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All About Havanese

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gray havanese dog licking his lips

Havanese are adorable, cheerful dogs that have a spring in their step. These little pups are loyal companions that enjoy going through life right by your side. Although they are small in stature, Havanese have big personalities.

About the Breed

The Havanese personality is a delightful one. These dogs typically have a happy-go-lucky outlook on life, and their positive vibes are often contagious—you can’t help but be happy when you’re around one. For either small or large families, this breed can make for a wonderful addition.

This breed is known to get along well with other pets and children that are in the household. Because of their small size, it is essential to keep an eye on any interaction a Havanese has with children. Kids may try to climb on top of them, which can cause pain or severe injury. Be sure to teach kids how to interact safely with dogs and watch all interactions until your child is older.

Within a short time of being around a Havanese, you will undoubtedly notice that they enjoy being the center of attention. Between their silly antics, gentle nature, and intelligence, Havanese have worked as both therapy and service dogs, and they have been used to sniff out mold and termites. Plus, these dogs were once used as performers in circuses.

Natural extroverts, Havanese are happiest when they are around people. Whether their time is spent playing fetch in the backyard or curled up in someone’s lap, these dogs aren’t too picky when it comes to how they receive attention.

Due to their continual need for companionship, these dogs have earned themselves the nickname of “Velcro dog.” In other words, they do not enjoy being left home alone for long periods, and many dogs of this breed tend to develop separation anxiety. When you are home, don’t be surprised if your four-legged friend sticks close to you.

smiling gray and white havanese dog with a short haircut on a red leash outside

Breed History

The Havanese dog is a member of the Bichon family of dogs. The Bichon dog is believed to have originated on Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. Following 1492, after Christopher Columbus claimed Cuba for Spain, the Spanish began traveling to the new island. Often accompanying them on their ships were the small, Bichon-related dogs.

Isolated in Cuba, over time, these dogs developed into what is now the modern-day Havanese. By the 1800s, these cheerful canines became popular among Cuba’s aristocratic families, and even European travelers began noticing this breed. Wanting their own Havanese, many of these travelers began taking dogs back to Europe. In just a short time, these dogs’ popularity spread to Spain, France, and England. These dogs became a hot commodity, and even socialites such as Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria had a Havanese.

Over time, these lapdogs’ popularity dwindled, and they were becoming increasingly difficult to find, even in their home country of Cuba. This breed’s numbers dropped so low that they nearly became extinct.

Thankfully, a few Cuban families continued to breed these dogs. In 1959, during the Cuban Revolution, a few of these upper-class families and their 11 Havanese fled to the United States. In just a few years, some American dog breeders took an interest in this charming breed, and they began working to increase the Havanese numbers once again.

Throughout the past few decades, this breed has continued to make an incredible comeback, and their overall population has increased in both the U.S. and worldwide.

The Havanese is the national dog of Cuba and the only native dog to the island. Even their name is inspired by Cuba’s capital city, Havana.


Although a toy breed, Havanese are much sturdier when compared to other toy dogs, which can be fragile. Havanese typically stand 8.5-11.5 inches in height, and they, on average, weigh between 7-13 pounds. Although they are not known to be a yappy breed, these dogs will notify you when someone comes to the door or passes by the window.

Before adopting a Havanese, pet parents often have breed-specific questions they first want to be answered. Common questions include:

How Long Do Havanese Dogs Live?

The life expectancy for a Havanese is between 12-16 years. It’s important to remember that a multitude of factors can affect a dog’s lifespan. Some of these items can include their diet, exercise routine, living environment, and overall health.

Are Havanese Good With Kids?

Havanese dogs are known to be excellent with kids—these dogs are naturally gentle and affectionate. However, due to their smaller size, it is essential that you teach kids not to climb on your dog or pull the dog’s ears or tail.

Do Havanese Shed?

These dogs rarely shed. When they do lose hair, it is typically caught by the outer coat instead of falling straight to the ground. While a dog that doesn’t shed may sound like music to your ears, this does not mean that Havanese don’t require much grooming. On the contrary, the double coat of a Havanese dog needs brushed multiple times a week. Overall, this breed has higher grooming needs than many other dogs.

Are Havanese Hypoallergenic?

It is worth noting that technically there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog breed—all dogs can cause an allergic reaction. That being said, because Havanese do not shed as much as other canines, dog-allergy sufferers may be less likely to have a reaction when around these dogs.

If you or someone in your family has a dog allergy and are considering adopting a Havanese, it is best first to find an acquaintance who has a Havanese and spend time around that dog. Depending on whether any allergic reactions follow, you will be able to determine whether this is the right dog for your family.

happy gray and white havanese dog with a pink collar and tag popping out of a soft black pet travel carrier

How to Groom a Havanese

Havanese dogs have a beautiful coat that can be silk-like in appearance or contain a light wave or dense curl. They can be found in various colors, including, but not limited to, white, black, grey, brown, and red. Their coat can also have different markings such as brindle, sable, bi-color, and tri-color.

A key part of grooming a Havanese is to brush them at least twice a week, but more is preferred. Frequent brushings can help keep tangles at bay. To help manage their coat, your Havanese will also need a cut or trim every few weeks or about once a month.

When it comes to their haircut style, you can mix things up by choosing a look that best fits your dog’s personality and lifestyle. Some common haircut styles include:

  • Natural: This style is all about embracing your dog’s natural locks. To stay on top of this look, you’ll be required to brush your dog’s hair every other day. Your dog may also need a little coat trimming every few months whenever they get their bath.
  • Cording: Another term for cords is “doggy dreadlocks.” After bathing your dog, you “train” the fur by twisting it into cords, which will eventually give your dog a fluffy-coated appearance. This can be a time-consuming style to achieve, and it is recommended you visit a professional groomer who knows how to attain this look properly.
  • Puppy Cut: Many dog parents prefer this look, especially since it accentuates the Havanese’s natural cuteness. For this style, your dog’s coat is the same length (one to two inches) all over. After their initial cut from a groomer, you may find that you can easily maintain this look with just a pair of clippers at your house.
  • Teddy Bear Cut: This cut is similar to the puppy cut, except the hair is slightly longer overall (three inches). For this look, most dog parents also choose to leave the hair on the dog’s face a longer length but cut into a rounded shape, thus creating a resemblance to a teddy bear.
  • Kennel Cut: Perhaps the shortest and simplest haircut option. The hair is kept short over the entire body and head. Although your dog will need to be trimmed about every two weeks to continue with this look, pet parents can do this themselves with a pair of clippers.

Depending upon your dog’s haircut and how often they get dirty, you may need to bathe your Havanese on a bi-monthly basis. After their bath, or after they’ve been in the water, it is a good idea to clean their ears. This can be done with a cotton ball and a dog-safe ear cleaning solution—be sure never to use cotton swabs.

Once every month to two months, your dog’s nails will need to be trimmed. If you take your dog to a professional groomer, this can be done during their appointment. You can also purchase a pair of nail clippers and trim their nails yourself. To prevent tear staining, be sure to clean around your dog’s eyes a few times a week or as necessary.

Don’t forget to brush your dog’s teeth—preferably multiple times a week. Not only will brushing your dog’s teeth help get rid of that stinky dog breath, but it will also reduce the chances of your dog developing periodontal disease.

The Havanese’s long, silky coat protects them from the sun and allows them to tolerate hot climates better.


Havanese require a nutritious diet that is also age-appropriate. Just like humans, a dog’s diet can affect how they feel and act, which affects their overall health. It is equally important to ensure that you are feeding your dog the correct amount of food per meal.

By consuming too much food, Havanese can quickly become overweight. Obesity is a serious health issue that can affect any dog, plus once a dog becomes overweight, a myriad of other health problems is likely to follow.

Besides a healthy diet, another critical component to your Havanese’s happiness is exercise. Due to their small size, they are often able to burn off their energy indoors, but they still enjoy playing outside. Whether it is for a walk, a run around the yard, or a game of fetch, your four-legged friend will jump for joy at the opportunity to spend some time with their family outdoors.

Havanese do well living in both houses and apartments. These dogs can even make great companions for RVers.


Havanese are a smart dog breed, and many people have found them easy to train, especially for a toy breed. That being said, most smaller dog breeds take longer to housetrain, and these dogs are no exception. Although they are also noted to learn faster than other toy dogs, it may still take some time for your Havanese to get the hang of letting you know when they need to go outside. Remember to be persistent, patient and to reward your dog for a job well done.

No matter your dog’s age, it is vital that you begin training the very day you bring your dog home. It can make a world of difference to establish good habits and behaviors early on.

It is just as important to refrain from spoiling your little pup and letting them have the rule of the household. When it comes to small dogs, training is often lax, and poor behaviors are often the result. Though tempting, try not to overindulge your Havanese.

It is additionally helpful to begin socializing your Havanese as early as possible. Introducing your pal to new people, animals, and places can allow them to have a more adaptable, well-rounded personality and temperament. A prime example is that most Havanese do not enjoy getting wet, but if they grow up around water, then these dogs can be great swimmers.

Common Havanese Health Issues

Although they are considered an overall healthy dog breed, Havanese are still susceptible to some health problems. According to our claims data,^ the top five issues that affect this breed include:

  1. Digestive problems
  2. Ear infections
  3. Allergies*
  4. Skin irritation
  5. Unsettled stomach

Despite the conditions mentioned above being the most common for Havanese dogs, there is no guarantee that your dog will develop any or all of these problems. Overall, one of the best ways to be proactive about your dog’s health is to schedule a yearly check-up with their veterinarian.

^Internal Claims Data, 2015-20
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.


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