Havanese: Care Info On This Extroverted Dog Breed

Happy little orange havanese puppy dog is sitting in the grass

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The Havanese breed, characterized by its long, silky hair and expressive eyes, presents a delightful combination of companionship and playfulness.

Hailing from the warm climates of Cuba, the Havanese carries the distinction of being the country’s national dog.

This small-breed dog yet sturdy toy breed has captured the hearts of dog enthusiasts around the world with its amiable nature and adaptable personality.

Owing to their background as companion dogs to Cuban aristocracy, Havanese have a distinctly sociable demeanor, making them excellent family pets.

They are intelligent and trainable, responding well to positive reinforcement techniques.

Despite their luxurious coat, which can give an impression of high-maintenance grooming needs, regular brushing and occasional trimming will keep their signature locks in good shape.

Not only are they affectionate small dogs, but Havanese dogs also possess a surprising level of agility and are known for their playful antics and love of learning tricks.

Key Takeaways

  • The Havanese is a sociable and small-sized companion dog with a silky coat.

  • Known for their intelligence, these dogs are easily trainable and excel in agility.

  • Regular grooming is required to maintain their distinctive long locks.

Physical Characteristics

Your Havanese is a small but sturdy dog with a friendly disposition.

This breed is well-known for its silky, luxurious coat and expressive eyes, which showcase a range of emotions.

Height Male

Males will typically stand between 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall at the shoulder.

Height Female

Females are similarly sized, with a height range of 8.5 to 11.5 inches at the shoulder.

Weight Male

A healthy male usually weighs around 7 to 13 pounds.

Weight Female

A female will also generally weigh between 7 to 13 pounds.

Eye Colors

Your dog can have warm and expressive eyes that may come in shades of brown or hazel.

White and gray Havanese dog at the pond

Coat Colors

The coat can display a beautiful variety of colors, including but not limited to black, silver, white, cream, tan, fawn, gold, sable, and red.

Coat Types

Your dog’s coat is a double coat that is long, soft, and may be wavy with ringlets, which contributes to their distinct appearance.


The body of a Havanese is slightly longer than tall, providing a unique silhouette.

They have drop ears and a tail that curls over the back, creating an elegant profile.

History of the Havanese

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This breed boasts a rich narrative that intertwines with the history of Cuba and is, in fact, the national dog of Cuba.

Originating in Havana, these dogs are a cherished part of the island’s cultural tapestry.

The Havanese, a member of the bichon family (formerly the barbichon family of dogs), stems from the Bichon Frise lineage.

European travelers to Cuba often returned with these beloved canines, which added to the breed’s popularity and spread.

During the era of Spanish colonization, the breed found favor among Cuban aristocracy.

Recognized for their luxurious, silky coats, they earned the moniker “Havana Silk Dog.”

Their diminutive stature and amiable nature made them ideal companions.

The breed’s ancestors, the now-extinct Blanquito de la Habana or “little white dog of Havana,” and the Maltese, contributed to the Havanese we know today.


  • First Century B.C.: Roots trace back to early history.

  • Pre-Cuban Revolution: The term “Havanese” wasn’t widely used, known locally as the Maltese.

  • Post-Cuban Revolution: The breed nearly vanished in Cuba, but enthusiasts ensured its survival.

Famed literary figures like Queen VictoriaErnest Hemingway and Charles Dickens are believed to have been admirers of this breed, which speaks volumes about its enduring charm.

Despite the threat of disappearing post-revolution, concerted efforts by breed lovers enabled the Havanese to bounce back from the brink of extinction.

There are several breed clubs include the Havanese Club of America and the Havanese Club of America National Specialty.

Today, your dog is not just a pet but a living piece of Cuban history, representing resilience and affections, much like the spirit of its homeland.

Temperament & Training of the Havanese

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The Havanese breed is celebrated for its friendly and affectionate nature.

You’ll find that these dogs are eager companions, forming strong attachments to their families.

Not only are they sociable and playful, but they also exhibit an even-tempered and bright personality. This predisposes them to become excellent family pets, often getting along well with children and other pets.

In terms of temperament, Havanese dogs are known for their companionship qualities, thriving on interaction with people.

Their playfulness and affection make them stand out as entertaining pets.

However, if they’re left alone for extended periods, they may resort to barking or display signs of separation anxiety.

When it comes to training, these dogs are intelligent and trainable, often described by the American Kennel Club as smart extroverts with a knack for entertaining.

They respond exceptionally well to positive reinforcement techniques.

These traits make housebreaking and learning tricks a pleasant experience.

Since Havanese dogs are smart, it’s important to keep them mentally stimulated to match their energy level.

To ensure well-rounded behavior, early socialization is key.

Expose your Havanese to various people, sights, sounds, and experiences as a puppy. This breed also has potential in dog sports like agility, due to their high trainability and enthusiasm.

While they make attentive watchdogs, they’re not given to unnecessary barking, especially if properly socialized.

Remember that consistency in training is crucial.

With the right approach, your Havanese can be a delightful addition to your family, showcasing their endearing traits of friendliness and companionship.

As with many small dog breeds, they are an extremely comfortable apartment dog.

Health Issues of the Havanese

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Havanese are generally sturdy dogs with a lifespan of 12 to 15 years.

However, like all breeds, they have predispositions to certain health problems.

It is essential for you, as a Havanese owner or potential owner, to be informed about these issues to ensure the well-being of your pet.

Portosystemic Shunts

Portosystemic Shunts, also known as liver shunts, are a rare but potentially serious health concern that can affect Havanese dogs.

These abnormal blood vessels divert blood flow away from the liver, compromising its ability to filter toxins effectively.

In Havanese, this condition may be congenital, meaning it is present at birth.

Portosystemic shunts can lead to various symptoms, including stunted growth, neurologic issues, and gastrointestinal problems.

Diagnosis typically involves imaging studies and blood tests to assess liver function.

Treatment options may include surgical correction or medical management, depending on the severity of the shunt.

Early detection and intervention are crucial for managing portosystemic shunts in Havanese dogs, ensuring a better prognosis and improved quality of life for affected individuals.

Regular veterinary check-ups play a key role in monitoring the health of Havanese dogs and identifying potential issues promptly.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint that can lead to arthritis and reduced mobility, is a relatively uncommon but potential concern in Havanese dogs.

While this breed is generally small in size, hip dysplasia can occur due to genetic factors or environmental influences.

Symptoms may include lameness, difficulty rising, and reluctance to engage in physical activities.

Though hip dysplasia is more commonly associated with larger breeds, responsible breeding practices and screening for this condition can contribute to minimizing its occurrence in Havanese dogs.

Management strategies often involve weight control, moderate exercise, and joint supplements to alleviate symptoms and enhance the overall well-being of affected individuals.

Regular veterinary check-ups and early detection are essential for implementing effective strategies to address hip dysplasia in Havanese dogs and ensure their long-term health.

Mitral Valve Disease

Congenital heart defects and mitral valve disease are potential cardiac concerns in Havanese dogs.

While relatively rare, congenital heart defects are abnormalities present at birth that affect the heart’s structure and function.

Mitral valve disease, on the other hand, is more commonly seen in older dogs and involves the gradual deterioration of the mitral valve (heart murmur), leading to issues with blood flow.

Both conditions can impact the cardiovascular health of Havanese dogs, potentially causing symptoms such as coughing, exercise intolerance, and lethargy.

Regular veterinary check-ups, including cardiac screenings, are crucial for early detection and management.

Responsible breeding practices that prioritize the health of the breeding dogs can contribute to reducing the incidence of congenital heart defects in the Havanese population.

Awareness of these cardiac conditions and proactive veterinary care are essential for maintaining the overall well-being of Havanese dogs.

White Havanese dog on grass with a white background


Deafness, while not a common issue in Havanese dogs, can occur due to genetic factors or age-related changes.

Congenital deafness, present from birth, may be associated with coat color genetics, particularly in Havanese with a predominantly white coat.

In some cases, deafness may develop later in life due to factors such as age-related degeneration or ear infections.

While deaf Havanese can lead happy lives with proper training using visual or tactile cues, early detection is crucial for effective communication strategies.

Responsible breeding practices that consider coat color genetics can contribute to minimizing congenital deafness in the Havanese population.

Regular veterinary check-ups help identify and address any hearing-related issues promptly, ensuring the overall well-being of Havanese dogs.


Allergies can be a concern for Havanese dogs, manifesting in various forms such as skin irritations, itching, ear infections, or gastrointestinal issues.

These allergies may stem from environmental factors like pollen or grass, food sensitivities, or genetic predispositions.

Havanese, with their luxurious coats, may be more susceptible to skin-related allergies. Identifying the specific allergen is crucial for effective management.

Owners can implement strategies like hypoallergenic diets, regular grooming to reduce environmental allergens, and providing allergen-free bedding.

Consulting with a veterinarian is essential to determine the best course of action and alleviate discomfort for Havanese dogs affected by allergies.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation, a condition where the kneecap (patella) moves out of its normal position, is a potential orthopedic concern in Havanese dogs.

This condition can be congenital or develop over time due to various factors. In patellar luxation, the kneecap may temporarily slip out of place, causing lameness and difficulty moving the affected leg.

While it can range in severity, with some cases resolving on their own, more severe instances may require surgical intervention to stabilize the patella.

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for early detection, and responsible breeding practices that consider orthopedic health contribute to minimizing the risk of patellar luxation in the Havanese population.

Proactive care, including preventing weight gain and providing moderate exercise, can also aid in managing this condition and ensuring the overall well-being of Havanese dogs.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is a common concern in Havanese dogs, underscoring the importance of proper dental care for their overall health.

Due to their small size and characteristic dental anatomy, Havanese dogs can be prone to issues such as plaque and tartar buildup, gingivitis, and periodontal disease.

These dental problems can lead to discomfort, bad breath, and potentially impact the dog’s systemic health.

Regular dental hygiene practices, including tooth brushing, dental chews, and veterinary dental cleanings, are crucial in preventing and managing dental disease in Havanese dogs.

Owners should be attentive to signs of oral discomfort, such as reluctance to eat or pawing at the mouth and seek prompt veterinary attention for professional dental care.

A proactive approach to oral hygiene ensures the overall well-being and longevity of Havanese companions.

Health IssuesDescription
Hip DysplasiaA condition leading to the malformation of the hip joint, which can cause pain and arthritis.
Heart DiseaseThey may be prone to congenital heart defects and mitral valve disease, which affects the flow of blood in the heart. More on this can be found at Animal Advice.
DeafnessCongenital deafness can occur, although it is not common in the breed.
AllergiesThe breed can suffer from skin allergies, which could be triggered by food, the environment, or other allergens.

To manage their health, regular check-ups with a veterinarian are recommended.

Your vet can screen for hip dysplasia, provide heart evaluations, and guide you on managing allergies.

Moreover, early detection through health screenings can prevent or mitigate many of these conditions.

It’s worth noting that reputable breeders often conduct health testing to minimize the occurrence of these issues.

Therefore, it’s advisable to seek out breeders who prioritize the health and longevity of their Havanese puppies.

For a healthy breed like the Havanese, maintaining awareness of potential health issues goes a long way in ensuring a long and fulfilling life for your companion.

Grooming Your Havanese

Proper grooming is crucial for your Havanese’s coat and overall health, involving regular brushing, bathing, hair trimming, nail care, dental hygiene, and ear cleaning.

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Your Havanese has a beautiful, double-layered coat that requires daily brushing to prevent mats and tangles.

Start with a high-quality pin brush, and carefully work through the coat, going section by section to ensure you reach all layers.

  1. Frequency: Daily
  2. Tools: Pin brush, detangler
  3. Technique: Start at the skin and brush outward


When it’s time for a bath, always detangle your Havanese’s coat first.

Use a gentle dog shampoo and make sure to completely rinse out any product to avoid irritation.

Cutting Fur/Hair

Regularly trimming your Havanese’s coat will keep it neat and manageable.

Pay special attention to the fur around their pawseyes, and rear end to maintain their hygiene and appearance.

  • Tools: Blunt-tipped scissors, grooming shears
  • Areas: Paws, eyes, hygiene areas

White and gray Havanese dog sitting on chair wearing a red bandana

Clipping or Grinding Nails

Keep your Havanese’s nails at a comfortable length to prevent issues with walking.

You can use a clipper or grinder designed specifically for dogs, which is safer for your furry friend.

Clip or grind their nails as needed, usually once or twice a month, being careful not to cut into the quick, which can cause bleeding.

If you accidentally cut the quick, dip their nails in Styptic Powder to stop the bleeding.

If you are unsure on how to trim your dog’s nails, check out our article on How to Grind Your Dog’s Nails or How to Clip Your Dog’s Nails Safely.


  • Nail clippers
  • Nail grinder


  • Every 1-2 weeks

Dental Care

Since this breed is prone to dental disease, it is important to focus some time and attention on their dental care.

Regular brushing of their teeth will prevent buildup of plaque and tartar, promoting fresh breath and a healthy mouth.

Invest in a dog specific toothpaste and a toothbrush for small breed dogs to make the procedure as painless as possible.

Start dental care as young as possible, even cleaning their baby teeth. Aim for several times per week.

As an added benefit, give them a “treat” after the procedure in the form of a dental chew.

Cleaning Ears

Inspect and clean your dog’s ears weekly to prevent wax buildup and infection.

Use a gentle, vet-approved ear cleaner and a soft cloth or cotton ball to carefully wipe the outer ear.

You can use the Pet MD – Dog Ear Cleaner Wipes – Otic Cleanser for Dogs for an easy solution.


  • Check weekly
  • Clean as needed with approved ear cleaner

Owning a Havanese

Before you decide to own this breed, it’s essential to understand the financial commitment involved, from the initial cost to ongoing expenses for health and well-being.

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Cost of Purchase

The cost of purchasing a Havanese puppy varies widely depending on geography, breeder reputation, and lineage quality.

Typically, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 for a pet quality puppy from a reputable breeder.

However, show-quality puppies or those from award-winning lineage may cost significantly more.

Maintenance Costs

Once you bring your Havanese puppy home, you’ll incur several maintenance costs. 

Grooming expenses are notable due to their long, silky coats, which require regular brushing and trimming.

For professional grooming services, budget around $60 to $300 annually. 

Diet is another ongoing cost, with high-quality dog food averaging between $20 to $60 per month.

Don’t forget to include medical costs for annual check-ups, vaccinations, and unforeseen health issues, which can add up to a few hundred dollars per year.

Adopting a Havanese

Adopting any purebred dog from a rescue can be less expensive than purchasing from a breeder.

Adoption fees typically range from $250 to $500 and often include spaying/neutering, vaccinations, and microchipping.

Adopting an older dog may reduce some training and exercise requirements, yet companionship remains strong due to the breed’s affectionate nature.

Happy little golden havanese puppy dog is sitting in the grass and looking at camera

Finding Responsible Breeders

It’s vital to find a reputable breeder when purchasing a puppy.

A good breeder will provide health clearances for the puppies and allow you to visit their facility.

Be prepared for breeders to ask you questions as well.

They’ll want to ensure the right people find the right puppy find each other, potentially with access to space for exercise and an environment that accommodates a small dog with potential separation anxiety.

Frequently Asked Questions

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In this section, you’ll find concise answers to some of the most common questions about the Havanese breed, ranging from their weight and lifespan to their temperament and grooming needs.

How much do Havanese typically weigh?

These dogs are small in stature, with their weight usually ranging from 7 to 13 pounds.

What is the lifespan of a Havanese dog?

The average lifespan of this breed is between 14 to 16 years, indicating a relatively long life for a dog of its size.

What is the general temperamentHavanese?

Havanese are often perceived as affectionate and responsive to training.

They are friendly, playful, and intelligent, making them amicable family pets.

What are some pros and cons of owning a Havanese?

Some pros include their adaptability to various living situations and their generally cheerful demeanor. A potential con could be their need for regular grooming due to their long coat.

Do Havanese dogs have a tendency to shed?

Havanese have a double coat that sheds very little, which is part of what makes them easily manageable in terms of grooming.

Are Havanese considered hypoallergenic?

While no dog is completely hypoallergenic, Havanese are considered to be a better option for people with allergies, primarily due to their low-shedding coats.

Conclusion: The Bottom Line on the Havanese

This breed stands out as an engaging companion with a history of endearing itself to dog lovers around the world.

If you’re considering a Havanese as your next pet, you’re looking at a breed known for its friendly demeanorplayfulness, and intelligence.

  • Adaptability: Whether you live in an apartment or a house with a yard, your dog is likely to adjust well to your living situation. These dogs are highly adaptable and can thrive in various environments.

  • Companionship: Recognized for their affectionate nature, these dogs form strong bonds with their owners. As historical favorites of Cuban aristocracy, they’ve been cherished companions for centuries.

  • Maintenance: Grooming your dog will require attention due to their long, silky coat. Regular grooming sessions are essential to prevent matting and maintain their coat’s health.

  • Health: With a life expectancy of 14 to 16 years, they are generally a healthy breed. Still, like all breeds, they have predispositions to certain health issues, which should be monitored.

Incorporating a Havanese into your family means committing to an active, companionable pet who will bring joy and liveliness to your home.

Ensure you’re prepared for the grooming and interaction they crave to make the most of the Havanese’s presence in your life.

If you’re ready for a devoted and charming companion, the Havanese might just be the perfect match for you.

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