The Havanese, while a toy dog, is also a hearty and sturdy dog for such a size, and should never give the appearance of fragility or of being overly delicate. Weight range is from 10-15 pounds. The height range is from 8½ to 11½ inches (216 to 292 mm), with the ideal being between 9 and 10½ inches (229 and 267 mm), measured at the withers, and is slightly less than the length from point of shoulder to point of buttocks, which should give the dog the appearance of being slightly longer than tall. A unique aspect of the breed is the top line, which rises slightly from withers to rump, and the gait, which is flashy but not too reaching, and gives the Havanese a sprightly, agile appearance on the move. Havanese's are the kind of dog you would be able to put under the seat on the plane. Beautiful puppies and love to play. They are good swimmers but not the best. Most don't like water.

The expression of the face with its almond eyes, is very cute, like the Bolognese, and the ears, which are medium in length and well feathered, always hang down. The tail should curve over the back at rest, and is covered with a plumb of long fur. Their coat should be brushed daily, because if not your dogs fur will result in mats. Then you will have to get it shaved, because it is nearly impossible to get mats out once they have formed. Their fur serves no protection at all for cold weather. They are the kind of dogs you would buy a sweater for. If they go out in the snow ice clumps will stick between their paw pads, just rinse off in warm water, or buy booties. When you give them a bath make sure to blow dry them dry.

The key word for the Havanese is 'natural', and the breed standards note that except for slight clipping around the feet to allow for a circular foot appearance, they are to be shown unclipped; any further trimming, back-combing, or other fussing is against type and will cause a dog to be disqualified. That includes undocked tails, un cropped ears, and even a standard that forbids the use of topknots and bows in presentation, to keep with the traditional look of the dog, where the hair covered the eyes and protected them against the harsh Cuban sun. The American Kennel Club standard notes "his character is essentially playful rather than decorative" and the Havanese, when shown, should reflect that, generally looking like a toy in size only, but more at home with playing with children or doing silly tricks than being pampered and groomed on a silk pillow.


Although there are a few arguments on whether the original Havanese were all white or of different colors, modern Havanese are acceptable in all coat colors and patterns.


"Left" A litter of seven puppies with a variety of colors.

Havanese, like other Bichons and related dogs like Poodles, have a coat that catches hair and dander internally, and needs to be regularly brushed out. Many people consider the Havanese to be non allergenic or hypoallergenic, but they do still release dander, which can aggravate allergies. It's best to be exposed to the Havanese before deciding to choose one as a dog for a house with allergies.

The Havanese often appears on lists of dogs that allegedly do not shed . However, such lists are misleading. Every hair in the dog coat grows from a hair follicle, which has a cycle of growing, then dying and being replaced by another follicle. When the follicle dies, the hair is shed. The length of time of the growing and shedding cycle varies by age and other factors. "There is no such thing as a non shedding breed." Some dogs shed more than others. While you can not say that Havanese are a non shedding breed, you may say that Havanese shed very little.

Havanese are supposed to have a slightly wavy, double coat. However, unlike other double coated breeds, the Havanese outer coat is neither coarse nor overly dense, but rather soft and light with a slightly heavier undercoat. Not all Havanese have coats that match the standard. Havanese coats are supposed to be very soft, like unrefined silk(compared to the Maltese coat, which feels like refined silk). However, in some dogs the coat can become too silky, looking oily. On the other end of the spectrum, Havanese coats can be too harsh, giving a "frizzy" appearance.

Because of the tropical nature of the Havanese, the thick coat is light and designed to act as a sunshade and cooling agent for the little dog on hot days. This means that the fluffy Havanese does need protection against cold winter days, in spite of the warm woolly look of their fur.

The coat can be shown naturally brushed out, or corded, a technique which turns the long coat into 'cords' of fur, similar to what dreadlocks are in Humans. This corded look may be difficult to achieve for the first timer, so it is always recommended that someone interested in cording their Havanese consults someone who has done it before.

"Left" White and Cream Havanese

The Havanese has a playful, friendly temperament which is unlike many other toy dog breeds. It is at home with well behaved children and most other pets, and is rarely shy or nervous around new people. Clever and active, they will often solicit attention by performing tricks, such as running back and forth between two rooms as fast as they can. They are very lovable.

The Havanese is a very people oriented dog. They often have a habit of following their humans around the house, even to the bathroom, but do not tend to be overly possessive of their people, and do not usually suffer aggression or jealousy towards other dogs, other pets or other humans.

The Havanese's love of children stems back to the days when it was often the playmate of the small children of the households to which it belonged. Unlike most toy dogs, who are too delicate and sometimes too nervous or aggressive to tolerate the often clumsy play of children, the Havanese, with care, is a cheerful companion to even younger children, and this is no small part of its growing popularity around the world.

Havanese have been known to eat only when they have company in the same room. If one is eating and their person leaves the room, it is likely the dog will grab a mouthful of food and follow their "person", dropping the food and consuming it one morsel at a time in the room their person goes to.

Havanese are true "dogs", loving to play in an aggressive manner, not wanting to be the "loser" of whatever game they are playing. That being said, they calm down quickly when prompted to do so by their owners.

Havanese have excellent noses and are easily trained to play "find it" where the owner hides a treat and the Havanese sniffs it out, never giving up until the treat is discovered. This is a highly trainable dog.


Havanese are natural companion dogs: gentle and responsive. They become very attached to their human families and are excellent with children. Very affectionate and playful with a high degree of intelligence, these cheerful little dogs are very sociable and will get along with everyone including people, dogs, cats and other pets. They are easy to obedience train and get along well with other dogs. This curious dog loves to sit up high on a chair to observe what is going on. It is very sensitive to the tone of your voice. Harsh words will only upset the dog and will achieve very little. Generally, harsh punishment is unnecessary. The Havanese have a long reputation of being circus dogs, probably because it learns quickly and enjoys doing things for people. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard notes that "he is easy to train as alarm dog." It is best to teach them not to bark unnecessarily while they are still young to prevent it from becoming a habit. Havanese can be good alarm dogs - making sure to alert you when a visitor arrives, but quick to welcome the guest once it sees you welcome them. Some dogs may exhibit a degree of shyness around strangers, but this is not characteristic of the breed. They are very very attracted to people and will absolutely not serve as a guard dog.


The Havanese seems to suffer primarily from chondrodysplasia (dwarfism), liver disease, heart failure (don't make any anesthesia risks its body does not react well results in heart failure especially under a year old), heart disease,cataracts (incidence is increasing) and unlikely to inherit progressive retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia. Wider lists of ailments are more a testament to highly proactive clubs and breeder organizations. Havanese clubs like the Havanese Club of America have worked hard for many years to try and search out and eradicate the health problems these dogs may suffer from. In spite of these common ailments, Havanese are generally considered healthy and sturdy dogs and, those which are not afflicted with the above listed conditions, often live between 14-16 years. Havanese also commonly tear excessively from their eyes causing fur around this area to be stained a brown color and requires daily cleaning.

Because of the small genetic pool from which the Havanese were revived (11 dogs), Havanese organizations around the world are always on the lookout for new health and genetic issues that may come to the fore in this otherwise healthy breed.


The Havanese itself developed uniquely in Cuba, either as the result of said Spanish sailors, or as is often believed by native Cubans, as gifts from Italian traders to open the doors of wealthy houses to their goods. The "Little Dog from Havana" even traveled back to Europe where it found brief favor in the late 19th century as a circus and trick dog and a court companion.

As part of the Cuban Revolution, many trappings of aristocracy were culled, including the pretty but useless fluffy family dogs of the wealthy land owners of Cuba. Even though many upper class Cubans fled to the United States, few were able to bring their dogs, nor did they have the inclination to breed them. Indeed, when Americans became interested in this rare and charming dog in the 1970s, the gene pool available in the US was only 11 animals.

With dedicated breeding, as well as the acquisition of some new dogs of type internationally, the Havanese has made a huge comeback and is one of the fastest growing registration of new dogs in the American Kennel Club (AKC) (+42% in 2004). They have also acquired a certain level of trendiness due to rarity, good temperament, and publicity by such famous owners as Barbara Walters. The Havanese is recognized by major registries in the English-speaking world. In addition to the American Kennel Club, it is recognized by The Kennel Club (UK), the Australian National Kennel Council, the New Zealand Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club (US), and was recognized as Bichon Havanais, breed number 250, by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 2006. It also may be recognized some of the very large number of minor registries and internet based clubs and dog registry businesses.

Havanese at work

Because of the cheerful and readily trained nature of the Havanese, they are increasingly a dog utilized for a variety of jobs, especially those involving the public. Havanese have been utilized for:

  • Therapy dogs
  • Assistance dogs, such as signal dogs for the hearing impaired.
  • Performing dogs
  • Mold and termite detection
  • Tracking

Havanese also compete in a variety of dog sports, such as

  • Dog agility
  • Flyball
  • Musical canine freestyle
  • Obedience training


Havanese have several specific considerations for their care that a prospective owner should keep in mind.

The Havanese has a profuse coat that requires daily grooming. If one does not intend to show their dog, it can be trimmed shorter so as to require less brushing.

The Havanese, with their drop ears, need to have their ears cleaned to help prevent ear infections.

Though they are not dogs that require long walks, Havanese are active and require at least a large, well-enclosed yard to run around in a few times a day. They will also use up energy tearing around and getting underfoot.

The Havanese is not a naturally yappy dog, but may alert its owners to approaching people. Usually acknowledging that you have heard their alert is enough to make them cease.




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