The Havanese Dog Breed – Discover This Friendly Little Character!

Havanese Dog

The Havanese, a dog without a care in the world

Affectionate, charming and energetic, these playful dogs act like ambassadors to the world, bring fun and entertainment to everyone they meet.

They know no strangers – friends to all, lovers of children, strangers, dogs and any other type of pet, they make the best family dog for those who prefer small breed dogs. 

Although very friendly, some can be wary of strangers which make them a decent watchdog.

A white Havanese dog standing facing the camera with autumn colors in the background
A white Havanese

As the treasured pet of the aristocracy in Cuba and the National Dog of Cuba were used for years as circus dogs in Europe. 

But today they are pure companions, keeping your lap warm, accompanying you on a walk, or just snuggling with you as you watch television. They don’t seem to care what they do as long as it involves being around a human.

Havanese – Temperament

Living Arrangements

These dogs are adaptable and would do fine in the city, suburbs or in the country. 

They make a great apartment dog because they aren’t nearly as yappy as some small dogs. Their outgoing personality is also a plus when living near neighbors. 

These little guys are very jovial and smart, but can be mischievous. According to the American Kennel Club standard…

“The expression is soft, intelligent and mischievous.”  AKC

These are not the type of dogs that you can leave alone for extended periods of time. They can be left for short periods of time, but should not be expected to remain in a crate for long hours while you work. They can suffer from separation anxiety.


They are considered a little sturdier than their cousin, the Maltese, so they may be okay with families with respectful young children.  Supervision is always necessary when very young children handle dogs. 



Exercise requirements are minimal with this breed. They love a walk or stroll around the neighborhood and enjoy playtime with their favorite humans either inside or outdoors.

Most of their daily exercise requirements can be met by following you around. They aren’t too demanding, so if there is a day where you can’t take a walk, you won’t hear the Havanese complaining in the least.

Other Dogs and Pets

The little Havanese tends to get along well with other dogs and pets in the household. 

While there are always exceptions to the rule, this breed enjoys the company of other four legged creatures and having two will assure that they keep each other company and active at the same time.

Havanese – Breed History

For hundreds of centuries, this breed of dog has adored the laps of the wealthy and famous. This is an ancient breed whose origins can be traced to the Mediterranean as far back as the first century A.D.

They are said to be members of the Bichon family that include dogs such as the Maltese, Bolognese, and Coton de Tulear.

Soon After Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba, Spanish colonization began on the island. Some of these dogs were brought along on these early voyages and were most likely ancestors of the Bichon family.

These dogs were loved by the Spanish aristocracy, and there was little mixing of the dogs of Cuba with the outside world due to trade restrictions.  Those living there seemed to have developed a tolerance for heat.

Wealthy Europeans in the 18th century seemed to enjoy vacationing in Cuba and brought back some of these small dogs admiring their coat and small size.  They soon became favorites in France, Spain, and England.

During the Cuban Revolution, the upper class of Cubans fled the country with their Havana-bred dogs.

From the 11 Havanese that made it to the United States, the entire breed population was rebuilt. Today, the breed remains unchanged from the dogs in the eighteenth century painting, Portrait of Federico II Gonzaga by Titian.

The Havanese is the national dog of Cuba, and the countries only native breed. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1996 and already has achieved the spot of 25th most popular breed in the United States.

Vital Statistics

Height: 9  – 11 in (23-27 cm)

Weight: 7 to 13 pounds (3–5.5 kg)

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Grouping:  Toy or Companion

Origins:  Cuba

Recognition:  FCI:  Group 9;  AKC:  Toys;  ANKC:  Toys;  CKC:  Toys;  KC:  Toys;  NZKC:  Toys;  UKC:  Companion

Other Names Used:   Havana Silk Dog,  Cuban Bichon, Bichon Havanais


According to the AKC, the Havanese come in 16 colors: 

  • Black
  • Black and Silver
  • Black and Tan
  • Black Brindle
  • Chocolate
  • Cream
  • Fawn
  • Gold
  • Gold Brindle
  • Gold Sable
  • Red
  • Silver
  • Silver Brindle
  • White
  • Black and Silver Brindle
  • White
  • Blue
  • Black and Tan Brindle
  • Blue Brindle
  • Chocolate Brindle
  • Chocolate Sable
  • Fawn Brindle
  • Fawn Sable
  • Silver Sable
A Havanese sitting down facing the camera, against a white background
Havanese dogs come in a rainbow of colors

Markings:  Cream Markings, Irish Pied, Parti Belton, Parti color, Silver Markings, Silver Points, Tan Points, White Markings

Ease of Training

These dogs are not difficult to train, although housebreaking may take some time.  Like many small breed dogs, they take longer to housebreak than most large breeds.

They love to please and will enjoy learning basic skills and even a trick or two, which might be a throwback from their ancestors’ circus days.  Even with their independent streak, they will catch on and do well. 

Many of these dogs excel in agility and obedience and make excellent therapy dogs.

They do well in puppy training classes or an obedience class or two, but can learn all they need to know through a conscientious owner willing to take the time to devote to training.

Without any training, these dogs can suffer from Small Dog Syndrome, so at the very least, they should understand and obey house rules and learn some dog manners. All dogs should begin their training as soon as you bring them home.


is vital to any breed, but if you planning to make your little Havanese part of the family and a companion to you in your travels, it is even more important.

Expose your dog to many different types of people, places, things, and other animals.  Think outside the box when considering places and people to introduce your dog to. 

The more a dog is exposed to at a very young age, the less behavioral problems you will have as the dog matures. Socialized dogs will be more confident, will be more outgoing and less timid. 


The Havanese will alert you if someone is coming to your door, however, do not expect them to protect you in any way. Thieves trying to break in? Your Havanese will bark, but that is about all you can expect.

Unless you have a couple of dozen Havanese all barking at the door at the same, their diminutive size is not likely to deter any would be intruders.

Grooming the Havanese

A wet Havanese dog sitting down, wrapped in an orange towel
Havanese Dogs require a considerable amount of time devoted to grooming.

They have a lovely silken coat that consists of two layers.  It needs brushing and combing at least every other day to prevent tangles and mats from forming. 

The hair is capable of forming long cords such as what you might see in the Komondor, but most people do not like that look in this breed.

Their hair continues to grow, so if you don’t plan on showing your dog, you may want to keep them in a shorter, puppy type clip. If you love the long locks, brushing, combing and bathing will be necessary. 

The hair on the top of their head is not generally pulled up in a topknot like many of the long-haired small breed dogs. 

You can manage the hair if you like with a top knot, but braiding or training the hair to lie flat around the eyes works well too.

These dogs are considered low shedders because although they do shed, those dead hairs get trapped in the coat and not all over the carpet and furniture. 

Those dead hairs must be combed and brushed to prevent tangling.  Low-shedding dogs are often recommended for people with allergies. 

While there is no such thing as an entirely hypoallergenic dog, the Havanese does come close. If you do have allergies and are considering the acquisition of a Havanese, spend some time with them first to see how you do. 

Their soft coats can pick up dirt, grass, or other debris, especially if they spend much time outdoors. 

Some like to roll around on the lawn, taking anything from unusual smells to external parasites and just plain mud. 

They will need frequent bathing but not so much as to dry out the natural oils in their hair.  A bath about every three weeks is usually good enough.

You may prefer to have your dog professional clipped and groomed. If so, the groomer will clip the hair between the paw pads, check the anal glands, clean the ears, and clip the nails. 

If you prefer your Havanese to keep that long show dog look, you will still need to attend to these tasks including doing a sanitary clip about every 2 months.

Either way, plan on checking their ears each week and cleaning if necessary. Breeds like the Havanese, who have ears that drop and are carried close to the head have a tendency to get infected easily if not cleaned periodically. 

Hair grows inside the ear canal and will need to be plucked out about every couple of months. Nails should be clipped short or filed down, and teeth should be brushed as often as possible to prevent dental problems.

Health Considerations

Havanese is considered a healthy breed, but as with other breeds, there are some conditions that may come up from time to time. 

Some of them are considered to have a genetic basis.  The Havanese suffers primarily from luxating patella, liver disease, heart disease, cataracts and retinal dysplasia, all of which are also common in many small breed dogs. 

read more at our Havanese Health page

Reference and Further Reading

Click on the images for further details.

1 thought on “The Havanese Dog Breed – Discover This Friendly Little Character!”

  1. It’s a good thing you told us that Havanese pups make great apartment dogs since they aren’t yappy despite having outgoing personalities. I got the green light from my landlord to keep a pet in the apartment, so I was thinking of raising a dog to keep me company since I live alone. I’ll keep this in mind while I look for a breeder offering family-raised Havanese dogs.

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