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As the national dog of Cuba the bichon-type Havanese was bred from the Blanquito de la Habana (Little white dog of Havana) which itself was developed from the Bichon Tenerife. The little white dog was crossed with other small dogs to create the Havanese.
The Havanese itself is a small, robust dog. He carries his tail over his back and has long, droopy ears that fold. Famous for his jaunty gait, Havanese's are cheerful dogs with a curious nature. One of the best companion dogs, the Havanese is a true family pet, adapting easily to most environments and only ever craving human company. Their need for companionship means the Havanese will not be happy if left along for long periods or if forced to live a kennelled lifestyle.
As already mentioned, the Havanese was developed from the Blanquito de la Havana and its descendents are thought to be Bichon dogs from Tenerife. Many passenger lists left from vessels that made the journey from Tenerife to the Caribbean list dogs as passengers and these are likely to be the Tenerife dog. In fact, it's thought that most Bichon types are descended from that Tenerife breed. Highly admired by the nobility, these little dogs were the perfect companions for Spanish settlers in Cuba.
Following the Cuban Revolution many wealthy Cubans fled to the US but were unable to take their dogs with them. As a result, when US enthusiasts developed a taste for the Havanese, there were only 11 dogs left. Following a dedicated breeding programme the Havanese has bounced back from the brink and is enjoying huge popularity once again - particularly in America.
Average height to withers: 9"-10.5"
Average weight: 4.5 - 7kg
Although it's classed as a toy dog, the Havanese is certainly not delicate or frail. He is a little longer than he is tall, and has a very straight topline. His lively gait is one of his most appealing attributes and makes the Havanese instantly recognisable.
The muzzle of the Havanese is quite full and only tapers near the nose and the ears reach halfway to the nose. The eyes are dark and the standards say that the Havanese should be shown untrimmed, apart from around the feet.
It is thought that although the original dogs were white, the modern breed is acceptable and available in all colourways and patterns. Coloured examples must have a dark nose, while the chocolate brown dogs should have a brown nose. Coats come in a vast array of lovely colours including silver, fawn, white, cream, brown, black and tan, brindle and sable.
The coat itself is silky and soft with a 'springy' quality and is very wavy. Unlike other breeds with a double coat the Havanese outer coat is light and soft, with an undercoat that is sometimes barely discernible. Interestingly the Havanese coat can sometimes be so soft it can feel cool to the touch although occasionally the fur can be so soft it takes on an oily quality and can look limp. Sometimes the coat can appear harsh and frizzy and although the fur sometimes seems thick and warm, it was designed for protection against the sun, not the cold, so a Havanese should always be wrapped up during cold weather.
As a 'toy' dog this breed was born to play and likes nothing more than a rough and tumble and a fuss with his owners. They are intelligent little dogs and can be readily trained but this should be started at an early age to avoid any bad habits developing.
They can become very attached to their families, but can also spend time apart from their owners because they can entertain themselves for a short while. Havanese are quite a 'low maintenance' dog and fits into family life well. The breed does require exercise, but one walk a day will suffice as long as it's supplemented with plenty of play and some training time.
The breed is generally happy providing their master is happy and does not become vocal unless subject to harsh treatment. They are trusting, friendly dogs that are as happy with strangers as they are with familiar faces. They are able to entertain themselves with toys, but are happiest indoors with their family being fussed and showered with affection.
As a long-lived breed (typically 14-16 years) the Havanese is a generally healthy dog although there are some problems that occur within the bloodlines. Luxating patella, where loose ligaments allow the kneecap to 'float', causing dislocation and lameness, has been observed, as has retinal dysplasia.
This condition is painful and characterised by folds of skin around the eye; it can lead to cataracts or glaucoma and can be caused by viral infections. Liver and heart disease have also been noted in the breed and the eyes can tear and stain, particularly in light-coloured examples.
The coat needs brushing thoroughly at least twice a week in order to keep matting at bay. Those examples with silkier, wavy coats will need less brushing than those with harder, curlier fur. Dogs not destined for the showring can be clipped to make the coat more manageable. If you decide to clip your Havanese and if he goes out in snow, clumps can develop between the toes and pads and bootees may be required to prevent this from occurring.
As the breed has slightly pendulous ears a cleaning routine should be started at an early age and continued throughout the dog's life to ensure infections are prevented. After bathing the dog should be blow dried (on a low heat setting!) and the ears can be plucked to allow air to flow easily.
Affection and attention is this little dog's number one priority, so this should be freely available at all times. This dog thrives on human company and should be given plenty of family time to enjoy. Life in a kennel or at home alone while his masters are at work will not suit the Havanese.