Havanese

Havanese Facts

  • Breed Type: Purebred
  • Size: Small
  • Lifespan: 13 – 15 years
  • Temperament: Affectionate, Companionable, Gentle, Intelligent, Playful, Responsive
  • Colors: Black, Fawn, Havana Brown, Mahogany, Tobacco, White
  • Hypoallergenic: Yes
  • Related Dog Breeds:

Havanese dog drawing by Dog Breeds List

If you want a dog that’s made of silk, then the Havanese is about as close as you can get. These sociable and happy pups are known for their elegant locks. But fine, silky strands aren’t the only option.

The Havanese is one of the few breeds that can totally pull off the dreadlock look.

It’s not a hairdo you’ll see every day on this pup. (The process of cording a Havanese can take up to two years!)

But if you’re up for the challenge, dreads look terrific on this breed.

History

The Havanese is one of several breeds originating from the ancient Bichon family. Made up of generic small white pups, these ancient dogs have given birth to not only the Havanese breed, but also to the Maltese and Bichon Frise breeds.

For centuries, Bichon-type dogs were a world-wide hype. If you were rich or royal, you probably had one of these little lap dogs. Not only were they adorable, but they also set you and other aristocrats apart from people of lower social classes.    

The Havanese, in particular, was the great lap dog of Cuban aristocrats. But how he got to Cuba–we aren’t for certain. 

The breed’s forebearers are thought to have been brought either by the Spaniards during the 1600’s or by Italian sea captains. Whichever way he arrived there doesn’t much matter–the fact is, he arrived. 

And once he arrived, he settled. 

Hard. 

For 300 years, in fact. 

During this time, the Havana Silk Dog (as he was then known) was interbred and perfected into the Havanese we know today.

It wasn’t until the 1959 Communist takeover of Cuba that the breed began spreading to other parts of the world. In that year, several Cuban refugees arrived to the United States with their precious pups in tow.

And from those few pups, the Havanese breed became established in the United States, gaining AKC recognition in 1995.

Are Havanese Good Family Dogs?

The Havanese is an affectionate family dog that gets along with just about everybody!  

He does well with other dogs, as well as different types of pets.  

And he has a huge heart for people. He’d love a good snuggle with your grandma. But he is also an excellent dog around children of all ages.  

There is one thing to be aware of when mixing a Havanese with young kids: this breed is small and can be easily injured. This is especially true during puppyhood. So be sure to teach your little ones how to properly handle a dog. And always supervise their interactions to ensure both stay safe. 

As for living situations, the Havanese is adaptable. He’d do well in an apartment, as well as in a house with a big yard. 

It won’t matter much to him where he lives so long as you’re there with him!

But seriously–

You being home at least most of the time is a MUST.

This breed can suffer from pretty serious separation anxiety when left alone. So, to the worker of long shifts, I’d recommend looking around for another breed.

Care

Nutrition

Havanese need a balanced diet of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy.

Of course the amount of food this breed needs is determined by activity level, metabolism, age, and overall health.

But as a general rule, a Havanese should eat between ½ to 1 cup of high-quality dog food each day.

You should feed your pup twice daily on a schedule, dividing his daily portion into two meals. Don’t leave food out for your dog all the time as this doesn’t allow you to watch how much he is eating.

And make sure to watch that calorie intake! Some Havanese are prone to becoming overweight, so only give your pup treats in moderation. And if he received more than the usual amount of treats on a given day, adjust his meal portion accordingly to avoid overeating.

For further reference, you should check out the guide listed on your dog’s food bag. You may also want to talk to your veterinarian about exactly how much your individual Havanese should be eating.

Again, several factors affect feeding amounts, and each individual dog is different. But these tips should give you a good starting point.

Grooming

While the Havanese is a low-shedding dog and is good for people with allergies, that hypoallergenic feature comes with a cost:

The breed is high maintenance when it comes to grooming. 

The Havanese has a soft, silky coat that is prone to tangles and matting. To avoid painful knots, you’ll need to brush or comb your pup daily. This is especially important if you choose to keep your pup’s coat long. 

Opting for a short trim will, of course, reduce the grooming time. But even with clipped fur, your pup will need to be brushed a few times a week. 

And to keep his fur at a short length, you’ll need to take your pup to the groomer every couple months. 

Along with brushing, baths are also something that need to happen frequently (though definitely NOT daily!) Depending on your lifestyle, your pup should take a trip to the tub every month or so. 

In addition, a lot of Havanese have watery eyes that can leave tear-stains on their faces. To reduce the amount of discoloration, you’ll need to wipe around your pup’s eyes daily with a damp cloth.

Your Havanese also requires the basic grooming care needed by all dogs:

  • Brush his teeth at least once a week to keep him healthy.
  • Trim his nails when needed.
  • Inspect his ears weekly for signs of infection or irritation.

Exercise

The Havanese is a lively, energetic dog with moderate exercise needs.

A brisk daily walk or a good backyard play session will be sufficient to keep him healthy. And if the weather isn’t great outside, then some active playtime around the home should be enough to keep him from going stir-crazy.

So pretty easy. It won’t take a whole lot to wear your pup out.

In fact, one of the biggest concerns when it comes to exercising your Havanese is over-exercise.

(Now, don’t get me wrong–exercise is important for practically all living things, so be sure not to short-change your pup.)

But at the same time, this small dog has his limits. If your Havanese is struggling to keep up with you or is panting heavily, then it’s time to call it quits for the day.

Training

The Havanese is an easily trained breed.

Not only is this pup outgoing, but he’s also really smart and eager to please. All very good traits when it comes to teaching him the in’s and out’s of being a good boy!

Just bear in mind–the Havanese is a sensitive dog and responds poorly to negative training techniques. Harsh scolding will only intimidate and scare him.

Instead, you’ll want to stick with positive training methods. Keep the learning experience fun by using food and praise to reward your pup for good behavior.

And don’t stop at basic obedience training!

The Havanese is a good-natured, comical pup that excels at rally, agility, and other dog sports. He also LOVES to perform tricks. So have a good time with your dog, and don’t hesitate to teach him a few moves just for fun!

While learning tricks is second nature to a Havanese, potty training may not come so easily.

The Havanese can be notoriously hard to housebreak. So you’ll need to have a good deal of patience with your pup.

But don’t worry–he’ll get it eventually!

It may just take some extra time. Crate training is definitely a must to help your pup learn good bathroom habits more quickly.

And finally, as with all pups, Havanese should be socialized from a young age and throughout their lives. Otherwise, they can become excessively fearful of new situations.

Havanese Health Issues

Havanese are a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan between 13 and 15 years of age.

Still, the breed is prone to certain conditions and diseases:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Chondrodysplasia (dwarfism)
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
  • Cataracts
  • Deafness
  • Patellar luxation
  • Portosystemic shunt
  • Heart murmur
  • Mitral valve insufficiency 
  • Liver disease
  • Retinal dysplasia 

Things to Know About Havanese

1. Not a Toy 

Okay so technically speaking, the Havanese is a toy breed, I know. But that doesn’t mean he should be treated like a toy.

I know it may be hard–he’s cute and fluffy and probably reminds you of your favorite childhood teddy bear. But despite his small size, the Havanese is still a dog. And he needs to be treated like one.

By that I mean he needs to learn good manners, and he needs to have rules to live by. The alternative of ignoring bad behavior and constantly spoiling your pup will only result in an overly possessive and skittish dog.

And no one wants that.

Now of course you should love him, treat him kindly, and give him lots of snuggles. That’s a given with any dog.

Just also remember that he thrives on consistency and clearly defined boundaries. So try not to spoil him too much.

2. Two-Eyed, Four-Legged, Fluffy Little People Lover…

Sure looks great to me! Two eyes!

(Okay, so if you didn’t get the reference to the “Flyin’ Purple People Eater” song, no worries. I’m sure your pup won’t judge you too much for it!)

Anyways…

When it comes to people-friendliness, there’s all sorts of categories for dogs to fall under. 

Some dogs love all humans within their little sniffer’s reach. Others love their humans and only their humans. Still others are content to exist in a world of people without giving it much thought.

When it comes to the Havanese, though, you’ll find he’s a bit unique. As I’ve said before, this dog loves all sorts of people. And of all ages, too.

At least when it comes to his own family. Strangers can be a different story depending on the individual dog. Some Havanese can be quite friendly with new people while others are more conservative.

It just depends.

Proper socialization from early puppyhood will definitely help. But it’s also important to recognize that some lines of pups do lean more towards the shy side.

3. The One Person Dog (Sort Of)

So strangers are iffy, okay.

How about with people he knows?

Honestly, when it comes to friends and family, the Havanese is a people lover through and through. So there’ll never be a shortage of snuggles. And there’ll be plenty of playtime to go around, as well.

But even though your Havanese will love everyone in his pack, he may still choose a favorite. So don’t be too surprised if your little pup becomes extra attached to just one special family member in particular.

It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you. He just has his favorites!

4. An Empathetic, Affectionate Friend

The Havanese is a dog that will stick by your side through thick and through thin. He’s happy when you’re happy.

And when you’re not, he’ll probably try his hardest to cheer you up.

That’s one of the reasons he’s so easy to train: he just loves to satisfy you!

And it’s one of the reasons this breed makes for such a great therapy dog and emotional support animal.

5. …That’s Going to Need a Little Extra Love in Return

Unfortunately, his loving nature is probably also one of the reasons this breed tends to suffer from separation anxiety. 

I know we’ve touched on this topic towards the beginning of this article. But I think it’s important enough to merit some reiteration:

The Havanese is a dog that really doesn’t do well alone for long periods of time.

Sure, he’ll survive a few hours alone while you go shopping or run a few errands. But anything beyond that and he’s probably better off going to a doggy daycare center or the like.

And when you do need to leave him alone for a couple hours, I recommend putting him in his crate with a variety of durable toys to keep him occupied. This will ensure his safety, as well as the safety of your new pair of shoes.

6. An Indoor Only Dog

Hopefully after that long, slightly repetitive speal on separation anxiety it’ll go without saying…

The Havanese is without a doubt an indoor only dog.

Of course he’ll love playing in the backyard as well as going on walks and other adventures. But at the end of the day, your home is where this pup belongs.

So if you’re going to get a Havanese, please be willing to welcome him into your house as an equally loved family member!

7. Hoppin’ Havanese! 

If you can’t decide between a dog and a bunny, then the Havanese might just be the perfect in-betweener.

These pups have a unique, bouncy gait that just kinda comes naturally. It’s just another reason the breed is so darn endearing!

8. The Silk Isn’t There Just for Softness

You might assume these little pups were bred to be silky just for the pleasure of the people petting them.

But there’s another reason for the breed’s silk-like fur.

Coming from the hot climate of Cuba, these little dogs needed a coat that would protect them from the sun.

And their soft, long fur does just that. Think of it as a built-in, full-body sun visor that keeps them cool on sweltering hot days.

9. Star of the Show

If ever there was an attention hog-dog, it’s totally the Havanese.

These fun-loving pups love being the center of attention. And they’ll goof off and clown around just to get more of it, too!

A performer at heart, the breed enjoys being up on stage, so to speak. Some were even circus performers back in the day.

10. The Quiet Watchdog  

The Havanese was never bred to be a watchdog, per se, but he still fulfills the role fairly well.

In other words, he will warn you of approaching “danger” without fail. So you’ll always know when the mail is coming or when your next door neighbors are walking their dogs.

But don’t let that worry you too much–

Typically, the Havanese is more of an alert barker. If he notices something out of the ordinary or interesting, he’ll probably give a couple of barks. But this breed is usually not considered a yappy dog.

Still, if your particular pup barks a bit more than you’d like him to, you can teach your Havanese to be silent on command.

11. King of the Hill

Being the good little watchdog he is, your Havanese will probably seek out somewhere high from which to do his favorite job.

That could be a table or the backs of your sofas or the second-story balcony that overlooks your main floor.

He’s not picky. He just likes to sit up above all the action so he can get that perfect bird’s-eye view!

12. And of the Toilet Paper

High-up places aren’t the only thing your Havanese will look for. Chances are he’ll also spend a good amount of time trying to get to the toilet paper.

Yep. You read right–the toilet paper.

And the paper towels and the printer paper and the tissues and…

The list goes on.

That’s because this crazy little pupper loves to shred paper!

Which is great if you’ve been needing a document shredder. But probably not so great if your last available roll of toilet paper ends up strewn across your bedroom floor.

Moral of the story?

Store such things somewhere out of reach!

13. Havanese Coat Colors

So many. Oh so many!

There’s…

  • Black
  • Silver
  • Tan
  • Chocolate
  • Cream
  • Fawn
  • Gold
  • Red
  • Sable
  • Brindle
  • And basically any combinations of those you can think of.

But that’s not all!

There’s also a variety of markings common to the Havanese, including:

  • Cream markings
  • Irish pied
  • Parti-belton
  • Parti-color
  • Silver markings
  • Silver points
  • Tan points
  • White markings

Not sure what some of those words even mean?

Not to worry–neither did I before I was introduced to this gorgeous breed!

Just trust me when I say that each of those crazy-sounding words look beautiful on the fluffy coat of a little Havanese!