The Rustic Lagotto

One wouldn’t think that a breed described as “rustic” would have as precise a wording in its breed standard regarding coat as does the Lagotto Romagnolo, but as the coat is one of the breed’s defining characterisitics, it matters.

The Lagotto is covered in wooly textured curls, and both the AKC and FCI breed standard are very clear that it should never form thin cords. That said, if neglected, it will “felt.”  Curls that are evenly distributed all over the body are made up of a curly top coat that is wrapped by curls of an undercoat, and together, they form complete rings of thick, glorious curls.

In European dog shows, Lagottos are presented as the rustic dogs they are. A bit of scissoring every few weeks, a wash-and-dry before the show, and voila, the dog is groomed. The Lagotta Club of America is keen for their breed to retain the appearance of its working dog heritage. There should be no fluffing or blowing out of coat which should match the lines of the dog, and as this is a coated breed, it is understandable if some are concerned that in the hands of a grooming zealot, the breed will be trimmed, brushed and fluffed within an inch of its life. This is not a pretentious breed, and thus it should never be sculpted, but over-grooming has shown up in breed rings in different parts of the world, and it’s concerning when these dogs are rewarded. Indeed, we’ve read that excessively groomed dogs should be so severely penalized as to be eliminated from competition.

Both breed standards also address coat length,  and while the AKC standard spells out that a clipped coat shouldn’t be longer than a maximum of 1½ to 2 inches in a curled state (not brushed out), a generic rule of thumb for the rest of us is that when inserting one’s little finger into the coat, the coat shouldn’t go past the second joint. Our homework suggests that a Lagotto should be cut back about four or five times a year because the coat continues to grow which can lead to matts or even little cords, neither of which is desirable.

As the breed becomes more popular, and inevitably, do its sharing of winning in the conformation ring, it will be interesting to see if handlers can stick to the script. This is not a Poodle or Bichon and shouldn’t be presented as one.

Image: Antique styled dog standard for the Lagotto Romagnolo by Teodora Nagy of Creativedoglover is available for purchase here.

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