Havanese

Table of Contents

havanese portrait
Prepare to be swept off your feet by the delightful Havanese, a breed that never fails to impress with its remarkable traits and endearing qualities! These small, fluffy dogs are known for their lustrous coats, animated expressions, and upbeat personalities.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Havanese is a perfect companion for those who love constant company. These silky-coated charmers are playful, intelligent, and thrive in family environments. Their low exercise needs and small size make them great even for apartment dwellers. They’re truly loveable entertainers who quickly steal hearts!

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEHavanese
OTHER NAMESHavanese Cuban Bichon, Bichón Havanés, Havaneser, Havanezer
ORIGINCuba
BREED GROUPToy Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT8.5-11.5 inches
WEIGHT7-13 lbs
LIFESPAN14-16 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERModerate
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERHigh
GROOMING NEEDSHigh
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYLow
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK25th
white havanese walking outdoors
Photo: buchsammy/Getty Images

Appearance

The Havanese is a small, sturdy, and charming canine with a distinctive appearance that sets it apart from other toy breeds. These dogs typically stand between 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 7 to 13 pounds, making them an ideal size for companionship and easy handling.

The body of the Havanese is slightly longer than it is tall, giving them a rectangular shape. They possess a strong, well-muscled frame with well-sprung ribs and a level topline. Their legs are straight and proportionate to their bodies, providing them with a lively and elegant gait.

Havanese tails are plumed and carried high over their backs, often forming a loose loop or lying flat against their rumps. This tail carriage adds to their overall cheerful and spirited demeanor.

The heads of Havanese are moderately broad, slightly rounded, and in proportion to their bodies. They have a well-defined stop, which is the point where the muzzle meets the forehead. Their muzzles are full, slightly tapered, and of medium length, contributing to their expressive and endearing faces.

Their ears are medium-sized, set high on the head, and droop close to the cheeks. The ears are covered with long, silky hair that may form a fringe, giving them a soft and gentle appearance.

Havanese eyes are almond-shaped, dark brown, and set fairly wide apart, which imparts an intelligent and curious expression. Their eye rims are fully pigmented, matching the color of their noses, which are either black or chocolate, depending on their coat color.

One of the most striking features of the Havanese is their luxurious double coat. The coat is comprised of a soft, dense undercoat and a slightly wavy or curly outer coat that gives them a fluffy appearance.

The texture of the coat is silky and lightweight, and it may vary from being nearly straight to possessing ringlets or corkscrew curls. The coat is abundant and drapes over the entire body, with longer hair on the head often forming a charming topknot.

Havanese come in a wide range of colors and patterns, including black, white, cream, gold, silver, blue, chocolate, and various combinations thereof. They may also have markings such as brindle, sable, parti-color, or tricolor, adding to the breed’s diverse and captivating appearance.

white havanese at a bridge
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Temperament

The Havanese is renowned for its affectionate, friendly, and outgoing temperament, making them an ideal choice for those seeking a loving and devoted companion. These charming canines are known for their lively personalities, intelligence, and adaptability, which contribute to their widespread appeal among dog enthusiasts.

They are incredibly people-oriented, forming strong bonds with their family members. They thrive on human companionship and have a strong desire to be an integral part of their owners’ lives. This endearing trait means that they are happiest when they can participate in daily activities, whether it’s snuggling on the couch or accompanying their owners on errands.

Their gentle and affectionate nature makes Havanese particularly well-suited for families with children. They are patient and playful with kids, enjoying interactive games and cuddling sessions. However, due to their small size, it is essential to teach children how to handle these dogs gently and respectfully, ensuring the safety and well-being of both the child and the dog.

When it comes to strangers, Havanese are generally sociable and welcoming, although some individuals may be more reserved initially. Early socialization is crucial in helping these dogs develop confidence and comfort around new people, ultimately becoming friendly and well-mannered greeters.

Havanese typically get along well with other pets, including both dogs and cats. Their amiable disposition and playful demeanor make them excellent companions for other animals, provided they are introduced and socialized properly. However, as with any breed, supervision and gradual introductions are essential when bringing a new pet into the household.

They have an innate ability to entertain and bring joy to those around them. Often referred to as “clownish,” these dogs love to perform tricks, play games, and engage in amusing antics that are sure to put a smile on their owners’ faces. Their agile and nimble nature, combined with their intelligence, makes them quick learners and enthusiastic performers.

Havanese are also known for their sensitivity and emotional intelligence, often picking up on their owners’ moods and offering comfort and companionship during difficult times. This empathetic nature has led to their success as therapy dogs, providing support and affection to those in need.

Despite their small size, Havanese possess a surprising amount of energy and curiosity. They enjoy exploring their environment and engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzle toys or scent work. However, they are also content with more low-key activities, like leisurely strolls or cuddling with their favorite human.

While the Havanese is generally adaptable and easygoing, it is essential to remember that each dog is an individual with its unique personality traits. Providing consistent training, socialization, and mental stimulation from an early age will help ensure that your Havanese develops into a well-rounded and confident companion, ready to bring joy and love to your life.

havanese walking on grass
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Ideal Environment

The Havanese is highly adaptable and can thrive in a variety of living environments, making them a popular choice for many pet owners.

Physical Environment

These small, companionable dogs are well-suited for apartment living, as their size and moderate exercise needs allow them to be comfortable in smaller spaces. They are also content in suburban homes with yards, as long as they receive ample attention and interaction from their human family.

Climate Adaptability

Regarding climate adaptability, the Havanese has some specific considerations. Their thick double coat provides insulation, which helps them tolerate colder temperatures relatively well. However, it is essential to ensure that your Havanese has access to a warm, dry shelter during winter months and does not spend excessive time outdoors in extreme cold.

On the other hand, the coat can make them prone to overheating in hot climates. To keep your dog comfortable during the warmer months, provide them with plenty of fresh water, shade, and opportunities to cool down, such as air-conditioned indoor spaces or cooling mats.

Avoid exercising your Havanese during the hottest parts of the day, opting instead for early morning or evening walks when temperatures are cooler.

Ideal Owner

Havanese are an excellent choice for various types of pet parents, including singles, couples, families with children, and seniors. Their affectionate and friendly nature makes them wonderful companions for those who are willing to invest time and effort in building a strong bond with their canine friend.

They are particularly well-suited for individuals who are home most of the time, as these dogs crave companionship and may become anxious or unhappy if left alone for extended periods.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, Havanese typically get along well with other animals, including both dogs and cats. Their sociable and easygoing demeanor allows them to adapt to multi-pet households, provided they are introduced and socialized properly.

havanese standing in a forest
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Grooming

The Havanese, with its luxurious double coat, requires regular grooming to keep them looking and feeling their best. Attending to their grooming needs not only helps maintain their appearance but also prevents potential health issues, such as skin irritations and matting.

Coat Care

One of the most important aspects of Havanese grooming is coat care. Their long, silky coats need daily brushing to remove loose hair, prevent tangles, and distribute natural oils throughout the fur.

Using a high-quality slicker brush and a metal comb will help ensure that you can effectively detangle your dog’s coat without causing discomfort. When brushing, make sure to work through each layer of the coat, starting at the skin and working your way outwards.

Pay particular attention to areas prone to matting, such as behind the ears, between the legs, and around the collar area.

In addition to daily brushing, Havanese may require professional grooming every 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the desired coat length and style.

Some owners prefer to keep their Havanese in a “puppy cut,” which involves trimming the coat to a uniform length of around 1 to 2 inches. This shorter style can be more manageable and easier to maintain, although it still requires regular brushing.

Other owners choose to leave the coat long and flowing, which highlights the breed’s natural elegance but requires more diligent grooming efforts.

Bathing your Havanese should be done as needed, typically every 4 to 6 weeks or when they become dirty or smelly. Use a gentle, dog-specific shampoo to cleanse their coat without stripping essential oils.

Make sure to thoroughly rinse the shampoo from their fur to prevent residue buildup and irritation. After bathing, towel-dry your dog and use a hairdryer on a low heat setting to dry their coat completely, as dampness can lead to skin issues.

Dental Care

Dental care is another vital aspect of Havanese grooming. Regular tooth brushing with a dog-specific toothpaste and toothbrush can help prevent dental issues such as plaque buildup, gum disease, and bad breath. Aim to brush your Havanese’s teeth at least 2 to 3 times per week, if not daily. In addition to brushing, providing dental chews and toys can help promote oral health.

Nail Trimming

Nail care is essential for the Havanese, as long nails can cause discomfort and affect their gait. Trim your dog’s nails every 3 to 4 weeks, using a high-quality nail clipper or grinder designed for dogs. Be cautious when trimming to avoid cutting the quick, which is the blood vessel within the nail. If you are unsure about trimming your dog’s nails, consult a professional groomer or veterinarian for guidance.

Ear Care

Lastly, routine ear cleaning is necessary to keep your Havanese’s ears healthy and free of debris. Check your dog’s ears weekly for signs of redness, odor, or discharge, which may indicate an infection. Gently clean the outer ear with a dog-safe ear cleaner and a cotton ball, being careful not to insert anything into the ear canal itself.

By establishing a consistent grooming routine and addressing your Havanese’s coat, dental, nail, and ear care needs, you can ensure that your canine companion stays healthy, comfortable, and looking their best.

havanese walking at a park
Photo: Andrea Kurz/Getty Images

Exercise

The Havanese, despite its small size, has moderate exercise needs that are essential for maintaining their physical health and mental well-being. Providing your Havanese with a variety of activities will help keep them engaged, happy, and fit.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, Havanese require about 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, which can be divided into multiple shorter sessions. Keep in mind that individual exercise needs may vary depending on factors like age, health, and activity level.

Daily walks are a great way to provide consistent exercise for your Havanese. Aim for two or three leisurely strolls each day, allowing your dog to sniff and explore their surroundings. Walking not only provides physical exercise but also serves as an opportunity for mental stimulation and socialization.

In addition to walks, Havanese enjoy engaging in playtime with their owners. Interactive games such as fetch, tug-of-war, and hide-and-seek can provide both physical activity and mental enrichment. These play sessions can take place indoors or outdoors, making them suitable for various living environments.

Finally, don’t forget to incorporate mental stimulation into your Havanese’s exercise routine. Puzzle toys, scent work, and trick training can help keep their minds sharp and engaged, contributing to their overall well-being.

Dog Sports

Havanese are intelligent and agile, making them excellent candidates for dog sports and competitions. Activities such as agility, obedience, rally, and canine freestyle can provide a fun and challenging way for your dog to expend energy while strengthening the bond between you and your canine companion. Training for these sports can begin at a young age, with puppy classes offering a solid foundation for future participation.

Exercise Precautions

While Havanese are not typically high-energy, it is important to monitor their exercise levels to ensure they remain healthy and fit. Overweight or under-exercised Havanese can be prone to health issues, such as joint problems or heart disease. Regularly assess your dog’s weight and body condition, adjusting their exercise routine as needed to maintain optimal health.

havanese jumping
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Training

The Havanese is known for its intelligence and eagerness to please, making them generally easy to train. They are quick learners and respond well to positive reinforcement training methods, which focus on rewarding good behavior with praise, treats, or toys.

When training a Havanese, it’s essential to start early, ideally during the puppy stage. Early socialization and puppy classes can help lay the foundation for a well-mannered adult dog. Introducing your Havanese to a variety of people, animals, and environments during their first few months of life will help them become more confident and adaptable later on.

Havanese are highly sensitive to their owner’s emotions and tone of voice, so it’s crucial to remain patient, consistent, and positive during training sessions. Harsh corrections or negative reinforcement can be counterproductive and may cause your Havanese to become fearful or anxious. Instead, focus on rewarding desired behaviors and redirecting any unwanted actions.

Consistency is key when training a Havanese. Make sure that all family members are on board with the training process and use the same commands and techniques to avoid confusing your dog. Establishing a regular training routine, even if it’s just a few minutes each day, can help reinforce learned behaviors and strengthen the bond between you and your canine companion.

Havanese excel in various dog sports and activities, such as agility, obedience, rally, and canine freestyle. These activities can provide mental and physical stimulation while offering a fun way to continue training and bonding with your dog.

One potential challenge when training a Havanese can be housebreaking, as they may take longer to become fully housetrained compared to other breeds. Patience, consistency, and a regular schedule are essential for helping your Havanese learn proper elimination habits.

havanese sitting on a ledge
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Diet & Nutrition 

Proper diet and nutrition are essential for maintaining the health and well-being of your Havanese. Providing a balanced, high-quality diet tailored to their specific needs will help support their growth, energy levels, and overall health.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting a food for your Havanese, look for options that adhere to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines, which ensure that the product meets minimum nutritional standards. You can choose from dry kibble, wet food, or raw diets, depending on your dog’s preferences and your veterinarian’s recommendations.

The amount of food your Havanese requires will depend on their age, weight, activity level, and metabolism. As a general guideline, adult Havanese typically need around 30 to 40 calories per pound of body weight per day.

For example, a 10-pound adult Havanese may require 300 to 400 calories daily. Puppies, on the other hand, require more calories for growth and development, so consult your veterinarian for specific feeding recommendations.

It’s essential to divide the daily food allowance into multiple smaller meals to help maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevent overeating. Most Havanese do well with two meals per day, while puppies may need three to four meals daily.

Regularly monitor your Havanese’s weight and body condition to ensure they are maintaining a healthy size. If you notice changes in your dog’s weight or eating habits, consult your veterinarian for guidance on adjusting their diet and portion sizes.

Treats

When it comes to treats, moderation is key. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your dog’s daily caloric intake to prevent weight gain and nutritional imbalances. Opt for healthy, low-calorie options like lean meats, fruits, and vegetables, avoiding high-fat or high-sodium treats. Always introduce new treats gradually and be aware of any potential allergies or sensitivities.

Water

Fresh water is a crucial component of your Havanese’s diet. Ensure that your dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times, and change the water at least once daily. Encourage hydration by placing water bowls in multiple locations and using a pet water fountain to entice your dog to drink more.

black havanese relaxing on the bed
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Health

The Havanese is generally considered a healthy and hardy breed, with a life expectancy of 14 to 16 years. However, like all breeds, they may be predisposed to certain health issues. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and proper exercise can help ensure your Havanese maintains optimal health throughout their life.

Here are common health issues associated with the Havanese breed:

Luxating Patella: This condition occurs when the kneecap (patella) slips out of its normal position, causing discomfort and potentially leading to arthritis or lameness. Treatment options may include weight management, physical therapy, or surgery, depending on the severity.

Hip Dysplasia: This genetic disorder affects the hip joint, where the head of the femur doesn’t fit properly into the hip socket. This can lead to pain, inflammation, and arthritis over time. Maintaining a healthy weight and providing joint supplements can help manage symptoms, but severe cases may require surgical intervention.

Eye Disorders: Havanese can be prone to various eye issues, such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and cherry eye. Regular eye exams by a veterinarian can help detect these conditions early and determine the appropriate treatment plan.

Allergies: Havanese may experience allergies, which can manifest as skin irritations, itching, or digestive issues. Identifying the allergen (such as food, environmental factors, or fleas) and implementing an appropriate management plan can help alleviate symptoms.

Heart Issues: Some Havanese may be predisposed to heart conditions, such as mitral valve disease or patent ductus arteriosus (PDA). Regular veterinary check-ups, including heart screenings, can help detect any heart abnormalities early and determine the best course of action for treatment.

In addition to being aware of these common health issues, it’s essential to choose a reputable breeder who performs relevant health tests and provides a comprehensive health history for their breeding dogs. This can help minimize the risk of genetic conditions and ensure that your Havanese puppy has the best possible start in life.

By staying vigilant about your Havanese’s health, addressing any concerns promptly, and providing proper care and attention, you can help them enjoy a long, happy, and healthy life by your side.

havanese dogs at the sea
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History

The Havanese has a rich and fascinating history that traces back to the early days of European exploration and the New World. As their name suggests, the Havanese originated in Havana, Cuba, where they became beloved companions for Cuban aristocracy and wealthy families.

The breed’s ancestry can be traced back to the Bichon family of dogs, which includes several small, companionable breeds from the Mediterranean region, such as the Bichon Frise, Maltese, and Coton de Tulear.

It is believed that Spanish traders and settlers brought these small, friendly dogs to Cuba during the 16th and 17th centuries. Over time, these dogs adapted to the climate and culture of the island, eventually developing into the distinct Havanese breed we know today.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Havanese became highly sought-after pets among Cuban high society and were often referred to as “Habaneros” or “Blanquito de la Habana.” Their luxurious coats, affectionate temperament, and adaptable nature made them ideal companions for the aristocracy.

The breed also gained popularity in Europe during this period, where they were cherished by notable figures such as Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens.

The Havanese breed faced near extinction during the Cuban Revolution in the mid-20th century, as many families fled the country, leaving their dogs behind. A few dedicated breed enthusiasts managed to rescue a handful of Havanese and brought them to the United States, where efforts to revive the breed began in earnest.

In the 1970s, a group of American breeders, led by Dorothy and Bert Goodale, took it upon themselves to preserve and promote the Havanese breed.

They acquired several Havanese from European breeders and began an extensive breeding program that emphasized genetic diversity and adherence to breed standards. Their efforts proved successful, and the Havanese breed gradually gained popularity in the United States.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) first recognized the Havanese as a distinct breed in 1996, and they were officially added to the Toy Group. Since then, the breed has continued to grow in popularity, thanks to its charming personality, adaptable nature, and suitability as a family pet.

In popular culture, the Havanese has made its mark as a beloved pet among celebrities and notable figures. Stars such as Barbara Walters, Venus Williams, and Ernest Hemingway have all been proud Havanese owners.

The breed has also made appearances in various films and television shows, showcasing their endearing qualities and further solidifying their place in the hearts of dog lovers worldwide.

Today, the Havanese breed is celebrated for its affectionate and playful temperament, making them a popular choice for families, singles, and seniors alike. Their rich history, combined with their undeniable charm and adaptability, ensures that the Havanese will remain a cherished companion for generations to come.

Parent Club

The official breed club for the Havanese breed in the United States is the Havanese Club of America (HCA). Founded in 1979, the HCA is dedicated to promoting and protecting the Havanese breed through responsible breeding practices, education, and advocacy.

The club offers resources for Havanese owners, breeders, and enthusiasts, as well as hosting events and activities related to the breed.

You can visit their website for more information about the Havanese breed and the club’s initiatives.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Havanese’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

havanese puppy sitting on the grass
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Acquiring

Getting ready to welcome a Havanese dog into your home? First, prepare for a cuddly, playful, and incredibly charming addition. Gather essentials like food, toys, a comfy bed, grooming supplies, and plenty of patience for their clever antics!

If you’re looking to buy, choose a reputable breeder. Ask about the parent dogs’ health and temperament, and ensure the pups are raised in clean, loving conditions.

But, consider rescue over buying! There are countless adorable Havanese dogs longing for a forever home. The American Kennel Club and the Havanese Club of America can guide you towards rescue organizations.

Remember, every rescued Havanese is one less purchased from unethical sources. Whether you buy or rescue, prepare for a joyful journey filled with love, laughter, and a tail-wagging companion who’ll make your house a home.

FAQs

Are Havanese a one-person dog?

Havanese are known for their affectionate and social nature, which allows them to form strong bonds with all members of the family. While they may develop a special connection with one person, they generally enjoy interacting with and receiving attention from everyone in the household.

Are Havanese quiet?

Havanese are not typically known for being excessively vocal. While they may bark occasionally to alert their owners of potential intruders or unusual noises, they are generally considered a quieter breed. Proper training and socialization can help ensure that your Havanese remains well-behaved and doesn’t develop excessive barking habits.

Are Havanese similar to Shih Tzus?

While Havanese and Shih Tzus share some similarities, such as their small size and long, flowing coats, they are distinct breeds with unique characteristics. Havanese tend to be more energetic and playful compared to the more laid-back Shih Tzu. Additionally, Havanese have a slightly different coat texture and require different grooming techniques.

What is so special about the Havanese?

The Havanese is known for its friendly, affectionate, and adaptable nature, making it an excellent choice for families, singles, and seniors alike. Their small size, moderate exercise needs, and non-shedding coat also make them well-suited for various living environments, including apartments and homes with limited outdoor space.

How often do Havanese need grooming?

Havanese require regular grooming to maintain their long, silky coats and prevent matting. Brushing should be done at least a few times per week, while professional grooming appointments should be scheduled every 6 to 8 weeks. Regular bathing, nail trimming, and ear cleaning are also essential for maintaining the overall health and appearance of your Havanese.

Are Havanese good with children?

Havanese are generally good with children due to their friendly, gentle, and patient nature. They enjoy playing and interacting with kids, making them an excellent choice for families. However, it is essential to teach children how to interact safely and respectfully with dogs, as Havanese are small and can be injured if mishandled.

Do Havanese get along with other pets?

Havanese typically get along well with other pets, including dogs and cats, due to their social and adaptable personality. Early socialization and proper introductions can help ensure harmonious relationships between your Havanese and other pets in the household.

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