condi- tions that would give trouble even to the most seasoned and best tracking dogs that exist. Th ey use their mind as much as they use their nose while working. So they are a dog with a short body but legs long enough to climb, enough muscle and substance to work long hours and a head that allows for the biggest brain and nose possible for its size. Th e job they have been developed for is very di ff erent than any other dog in the sporting group. So some of the features that would be a downside for most dogs in the group are beneficial to the Lagotto Romagnolo. When judging them, keep in mind the work they have been developed to do. Th ey are a delightful happy breed, tails always wagging and eager to work and please you. Th ey have the intelligence of a Terrier with the heart and willingness of a Retriever. Th e biggest issue you will have in the ring is that they will all try to lick you, possibly jump up to greet you or wiggle with joy as you touch them. It is a unique breed that is extremely versatile. You can expect to see them in many venues working, obedi- ence, dock diving, agility, barn hunts, rally and on and on. You will find them fun to judge and those of us in the breed can’t wait to show just how fun they are.


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