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Hello,

Looking for anyone with experience with this breed. I am aware (from lots of research) that this breed is high energy. But just how high?! They tick all the boxes for me and I’m looking for a breed that will join in with family walks, runs, bike rides etc but I was wanting a dog that will also chill at home with us. I have a feeling they don’t ever really relax and are non stop. Is there any truth to this? I guess I’d like the coat of a poodle with the temperament of a relaxed golden retriever (or chilled out Labrador!)

I’m basically looking for a low/non shedding dog (because I have two very fluffy ragdoll cats and that’s plenty of fur for me!), a dog who will enjoy outside life (we live in the countryside), good to train, medium size, low prey drive, a family dog (we have two children age 7 and 5), can be left for periods whilst doing the school run/after school clubs, shopping days etc.
I have considered other breeds such as poodles (they seem quite similar), certain terriers, and I’m not sold on the poodle mixes. Seems to be like a PWD ticks all the boxes for us; I’m just concerned about the level of high energy I keep reading about and how they can be real terrors when puppies (surely all puppies are crazy?!) I have been researching the breed for about 3 years and feel like I need to hear it from owners first hand; what they are really like and make a final decision if they are right for us.
Thanks.
 

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I don't own a PWD, but I have met a handful and do own a Lagotto Romagnolo, which often comes up as a similar breed and is compared to the PWD quite frequently. I also own an oversized 'mini' poodle I got as a rehome off Craigslist.

My first thought is that I would not expect a PWD to have a 'relaxed GR' or 'chilled out lab' temperament, except maybe in their senior years. They are a breed known for their energy and thrive with regular exercise and activity. The flip side of this is when you have a breed that's called 'active' and 'energetic' and 'intelligent', you likely also have a dog who will absolutely find ways to entertain themselves if they aren't getting the mental and physical stimulation they need. And that self-entertainment is often not ideal - stealing things off countertops and running around with them, getting into coat pockets or backpacks that were left out, 'helpfully' emptying the laundry basket across the living room, chewing or ripping rugs, furniture, their own bedding... you get the idea.

This may never be a problem if your household is active enough and you're providing mental stimulation in the form of training, 'sniffari' walks in new and interesting areas (esp. green or wooded spaces), and enrichment like puzzle feeders, but you definitely want to look at what you'll be doing daily to meet the dog's physical needs. And it really does need to be something where you're out doing it with the dog - even if that means sitting on a chair and throwing a toy to fetch. A dog left to its own devices in a yard, even a large one, isn't really motivated to exercise the way it really needs. Family walks, bike rides, runs, etc. in the countryside sound awesome! The question is whether those are happening regularly multiple times a week, or are they more of a weekly or 'every so often' kind of thing. Play with kids can also be really awesome activity, but of course you can't rely on the kids to be providing for the dog's needs, so you need to be sure you can keep up with that energy when they're busy with school or friends, away at summer camp, etc.

Energetic dogs often need to be taught how to settle in the house. Some people fall into the trap of exercising the dog until it's ready to collapse and sleep for the rest of the day, but only wind up creating an athlete that demands more and more exercise to be satisfied. You can absolutely talk to breeders about what kind of 'off switch' their dogs have at home, but my experience with my Lagotto is that even as a puppy he needed enforced naptime in his pen or he would become overtired, wild, and cranky (just like some toddlers do when they need a nap). Even now (he'll be two in a few months, so still solidly an adolescent) we sometimes have to enforce calm breaks, because he and my older dog will work each other up and get way overstimulated to the point where they start snarking at each other. We also do regular relaxation/zen/calm training games to build his skills at settling and self-entertaining in calm, appropriate ways (like an appropriate chew toy) when we can't be engaging with him.

In this way he was a VERY different puppy than my poodle was. And still is a very different adolescent. Sam (the poodle) was always very good at settling and napping on his own, though he'd still get worked up sometimes. He's satisfied with much less activity or training, and tolerates periods of time where we can't give him as much activity or attention much better (eg one of us is sick or the weather is extremely nasty or dangerous). All puppies are going to be wild, but not all of them are going to require enforced nap breaks, figure out how to walk their pen across the living room, try to climb the shelving, steal gravel from outside so they can trade it for a treat, etc.

Lagotto also need very careful, high-quality socialization. They're a bit of a sensitive breed and naturally more suspicious of new things or changes in their environment. I can't speak for the PWD entirely, but by reputation they're also a little more sensitive in this regard than, say, a poodle. If you haven't socialized a puppy before, it can be challenging to know what 'good' and 'bad' socialization looks like. In my case, I thought 'good' socialization was having my poodle meet every dog on-leash and interact with them... and I wound up with a dog who's extremely frustrated when he can't approach on-leash dogs and it's turned into a seriously stressful event for him to be around strange dogs at all while he's leashed. A socialization program should focus more on the puppy seeing, hearing, and smelling a wide variety of things and learning to experience things like people and other dogs being around without having to interact with them. Interactions should be much more selective and only occur between people and dogs you know will be good and respectful with the puppy, and be kept short and as positive as possible. No letting a puppy loose in a 'puppy party' with ten other dogs to let them work things out for themselves (even though there absolutely are trainers who do this still). No letting strangers grab or pick up your puppy. No forcing the puppy to approach or interact things they're actively frightened by (but observing them from a distance where your puppy is comfortable and/or letting puppy hang back while you go up and interact with the thing to show it's not scary can be good).

I feel like I'm rambling quite a bit, so I'm going to stop here to say a brief piece about poodles. They're absolutely wonderful dogs, and - in my opinion - quite underappreciated as a wonderful family and companion breed. One of the big advantages with poodles is that they're so popular in comparison with other water dogs, like the PWD, that you can easily find a breeder whose breeding goals align with your family's needs. While a poodle from a breeder who's focused on producing sport or hunting dogs may have a lot of those higher energy needs and intensity that I described above, there's tons of breeders who are focused more on a solid, all-round companion. Their dogs might do therapy work (visiting hospitals and care homes), be service or assistance dogs, and they'll have lots of households you can reach out to and hear how their puppies fit in to their family life, etc. Locally, a standard poodle does a reading program at the library for kids, where kids who aren't super confident with their reading skills can read to him and he'll follow their finger with his nose along the page. His predecessor was also a standard poodle. And you absolutely don't need to keep them in an extreme show cut, if you're hoping for a more rugged look.
 

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I don't own a PWD, but I have met a handful and do own a Lagotto Romagnolo, which often comes up as a similar breed and is compared to the PWD quite frequently. I also own an oversized 'mini' poodle I got as a rehome off Craigslist.

My first thought is that I would not expect a PWD to have a 'relaxed GR' or 'chilled out lab' temperament, except maybe in their senior years. They are a breed known for their energy and thrive with regular exercise and activity. The flip side of this is when you have a breed that's called 'active' and 'energetic' and 'intelligent', you likely also have a dog who will absolutely find ways to entertain themselves if they aren't getting the mental and physical stimulation they need. And that self-entertainment is often not ideal - stealing things off countertops and running around with them, getting into coat pockets or backpacks that were left out, 'helpfully' emptying the laundry basket across the living room, chewing or ripping rugs, furniture, their own bedding... you get the idea.

This may never be a problem if your household is active enough and you're providing mental stimulation in the form of training, 'sniffari' walks in new and interesting areas (esp. green or wooded spaces), and enrichment like puzzle feeders, but you definitely want to look at what you'll be doing daily to meet the dog's physical needs. And it really does need to be something where you're out doing it with the dog - even if that means sitting on a chair and throwing a toy to fetch. A dog left to its own devices in a yard, even a large one, isn't really motivated to exercise the way it really needs. Family walks, bike rides, runs, etc. in the countryside sound awesome! The question is whether those are happening regularly multiple times a week, or are they more of a weekly or 'every so often' kind of thing. Play with kids can also be really awesome activity, but of course you can't rely on the kids to be providing for the dog's needs, so you need to be sure you can keep up with that energy when they're busy with school or friends, away at summer camp, etc.

Energetic dogs often need to be taught how to settle in the house. Some people fall into the trap of exercising the dog until it's ready to collapse and sleep for the rest of the day, but only wind up creating an athlete that demands more and more exercise to be satisfied. You can absolutely talk to breeders about what kind of 'off switch' their dogs have at home, but my experience with my Lagotto is that even as a puppy he needed enforced naptime in his pen or he would become overtired, wild, and cranky (just like some toddlers do when they need a nap). Even now (he'll be two in a few months, so still solidly an adolescent) we sometimes have to enforce calm breaks, because he and my older dog will work each other up and get way overstimulated to the point where they start snarking at each other. We also do regular relaxation/zen/calm training games to build his skills at settling and self-entertaining in calm, appropriate ways (like an appropriate chew toy) when we can't be engaging with him.

In this way he was a VERY different puppy than my poodle was. And still is a very different adolescent. Sam (the poodle) was always very good at settling and napping on his own, though he'd still get worked up sometimes. He's satisfied with much less activity or training, and tolerates periods of time where we can't give him as much activity or attention much better (eg one of us is sick or the weather is extremely nasty or dangerous). All puppies are going to be wild, but not all of them are going to require enforced nap breaks, figure out how to walk their pen across the living room, try to climb the shelving, steal gravel from outside so they can trade it for a treat, etc.

Lagotto also need very careful, high-quality socialization. They're a bit of a sensitive breed and naturally more suspicious of new things or changes in their environment. I can't speak for the PWD entirely, but by reputation they're also a little more sensitive in this regard than, say, a poodle. If you haven't socialized a puppy before, it can be challenging to know what 'good' and 'bad' socialization looks like. In my case, I thought 'good' socialization was having my poodle meet every dog on-leash and interact with them... and I wound up with a dog who's extremely frustrated when he can't approach on-leash dogs and it's turned into a seriously stressful event for him to be around strange dogs at all while he's leashed. A socialization program should focus more on the puppy seeing, hearing, and smelling a wide variety of things and learning to experience things like people and other dogs being around without having to interact with them. Interactions should be much more selective and only occur between people and dogs you know will be good and respectful with the puppy, and be kept short and as positive as possible. No letting a puppy loose in a 'puppy party' with ten other dogs to let them work things out for themselves (even though there absolutely are trainers who do this still). No letting strangers grab or pick up your puppy. No forcing the puppy to approach or interact things they're actively frightened by (but observing them from a distance where your puppy is comfortable and/or letting puppy hang back while you go up and interact with the thing to show it's not scary can be good).

I feel like I'm rambling quite a bit, so I'm going to stop here to say a brief piece about poodles. They're absolutely wonderful dogs, and - in my opinion - quite underappreciated as a wonderful family and companion breed. One of the big advantages with poodles is that they're so popular in comparison with other water dogs, like the PWD, that you can easily find a breeder whose breeding goals align with your family's needs. While a poodle from a breeder who's focused on producing sport or hunting dogs may have a lot of those higher energy needs and intensity that I described above, there's tons of breeders who are focused more on a solid, all-round companion. Their dogs might do therapy work (visiting hospitals and care homes), be service or assistance dogs, and they'll have lots of households you can reach out to and hear how their puppies fit in to their family life, etc. Locally, a standard poodle does a reading program at the library for kids, where kids who aren't super confident with their reading skills can read to him and he'll follow their finger with his nose along the page. His predecessor was also a standard poodle. And you absolutely don't need to keep them in an extreme show cut, if you're hoping for a more rugged look.
Thanks so much. This is really helpful information. I can see you are very experienced with yoke breeds and your knowledge is brilliant. Those are some really good points so I really appreciate your feedback.
 

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Is higher grooming needs acceptable to achieve a lower shedding dog? Many of the more active non-shedders may require maintenance.

As far as “too high energy” if you truly will run/bike/hike etc with a PWD, I doubt you’ll find them too much of a handful
 

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They will relax.... once you've played half an hour of fetch, gone for an hour long walk, and done a "brain game" like find-the-treats, hide and seek, or trick training. If you're willing to do all that, then you can have a dog to just relax with you. But only if you do all that for him. My Border Collie-Spaniel mix (read: crazy combo of two wicked high energy breeds aka energizer bunny) can chill and watch tv if we've done find-the-treats or trick training, as well as a walk... But otherwise we get to listen to the symphony of the squeaky toy over-and-over-and-over-and-over at top volume for an hour.
 

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I wouldn't call myself an expert with having one Lagotto who isn't even out of adolescence yet, but since getting him I've learned a lot, and also heard/read a lot from other owners and my own breeder about their temperaments and how they compare to other breeds. It's hard to describe how things like "energetic", "loves having a job", "eager to train" etc. are different when you read them on a website vs. when you're living with them. Frodo's absolutely been worth it to me, but it's been a steep learning curve going from Samwise (my poodle) to him in terms of his need for stimulation and attention. We're both looking forward to things getting a little more normal over the next few months so I can work on trying some foundation sports/activities with him at our local dog clubs.
 

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They will relax.... once you've played half an hour of fetch, gone for an hour long walk, and done a "brain game" like find-the-treats, hide and seek, or trick training. If you're willing to do all that, then you can have a dog to just relax with you. But only if you do all that for him. My Border Collie-Spaniel mix (read: crazy combo of two wicked high energy breeds aka energizer bunny) can chill and watch tv if we've done find-the-treats or trick training, as well as a walk... But otherwise we get to listen to the symphony of the squeaky toy over-and-over-and-over-and-over at top volume for an hour.
See now that doesn’t sound like too much high maintenance to me. My husband said he’d prefer a more active dog, as we are quite an active family. And if anything it will encourage us to become even more active!

Also is it a case of start as you mean to go on? They will expect it if we spend all day exercising them. But like any dog I guess they can learn to fit into the routine and enjoy exercise and mental stimulation but also down time.
 

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I wouldn't call myself an expert with having one Lagotto who isn't even out of adolescence yet, but since getting him I've learned a lot, and also heard/read a lot from other owners and my own breeder about their temperaments and how they compare to other breeds. It's hard to describe how things like "energetic", "loves having a job", "eager to train" etc. are different when you read them on a website vs. when you're living with them. Frodo's absolutely been worth it to me, but it's been a steep learning curve going from Samwise (my poodle) to him in terms of his need for stimulation and attention. We're both looking forward to things getting a little more normal over the next few months so I can work on trying some foundation sports/activities with him at our local dog clubs.
Thank you. That’s really reassuring to read. I’ve spoken to a couple of breeders now who don’t seem to feel like their dogs are overly crazy in the energy department. I will continue my research!
 

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See now that doesn’t sound like too much high maintenance to me. My husband said he’d prefer a more active dog, as we are quite an active family. And if anything it will encourage us to become even more active!

Also is it a case of start as you mean to go on? They will expect it if we spend all day exercising them. But like any dog I guess they can learn to fit into the routine and enjoy exercise and mental stimulation but also down time.
Sounds like your family is just the kind of family a dog like that needs :) Thee high-energy, "needs a job" type breeds, when their needs are met, (as it seems your pup's will be, for sure) are the best dogs to have- it's so rewarding.

If the dog is getting the proper exercise- yes, even in bad weather lol- they will settle down great. If the dog learns that you do exercise in the morning, mental games in the afternoon, and down-time in the evening (or whatever you decide), they will learn to relax when it's time- but be warned, if you switch it up and don't follow your routine, you may have a "naughty" dog on your hands who's expecting exercise. Routine is key with dogs. Set one up that's doable- and then stick with it.

(Of course, don't over-exercise a puppy)
 

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Settling is something that can be taught, and does NEED to be taught with some dogs (especially in higher energy, 'busier' breeds), even if they're getting enough physical and mental stimulation. I personally believe that even high energy dogs should be able to tolerate a day or two of minimal activity every now and then, whether due to nasty/unsafe weather, family emergency, illness, etc. and approach a situation where a dog is climbing the walls because they missed a single walk - or their walk was only 45 minutes instead of an hour and a half - more as a training issue than an underexercise problem.

Obviously training to settle can not and should not replace appropriate exercise, and a high-energy dog that has high mental stimulation needs is going to be less tolerant of extended periods of reduced exercise than a lower energy dog. But some people definitely wind up in a situation where they feel almost held hostage by their dog's exercise regime, and they HAVE to do it EVERY DAY for at least X amount of time (often in the 2+ hour range) or their dog is impossible to live with. That's neither great for the dog - to have limited to no skill at managing their arousal without being physically exhausted - nor a sustainable lifestyle for most households.
 
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