Havanese. Toy Dog

The Havanese is a dog breed of the Bichon type, which do not shed. These dogs were developed from the now extinct Bichon Tenerife, which was introduced to the Canary Islands by the Spanish and later to other islands and colonies of Spain by sailors. They are very playful dogs and good with older, more considerate children. They love to be on furniture, and they are smaller-sized dogs bred to be companions.


The Havanese, while a toy dog, is hardy and sturdy for its size, and it does not give the appearance of fragility or of being overly delicate. Weight range is generally from 8-15 pounds. The height range is from 8 1/2 to 11 1/2 inches (216 to 292 mm), with the ideal being between 9 and 10.5 inches (229 and 267 mm), measured at the withers. The height is slightly less than the length from point of shoulder to point of buttocks, which should give the dog the appearance of being slightly longer than tall. A unique aspect of the breed is the topline, which rises slightly from withers to rump, creating a back that is straight but not level. The gait is also unique, flashy but not too reaching, giving the Havanese a sprightly, agile appearance on the move.

Havanese have dark, almond shaped eyes - never round. The ears are medium in length, well feathered and should always hang down. The tail curves over the back at rest and is covered with a long plume of fur. Their coat should be brushed daily because failure to do so will result in mats. Using grooming spray to brush; many pet owners chose to clip down their dogs into 1-2 inch long "puppy cut" for ease of maintenance. Their fur, designed for Cuban heat, serves no protection during cold weather; they are dogs for which one would buy a sweater. If they go out in the snow, ice clumps will stick between their paw pads; just rinse off in warm water or buy booties. When you give them a bath, make sure to dry them. Some in shorter clips can blot and air dry, but most will need to be blown dry. Use high air but low heat to protect their sensitive skin. Hot air can damage the skin.

The key word for the Havanese is "natural." The American Kennel Club standard notes "his character is essentially playful rather than decorative" and the Havanese, when shown, should reflect that, generally looking like a toy in size only, but more at home with playing with children or doing silly tricks than being pampered and groomed on a silk pillow. The breed standards note that except for slight clipping around the feet to allow for a circular foot appearance, and unnoticeable trimming around eyes and groin for hygienic purposes, they are to be shown untrimmed; any further trimming, back-combing, or other fussing is against type and will not be allowed to the point of precluding placement in dog shows. That includes undocked tails, uncropped ears. The American Kennel Club standard expressly forbids topknots, as the hair provided a degree of protection from the Cuban sun; two small braids, held with plain bands and never bows, are also allowed in the AKC standard, as some dogs have too much hair to be reasonably kept in their face.


Although there are a few arguments on whether the original Havanese were all white or of different colors, modern Havanese are acceptable in all coat colors and patterns. All colored dogs should have a black nose and black pigment around the eyes, with the exception of chocolate (brown) dogs, which may have dark brown pigment on their nose instead. The current American Kennel Club standard does not provide for Blue (slate blue-grey in color, different from silver) dogs; the standard allows for all colors and combination of colors to be allowed, but a blue dog will always have blue pigment, and the current the standard expressly only allows for black or chocolate pigment.


The coat is long, soft, light, and silky. Havanese, like other Bichons and related dogs like Poodles, have a coat that catches hair and dander internally, and needs to be regularly brushed out. Many people consider the Havanese to be nonallergenic or hypoallergenic, but they do still release dander, which can aggravate allergies. It's best to be exposed to the Havanese before deciding to choose one as a dog for a house with allergies.

The Havanese often appears on lists of dogs that allegedly do not shed (moult). However, such lists are misleading. Every hair in the dog coat grows from a hair follicle, which has a cycle of growing, then dying and being replaced by another follicle. When the follicle dies, the hair is shed. The length of time of the growing and shedding cycle varies by age and other factors. "There is no such thing as a nonshedding dog breed". Some dogs shed more than others. While you cannot say that Havanese are a nonshedding breed, you may say that Havanese shed very little.

Havanese are supposed to have a slightly wavy, profuse, double coat. However, unlike other double coated breeds, the Havanese outer coat is neither coarse nor overly dense, but rather soft and light with a slightly heavier undercoat. Not all Havanese have coats that match the standard. Havanese coats are supposed to be very soft, like unrefined silk (compared to the Maltese coat, which feels like refined silk). However, in some dogs the coat can become too silky, looking oily. On the other end of the spectrum, Havanese coats can be too harsh, giving a "frizzy" appearance. The coat should always be surprisingly soft to the touch - never harsh, course, or cottony.

Because of the tropical nature of the Havanese, the thick coat is light and designed to act as a sunshade and cooling agent for the little dog on hot days. This means that the Havanese does need protection against cold winter days, in spite of the warm look of their fur.

The coat can be shown naturally brushed out, or corded, a technique which turns the long coat into "cords" of fur, similar to what dreadlocks are in humans. This corded look may be difficult to achieve for the first timer, so it is always recommended that someone interested in cording their Havanese consults someone who has done it before.


The Havanese has a playful, friendly temperament which is unlike many other toy dog breeds. It is at home with young children and most other pets and is rarely shy or nervous around new people. Clever and active, they will often solicit attention by performing tricks, such as running back and forth between two rooms as fast as they can and do not need a lot of exercise.

The Havanese is a very people-oriented dog. They often have a habit of following their humans around the house, but definitely not overly possessive of their people and do not suffer aggression or jealousy towards other dogs, other pets, or other humans.

The Havanese's love of children stems back to the days when it was often the playmate of the small children of the households to which it belonged. Unlike most toy dogs, who are too delicate and sometimes too nervous or aggressive to tolerate the often clumsy play of children, the Havanese, with care, is a cheerful companion to even younger children, and this is no small part of its growing popularity around the world.

Havanese have been known to eat only when they have company in the same room. If one is eating and its person leaves the room, it is likely the dog will grab a mouthful of food and follow its "person", dropping the food and consuming it one morsel at a time in the room its person goes to.

Havanese are true "dogs", loving to play whenever the owner wants to. That being said, they calm down quickly when prompted to do so by their owners.

Havanese have excellent noses and are easily trained to play "find it," a game in which the owner hides a treat and the Havanese sniffs it out, never giving up until the treat is discovered. This is a highly trainable dog.

Havanese are natural companion dogs: gentle and responsive. They become very attached to their human families and are excellent with children. Very affectionate and playful with a high degree of intelligence, these cheerful little dogs are very sociable and will get along with everyone including people, dogs, cats and other pets. They are easy to obedience train and get along well with other dogs. This curious dog loves to sit up high on a chair to observe what is going on. It is very sensitive to the tone of your voice. Harsh words will only upset the dog and will achieve very little. Generally, harsh punishment is unnecessary. The Havanese have a long reputation of being circus dogs, probably because it learns quickly and enjoys doing things for people. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard notes that "he is easy to train as alarm dog". It is best to teach them not to bark unnecessarily while they are still young to prevent it from becoming a habit. Havanese can be good alarm dogs - making sure to alert you when a visitor arrives, but quick to welcome the guest once it sees you welcome them. Some dogs may exhibit a degree of shyness around strangers, but this is not characteristic of the breed. They are very attracted to people and will absolutely not serve as a guard dog.


Havanese are generally healthy and sturdy dogs, living between 14 to 16 years. Like other pure breeds, there are a few genetically-linked disorders common to Havanese. This is due to the small genetic pool from which the Havanese breed owes its ancestry. Havanese organizations, such as the Havanese Club of America, regularly monitor the occurrence of genetically linked issues to prevent its propagation within the breed.

The Havanese appear to suffer primarily from liver disease, heart disease, cataracts and retinal dysplasia. Havanese sometimes tear and may develop brown tear stains, which is especially noticeable on those with white or light coats.

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