Havanese – Everything You Need To Know

Havanese dogs belong to the Bichon family, and their ancestors originated in Cuba. Otherwise called Havana Silk Dogs, they are intelligent, outgoing, and funny. They were initially bred as companion dogs by the aristocratic society of Cuba. The breed was named after the capital city of Havana. It is also believed that they came from Italian sea captains or Spaniard colonizers. Notably, this breed of just 11 dogs went to the United States during the Cuban revolution and is one of America’s most popular dogs.

Interestingly, famous people like Ernest Hemingway, Charles Dickens, and Queen Victoria owned a Havanese dog. These cheerful little dogs are admired for their gorgeous silky coat in various colors. Havanese are smart and make an excellent watchdog despite their minimum barking level. They are small, sturdy, adaptable, and can adjust to any living condition, including urban settings. They are extroverts with comic instincts and are natural trick dogs. Although small, they have sturdy bodies with high energy levels and excel in canine sports and works like performing in the circus, assisting disabled people, etc. Havanese are called velcro dogs that love being around people and are perfect lap dogs.

Havanese Pros and Cons

Low exercise needsGrooming
Less aggressiveexpensive
Sheds LowMildly Stubborn
Easy to trainSeparation anxiety
HypoallergenicPotty training

Havanese Basic Information

  • Name: Havanese
  • Height: 8-11 inches
  • Weight: 7-13 pounds
  • Size: Toy dog
  • Coat: Double coat, soft
  • Color: All colors
  • Group: Companion dogs
  • Activities: Lap Dogs, Family dogs
  • Barking Level: Low
  • Shedding Level: Low
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Energy: High
  • Litter Size: 1-9 Pups
  • Life Span: 12-15 years
  • Other Names: Havanese Cuban Bichon, Bichón Havanés, Havaneser, Havanezer, Bichon Habaner, Rigno (Common Scottish Name), velcro dogs

History of Havanese

Havanese is a bichon-type dog and is believed to have come from Tenerife – the most populous island of the Canary Islands. It is also believed that after Columbus claimed Cuba in 1492, these dogs came along with the Spanish settlers and were bred as companion dogs. The thick silky coat helped to protect them from the tropical sun. Around the 1800s, Havanese were preferred by the aristocratic families of Cuba. 

Eventually, European travelers took the breed into Europe, which was favored by the mid-1800s. However, these dogs came close to extinction except for the few families who bred them. Finally, thanks to the Cuban revolution, 11 dogs made it to the USA. These canines are the ancestors of the Havanese outside of Cuba. The charming nature and intelligence of the Havanese made the breeders develop and re-establish the breed. The AKC recognized them in 1995.

Havanese Highlights

  • Havanese are companion dogs and thrive on the affection and companionship of their owners. They love to be around their family and suffer from separation anxiety when left alone.
  • Havanese puppies have an odd behavior of eating their own stools. Hence scooping the poop immediately is necessary.
  • Grooming needs special attention due to its long, silky coat. Some owners prefer to clip it short to save time and money. However, the long coat helps the dog to be cool in humid and hot temperatures.
  • Havanese can adapt to any living conditions. They do well both in apartments and large homes with backyards.
  • Havanese love to play with papers and are joyous in shredding toilet paper.
  • They are small yet energetic and have high energy needs.

Havanese Personality

Havanese dogs are adorably cute, petite, and sturdy. Havanese are loyal, fun-loving, and bond strongly with their humans. These are toy dogs that are 8-11 inches tall and weigh around 7-13 pounds and are the best fit for apartments and closed spaces. Havanese are double-coated with a wavy outer coat and a light undercoat. Colors include black, silver, white, cream, tan, fawn, gold, sable, red, and chocolate. The puppy gets the chocolate coat because of the rare recessive gene bb. 

Havanese dogs have floppy ears with brown or hazel eyes, and their expression is soft, intelligent, and mischievous. The eyes are large and almond-shaped and have solid black eye rims except the chocolate Havanese, which has brown rims. The nose, eye rims, and soles are also black, with chocolate Havanese having brown. The tail is curved over, which gives a unique appearance. The skull is broad and has a round-shaped head with a flat cheek. They have a slightly arched neck that balances with the height and weight. The overall body structure helps add the spring, their toes.


  • Partial or complete lack of pigmentation of the eye rims 
  • Height at the withers below 8 and a half or over 11 and a half inches may not apply to dogs under 12 months of age.  
  • Color pigmentation other than brown or black on the nose, lips and eye rims. 
  • A wiry or coarse coat 
  • Partial or complete lack of pigmentation of the lips or nose 

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingHigh
Good for new ownersHigh
Sensitivity levelMedium to high
Tolerates being aloneLow
Cold toleranceLow to medium
Heat toleranceHigh

Havanese Physical Features

  • Head: The skull is broad and slightly rounded. The cheeks are flat, and the muzzle is rectangular. The eyes are large, dark brown, almond-shaped, and soft, and have an intelligent expression. The eyes are large and almond-shaped and have solid black eye rims except the chocolate Havanese, which has brown rims. The nose, eye rims, and soles are also black, with chocolate Havanese having brown. 
  • Neck: They have a slightly arched neck that balances with the height and weight.
  • Topline: The topline is straight and rises slightly. The chest is deep and well developed, and the body is small and slightly longer. The ribs are well sprung.
  • Body: The body is small and slightly longer. The ribs are well sprung. The loin is short and well-muscled.
  • Tail: The tail is set high and arched with long silky hair. 
  • Forequarters: The neck blends smoothly into the back. The upper arm is short. Elbows are tight to the body, and the forelegs are straight. Dewclaws can be removed.
  • Hindquarters: The hind legs are muscular, and the hocks are well let down. The croup is somewhat higher than the withers.
  • Coat: The coat is thick. Silky and double-coated. The fur is soft and light in both outer and undercoat. The coat is long and wavy. 
  • Color: All colors and patterns with markings are available.
  • Gait: The gait is smooth and springy, exhibiting power and effortless speed. Well-balanced with good reach and strong drive.

Havanese Temperament

Havanese are loyal and fun-loving dogs. They are very energetic and love to stick around their humans. Havanese are affectionate and very friendly towards strangers. They suffer from anxiety when left alone. These toy dogs are very loyal to their family and have sweet and playful personalities. They are intelligent and enjoy playing with their humans. However, they need to be taught well to play in childhood. They are typical lap dogs that love to sit on their lap and watch the world go by. Havanese also enjoys making you laugh with its goofy antics. They are very sporty and love agility, freestyle, obedience, and flyball.

Interestingly, Havanese bark and howl very little. They are hypoallergenic and shed low. They are highly friendly towards children and other pets. They are the best fit for apartments and small spaces and adapt to larger homes with backyards. Havanese chew and play-bite people as they are mildly prey-driven. 

Havanese Training

Havanese are intelligent toy dogs and easy to train. They are naturally friendly and social and make a good candidate for obedience training. Havanese is a smart and bright breed and loves to please people. Training Havanese does not take hard work and goes quite smoothly than other breeds of dogs. Like any other dog, they need early socialization and puppy training classes. These dogs are also used as therapy dogs when well socialized. They can take some time to housebreak. Without proper training Havanese can suffer from Small Dog Syndrome.

The training requires patience and consistency during the period. They are sensitive to any adverse reactions and need positive reinforcement while training. They love being around people, and treats and cuddling do wonders while training. They are active and look forward to the training sessions, playing fetch, which helps in training regarding behavioral corrections. Obedience training and socialization help behavioral modification and bring out the best in any dog. Havanese become bored easily; hence it is necessary to keep the training interesting. Their training can include the following:

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Trainability Overview

Easy to trainHigh
Prey driveLow to medium
Mouthiness tendenciesLow to medium
Barking and Howling tendenciesLow
Wanderlust tendenciesLow

Havanese Exercise Needs

Havanese dogs have small bodies yet need exercise due to their energy levels. Enough exercise helps them to keep their body in shape without exerting it. For example, they need just a daily walk of 30-40 minutes due to their small size. Havanese live a healthy and long life with the right amount of exercise and activity. Above all this, they are happiest when around their human friends. Walking 2-3 times a day with a bit of running and play keeps the dog happy and healthy. They excel in canine activities like agility and flyball. Havanese are delighted with indoor games and love playing ball, Frisbee, fetch and excel in agility. They enjoy running, walking, hiking, agility, and indoor games. A proper exercise routine helps the dog with the following benefits.

  • Social interaction
  • Weight Control
  • Stress Relief
  • Behavioral Corrections like excessive chewing, persistent barking
  • Brain stimulation
  • Strengthening Muscles
  • Routine Toileting
  • Mental health and happiness

Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelHigh
Exercise needsHigh
IntensityHigh to medium

Havanese Grooming

Havanese dogs shed low but require frequent grooming. Their coat needs brushing every couple of days. The hair at its paws has to be trimmed to avoid the floor getting dirty. They are easy to groom, and the coat needs to be brushed 2-3 times per week. They may need extra brushing during their shedding season. Brushing helps remove clump hair and pull out the loose fur during shedding. One of the essential parts of grooming is bathing which keeps the dog clean. However, frequent bathing causes dry skin and itches. Bathing your dog using shampoos with pH. Balanced for dogs, pet wipes will keep your dog’s coat fresh, clean, and shiny. They can also be bathed once a week. However, daily brushing helps to keep the fur from knots and tangles. 

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They are prone to collect ear wax quickly. Hence, Ears should be cleaned and regularly checked as they are prone to ear problems. Brush their teeth daily to prevent plaque and other dental problems. Never brush the teeth with a stiff brush as it will harm the gums and teeth. Also, make sure to use dog-friendly toothpaste.

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Clean their eyes and trim their nails as a part of everyday grooming needs. Their toenails need to be checked once a week as longer nails may harm and injure the dog. You can trim the toenails with a commercial dog nail trimmer or with the help of a vet or professional groomer.

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Grooming Overview

Easy to groomLow
Drooling tendenciesLow
Amount of sheddingLow

Havanese Health

Havanese are generally healthy dogs. Still, like any other dog breed, they are also prone to specific health conditions.

Health Overview

General healthHigh
Weight gain tendenciesMedium to high

Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

These are conditions where hip and elbow joints don’t develop correctly. As a result, the bones rub against one another and are quite painful for dogs. This condition can be fixed only with surgery.


A genetic disorder where the condition leads to abnormally short limbs. Severity can range from normal to crippling stage. Commonly, this condition is called “dwarfism” in dogs.

Legg-Perthes Disease

Legg-Perthes cause deformity of the hip joint ball and can be treated with surgery.


Cataracts are hereditary and cause vision loss. It usually occurs in old age and can be treated with surgery.


Hearing loss is very challenging to both the dog and the owner. Surgery and medication can treat some forms of deafness, but most conditions can not be treated.

Patellar Luxation

Also known as “trick knee,” it is a common problem for small dogs. It is caused when the Patella with three parts is not correctly lined up and gives lameness.


Seizures are a common issue in Havanese dogs that cause sudden jerking of the body and loss of consciousness.

Renal diseases

Havanese dogs are prone to kidney diseases due to their narrow urinary tracts.


A low thyroid level in Havanese dogs causes overweight issues and becomes weak, dull, and not life-threatening.

Heart Murmur

This is caused by a disturbance in the blood flow and can be treated with medication, a special diet, and exercise restrictions. 

Spay or Neuter

In spay, the ovaries or uterus in females is removed, and in the neuter, the testicles of the male dogs are removed. It is done to eliminate the possibility of pregnancy or fathering unwanted puppies and decrease the likelihood of certain types of cancer.

Recommended test for Havanese

  • X-Rays 
  • CT Scan 
  • Eye Examination 
  • Physical Examination 
  • Blood Work
  • Vet-certified proof of genetic test

Havanese Diet and Nutrition

Havanese dogs are energetic, have an active metabolism, and require protein-rich food fed twice a day. High protein dog food helps the dog stay fit and healthy, improves digestion, and maintains coat shine. With the addition of nutrients, supplements, and vitamins, the dog lives a long, healthy, and happy life. Each puppy is distinctive, and the correct amount and quality of food depend on their age, weight, activity level, health, and more. The meals can also be split into two 2 cups daily. They are prone to obesity, and hence overfeeding must be avoided. Havanese pups can be given dry food, wet food, or both. Make sure the diet contains omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, chondroitin, and glucosamine. He can also be fed fruits and vegetables that give carbohydrate energy. Never hesitate to consult a vet to meet your pup’s dietary requirements to keep them happy and healthy.

Havanese Living Condition

  • Havanese are outgoing and energetic dog breeds. 
  • They are very affectionate and thrive in their owner’s company. They love to be around their owners and can suffer separation anxiety when left alone. 
  • They are highly adaptable and can live in both urban and rural settings. 
  • The thick silky coat helps the dog be cool in hot temperatures. They are tolerant of both hot and cold weather conditions.

Adding a Havanese to Your Family

Things to remember before adding a Havanese to your family

It is best to get a Havanese from a reputable breeder to prevent unavoidable circumstances like health disorders and provide you with vaccination certificates. It is best to check with the puppy’s parents to ensure his health and happiness. Always remember the following red flags to avoid backyard breeders and puppy mills.

  • Puppies are available throughout the year.
  • You can choose from a variety of litter that is always available.
  • One will be promised any puppy they want. 

Cost of a Havanese Puppy: A Havanese puppy may cost around $1000 to $ 1500.

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