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Havanese dog breed profile 

Havanese dog with their tongue out

With their alert eyes, affectionate nature, and a spring in their step, Havanese have a lot of personality contained in a small package. They are intelligent, sociable, and friendly dogs who make wonderful companions and are devoted to their families.  

Table of contents: 

History of Havanese dogs: 

Despite only being recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1996, Havanese have a long history. They are thought to be descended from the Bichon family of small white dogs, like the Bichon Frise and Maltese. The Havanese ancestors were probably brought from Spain and the Canary Islands to Cuba in the 1600s. Early colonizers and traders brought along their small dogs, and they quickly became the lap dog of choice for the Cuban aristocracy. Their light, silky coat made these dogs very heat tolerant and gave them the original name Blanquito de la Habana or the white Cuban, and they were also known as the Havana Silk Dog. Crossbreeding with other members of the Bichon family, including poodles, resulted in a slightly larger dog with a variety of colors and led to the modern Havanese. Today, it is the national dog of Cuba and Cuba’s only native dog.  

Havanese remained very popular with the Cuban elites and they even gained a following in Europe in the 19th century. It is said that Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria had Havanese. The Cuban Revolution in the 1950s led many of these elites to flee from Cuba and migrate to the United States. This threatened the continuation of the breed as many people could not bring their dogs with them. Through careful breed selection and effort the breed grew from 11 Cuban dogs that were brought to the United States and the breed slowly became established in the U.S.. There are now more than 4,000 registered Havanese. 


Havanese are cheerful, lively, playful additions to your fur family. They thrive on human companionship and are gentle and happy with children, often following them around the house. Havanese love nothing more than to be stuck close to their people, which has earned them the nickname ‘velcro dogs’. While they can be left alone for a few hours a day, because they are so devoted to their people, this sometimes leads to separation anxiety and stress when they must be on their own. 

Size and appearance:  

A Havanese is a member of the Toy group and stands about 8-12 inches high. Adults weigh 7-13 pounds. Their sturdy bodies and up-for-anything attitude make them great companions. Havanese greet you with a bright and cheerful expression, and they have a natural spring in their step. Their coat is long and minimally shedding, and it is notable for its soft silkiness. Havanese tails curl up over their bodies.  They can present in many colors ranging from pure white to grey, brown, and black. They come in many patterns and markings, and it is very common for a Havanese to undergo a complete color change as they age.  

Activity level:  

As a small breed, Havanese have moderate exercise requirements. They need a good walk and play time each day, and love to be included in your daily activity around the house, but they do not demand constant exercise and stimulation. Havanese have lately become popular with people in cities who have limited outdoor space. 

They are intelligent and respond very well to positive training. Havanese are eager to please, and many people train them to perform advanced tricks and to compete in agility or freestyle dance. Many Havanese successfully complete training as psychiatric service dogs, and their bright personalities and calm demeanors make them good visitors to hospitals or nursing homes. 


A soft, silky, and luxurious coat is one of the best features of the Havanese, but it also means your dog will need steady grooming. Nightly brushing is necessary to keep the coat tangle-free and without any mats. Their coats can grow quite long, and some people choose to keep it cut short for ease of care. While it looks like their long coat would cause them to overheat, the silky fur offers protection from the sun and actually keeps the dog cool in the warm weather, so they are more comfortable with a longer coat. They are not well-suited to cold environments and might need to wear a sweater in colder climates.  

Other owners choose to ‘cord’ the dog’s coat by letting the dog’s fur mat and then separating each mat into a strand with their fingers (this is a similar process to human dreadlocks). This can be a time-consuming task. These strands take a bit of work as you have to wet them in order for them to become more compact and then carefully and completely dry the cords so they don’t mildew. A corded dog does not need to be brushed, but it can be difficult to bathe them as it takes about half an hour of soaking for water to penetrate the cords. 


Havanese are a generally healthy breed and have a long lifespan of 14-16 years. There are a few health conditions they might be prone to such as eye disorders, deafness, heart murmur, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, which affects the hip-joint and can be found in a number of small-breed dogs, and patellar Luxation (or dislocated kneecap). They are also prone to having allergies and may suffer from environmental stressors like pollen and various grasses. Working with a reputable breeder will ensure that your pup has been thoroughly checked for health issues and disease. 

To keep in mind: 

Similar to its relative the Bichon Frise and other toy breeds, Havanese can have a hard time learning to be potty trained. Patience and consistent positive support will help with timely housebreaking. 

Even though they are outgoing performers and become very attached to their families, they can be shy around strangers. Havanese need to be carefully socialized as puppies so they will be accepting of other dogs and people and not retreat into their stand-offish habits. 

They require consistent and frequent grooming. Even though their coat can be cut short, without proper brushing it will be overtaken by painful mats. 

They can be barky and should be trained from a young age to limit barking at other people and animals. 

The bottom line about Havanese dogs: 

If you are looking for a small, affectionate companion dog, the Havanese will fit the bill. Their cheerful enthusiasm suffuses everything they do, and they will thrive on close personal attention. With adorable looks, a winning personality, and a sturdy and healthy build, the Havanese is really the ‘complete package’.