Havanese Dogs
History, Characteristics, Personality and More

Among the many dogs in the toy group, Havanese dogs are one of the brightest and happiest fellows ready to bring a smile to whoever has the privilege of owning this playful breed.

Also known as Havanese Cuban Bichon, Bichon Havanese, Havaneser, and Bichon Habanero this breed gets its name from Havana, Cuba.

This dog is so appreciated in its country of origin that it has been proclaimed "The National Dog of Cuba".

Whether you are thinking about buying a puppy and want to know if this is the right breed for you or just want to learn more about this breed, you will find the answers to your questions right here!

Breed History

This is an ancient breed belonging to the Bichon family of dogs. Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1996 and categorized under the toy group, Havanese dogs originated in the Mediterranean. Spanish traders from Tenerife brought the first specimens in the mid 1400s as gifts, paving the way for good relations and trading.

After being brought to Cuba, the breed underwent transformation, specifically to their unique coat texture, which became extremely light and silky. This was probably due to the tropical environment of its new homeland. The Havanese breed was once also known as the Havana Silk Dog and the Spanish Silk Poodle.


The Havanese is the only breed native to Cuba.

In Cuba, these dogs quickly became pampered pets for the wealthy. Besides warming laps, Havanese dogs were also entertaining performers; indeed, in Europe these dogs were often seen performing impressive tricks in circuses and carnivals.

After the Cuban revolution, many Cubans imigrated to the United States and some brought their dogs with them. Dorothy Goodale was able to purchase 6 of those dogs from 2 separate bloodlines. She later purchased 5 more dogs in Costa Rica. Most of the Havanese dogs in the world today, with the exception of the ones in Cuba, stem from those 11 dogs.

Queen Anne of England, Queen Victoria of England, Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemmingway were all proud owners of this loving breed.

Cute Brown Havanese Puppy

Physical Characteristics of Havanese Dogs

Unlike many other toy breeds, Havanese dogs do not appear to be excessively fragile or delicate. This small dog presents slightly longer than tall and has a characteristic flashy and springy gait. This breed's playful and spirited personality perfectly matches the gait.

This moderately boned breed appears to be overall sturdy with a deep, well-developed chest. The neck presents arched, blending well into the shoulders. The short and well-defined loin boasts well-sprung ribs. Arching against the back, the tail is never docked and boasts long, silky hair.

The front legs appear straight regardless of the angle viewed. Elbows are kept tightly against the body. The pasterns are short. Back legs are muscular. Dewclaws are optionally removed. Any colors of paw pads and nails are accepted.

This breed boasts almond-shaped eyes that are large and dark brown, giving it an intelligent and mischievous expression. The skull is broad. The ears naturally drop and have a distinct fold. Nose is solid black or, in chocolate coats, dark brown . No other colors other than black or brown on the eye rims, nose or lips are allowed. A scissor bite is preferred.

The coat is double, presenting a soft, wavy and light undercoat and a slightly heavier overcoat. The long coat elegantly flows with the dog's movement. Wiry, frizzy or curly coats are not acceptable; however, corded coats are not faulted. All coat colors are acceptable though black and chocolate Havanese dogs became the most popular in the last couple of years.

This breed is categorized by the American Kennel Club under the toy group.

    Height Weight
  Male 8.5 to 11.5 inches 7 to 14 pounds
  Female 8.5 to 11.5 inches 7 to 14 pounds


This breed is very people-oriented and prone to becoming overly dependent. It has a strong tendency of forming strong attachments with the owner. If you are a first-time dog owner, this is the breed for you: they are eager to please and happy-go-lucky fellows.

While Havanese dogs love snuggling in their owners' laps, they tend to be a bit wary of strangers. Loads of socialization can help this breed become more confident and less likely to develop excessive caution or timidity.

When it comes to getting along with other animals and humans, this breed is very peaceful and gentle. But while it gets along well with respectful children, safety must be made top priority: a clumsy child can easily injure these small dogs.

Havanese Dog

While Havanese dogs have a bit of a stubborn, independent streak, they respond well to positive training methods using treats. Hold your tongue when correcting this breed; harsh tones of voice inhibit this dog and make it struggle.

Owners who wish to up their training skills will rejoice upon learning that Havanese dogs love to compete in competitive obedience and agility trials. This breed's past as a circus dog also seems to resurface when they learn to perform some cool tricks and their star-performer personality comes to life.

The process of potty training may pose some challenges with this breed; indeed, Havanese puppies are slow to house-train. Barking may be another issue; this breed tends to sound the alarm easily and can make a good watchdog.

Best Owner and Living Conditions

Because this breed thrives on human companionship, it does best with a family that has time to spend with this pampered breed. A Havanese dog is a happy dog when he gets to be the center of attention. Leaving this breed alone for too much time may result in episodes of non-stop barking and destructive chewing.

While this dog may do well in an apartment, living outdoors is out of question. While they may tolerate snow, Havanese are not big fans of cold weather. An indoor dog litter box may be helpful in the winter.

Activity and Exercise

Couch potatoes may enjoy this breed, but these dogs still require some form of daily exercise. A brief walk or a fun play session will suffix. A yard is not mandatory with this breed; however, it is always a big plus.

Many Havanese dogs find numerous ways to entertain their owners with their antics: rolling a roll of tissue paper or shredding the newspaper are a few of them.



Regular grooming is needed to keep the coat in top shape and prevent your dog from transforming into a matted mess. Shaving this dog into a "puppy cut" may significantly cut down on grooming time. Many owners love this cut because it makes their dogs look like puppies.

The coat of Havanese dogs makes them a good choice for allergy sufferers because they tend to shed very little.

Health Concerns

Havanese dogs, just as many other breeds, can be prone to several hereditary and non-hereditary conditions. Reputable Havanese breeders should screen and health test their breeding specimens. Patellar luxation, progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts are some common health disorders observed in this breed.

Visit dog health problems to learn more about dog diseases and health care.

Even healthy dogs get sick. While many health problems will require an immediate attention from your Vet, there are many others that you may handle on your own. Learn how to save time and money (and how to prevent small problems from becoming big problems) by diagnosing and treating dog health problems that don't require your Vet's attention.

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for healthy Havanese dogs is between 13 and 15 years.

Final Thoughts...

While this breed is quite popular in the show ring, many have decided to simply make them pampered family companions. Once little-known companions on the brink of extinction, Havanese dogs are now becoming one of the fastest growing breeds in the United States.

Did you ever consider adopting your next pet?

If this is the breed you are interested in, and adoption appeals to you, consider contacting your local Havanese rescue. There are thousands of pets waiting for a loving home and, yes, it's possible to adopt a purebred dog.

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Want to learn more?

Puppy Training

Not happy with your pet's behavior? Need help with training your dog for obedience? If you answered "YES", then check this Havanese Behavior and Obedience Training Guide.


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Havanese Dogs » Dog Breeds

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