By helloBARK!
Updated on 12 August 2021
Fact Checked

The Havanese dog is native to Cuba.

These small dogs are popular amongst city dwellers who want canine companions capable of adapting to apartment life.

It’s little surprise the American Kennel Club lists the Havanese dog as the 24th most popular breed in the United States.

The Havanese is used in both the singular and the plural so you can use it to describe one Havanese or two Havanese.

These little dogs can trace their history back to the 1600s when Italian or Spanish explorers brought their ancestors to the New World.

Two of the world’s most famous authors were owners of Havanese: Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens.

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the Havanese breed, including their history, breed standard, temperament and health issues.

We’ll break this article into the following sections to give you an insight into the wonderful Havanese breed.

What is a Havanese dog?

The Havanese are tiny Cubans canines that thrive as companions dogs.

They’re a member of the American Kennel Club’s Toy Group given their small size.

Described as funny, intelligent and outgoing, Havanese are usually sociable dogs that like to be around people.

Perhaps their most noticeable feature is their silky coat that comes in a number of different colors.

Sometimes described as the perfect city dog due to their size and personalities, it’s no wonder they’ve proven so popular throughout the USA and the world.

Their docile personalities make them ideal for first-time dog owners.

If you struggle with allergies to dogs, the good news is Havanese are hypoallergenic. But more on their hypoallergenic coats later!

Where do Havanese come from?

Havanese puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Havanese puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

As their name suggests, the Havanese are native to Cuba. Indeed, they’re considered the national dog of Cuba. They’re a member of the Bichon family of dogs.

The ancestors of the Havanese are thought to have come from Tenerife, the Spanish island of the coast of western Africa.

Some researchers claim that the now extinct Bichon Tenerife is responsible for most members of the Bichon family.

The Havanese is thought to have been developed from the Blanquito de la Habana, which translates to “the little white dog of Havana”. This dog breed is now extinct as well.

Although there is some debate about the original ancestors of the Havanese, it’s generally accepted that Italian and Spanish explorers brought these dogs to Cuba in the 1600s.

Having been used as companion dogs by aristocrats and nobles, colonists introduced the Havanese to the New World and they were an immediate hit. They spent the next 300 years being developed and refined.

The American Kennel Club suggests some Poodle mixes were crossed with the Havanese to result in the breed that we know and love today. Previously called the Havana Silk Dog (aka Blanquito de la Habana).

The Havanese became more common in the United States during the Cuban Revolution. Wealthy Cubans fled to the USA with their companion dogs.

The American Kennel Club describe the revolution as the pivotal moment in the breed’s history in 1959.

These charismatic canines caught the attention of US breeders once the Cuban refugees arrived in the States. It wasn’t long before their initial gene pool of 11 dogs was being expanded.

The American Kennel Club recognised the Havanese dog as a breed in 1996.

They’re considered one of the fastest growing breed in the USA as highlighted by their status as America’s 24th most popular dog (rising from 28th in 2012 and 25th in 2013).

As we mentioned above, two famous people are partly responsible for putting the breed in the spotlight are authors Ernest Hemingway and Charles Dickens. Hemingway fell in love with the breed during his 20 years in Cuba, while Dickens had a Havanese dog called Tim.

What breeds created Havanese dog?

The Havanese is thought to have been created by mixing the original Blanquito de la Habana with other Bichon types and Poodle mixes.

They’re thought to be related to the Bichon Frise and Maltese breeds.

Havanese breed standard

The Havanese have been recognised by the AKC for over 20 years.

As such, the American Kennel Club have set out a breed standard for these adorable little dogs. Here’s a brief synopsis:

The Havanese is a small, sturdy dog of immense charm. The native dog of Cuba, he is beloved as a friendly, intelligent and playful companion. He is slightly longer than tall, with a long, untrimmed, double coat. The Havanese has a short upper arm with moderate shoulder layback and a straight topline that rises slightly from the withers to the croup. The plumed tail is carried arched forward up over the back. The unique springy gait is a result of the breed’s structure and playful, spirited personality. These characteristics of temperament, coat, structure and gait are essential to type.

Having covered the basics, let’s take a closer look at their appearance.

Havanese size

Havanese are members of the American Kennel Club’s Toy Group.

These Cuban dogs usually grow to a height between 8.5 and 11.5 inches (22 to 29 cm). However, the AKC’s breed standard outline the ideal height is between 9 and 10.5 inches. Havanese will usually weigh between 7 and 13 pounds. They’re usually 9 to 10.5 inches (23 to 27 cm) at the withers.

The AKC add in their breed standard:

The height is slightly less than the length from the point of shoulder to point of buttocks, creating a rectangular outline. The Havanese is moderately boned and should never appear coarse or fragile.

Havanese appearance

Havanese puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Havanese puppy (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The Havanese is generally described as a small, sturdy dog. They’re considering charming dogs that enjoy companionship with their pet owners.

Their expression should be soft, intelligent and mischievous. With large, dark brown and almond-shaped eyes, while their ears are broad at the base, dropped and have a distinct fold.

Havanese have a muzzle that is full and rectangular with a broad nose.

These little dogs should have a tail that is high set and arches forward up over the back. It should be plumed with long, silky hair.

Their standout feature is arguably their silky coat. The American Kennel Club describe the coat as long, abundant and wavy. They go on explain that it should stands off the body slightly but flows with movement.

Havanese colors

Havanese can come in a wide variety of colors. Here’s what American Kennel Club write in the breed standard for these Cuban dogs:

All colors and marking patterns are permissible and are of equal merit. The skin may be any color.

They’re coat colors include white, cream, fawn, red, chocolate brown, beige, gold, silver, blue and black. Havanese can have solid color or markings in more than one color. These include sable, brindle, black and tan, tri-color and more.

Havanese temperament

If you’re looking for a companion dog, the Havanese could be the right fit. After all, they’ve been used as lap dogs for the past three or four centuries in both Cuba and Europe.

Havanese usually don’t take long to become attached to their pet owners. They can become particularly enamoured with one family member in particular.

They’ve been dubbed “velcro dogs”.

They’re charming and sociable dogs that tend to do well when it comes to meeting new people and new dogs. Havanese are happy, loving and sure to make you smile.

Their temperament makes them perfect therapy and emotional support dogs. Proving that they’re truly versatile, they often take part in agility competitions.

Havanese training

Havanese are considered intelligent dogs that make them highly trainable.

In Stanley Coren’s infamous ‘Intelligence Of Dogs’ book, he rated the Havanese as the 79th most intelligent dog in the world, aptly just behind the Bichon Frise. This means that they understand new commands in 25 to 40 repetitions, while they’ll obey a first command 50 per cent of the time or better.

However, this might be doing a disservice to the Havanese breed. They usually excel when it comes to training due to their willingness to please their owners.

Hence, they make excellent contenders for agility sports.

A quick search on Reddit’s Havanese Subbreddit has some great testimonials to give us an indication to the IQ of these dogs.

One owner wrote: “My Havanese is so smart and personable!”

Another Havanese parent compared her dog to her parents’ Bichon Poodle: “I love that my Havanese seems to be fairly smart for a little dog and not neurotic! My parents have a Bichon Poodle and while I absolutely love him, my Hav seems a bit smarter and less fearful of everything.”

A pet parent added that her Havanese is smart and affectionate: “She loves cuddles and kisses and she is soo smart! Her affectionate nature was what melted me when I first saw her, though.”

Although training should be relative breeze with these dogs, you’ll need to socialise your Havanese as much as possible as a puppy to ensure they don’t become shy.

Do Havanese bark?

Generally speaking, Havanese don’t have a reputation for being dogs that bark a lot. They’re usually more on the timid side of the canine world.

Unlike some Terrier breeds, Havanese don’t usually bark unless they’ve got a good reason to. For that reason, they make pretty good watch dogs. If they spot movement outside the home, they’ll alert their pet parents.

Having said that, there are always some exceptions to the rule.

If you do have a Havanese or any dog that barks a lot, you may want to contact the services of a professional dog trainer.

Havanese exercise needs

As a toy breed, you may think Havanese don’t require a lot of exercise. However, the American Kennel Club inform that these Cuban dogs have moderate exercise needs. They suggest a brisk daily walk or fun playtime with their owner in the garden or backyard to keep Havanese happy and stimulated.

Dog walking service provider Wag Walking suggest 60 minutes of activity a per day, adding that these dogs can walk up to seven miles per week.

However, don’t fret if it’s wet, windy or freezing outside. You can tire out your Havanese by playing inside the home with toys.

In spite of their exercise recommendations, the AKC add that pet parents shouldn’t over exercise a Havanese of any age.

If you’re worried, you should keep an eye out for excessive panting or be aware if they’re struggling to keep up. We recommend contacting your vet if you have concerns over your Havanese’s health.

Do Havanese have separation anxiety?

Although Havanese are perfect companion dogs that do well in apartments in big cities, that doesn’t mean they can be left at home all day.

The Cuban breed like to be in the company of their pet parents and they’ve got a reputation for struggling with separation anxiety.

This is a chronic canine disorders that occurs when their owners are about to leave or leave the home. The symptoms include excessive barking or howling, destructive chewing or digging, or in some extreme circumstances, defecating or urinating in the home.

We spoke to dog separation anxiety expert Malena DeMartini to help educate dog owners about the issue. While no dog is born with separation anxiety, some breeds to seem predisposed to the issue more than other canines.

Are Havanese hypoallergenic?

Havanese (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Havanese (Photo: Adobe Stock)

Havanese are considered a hypoallergenic dog breed.

Usually when you’re researching a dog breed, one of the first questions you’ll encounter is whether they’re hypoallergenic.

The American Kennel Club outline that there’s no such thing as a 100 per cent hypoallergenic dog. However, some breeds are less likely than other dogs to trigger an allergic reaction.

The AKC list 19 breeds that they recommend for people looking for hypoallergenic dog breeds – and the Havanese isn’t one. They do list their close ancestors the Bichon Frise.

However, the Kennel Club in the UK have a more extensive list posted on their website. The Havanese are included as one of the toy breeds that don’t shed.

Do Havanese shed?

As we mentioned above, Havanese are small dogs that don’t shed. So if you can’t stand dog hair, these could be the right canines for you.

The hair doesn’t fall out – which is great news if you want to avoid the daily chore of vacuuming dog hair around your home.

Havanese grooming

Although Havanese don’t shed a lot, they require a lot of grooming. They’ve got a long, soft and silky coat.

The American Kennel Club recommends grooming Havanese on a daily basis to keep their coat free of mats and tangles. They suggest using a comb or soft brush to groom your Havanese.

When they’ve got a full coat, their hair can grow to eight inches in length. They’ll usually require a weekly bath to maintain the health and quality of their coat.

The Havanese’s coat can naturally cord or be trained to cord. By allowing it cord, you won’t have to brush your dog’s coat on a daily basis, although they’ll still need a weekly bath.

Due to the length of their coat, they can pick up debris, dirt and allergens.

The AKC suggest a number of other care needs where Havanese are concerned:

The corners of the eyes should be gently cleaned daily to prevent tear-stain of the lighter-colored hair in the area. Check the ears often to remove excess wax or accumulated debris, and wipe out the inside of the ear-flap with a slightly moistened gauze or paper towel.

A monthly nail trim is also recommended.

Havanese lifespan

Havanese have a lifespan ranging from 14 to 16 years. However, these dogs can live beyond the age of 16. According to the Kennel Club, the oldest Havanese in the UK lived to the ripe age of 18 years and two months.

Havanese allergies

If you’ve got a Havanese, you may or may not have encountered the issue of skin allergies. These Cuban dogs can often struggle with itchy skin. Pet parents should keep an eye on their feet, belly and ears for signs of itchiness.

Should you have concerns about your Havanese and potential allergy problems, you should contact your local vet immediately.

Havanese health issues

The American Kennel Club describe Havanese as a “generally healthy and fairly long-lived” breed. However, as with all dogs, they can be susceptible to some specific health problems. The health issues include:

• Eye disorders
• Chondrodysplasia
• Deafness
• Heart murmurs
• Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
• Patellar luxation

The Havanese Club of America recommend the following health tests:

• Hip Evaluation
• Ophthalmologist Evaluation
• BAER Testing
• Patella Evaluation

Havanese therapy dogs

Havanese make great therapy dogs due to their affectionate, gentle and social nature. The Havanese Club of America write on their website:

Havanese are well suited to visits in Senior’s facilities and Nursing homes. Their small size is ideal for curling up on a lap or cuddling on a bed. The super soft fur is irresistible and just begs to be stroked. The fact that they don’t shed is a bonus.

They recommend contacting the Delta Society in the USA if you’re interested in making your Havanese a therapy dog.

Havanese breeders

Havanese Club of America have a breeder directory list to help dog lovers in their search for their perfect Havanese puppy. The breeders included in the directory have satisfied the organization’s requirements to be listed.

The club offer the following advice to new Havanese owners:

Most breeders will offer a health guarantee on your puppy. Each breeder’s guarantees are different. They are responsible for selling you a healthy puppy. There should be a time line for you to take your pup to your vet to have it checked for a clean bill of health. If you are not satisfied with the health of your pup, then you should return your pup to the breeder immediately for a full refund.

We recommend asking a breeder to see your puppy interact with its mother, AKC or UKC documentation for the parents, proof of health screening and vet checks. We don’t believe you should ever buy a Havanese or any dog from a pet store, online or through a third-party dealer.

Havanese price

Havanese price can range from breeder to breeder. Usually, the Havanese Club of America suggest the average price of a Havanese puppy ranges between $1,400 and $2,000.

However, the organization warn would-be Havanese buyers shouldn’t pay top price for a puppy if their parents have not been completely health tested, are age appropriate and their information posted to the Canine Health Information Center.

Other potential costs include dog food, pet insurance, grooming, vet trips and much more. You can check out the best pet insurance options in the USA and the UK.

Havanese rescue

You may prefer to rescue a Havanese rather than purchase a puppy. A quick search on Google will present you with a number of options, including havaneserescue.com. They’re an independent charitable organization that has been rescuing Havanese and Havanese-mix dogs in need since 2004.

Havanese mixes

While the Havanese breed is hugely popular, there are a number of different Havanese mixes. Here is an example of some Havanese cross breeders below:

• HavaKlee – Havanese and Alaskan Klee Kai
• Havachon – Bichon Frise Havanese Mix
• Cairnese – Cairn Terrier Havanese Mix
• Cavanese – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Havanese Mix
• Havaco – Cocker Spaniel Havanese Mix
• Havajack – Jack Russell Terrier Havanese Mix
• Havamalt – Maltese Havanese Mix
• Schnese – Miniature Schnauzer Havanese Mix
• Havallon – Papillon Havanese Mix
• Ewokian – Pomeranian Havanese Mix
• Poovanese – Poodle Havanese Mix
• Puganese – Pug Havanese Mix
• Havashu – Shih Tzu Havanese Mix
• Havawelsh – Welsh Terrier Havanese Mix
• Havanestie – West Highland Terrier Havanese Mix
• Havashire – Yorkshire Terrier Havanese Mix

Havanese to follow on Instagram

If you have any further questions about Havanese that we haven’t answered, you could always contact Havanese owners on Instagram.

In our experience, pet parents on the social media platform are more than willing to engage with their followers who show an interest in the breed.

Here are some Havanese dogs to follow on Instagram:

Einstein (@einstein_panda)

Cappie (@cappiethehavanese)

Pablo (@avaneser_pablo)

Dina (@furrytrail)

In Conclusion

So we’ve reached the end of our article on the Havanese breed.

These Cuban dogs make excellent companions for dog owners who live in apartments or small homes in big cities.

They’re hypoallergenic dogs that don’t shed, but Havanese have a lot of grooming requirements.

These dogs need regular walks or playtime to meet their exercise needs. However, Havanese shouldn’t overwork their dogs.

They continue to grow in popularity in the USA, rising to 24th in the AKC’s list of most popular dog breeds.

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