Havanese is one of the older dog breeds in the Bichon family. In the 1600s, explorers, colonists, and traders brought dogs from Tennerife to Cuba, where the dogs found favor with the local aristocracy. By the 1800s, they had been taken to Europe, where they were popular with the royal families in England, France, and Spain.
The Havanese is a sturdy toy dog breed who stands between 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall and weighs 7 to 14 pounds. Her body is slightly longer than she is tall, her head is wedge-shaped, eyes are dark, and ears are dropped. Her tail is plumed and carried over the back. Her crowning glory is her silky double coat. The undercoat is soft, while the outer coat is longer, abundant, and slightly wavy. Although white is the best known color, the coat may be any color. This coat does require some care. Daily brushing and combing will prevent tangles and mats. Havanese show dogs should be untrimmed, but many pet owners have the coat trimmed to keep it neat and clean, especially around the genitals and under the tail.
The Havanese is playful and mischievous but not overly active. She will be happy with a nice walk and a couple of playtimes each day. The Havanese breed is intelligent. Havanese enjoy training, especially when interspersed with playtimes. They enjoy many canine sports, especially agility. Although these dogs are more affectionate with their owners than anyone else, they are still friendly to most people.
Socialization is a good idea since the breed was at one time a watchdog, although today they are more social. Havanese make wonderful therapy dogs. The Havanese will thrive in a home with affectionate people who like to play. She is wonderful with children who treat her gently. She is good with other dogs as long as larger dogs are not too rough. She can also be very good with smaller pets. There are several major health concerns, including chrondrodysplasia, cataracts, deafness, hip dysplasia, liver disorders, and knee and skin problems.
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One of the brightest and sturdiest of the toys, the Havanese is happy and playful and enjoys clever games of dexterity such as “pull the hidden toy from under the cabinet with your paw.”
Havanese are very people-oriented dogs, love snuggling in laps, and can be overly dependent — they don’t do well at all when left for long periods of time without companionship. “Not doing well” means unhappiness and boredom, which they may try to vent through barking and destructive chewing.
Though peaceful and gentle with everyone (humans and other pets), the Havanese can be conservative with strangers. Socialization is important to build a confident, outgoing temperament, as there is a potential for excessive caution/timidity.
Havanese do have an independent streak, but they are not a dominant breed. They respond well to training that includes food rewards and they especially love learning tricks. Many individuals excel in competitive obedience and agility.
The most problematic training issue is housebreaking — Havanese are slow to housetrain. Barking needs to be curtailed, as well. Many Havanese like to perch on the high back of a sofa or chair, looking out the window so they can announce visitors.