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Havanese puppy

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Toy group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height – 8.5 to 11.5 inches
  • Weight – 7 to 13 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Long, silky, soft double coat
  • Coat color – Black, silver, chocolate, gold, fawn, cream, red, white, sable, and brindle. Any of these colors may also include markings, points, or parti (flecks that give the coat a salt-and-pepper appearance). Havanese coats are unique in that they change, sometimes substantially, as the dog matures from puppyhood.
  • Exercise needs – Moderate
  • Intelligence – High intelligence
  • Barking – Moderate
  • Life span – 14 to 16 years
  • Temperament – Friendly, social, affectionate, and incredibly loyal
  • Hypoallergenic – No, but the Havanese may be less likely to cause allergy symptoms due to minimal dander and low shedding
  • Origin – Cuba

Havanese fun facts 

  • Only breed native to Cuba
  • Shares DNA with the poodle and bichon frisé
  • A favorite lap dog of nobility and the affluent, it almost went extinct during the Cuban Revolution
Havanese dogs hiking

Havanese temperament and characteristics 

Havanese have long been adored as a loving and friendly breed. When you welcome a Havanese pup into your home, rest assured your bond will form fast and last forever. Havanese are intelligent and eager to please. They love to play, are great with children and other pets, and delight in having visitors come to the home or in meeting new friends on the street.

No matter what activity you’re planning, be sure to include your Havanese whenever you can. Sometimes referred to as “Velcro dogs,” they don’t do well being left alone for long periods and prefer to be at their owner’s side, taking in everything.  

Common Havanese health problems 

Havanese are small, sturdy dogs with a generally healthy outlook. However, there are several congenital conditions to which the breed is prone. The Havanese Club of America recommends annual testing for the eyes and ears, plus X-rays of the hips and knees to screen for the following health conditions:

  • Eye disease. The CAER (companion animal eye registry) test screens for eye diseases such as cherry eye, progressive retinal atrophy, and degeneration.
  • Deafness. Though rare in Havanese, deafness can be evaluated through the brainstem auditory evoked response, or BAER, test.
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease. Though rare, this disease causes hip pain and lameness in small dog breeds. A radiologist will examine an X-ray of the hip to check for signs of necrosis due to inadequate blood supply.
  • Patellar luxation. Patellar luxation , or a dislocated knee cap, occurs when the groove in which the knee cap moves is too shallow, causing the knee cap to slip in and out. Your vet can check for this condition when your pup is around a year old.
  • Chondrodysplasia. This term refers to abnormal cartilage and bone development in the limbs. Vets often perform X-rays to check for this condition.

Cost of caring for a Havanese

Thankfully, the overall health of Havanese dogs has been carefully maintained by breeders who are dedicated to diligent testing. Because of this, many dogs will lead happy and healthy lives without experiencing any major issues.

However, accidents can happen and when they do, it’s good to be prepared. Health insurance or a pet savings account are great ways to reduce out-of-pocket expenses. You’ll reap the greatest benefits if you sign your pet up early.

History of the Havanese

Whether on the ships of Italian seafarers or aboard the voyages of 18th century Spaniards, these dogs first came to Cuba and instantly stole the hearts of wealthy planters and nobility alike. Havanese, descendants of the bichon frisé, became the national dog of Cuba and spent nearly 300 years living the good life as the preferred lap dogs of Cuba’s elite. In 1959, though, the breed’s course took a sharp turn toward extinction as the Cuban Revolution broke out on the streets of Havana.

While some people were able to flee to America, only 11 Havanese dogs made the trip. Through careful breeding and the help of American fanciers, those 11 refugees created the modern Havanese, which now enjoy worldwide popularity. Perhaps the most famous Havanese owners were Ernest Hemingway, who fell in love with the little dogs while farming in Cuba, Queen Victoria, and Charles Dickens, who owned one named Tim. 

Havanese relaxing on sofa

Caring for your Havanese

Caring for a new puppy of any breed can be overwhelming. You’ll need to make your first trip to the vet and schedule your dog’s vaccinations. Havanese aren’t known for being mischievous, so puppy-proofing your home should be a breeze.

Exercise

As a toy breed, Havanese are fairly energetic, so a daily walk or quick game of catch in the backyard is recommended. While walking or playing, pay attention to your pup for any signs of exertion, like excessive panting. If they seem uncomfortable or are struggling to keep up, it’s time to call it a day. In the city or the country, house or apartment, this breed can thrive in any environment they share with their humans. Just be sure not to leave these attention-seeking dogs alone for too long.

Havanese exercise

Grooming

The silky double coat of the Havanese requires regular brushing to keep it free of mats and tangles. You might also opt for a corded coat or a shorter coat to reduce the amount of grooming required. Occasional baths are recommended, and the corners of the eyes should be wiped clean daily to prevent tear stains. You can also ask a professional groomer to trim the hair around the eyes to lessen the appearance of tear stains.

As with all breeds, regular nail trimming and teeth brushing should be done, and it’s a good idea to introduce your Havanese to these rituals as early as possible. Ear cleaning is especially important to remove excess moisture, wax, or debris from the ear canals to reduce the risk of infection.

Diet and nutrition

It’s always a good idea to consult your vet for proper food portioning, but in general, Havanese puppies should eat three times a day. At around three months, you can increase the amount and reduce the frequency to twice a day.

Training your Havanese

These highly trainable extroverts are natural trick dogs. They do best with patience and positive reinforcement, and they’re always eager to please. It won’t take much for your Havanese to become a great companion, but it is recommended that you socialize them early to ensure they don’t develop anxiety towards other pets, children, or strangers.

Havanese training

Breeds similar to the Havanese

Not quite sure that a Havanese is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  1. Cavalier King Charles spaniel. A fellow toy breed that’s even more popular than the Havanese is the Cavalier King Charles spaniel. Affectionate, calm, and gentle, this breed is also good with children and other pets.
  2. Shih tzu. Similar in stature, demeanor, exercise needs, and grooming requirements is the shih tzu. These little dogs were preferred lap dogs of nobility and are perfect for owners who want a small companion dog whose only job is to look adorable.
  3. Portuguese podengo pequeno. Considered among the world’s smallest hunting dogs, Portuguese podengo pequenos have an ancient lineage and hardy breeding. Like the Havanese, this breed is usually healthy with few genetic problems.

Frequently asked questions

Is a Havanese a good house dog?

These little dogs are great companions in just about any dwelling. Whether that’s an apartment in the city or a ranch in the suburbs, the Havanese will be perfectly content as long as their humans are around.

Are Havanese high maintenance?

Except for daily brushing, there’s very little maintenance required to enjoy the company of a Havanese.

Do Havanese dogs shed?

Havanese do shed, but not like a golden retriever or Labrador retriever that leaves clumps of fur all over the house. Because of their long double coat, the shedded hair gets trapped, which is why daily brushing is so important for preventing mats and tangles.

What are the unique characteristics of a Havanese?

Because of their fierce loyalty, Havanese are prone to anxiety. Early socialization and crate training can help reduce this, but the best course is to include them in your everyday activities.