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Havanese Dog Temperament: Joyous and life-affirming companion dog

Are you looking for a dog without negative small-dog characteristics? Then you are right in seeking more information about the little fluffy Havanese.

Before deciding whether the Havanese is your perfect fit, learning as much as possible about their temperament, lifestyle, history, and health issues is crucial.

With its roots in Cuba, the Havanese is an energetic dog breed closely related to the Bichon family. So it might be the right dog for you if you're looking for an affectionate, spirited, intelligent dog. Plus, its small size means you can take it anywhere.

Just ask any owner of this cheerful breed why their walks take so long - chances are they've been stopped to answer the question, "What kind of breed is this?"

So what are you waiting for? Read on to find out more about this classic, life-loving companion dog.

Havanese History: Where do Havanese come from?

The ancestor of the Havanese is the Blanquito de la Habana, which means as much as the little white dog of Havana. This now-extinct small dog breed was a direct relative of Bichon-type dogs, making the Havanese a distinct cousin. The precise development, however, is shrouded in mystery.

Four Bichon-type dogs originated in the Mediterranean area. Their ancestors are believed to be the Melita or Caniche, a spitz-type dog referenced in history as early as the first century BC.

Havanese Temperament
Havanese come in a wide range of colours.

Bichon types have then been separated based on their distinctive region. It is believed they developed from Poodle-type dogs.

The Bichon Maltese has its roots in Malta, the Bichon Bolognaise in the lap of Italian aristocrats, the Bichon Frise from Tenerife and the Bichon Havanese, the only native dog from Cuba.

The Coton de Tulear and Lowchen are also considered Bichon-type dogs; however, their origin is more disputed.

How did the little white dog leap from the Old World to the New World? The theory suggests that sailors and traders brought the little dogs with them on their adventures to explore the New World after Columbus discovered the American Continent. All the Bichon types had a few characteristics in common. They were companionable and cheerful, easy to carry around and mainly white to cream in colour.

Whilst we can't be hundred per cent sure about their geographical spread, it is believed that the first Blanquitos arrived in Cuba around the 15th century and were imported by Spaniards. Those dogs were kept separated from the general dog population and instead inbred.

They were later joined by colourful poodle-type dogs brought in by European migrants, which is why the Havanese from today can come in many different colours and wavy or straight coat types.

So if you're looking at a Havanese and thinking they look like Poodles or Bichon Frise, you wouldn't be wrong!

In the early 1800s, even the local wealthy population fell in love with these little dogs. As a result, the Havanese is today the only native dog of Cuba. Havanese were never sold but always gifted to esteemed friends, and people outside the elite could not obtain one of these priceless possessions.

But this breed had to also go through hardship. With Cuban Revolution in 1959, all first-class privileges ended, which meant many Havanese ended up on the streets. Their fate was similar to the fate of Basset-type breeds during the French Revolution. The breed only survived because of the dedication of exiled families taking the breed with them.

Not much is known about the Havanese stock that remained in Cuba then.

Havanese Temperament
Havanese are Bichon-type dogs

In the US, Dorothy Goodale is known for establishing a breeding program in the US, using the stock from exiled Cuban families. European lines were mainly created from Cuban imports and the US breeding lines.

Bichon-type dogs were not meant to be working dogs. Their job was to be loyal companion dogs to royals and aristocrats alike. Today, they're companion dogs to anybody who wants to be the proud owner of one.

The AKC recognised the breed formerly in 1995, and the United Kingdom Kennel Club recognised the Havanese in 1997. The first Havanese was imported into the UK by Barbara Benersen in 1992, and she also established the first British Havanese Kennel.

Although not a breed that has been established for a long time in the UK, many people adore the breed, as the numbers below show. The average litter size is around 4 to 6 puppies.

In 2022, 471 Havanese puppies were registered with the UK Kennel Club, which is less than last year at the same time. The below table shows the registrations since 2021. The dip in registration is minor, however, and the love for the breed persists.

Q1 2021

Q2 2021

Q3 2021

Q4 2021

Yearly 2021

Q1 2022

Q2 2022

Q3 2022

Q4 2022

2022 Total











Source: UK Kennel Club March 2023

Now that we have a rough idea about their breeding history let's dive into how your life with a Havanese might look.

What is the Temperament of the Havanese dog?

The Havanese is renowned for its cheerful and obliging temperament. These pooches revel in interacting with their human family, whether cuddling up close or perching at a higher point to keep an eye on proceedings. This makes them an ideal pet for those looking for a loving companion.

The vigour and resolute happiness with which the Havanese tackle life is contagious. Often described as the classic happy-go-lucky dog, they're full of energy and positivity. So you can rest assured that after a long and tiring day, this dog will intuitively lighten your spirit and make your problems feel smaller.

Havanese Temperament
The Havanese is witty and a good dog for obedience competitions.

This breed is intelligent, witty, and loves spending time with its owners. They show intense devotion to their loved ones, looking to them for guidance and encouragement. This makes the Havanese extremely trainable and a worthy contestant in obedience competitions.

Their eagerness to please will make them a pleasure to train, and their playfulness gives them a longer attention span for tasks than a bigger working dog who might need more creativity and time commitment for training.

The Havanese is the perfect dog for individuals of all ages new to canine companionship. They have a lot of energy and love to run around, but they're also content to take it easy and lounge on the couch with their owners.

Walking off the lead shouldn't be a problem. Havanese are obedient and never stray far away from their owner. One reason why they're called "Velcro dogs".

They have an exceptional understanding of human feelings and empathy due to being bound to them for centuries. As a result, many owners hail their expression to be very human-like, and their ability to bond with their owner is not easily replicated with other toy breeds.

The Havanese doesn't shed much, but daily brushing is recommended. Otherwise, the coat will become matted and form knots. The coat can be clipped short if you're not planning to show your dog. However, brushing is a time commitment that should not be taken lightly.

Havanese, as companion dogs, need human closeness and can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone. Frustration can present itself through excessive barking or destroying your beloved slippers. Adopting any dog and leaving them for a prolonged period every day is unreasonable.

As with many other toy breeds, housebreaking a Havanese has its challenges. Stay patient and consistent in your training, and don't punish your dog. Although not apparent due to their positive view of life, they have sensitive souls and don't react well to harsh punishment.

Havanese Temperament
Havanese are very adaptable dogs.

Living in an apartment, house, or condo doesn't make a difference to the little Havanese as long as you are by their side.

Their small size makes them very adaptable, and they're easily transported anywhere. After all, a classic companion dog requires a complimentary travel size!

Socialisation is essential in the development of a well-balanced, happy Havanese.

It involves exposing puppies to different sounds, smells and floor materials, introducing them to other dogs, children, adults and small animals and training them to stay calm around unfamiliar entities. Failure to properly socialise can lead to fearfulness and barking, resulting in aggressive behaviour.

Whenever you take on a new dog, ensure that much time can be taken out of your day to dedicate to your new furry companion.

If you have children, ensure they understand how to treat a smaller dog. Havanese are very child-friendly, and they enjoy attention and playtime. Rough playing, however, can hurt your dog accidentally. Teach your children how to treat a dog respectfully, and you will not have a problem with a Havanese.

Let's now look at some common Havanese questions.

Can Havanese dogs be left alone?

Havanese don't enjoy being alone and shouldn't be left alone for more than 3 hours, even after adjustment periods. Havanese are companion dogs and are often referred to as "Velcro dogs". They crave human companionship and can suffer from separation anxiety.

Puppies should be slowly introduced to alone time, and crate training is recommended. As time progresses, you will learn how long you can leave your Havanese alone. Some dogs might make it for 3 hours, and some for 30 minutes. The main thing is to learn the capacity of your Havanese and adjust accordingly.

Are Havanese dogs hypoallergenic?

Yes. Due to their low-shedding coat, Havanese are considered hypoallergenic as they don't shed too much. That said, no dog is entirely hypoallergenic, as they will shed dander from their skin or saliva to some extent. So the short answer is "yes", but the long answer is "no", as no dog is hypoallergenic. The word hypoallergenic translates to "unlikely to trigger an allergic reaction". But possible.

Any dog might not be a good choice for people with severe allergies. To minimise allergic reactions, hoover regularly, clean the dog bed at least once a week, create doggy-free zones, and reduce soft furnishings like carpets that can trap dead skin cells. Also, don't let the dog sleep in your bed.

Havanese have a complicated coat that will benefit from daily brushing. It's silky to the touch and insulated perfectly against the tropical Havana sun rays. Unlike other breeds, the outer and inner coats are silky to the touch.

Unfortunately, long hair traps dead hair and skin cells; if it's not brushed regularly, it will tangle and become matted.

If you don't plan to show your dog, it might be easier to clip it short.

If you live in a warm climate, the long coat can help to cool your Havanese.

Why do Havanese dogs shake?

Havanese shaking can occur when your dog feels excited, anxious, cold, in pain, old or has underlying health conditions that a vet should check out.

Never ignore the symptoms, mainly if they occur regularly, as they can point to underlying health conditions.

Anxiety and excitement might be the most common reasons. An anxious dog responds to external stimuli. This can be noises, unknown people or new experiences. Havanese are also very attached to their owners, and separation anxiety might be another reason for shaking.

Excitement, like meal time or greeting you, can also result in shaking as they're overfilled with joy.

Observe the shaking when it happens regularly and note external stimuli that might cause it. If other symptoms accompany the shaking, the condition should be treated as severe. Contact your vet to establish additional steps if you can't find a pattern.

Havanese Temperament in a nutshell

  • People-orientated, loyal and spirited temperament towards their family

  • Has a love for everything that requires their owner and is often described as "velcro dogs"

  • Can suffer from separation anxiety if left alone often and for prolonged periods

  • A good choice for first-time dog owners due to their trainability and enthusiasm

  • Havanese are good with children who know how to approach dogs

Havanese fun fact

Did you know the Havanese also exists in a corded version? Some fans of the look work hard to achieve this special appearance. Imagine a Puli in a miniature version.

Usually, the look is achieved by stopping all grooming and letting the dog matt up. Later the matted strands are separated into cords. The Havanese coat is perfect for this exercise as the heavier outer coat wraps around, the lighter inner coat. An essential part when cording will be a good undercoat.

A corded Havanese takes a lot of commitment. The goal is to run your fingers through the corded fur; no cord is supposed to stick to the other or the skin. After a bath, all cords must be dried thoroughly; otherwise, they could mildew.

The Havanese is also the only breed in the AKC allowing particoloured corded dogs to be shown. All other breeds are solid-coloured and corded.

Potential health issues in the Havanese breed

The Havanese has a long life span ranging from 14 to 16 years. They're generally a healthy breed but can display some health issues you should be aware of as a future owner.

Budgeting for potential vet bills and the time required to care for your Havanese is necessary. Suppose they develop a particular condition. As a new owner, you should be equipped to pay medical expenses associated with the breed. Thus, always opt for comprehensive insurance. Thankfully the tiny size of the Havanese will make medications usually cheaper as doses are based on body weight.

As with any breed, a dog can have inherited conditions or conditions due to environmental factors.

It's essential to be aware of them to spot problems early on so you can follow up with immediate treatment.

The below list does not replace a vet visit. Always look for a vet if your dog displays symptoms; internet research never replaces a vet visit.

The below health conditions are more closely linked to the Havanese breed.

Hip- and Elbow Dysplasia: A reputable breeder can lower the risk of hip dysplasia and should provide certificates to prove the hip and elbow scores. Hip dysplasia develops in the hip joint, leading to stiffness and arthritis. Therefore, the KC makes this test mandatory for registered litters.

Cataracts: Clouding of the eye lens that can lead to partial or complete loss of vision. It can be a hereditary disease or acquired by injury. A responsible breeder will be able to show official certificates for eye testing.

Cherry Eye: Infections of the eye due to irritating eyelids

Chondrodysplasia: Also called canine dwarfism. It affects the development of bones and cartilage that contribute to shortened forelegs.

Legg-Calves-Perthes: A disease of hip joints mainly attributed to smaller breeds. A lack of blood supply around the ball portion of the hip causes it. Surgery and therapy can alleviate pain and discomfort.

Liver Shunt: Common in smaller breeds. It occurs when the blood is shunted around the liver rather than passing through.

Patellar Luxation: Orthopaedic issue than can become apparent in smaller dog breeds. It's a condition when the kneecap moves out of its normal position. If your Havanese starts limping or holding its leg up while walking, get it checked out by a vet.

Conclusion: Is the Havanese the right breed for me?

In conclusion, it is essential to reflect and ask, is a Havanese the ideal breed for me? Before making any decisions, read beyond this post on the specifics of this beautiful and unique dog to decide if this is the right pup for you.

This little dog has won us over, however.

The Havanese is an all-purpose dog, ideal for singles, couples of any age and families alike. Their outgoing personalities make them great companions for everyday life.

They're loving and easy to train, the perfect companions for novice dog owners. It's important to mention that early instruction and socialisation are a must for any pup. If you decide to keep the coat, the only downside is the need for daily brushing.

It is important to remember that Havanese are not meant to be kept isolated and left alone for long hours. Separation anxiety can lead to distress, contradicting their fundamental nature. But foster a loving bond with them and dedicate yourself to your pup, and you are guaranteed to have a devoted life companion.

Committing to a Havanese will be an investment you won't regret - these affectionate puppies will surely win over you and everyone they meet.

Owners' voices about their Havanese

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