Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Havanese
Average Cost to keep/care for a Havanese
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Havanese has become a popular choice with people all over the world thanks to their charming looks and delightful natures. They are lively little dogs known to be intelligent, affectionate forming very strong ties with their families. The downside to this being that they hate being on their own and can suffer from separation anxiety. With this said, the Havanese is better suited to households where one person stays at home so they always have company.
Once known as the Havanese Silk Dog, these little dogs are quite high maintenance in the grooming department, but they are not heavy shedders which means they are a great choice for anyone who is house proud or who suffers from pet allergies. The Havanese is a great choice for families with older children rather than toddlers and they also make loyal and loving companions for older people too.
The Havanese boasts an interesting lineage being related to many other breeds native to the Mediterranean. This includes the Bichon Frise, the Maltese, the Coton de Tulear, the Lowchen and the Bolognese. However, the breed was developed in Cuba and it is thought that several of these breeds are in their ancestry with the first white Bichon-type dog having been introduced to Cuba during the 16th and 17th Centuries. It is thought that these little dogs resembled the Bichon Teneriffe, a breed that is now extinct.
The other breeds thought to have been used to create the Havanese, were Poodle-type dogs which were introduced to Cuba during the early part of the 19th Century when Europeans immigrated to the island. They are also thought to have other breeds in their lineage which includes the Portuguese Water Dog and the Water Spaniel. They were developed to be companion dogs for the wealthy and well to do which in short meant the Havanese was a sought after and expensive dog even back then.
During the Cuban revolution which took place in 1959, breed numbers fell dangerously low due to many Cubans leaving the island taking their pets with them. Some dogs, however, were left behind and were to become the pets of lower classes which as a result saved the breed from vanishing altogether. With this said, there are no records of the breed in Cuba during the following thirty years. In their native Cuba, the Havanese is known as the Habanero and they are the country's National Dog.
These little dogs are quite unique in many ways because as previously mentioned, over time, they were developed in their native Cuba without any outside influences. This resulted in them having very specific traits, one of which is they are extremely heat tolerant all thanks to their rather unique coats which are profuse and very much like raw silk which provides valuable insulation when temperatures are high.
The Havanese became very popular in England during the mid-eighteenth century with Queen Victoria owning one of these charming little dogs. Charles Dickens was another well-known person to own one. Over time, many Havanese were exhibited at shows both in the UK and Europe. In their native Cuba too, the Havanese were fast becoming a popular and were made the island’s national dog.
The Havanese we see today are all descendants of eleven dogs that were taken out of Cuba to America where the breed was further developed. With this said, not much has changed in the breed with dogs looking very much like the Havanese that were around back in the eighteenth century. It was in the 1970s that Bert and Dorothy Goodale began breeding the Havanese in the States having purchased some dogs from Cubans who were in exile.
The Cuban Havanese Club was founded in 1991 and a breeding programme was once again set in place in their native land. In the UK, Barbara Benersen imported four dogs from Europe and began a breeding programme which established the breed in England. Over the years, their breed numbers have increased with more and more people now showing a real interest in sharing a home with a Havanese not only in the UK, but elsewhere in the world too.
Height at the withers: Males 23 - 28 cm, Females 23 - 28 cm
Average weight: Males 4.5 - 7 kg, Females 4.5 - 7 kg
The Havanese is a small dog, but they are sturdy and boast a profuse coat which adds to their wonderful looks. They have slightly rounded heads with a moderate stop and shortish muzzles. Their noses and their lips are black, but some brown dogs may have a brown pigment in them. These delightful dogs boast lovely large almond-shaped eyes with a gentle expression that's accentuated by their black rims. If their coat is brown or a shade of brown, dogs have lighter coloured eyes and their rims are brown too.
Their ears are quite pointed and they drop down slightly above a dog's eyes. Dogs hold their ears slightly raised. The Havanese boasts a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are moderately long and their shoulders well laid back. Legs are nice and straight with a moderate amount of bone.
The Havanese is a compact little dog that boasts a nice level topline that rises slightly over their loins. Ribs are well sprung and their belly neatly tucked up. Their hindquarters are quite strong with a nice angle to them and they have small feet that resemble those of a hare. Their tail is well feathered with lots of silky hair and is set high. Dogs carry them over their backs adding to their charming looks and appeal.
When it comes to their coat, the Havanese boasts a luxuriously silky, soft coat that can be either slightly curled or wavy with their undercoat being just as soft. These charming little dogs come in lots of colours and colour combinations. The acceptable breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
When a Havanese moves, they do so with a lively, gay, springy action. Their legs moving parallel in a straight line as they do.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.
The Havanese is a lively, loyal and affectionate little dog which is why they have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people throughout the world. They are confident, outgoing and they are good choice for first time owners. They are intelligent and always eager to please which means they are one of the easier small dogs to train.
However, because they are so intelligent, these little dogs are also quick to pick up any bad habits if they are allowed to or if they are given the wrong sort of training, guidance and direction. Sharing a home with a Havanese is a real pleasure, but their training and education needs to start early for them to be truly well-rounded adult dogs.
They are known to be "show-offs" and enjoy nothing more than being the centre of attention. With this said, these little dogs need to be given a ton of mental stimulation or they might try to find their own way of entertaining and amusing themselves. Playing lots of interacting games with them is the best solution to preventing any boredom setting in which could result in some unwanted behaviours around the home.
These little dogs thrive on human companionship and do not do well or like being left on their own for even shorter periods of time which is why they are a good choice for people or families who spend most of their time out of the house. The Havanese is the ideal family dog for families where at least one of the household usually stays at home when everyone else is out. If left on their own, these little dogs suffer from separation anxiety which can turn into a real problem for both dog and owner.
They also enjoy playing in water and they are known to be strong swimmers, but care needs to be taken when they are around any deep ponds or other watercourses. These little dogs also boast having a natural herding instinct and back in their native Cuba, they were often used to herd flocks of poultry.
The Havanese is a great choice of pet for first time dog owners because they are so amenable and people-oriented, loving nothing more than to please and to entertain their families. They are particularly good with older children and people too although playtime can get a bit boisterous at times. They are not the best choice for families with toddlers or very young children.
The Havanese is a very social dog by nature and they generally get on well with other animals more especially if they are well socialised from a young age. However, this is not to say that a Havanese won't give chase to a smaller pet or animal if they try to run away because they do have quite a high prey drive. As with any other breed, introductions should always be well supervised to make sure everything goes smoothly.
Havanese have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They are known to be a little mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever, they quickly learn what pleases an owner. They enjoy playing interactive games and like taking part in all sorts of canine sports which includes agility.
Havanese are highly adaptable dogs and providing they are given enough daily physical exercise combined with as much mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in, they are just as happy living in an apartment in town as they are living in a house in the country.
As previously mentioned Havanese form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.
The Havanese is known to like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them. However, even with the best of training, a Havanese might insist on barking for no reason which can become a problem with neighbours.
Most Havanese like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said, care should always be taken when walking a Havanese off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they can't get out of the water on their own.
They are good watchdogs and would always be quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on around them. However, rarely would a Havanese show any sort of aggressive behaviour when they are in watchdog mode, preferring to keep their distance and bark as a way of alerting their owners.
Because the Havanese is an intelligent dog and one that likes nothing more than to please, they are easy to train. However, they still need to be managed and handled correctly with a firm, yet gentle hand to prevent them from picking up any bad habits as well as the good ones. It is all too easy to spoil a Havanese because when they are puppies they are very cute. However, owners should start out as they mean to go on which means laying down the ground rules right from the word go.
All dogs like to know their place in the pack and who is the alpha dog in a household and the sooner a puppy understands the "rules", the better behaved they would be. When a Havanese is too spoiled, they can develop a condition known as "small dog syndrome" which sees them being unruly and wilful making them harder to live with and handle. As such the first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
The Havanese seems to have an affinity with children and there is nothing they like more than to play interactive games with the kids. However, as with other dogs any interaction between children and their pet needs to be supervised by an adult to make sure things don't get too boisterous and out of hand.
These little dogs rarely show any sort of aggressive behaviour when they are around other dogs and if they have grown up with a family cat, they are usually fine around them too. However, care needs to be taken when a Havanese meets any other smaller animals and pets because their instincts might just get the better of them which could end in a disaster.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Havanese is between 14 and 16 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
These little dogs are known to be one of the healthiest and most robust breeds around. They do not suffer or develop any of the major health issues that so frequently plague other pedigree dogs. With this said, there have been reports of some Havanese suffering from eye issues and as such the Kennel Club and vets recommend dogs be tested under a voluntary scheme.
When testing a Havanese for eye issues, the tests must be carried out by a qualified veterinary ophthalmologist and this must be registered with the BVA, British Veterinary Association and the Kennel Club. Eye screening should be carried out before puppies are sold and the tests should be done when puppies are anything from 6 to 8 weeks old. The results of the tests will establish that a puppy has not inherited congenital cataracts, but does not guarantee that other eye issues which includes cataracts might not occur later in a dog's life.
It is worth noting that dogs with hereditary cataracts will not show any signs of there being a problem until they are around 6 months old and as such all breeders must have their stud dogs annually screened before using them in a breeding programme. With this said, all Havanese whether breeding stock or not, should be screened annually for the welfare of the dog.
Havanese puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Some Havanese gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
Some Havanese are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Havanese breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions set out for all Kennel Club registered breeds, there are no further breed specific breeding restrictions in place for the Havanese.
Currently, there are no Kennel Club Assured Breeder requirements for the Havanese, but all responsible breeders would have their dogs screened for eye issues which includes hereditary cataracts and other eye issues.
As with any other breed, the Havanese needs to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Havanese puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a Havanese puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Havanese puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Havanese puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be
Older Havanese need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Havanese in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include looking at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Havanese need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Havanese don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
The Havanese boasts a long, soft and silky double coat. Owners can have their dogs clipped or they could opt to keep their coats long, but when showing, their coats must be long. With this said, they are high maintenance in the grooming department which means daily brushing is a must to prevent their coat matting. It is also a good idea to have their coats professionally groomed several times a year which makes keeping on top of things that much easier between visits to a grooming parlour.
It is also important to keep a close eye on their ears and to make sure they are nice and clean. Catching an ear infection early is important because this type of problem is notoriously hard to clear up.
These little dogs are lively, active characters and there is nothing they enjoy more than having something to do and going out for a walk. With this said, a good 30 minutes exercise a day will keep a Havanese happy, fit and healthy. As such, they are the ideal choice for people who lead more sedentary lives.
If you get a Havanese puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Havanese puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 11 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Havanese must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Havanese can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Havanese, you would need to pay anything from £1000 to over £1200 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Havanese in northern England would be £21.35 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £43.52 a month (quote as of February 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in a few things and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Havanese and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Havanese would be between £60 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred, healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree Havanese puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog, there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
The Havanese is one of the more popular breeds both in the UK and elsewhere in the world which means that well-bred puppies can often command a lot of money. As such, with the Havanese there is specific advice, questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows:
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