Q: Are lagotto easy to groom?
A: Yes and No!
If you want the dog cut down for most of the year then yes, they are very easy. Initially, when this breed was first imported we were all told never to brush them and to cut them down several times a year. Well.....ick! that's a good recipe for skin conditions, and a great environment for fleas and ticks. The hair continues to grow and sheds into itself making mats like a sheep's pelt. And who wants to share the sofa with a dog in that shape? Not me! So here's the deal: if you want your dog to look like mine do (in show trim, or cut back show trim) then yes, there is a fair amount of grooming involved. You'll need to learn how to handle clippers/figure out blades and at least learn some scissoring techniques. The good news is that it isn't that hard to learn! The lagotto coat is very forgiving! Make a "hole" while scissoring you can usually "hide" it by fluffing up the coat around it until it grows back out. If you want to learn how to groom a lagotto--even a show lagotto--you absolutely can! I did not have a great deal of grooming experience prior to Terzo's arrival and by taking some scissoring lessons, asking a lot of questions, and studying dogs in pictures and in the flesh in Europe, I've gotten pretty good.
Both pictures are of Terzo. The shaved version is his summer cut down for 2012, the second shot is him in full coat in Switzerland in Spring, 2013. When he was shaved for the summer, he was scissored back about every 2 weeks. You must brush through the coat at least once a week to prevent matting, and it must be brushed out before getting wet or you will set in whatever mats are there. If you have a forced air dryer, you can use it in place of brushing and possibly to get the dirt out and avoid a bath altogether. Beards (especially white ones) need to be kept clean on a daily basis.
The coats have a lot of variation. So your dog may mat more easily than mine. The colors are different as well. And the coats and colors change over time. So just when you think you know something about Lagotto grooming, you get a dog that is a different color and has different issues! It is said that the white dogs are more prone to matting. Some dogs have more soft "cottony" undercoat than others. Some dogs have a LOT of ear hair (Terzo!) and it has to be plucked periodically. In the beginning, I groomed every dog that I could. Pippi's mom, "Sylvie," is a white dog (with orange ears) and has the harshest coat I've ever felt, and mats brush right out of it.....
Groomers don't really know what to do with our dogs yet. So in the US unless you live in an area where some brave lagotto owner has "gone before," or live near your breeder you will have a very hard time dropping off your dog at the groomer and having it look the way you expected when you pick her up! The shape of the head and the proper trimming of the tail seem to be the areas of most confusion......
So my words of wisdom are: grooming is largely a do it yourself affair. If you're comfortable with a shaved down dog, then grooming is easy! If not, then think of lagotto grooming as your new hobby! One of my friends from the Netherlands sums it up best, "Yes, the lagotto is a rustic breed. But even the farmer gets cleaned up and puts on his best for church." I try to keep that in mind each time I prepare a dog for show. We never want this breed to turn into a poodle or bichon in terms of how we present it in the show ring, but we must also practice good animal husbandry in terms of cleanliness and health for the skin, coat and ears.