Your Lagotto Romagnolo Grooming Techniques Are Damaging Your Dog — Stop Now!
Let me guess, your Lagotto Romagnolo grooming technique includes weekly washing, combing, a thorough brushing, and a monthly trip to the groomer to turn it into a fluffy little fur baby.
For goodness sake, stop it now! (And, enough with the fur baby rubbish while you’re at it).
Your Lagotto is a no-nonsense, water-loving, mountain-climbing, and truffle-digging hunter. Not only is extensive grooming, washing, and pampering disrespectful to its unpretentious nature — but it’s also damaging to your dog’s skin and coat.
Clean and effective Lagotto grooming means understanding your Lagotto’s coat, being sympathetic to your dog’s innate character and drives, and smartening your Lagotto with unextravagant yet practical cutting and combing.
Lagotto Romagnolo Coat
The Lagotto Romagnolo doesn’t have a curly coat all over its body just so it looks cute, gets you likes when you post sickly-sweet images on your social media accounts, or work as a fashion accessory while you parade around the local park.
Instead, its tight-curled and lanolin-protected coat provided an insulating and waterproofing barrier for the dog’s original purpose of being a water retriever. What’s more, this natural fur defense also safeguards against dust and dirt.
This makes it ideal for the low-maintenance demanding owner.
Lagottos love digging, which is why — together with their incredible sense of smell — they’re excellent truffle hunters. And obviously, digging involves dirt.
Everybody looks at Lagottos, especially the white and off-white varieties, and says — Oh no! I couldn’t stand keeping that clean!
But the truth is, you don’t have to!
Their coat will do it on its own — if you just leave it alone. The dirt dries, the dog shakes, and the muck comes off due to the protecting nature of the lanolin. That’s the best part about their coat. Ok, you might have dust and mud all over your floor — but their coat will be clean.
And that is the secret behind Lagotto Romagnolo grooming. Most of the work is done naturally by your dog — you don’t need to keep interfering! Yeah, I know, the media, profit-seeking groomers, and cleaning product manufacturers keep telling you that you need to take your dog every week or so to the groomer. But that’s absolute nonsense.
Bathing Your Lagotto Romagnolo
Because the natural defenses of the Lagotto’s coat repel and expel dirt, you don’t have to bathe your dog as often as you think — even if they are an overenthusiastic explorer and digger.
Recently, I was speaking to a young lady who was talking to me about her Lagotto. During the conversation, she told me that she washed her dog every single week.
When I asked, but why?! She responded — well, he has a skin problem.
I was in disbelief. I told her plainly — he’s got a skin problem because you’re washing him every damn week. Stop washing him! Leave him alone! By all means, put some cream on to soothe the skin as you’ve clearly caused him irritation — but stop washing him all the time!
After I’d calmed down a little, I found out what had been happening. Apparently, she was washing the Lagotto weekly on the advice of her vet! So, she’d gone down to Woolworths and bought some standard shampoo. This soap-based stuff was taking out all the dog’s natural oils, drying the skin, and causing the issues.
I advised her to cut back dramatically on the washing. And, if she really feels she has to clean the dog every month — use soap-free baby shampoo.
Here’s the bottom line on washing, it’s so simple.
Take no notice of online forums, breeder sites, or kennel clubs when they say you should wash your dog weekly, fortnightly, monthly, or whatever. Rubbish. Only bathe your dog when it smells. If it doesn’t smell, don’t do it. And by smell, I mean smells bad — not just having a distinctive dog aroma. The rest of the dirt and dust will be naturally expelled by your Lagotto’s fur.
Lagotto Haircut and Trimming
A quick online search will tell you that your Lagotto’s legs should appear like strong columns showing longer fur than the rest of their body, a tail that’s cut to the shape of a carrot, and hair that graduates up in length from the neck to the skull.
Well, that’s their opinion.
At Lagotto shows here in Australia, where I live, the cuts are far from uniform. In fact, it confuses people watching the shows — as all the dogs will all be groomed and presented differently.
A friend of mine recently went to a local Lagotto show and was completely bewildered. She explained to me how one dog looked like a Bichon Frise, one was presented like a shorn sheep, and another looked as if it had no coat on at all. I said to her, just out of curiosity — lemme guess, the one that looked like a Bichon won? She replied, how did you know that? I just said, ah, it’s predictable.
The thing is there’s so much ignorance about how they should be presented. In Italy, the true home of the Lagotto Romagnolo, they’re shown rustic — the way they’re supposed to be.
That’s just curly-coated, not fluffed up. None of the Italian dogs have hairspray on their body. They’re just the way they’re meant to be — looking like they just walked into the show ring, want to run around for a bit, and then go up a mountain and find you a truffle.
That’s their job.
The problem we have here in Australia is that every time a fuzzy, fluffy, coiffured-within-an-inch-of-its-life Lagotto wins a dog show — it reinforces the fact that’s how they should be. But it’s wrong. Only when they stop winning will the groomers and showers stop this nonsense and go back to the true rustic appearance.
How a Lagotto Should Be Cut
In my opinion, do what you want — within reason — it depends on you and your dog’s preferences.
You can keep it as short as you like, or as long as you like — just don’t make your dog look like a pretentious puffed-up Poodle. But, keep it rustic, meaning that if your newly cut Lagotto runs outside and starts digging up your garden, you’re not bothered that it’s messing up its coat.
That said, if your Lagotto is a straightforward pet, definitely keep it short. You don’t need to have it overly long. Lengthy coats mean more work and more combing.
In the summer months, I do what I was taught by the Italians. I take all the coat off, keeping the dog cooler and allowing their skin to breathe. Then, I just let it grow back naturally.
By winter, the coat will be sufficiently thick to keep your Lagotto warm. And please, don’t buy your dog a jacket to wear. Firstly, you’re humanizing the dog — give it some respect, it’s not a needy toddler. Secondly, the coat will rub against the fur causing it to knot — meaning you end up having to cut their coat to remove the matting.
Lagotto Romagnolo Shedding, Combing, and Brushing
Although Lagottos are down-to-earth, no-nonsense dogs, they still require some combing. Any dog that doesn’t shed — like a Lagotto — you have to groom, there’s just no other option.
But, notice I said comb, not brush. You haven’t got a Poodle.
Lagottos are naturally curly. If you start brushing out the undercoat, your dog will turn into a frizzy nightmare. And, once it frizzes, it begins to knot.
Within a week, the knots become mats — typically in the armpits and between their legs — and then your dog can’t walk, at least not without experiencing pain. The only option you then have is to shave it all off.
So, never brush your Lagotto, but give it a frequent comb.
Lagotto Nails and Ears
To allow your Lagotto to hunt and dig for truffles, they have lengthy and hooked nails — often with the quick longer than in most dogs. So be very careful when trimming, and only take off a tiny amount.
Working on getting your Lagotto comfortable with you — and other groomers — handling their paws, pads, and nails is so important. It starts with handling these sensitive parts of the dog from an early age, building a bond of trust.
Check your Lagotto ears regularly, but don’t go crazy with the scissors. As Lagottos don’t shed, the hair inside the ears wants to continually grow — so let it! This natural trait protects their ears from water and dirt ingress when they’re retrieving and truffle hunting.
Respect Your Lagotto — Give It the Grooming It Deserves
Your Lagotto is a proud outdoor adventurer — show it some respect and groom it like the intrepid down-to-earth dog it is.
Always comb, never brush — ensuring your Lagotto doesn’t turn into a fluffy and matted mess. Only wash it when it smells, and trim the coat to a length suitable for its life circumstances — shorter for in-house pets, longer for outdoorsy water-loving explorers.
Follow these basic Lagotto Romagnolo grooming rules — and you’ll have a happy and dignified dog that remains honest to its Italian heritage.