Havanese are small dogs with prominent personalities. Sometimes referred to as the Havana Silk Dog, Havanese dogs are about nine inches tall on average and weigh anywhere from seven to 13 pounds. Havanese are a soft, playful, affectionate, and intelligent breed. They have a life expectancy of up to 15 years, making them longtime companions. Havanese are considered “velcro dogs” because they stay attached to their owner and love to go anywhere and everywhere. Their small size makes them the perfect companion for chores and errands alike.
Havanese are characterized by short legs and a fluffy tail that curls over the back. They come in a variety of colors, including black, white, brown, and beige, making them loved by many. Havanese are known for being curious and a little bit goofy, but full of love. They are energetic little dogs that love spending time with their family. They make great pets for first time dog owners and can thrive in just about any environment. We love their long, silky coat, but recommend being prepared to brush through it daily. Although they do not need tons of exercise, Havanese sure do love to play. They are pretty easy to train and do very well with positive reinforcement. Feed your pup a high quality dry food and you will have an easy going companion.
The Havanese is the only dog breed native to Cuba and is the country's national dog. We can trace their lineage back to the 16th century when the Spanish settled Cuba. They descend from the Bichon family of dogs, another small companion dog. The early Havanese coat is very similar to the coat we know and love today, and resembles raw silk floss. This coat helped insulate them against the tropical sun.
By the 19th century, everyone wanted one, with Queen Victoria having two and Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway each owning one. In the 20th century, Havanese almost became an extinct breed. Luckily, there were a few breeders that kept them and only 11 were brought to the United States following the Cuban Revolution in 1959. These 11 Havanese are said to be the ancestors of the majority of the Havanese outside of Cuba. The American Kennel Club recognized the purebred breed by 1995.
Many celebrities are known to love their Havanese, including Barbara Walter and Venus Williams. The American Kennel Club ranked the Havanese as the 24th most popular breed in the United States in 2020.
Havanese make excellent therapy dogs in hospitals and nursing homes. They are sure to add a sense of calmness to any household. They are frequently used as emotional support animals due to their size and temperament. In a step above, they can also be used as psychiatric service animals, gaining certification. Psychiatric service animals work with people living with PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Their immense intelligence has even made them circus performers throughout Europe. They are able to perform tricks that many other dogs cannot.
Havanese are peaceful, gentle, and a great addition to any household. They can make just about anyone their best friend and are always ready to play. They thrive on companionship with their owners and will be loyal guardians. These highly adaptable dogs are intelligent and very trainable, making them a great choice for first time dog owners. Havanese are one of the most social breeds out there, so you can start introducing them to strangers from a young age.
Havanese are eager to please, which will assist you in your training efforts. They are quite sensitive and do well with positive reinforcement rather than harsh scolding. Many Havanese love to perform in shows that require agility and obedience. Their springy walk makes them look like they are jumping towards you more than walking.
You will absolutely want to start training your Havanese as a puppy. While they are very easy to train on the obedience front, it is a little bit trickier to house train them. We recommend crate training your puppy, as this will help them through the house training process. Only leave your puppy in a crate for as many hours as they are months old. Make sure the crate is set up in a way that feels like a little home for your Havanese. Most dogs want to keep their homes clean, so this helps with potty training. When they alert you that they need to go outside, reward this behavior and they will begin to learn where to use the bathroom.
For obedience training, you can also start as soon as you get your Havanese puppy. Teach them basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” Once they have mastered these commands, you are free to teach them your own commands, while reinforcing the ones they have already learned. After this, you can teach them as many skills as you want. The saying “an old dog can’t learn new tricks” does not apply here – Havanese dogs are intelligent and can learn at any age.
We think Havanese make the perfect family pet. They are great with young children and will be gentle with babies. They do very well with other dogs in the household, but early socialization is always important. Due to their small size, supervise interactions between your Havanese and young children or larger dogs to make sure the Havanese does not get hurt. Teach children to respect your Havanese and be gentle towards it. These adorable dogs also show very little aggression towards cats and will want to play with any felines in your home.
They are generally quiet dogs and typically do not bark much, if at all. This makes this breed a fantastic choice for people living in an apartment. However, a house to run around in is always nice. If you do notice that your Havanese is more vocal than you would like, practice commands like “quiet” and “no speak” to teach them to stop barking on command. They suffer from separation anxiety, so they should not be left alone for too long during the day. A Havanese is an excellent option for those who work from home, as they will be quiet in the background but enjoy your company.
Their unique coat allows them to be tolerant of significant heat. However, Havanese are prone to allergies such as fleas, grass, and pollen, so you will want to be prepared for that when you get one. Consult with a veterinarian first, but antihistamines (same as we use) can help in some cases.
You will want to start your grooming routine with your Havanese puppy early on to get them familiar with the tools and procedures. They have a long double coat that is silky. It will need to be groomed daily or every other day to avoid mats and tangles. We recommend using a comb or a brush, but be gentle. Use a pin brush to get through to the undercoat and get rid of loose hair. Lightly mist with a hydrating spray prior to brushing. Mats typically form closer to the skin, so make sure your brush is getting all the way down through their double coat. If you just brush the outer coat, there could still be uncomfortable mats down below.
How often you bathe your Havanese depends on their activity levels and the length of their coat. They typically need a bath every one to three weeks. Use both a high quality shampoo and conditioner to keep their silky coat healthy. We recommend investing in a dog hair dryer rather than letting your Havanese air dry. The hair dryer helps keep the coat soft and shiny. Once the coat is dry, use a brush to make sure it is tangle free, and go through with a comb at the very end for a polished look.
While you will not have to worry about drooling with Havanese, their eyes tend to water, so you will want to wipe them daily with a damp cloth to prevent any staining of the hair around their eyes. While you are wiping their eyes, check their ears for any accumulated wax or debris and remove as needed to prevent infection. Brush their teeth two to three times a week to prevent tartar buildup and bad breath. Especially with smaller dogs, good dental hygiene goes a long way. Clip their nails once or twice a month, or whenever you hear them on hard surfaces. Nails that are too long can become ingrown or scratch. Clip or pin back the hairs above your Havanese’s eyes so they can see.
Havanese are hypoallergenic, making them great for people who struggle with allergies. Some owners like to take them to a groomer to trim their coat, but this is not required and is all up to personal preference. However, if you live in a warmer climate, their coat insulates against the harsh sun and keeps them cool. We advise against shaving their coat in the winter, or else they will get very cold. Luckily, Havanese rarely shed. Grooming is a big responsibility for any dog, but especially for Havanese to keep them healthy.
Havanese need moderate exercise and enjoy going on walks or having some playtime, but do not over-exercise them. They are a low-maintenance breed and only need around 30 minutes to an hour of exercise per day. Havanese love to cuddle up with their owners, exemplifying what it means to be a lap dog. Do not over exercise your Havanese at any age, but especially when they are puppies. Overexertion can lead to a variety of different bone and joint issues.
Havanese puppies need even less exercise than adults and can get plenty of activity from playtime around the house. Your Havanese will not be picky on the type of exercise they want. They are happy doing anything as long as it is together. We recommend getting a variety of different toys for inside the house, like treat finders, fluffy toys to cuddle, and ropes to play tug of war. Get toys specifically designed for Havanese or small breeds to avoid injury.
Havanese need food that is specifically designed for small breeds. They are small and will likely only need around ½ cup to 1 cup of dry food daily. We highly recommend dry food for Havanese because it helps to promote teeth and gum health. The exact amount of food your Havanese needs depends on its age, size, build, and activity level. We recommend feeding twice a day rather than one big meal to prevent overeating and to help keep them satiated throughout the day.
When looking for the best food for your Havanese, look at proteins, fats, carbs, and fiber. Get a food that has whole proteins, like chicken, turkey, beef, or duck. Due to Havanese’s high energy, they need a bit more fat than a standard lapdog. Fats from salmon oil or chicken are great. Fatty acids like Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s are crucial for their nutrition. Carbohydrates are very important as well, and can come from whole grains, vegetables, and beans. You will need at least 5% fiber in your dry food to keep their gut strong. If you follow these guidelines when searching for a kibble, your Havanese will surely be happy and healthy.
A Havanese puppy will need slightly different amounts of nutrients to grow. We recommend a food that has at least 22% crude protein and 8% crude fat. Their metabolism works fast, so make sure the food is packed full of nutrients. Adult food will have similar levels of protein but less calories to prevent obesity.
The most important thing to remember is to stay away from preservatives and additives. Whole grains and whole meats are delicious and the best for your purebred Havanese, so stay away from any byproducts. Also look out for foods that contain vitamins A, C, D, and E to promote healthy eyes, joints, muscles, and bones.
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