At a glance
The Havanese is a non-shedding, Bichon type dog breed. They are very playful companion dogs and good friends for older, more considerate children. They love to be on furniture so they can keep an eye on everybody at home.


  • Names – Havanese Cuban Bichon, Bichon Havanês, Bichon Havanais, Havaneser, Havanezer, Havana Silk Dog, Bichon Habanero
  • Group – AKC: Toy Group; KC: Toy
  • Size – small
  • Life expectancy – average of 13; range of about 14-15 years
  • Cost of ownership – high
  • Ease of ownership – high
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Amount of Exercise – medium
  • Amount of Grooming – medium
  • Ease of Training – high
  • Obedience level – high
  • Suitable for Children – high
  • Amount of Care Required – medium
  • Susceptibility to Health Problems – medium

The Havanese is a small toy dog who does not appear fragile or delicate. Their eyes are set high on their heads and are dark brown and almond shaped. They have drop, medium length ears that can reach halfway to the nose if extended. The breed’s muzzle is fairly short and ends with broad, square-shaped noses. Havanese usually have a perfect scissor bite. The high set tail has a plume of long hair that arcs forward and rests naturally above and slightly over the back.

The Havanese has very well boned and muscular legs with round feet. These dogs have a double coat meant to protect them from tropical temperatures. The coat is light and soft and never wiry. They have long hair over their eyes that is not meant to be knotted up or clipped, as it is a part of their unique heat fighting design.


  • Bitch – 3 to 6 kilos (7 to 13 pounds)
  • Dog -3 to 6 kilos (7 to 13 pounds)


  • Bitch – 21.5 to 29 cm (8 1/2 to 11 1/2 inches)
  • Dog – 21.5 to 29 cm (8 1/2 to 11 1/2 inches)


  • Color – any color, including cream, gold, white, silver, blue, black, chocolate and even parti and tricolors.
  • Coat – double coated, with straight to curly hair that is soft in texture, very long and in great abundance
  • Shedding – low
  • Allergies – low
  • Causes Allergies – medium

The Havanese is always eager to entertain his humans right from the start. They are bright, inquisitive, and fun-loving. This breed enjoys companionship and will make fast friends with older children. The Havanese make excellent watch dogs and will bark to warn about danger or visitors. They will look to their family for reassurance before welcoming those not part of the intimate family circle.

  • Separation Anxiety – high
  • Barking tendency – medium
  • Aggressive tendency – low
  • Compatibility Other Animals – high
  • Suitable for Children – high
  • Watchdog suitability – medium

The Havanese is exceptionally intelligent and quick-witted. They have very star-performer personality, and from this springs their love of attention. Their curiosity usually gives them plenty of things and people to inspect. They will want to join in on loud, impulsive play, especially with respectful children.

Their love for perching somewhere high – especially on the back of sofas and chairs – is not a snobbish trait; rather, they simply want to have everybody at home within sight. For them, the best role they can play is to participate as an active member of the family.

With regard to separation anxiety, as long as their owner is not away from home for more than a four hour stretch, and six hours total each day, then a Hav will have an easier time adjusting to the owner’s lifestyle.

The Havanese is a ready and eager learner from Day 1. They excel in both obedience and agility. They also enjoy swimming and will play water sports. The highlight of their day is being the center of attention, and they will show off their quick wit and trainability. Their affection and cheerfulness make them great therapy dogs. Like many toy breeds, the Havanese may present a challenge in housetraining. Firm, fair, consistent and loving direction is needed in training the dogs, as a harsh voice will create a negative association with training.

  • Obedience – high

Exercise required
The Havanese is an active indoor-living dog. Thus, the dog needs only moderate exercise. While they are also energetic, their small size allows most of their energy to be exhausted in the house. However, they will appreciate a small yard area where they can run around each day. They can also obtain sufficient exercise from accompanying their owner on a daily walk.

  • Energy – Medium
  • Amount required – 10 minute daily walk and indoor play.

While a bath may be needed every month, the profuse coat needs daily grooming. If an owner has no plans to show the dog, the coat can be trimmed shorter, which will make grooming convenient and easier. Paws need extensive trimming to give the dog surer footing on smooth floors. You should also know that some Havanese have been known to develop tear staining, so care should be taken to check and clean the eyes with a damp warm wash cloth every few days.

It is important to inspect the eyes and ears often and keep them clean. The breed is prone to genetic eye conditions and ear infections. In addition, tooth brushing needs to be performed weekly to stop early tooth loss.

The dog’s breeder is a good source of reliable recommendations regarding an adequate dog diet. The breeder is likely to suggest following his or her diet plan for the first week or so after you have brought your pup home. Following this period, the dog owner can slowly change the dog’s diet towards a new plan, which may consist of a good quality dry dog food or raw diet.

A raw food plan involves some careful planning and purchase of meat, and the diet itself will usually consist of raw meat, bone and offal. Some owners also give their dogs 4 to 5 raw eggs a week and Salmon Oil almost every day. You will need to carefully determine how much your canine needs to eat, but the general rule is to feed the equivalent of 2% to 3% of the dog’s total body weight.  Portion adjustments can be made later if necessary.

The breed’s coat was meant to keep the dog cool from the heat, but this does not mean he should be left outdoors in hot weather.  Moreover, this dog is not designed to spend long periods of time out in the cold.  For easier grooming, non-show dogs can be cut shorter and wear the “puppy cut”.

The Havanese is meant to have a natural looking coat. Havanese show dogs will, therefore, not need back combing and fussing of the coat. Any styling of appearance or wearing of clips for showing is not allowed because the dog will look artificial to those knowledgeable. The very long hair around the feet, however, can be clipped.

  • Ease of grooming – medium
  • Amount of grooming – high

Health-testing requirements are set by the Havanese Club of America for those breeders who want to qualify for the Breeder Referral list. A breeder must provide proof of BAER-hearing, CERF-eyes, OFA- Hips and Patella’s. Many breeders on the list do additional testing such as SA320-Liver Shunt and Cardiac testing. Even if a dog attains an AKC Champion title, this certainly does not indicate the dog is suitable for breeding. But it is proof of breeding stock conformation and, in some cases, of the dog’s temperament.

To reduce the incidence of luxating patellas, HCA requires that puppy knees be checked before the age of six months; any puppy showing signs of the condition cannot be used for breeding. Breeders also need to work on weeding out chondrodysplasia (a condition which causes bowing of the legs and is often associated with other serious health issues).

Potential Havanese dog buyers need to be aware that dogs that are being marketed as a “Havana Silk Dog” actually have no differences from the Havanese dog breed.

  • Litter size – average of 4; range of 1 to 9

While Havanese are very healthy in general, this long-lived breed also has its share of health problems. Some dogs and lines are susceptible to diseases, such as cataracts, luxating patellas, poodle eye, dry skin, and progressive retinal atrophy.

  • Life expectancy – average of 13; range of about 14-15 years
  • Susceptibility to illness – medium
  • Common health problems – progressive retinal atrophy, juvenile cataracts, which can also impair vision, and luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps), ear infections, tearstains, and dry skin

The Havanese is ideal for first-time dog owners and for families with older children. The dog is also smart and agile enough for those owners interested in participating in obedience or agility competitions. This dog can co-exist happily with other dogs and household pets. He makes a good apartment companion given his trainability and lack of barking.

Havanese shed very little and are good pets for allergy sufferers. That said, some people with severe allergies might still react negatively to the dog’s dander. Any allergy sufferer interested in the breed may want to spend a few hours first with the dog before deciding to get one.

Keep in mind that this breed is very sensitive to the tone of his masters’ voice, so harsh words will only make the dog struggle instead of producing productive results. In order to have a healthy personality, these dogs also need a firm, confident, consistent owner. Another noteworthy characteristic is that Havanese make good watch dogs, and though not overly yappy, will alert his owner when a visitor arrives. Some dogs may appear shy around strangers, but this is likely due to a lack of socialization, and should not be tolerated in the breed.

Living conditions
Good for apartment life and will do well even if there is no yard for running.

  • Good with Children – They enjoy the company of children but children need to learn how to treat the dog with proper care and respect.

The Havanese (or Habaneros in Spanish) belongs to the Bichon family. The breed was founded likely in the Western Mediterranean region and flourished along the coasts of Spain and Italy. Experts now say that the Havenese’s ancestors were brought to Cuba aboard trade ships that came from the island of Tenerife. The Havanese is the National Dog of Cuba and is the country’s only native breed.

By the mid-eighteenth century the breed was well-known in Europe and was well established. With the outbreak of the Cuban revolution, some Cubans fled the country and brought their dogs with them to the United States. Currently, all Havanese in the United States are likely descendants of the 11 original immigrant dogs, if not traceable to those that came from Cuba.

  • County or origin – Cuba
  • AKA KC name and group – AKC: Toy Group ; UK: Toys
  • Recognition – CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, KCGB, NKC, CKC, ANKC, APRI, ACR only those Havanese registered with the Original Havanese Club (OHC) may be registered with the UKC. The Havanese is also recognized by the American Rare Breed Association.

Did you know…

  • Famous Havanese dogs and dog owners include:
    • Venus Williams owns Harold Reginald Williams.
    • Donald Trump Jr.’s family owns two Havanese dogs.
    • Celebrity couple Seal and Heidi Klum own a Havanese.
    • TV personality Robert Verdi is another famous owner.
  • Young Havanese need to eat 3 times a day plus an evening ‘reward’ snack, but soon will wean themselves off the extra meal.
  • Havanese love to run through the house pulling one end of the running toilet paper roll, or shred any newspaper that happens to be on the floor.
  • Although the Havanese breed is from tropical Cuba, they can cope with cold weather and even snow.
  • Havanese love heights and like to check out what’s going on.  Any high surface is an instant viewing deck: the top of the sofa back, the top of the file box, the bookshelf, even a mound of dirt!
  • Winsor Pilates

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