Havanese dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Do you like small and cute dogs? Active, trainable and always happy? The Havanese breed is the perfect breed for people who can’t take care of big dogs and don’t have a lot of time. They can be happy with few walks a day and a game of fetch. This breed is a very good companion and it always brings joy to the owner!

Sometimes referred to as the Blanquito, this breed descended from the Bichon Tenerife that are now extinct. Through the years they were cross-bred with poodles, and some other bichon breeds and that’s how we have the today’s Havanese. Also, sometimes it is called the Blanquito de la Habana or Havana silk dogs.

The Havanese is very affectionate breed! It is nice to everyone, including cats and strangers. It is a very good family pet and it is great with children. However, it will stick like glue to the real owner and will give the most love to him/her.  Even more, it’s quite an easily trainable breed and they have even worked as assistance dogs and therapy dogs. Also, they have been used for sniffing out termites and mold. But their most interesting use is as performing dogs, where they can show of their clownish character.

This breed can be easily spoiled and you as an owner are the reason for it. Don’t give your cutie treats all the time and don’t teach it to eat the food you’re eating because you’ll regret it later. As many small breeds, they are really smart con artists and will trick you into giving them everything they want. You may find yourself in a situation where they are actually training you instead of you training them.

Breed Characteristics

TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingBelow Average
All Around FriendlinessHighest
Exercise NeedsAbove Average

Dog Breed Group:Companion Dogs
Height: 8 inches to 11 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:7 to 13 pounds
Life Span:12 to 14 years
Main Highlights
  • A family dog that is a very good companion. Because it is very connected with its owner, it can suffer from separation anxiety if it is left alone for longer time periods. It is best to always have someone around to keep it company.
  • It is common that Havanese puppies eat their own stools, so it is the best to scoop their poop immediately after the bowel movement takes place. They usually outgrow this habit but, just in case, you shouldn’t let them indulge in it.
  • The Havanese has a recognizable long, silky coat which is very beautiful. However, it requires taking care of it, such as regular bathing and brushing. The coat can also be clipped, if you don’t want your pet to be a show dog. That way it is easier to take care of it.
  • The Havanese is not an outdoor dog, it prefers to live indoors. However, it likes large yards and big apartments or houses because it is an active dog.
  • Just like most of the small breeds, the Havanese likes to watch the world from up high. This means you will find it laying on top of the sofas or some tables.
  • Some owners would say that the favorite toy of their Havanese is paper. This clever breed would go all the way to find some paper to play with; even some toilet paper will make him play for hours. For you as an owner this will mean clean up time, after your pet shreds all the paper it finds!
  • Even though it is a small breed, this little guy demands some exercise! A longer walk a day and some playtime with its owner can satisfy its needs.
  • If you want a healthy dog, never buy a Havanese puppy from a puppy mill or some unknown breeder. You should do your research and find a reputable breeder that will do all the needed health tests and guarantee the puppy is free of genetic diseases.
Breed History

The breed is a part of the bichon family. It is known that the Spanish farmers and noblemen from Tenerife came with their dogs to Cuba in the early 1500s. Through the years with man controlled breeding, the Havanese breed was made and they were kept as a family pet in Havana.

Travelers discovered the breed in Havana during the 1800s and really liked it, so the breed started spreading through Spain, France, and Britain. Mostly noblemen were interested in this breed and they kept it as a family pet.

A really important history fact about this breed is about the period after Castro’s revolution. Some Cubans took their Havanese with them while fleeing Cuba. Actually, the 11 dogs that were brought to the United States are the foundation of the breed today.

In 1995 the Havanese has been recognized by the American Kennel Club as a breed.


The Havanese is a small breed, it weighs 7-13 pounds and its height is from 8-11 inches at the shoulders.

Personality and Character

Havanese are happy dogs that like being close to their owner. Playing and learning tricks is their main occupation.

When choosing a puppy, choose the one that has a playful character and is willing to approach people and lets you hold it in your hands. They are affectionate, trainable and intelligent but socialization with people and other dogs is preferred, so they don’t become timid with strangers.

Health and Potential Problems

The Havanese dogs have a lifespan of 12 to 14 years in average. Still, if you are interested in buying a puppy of this breed you need to be aware of the health conditions. They can have minor health problems such as:

  • Patellar luxation- Another term for this condition is «trick knee» and it is common in small dogs. You can notice the abnormal gait and lameness in the dog when this happens. The patella is formed of three parts, the femur, the patella and the tibia and when these three are not aligned properly, patellar luxation happens. The treatment for this condition is usually surgery.
  • Chondrodysplasia- It is a genetic disorder, which is sometimes mislabeled as “dwarfism” because the dogs that have this disorder have abnormally short limbs. Some of the dogs are crippled but many of them live full and healthy lives. However, it is not recommended to breed dogs that have this condition.
  • Elbow dysplasia- similar to hip dysplasia, the elbow dysplasia is also degenerative disease affecting the elbow joint. Mostly it is caused by abnormal development and growth, which makes the joint weakened and malformed. Affected dogs react differently, for example, some become lame and others develop little stiffness. The treatment consists of surgery and of course weight management and some medication.
  • Deafness- Deafness usually cannot be cured, except some forms of hear loss that can be treated with some medication or surgery. This health problem can be hard on the dog and the owner and requires a lot of patience. Today on the market there are some products that can make the life of the dog as well as of the owner easier.
  • Cataract- Cataract can be defined as some kind of vision loss. It presents itself as opacity of the lens and you can see cloudy appearance on the eye. The disease is inherited and usually occurs with old age but it can also appear at any age. This problem can be dealt with by surgical removal.
  • Heart murmur- Heart murmurs can be heard on veterinary checkups. It can be described as disturbance in the blood flow and they are graded on how audible they are. This condition can be indicator of a disease and it needs treatment. The treatment consists of special diet medication and of course exercise restrictions.
  • Mitral valve insufficiency- This condition usually occurs in older dogs when the mitral valve begins to fail. When the mitral valve fails, the blood flows back into the left atrium. Sometimes this can cause heart failure. It can be recognized by its symptoms, which are hypertension, decrease of strength in the heart muscle, and fluid in the lungs. The treatment consists change of diet, medication and again exercise restrictions.

Make sure that you buy a puppy from a good breeder that will give health clearances for the parents of the puppy and even the grandparents. These health clearances guarantee that the puppy is cleared of certain health condition.

It is important to identify these problems on time so they can be treated, so it’s good to do occasional checkups at the vet.

Care Features

The breed is meant to be kept in a home as it is not an outdoor breed. It is an energetic dog but its needs can be satisfied with few short walks a day and some playful time. Separation anxiety can be a problem with this breed and is best to be avoided. You shouldn’t leave your dog alone for longer periods of time. If you’re going on a vacation you can take it with you; since it’s a small breed and, if it’s well-trained, it won’t cause any problem.

Also, don’t let yourself spoil your dog — it should learn some manners. This means no to offer unnecessary treats, leftovers or food scraps, because it can easily get overweight and possessive of you as an owner.

Because the coat grows long, this breed needs brushing 2-4 times a week. If not brushed regularly it can get tangled. This can happen because this breed doesn’t shed and the loose hairs get stuck and tangle.

Feeding Schedule

It is recommended for the daily amount of food to be divided into two meals. The amount of food you give to your dog always depends on the kind of food you are feeding it, also the size of the dog, the age, and the activity level matter the most.

The build and the metabolism of every dog is individual. If your dog is prone to gaining weight or is not as active, you should consider cutting down on the daily portion of food. On the other hand, if your dog is very active, you will need to increase the food intake. If you’re not sure about your pet’s diet or the amount of food, you can always consult a vet for some advice.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The Havanese is one of the breeds that practically doesn’t shed at all. It has long, silky and wavy coat.

The colors of the coat vary and they usually are: white, black, brown, mahogany, fawn and tobacco. If you want to have a show dog, the coat should be long, regularly brushed and washed. However, many owners clip the coat because it is easier to care for.

A very important thing to know about longhaired breeds is that their coat serves as isolation. This means even when their coat is left to grow long, if it is brushed and bathed regularly, it protects them from heat. Also, it is better for owners who don’t have time to take care of the coat to clip it short, because long tangled coats don’t serve as isolation; they just collects dirt and bacteria. It is better to clip your pet’s coat, so it is easier to take care of if you, as an owner, don’t have the time.

In addition, when the coat is kept long it is good to tie up the hair on the head in order to prevent irritation to the eyes. For grooming is best to take your pet to the groomers, especially for show dogs. Groomers know how to make your Havanese look good for the show; also they would trim the nails and pluck the hair from the ears. With this breed, it is common to have watery eyes and stains on the coat, especially the white ones. This can be dealt with by wiping the stained areas daily with a damp cloth.

Teeth need brushing too. If you want to avoid plaque buildup and keep the teeth healthy, you should brush them daily. It is very important to start with all this attention to your pet the earliest you can, when it is just a little puppy, just so it gets used to it.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

The Havanese is a small breed, very connected to the owner and the family. It’s a family dog and it is good with kids and other pets. Because of its size, children should be thought how to play with it, so it won’t get hurt.

In the beginning, children should always be supervised and thought how to deal with the new dog; that way you will be sure that both of them are safe.

This adorable little doggie is the reason why people will stop you on the street just to pet it and say how sweet it is. Gentle and loveable, it will win everyone’s heart and affection. If you want a small, indoor breed and you don’t mind the occasional barking at strangers and unknown things, this breed is the right one for you! But be prepared to brush some hair daily!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.