Havanese, the only dog breed native to Cuba, are cheerful little dogs. These bright and sociable companions are becoming especially popular with American city dwellers. During its approximately 300 years in Cuba, the breed was refined, perhaps with Poodle crosses, into today’s Havanese. The most significant event in the breed’s history came in 1959, with the Communist takeover of Cuba. Many Cubans fleeing Fidel Castro’s revolution brought their little dogs with them to America. With the help of American enthusiasts, the refugees preserved and perpetuated the Havanese. The breed is now a popular choice for pet owners around the world.
Havanese are small and sturdy weighing 7 to 13 pounds and are 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall. They are slightly longer than tall and have a long, double coat of various colors. Distinctive features of the Havanese include a curled-over tail that arches over their back. Silky to the touch, the coat is soft and light in both outer and undercoat, although the outer coat carries slightly more weight. Their long hair looks thick and warm, but the coat is actually quite lightweight, so in cooler climates, they need to be kept snug and warm.
Their coat needs to be groomed daily to be kept free of mats and tangles. This can be done by gently running a comb or soft brush over the dog while he is on your lap. Pet owners often clip to coat to reduce grooming time. The Havanese should also be bathed occasionally as needed.
Havanese life expectancy is 14 to 16 years. They are a very affectionate and intelligent breed that are quick to learn and likes to please. They’re friendly, outgoing and non-aggressive, and as a result are often used as therapy and emotional support pets.
The Havanese is an excellent family dog who’s affectionate with everyone, including kids of all ages and other dogs and pets. But because they are so small, they can easily get hurt by accident, so it’s especially important to teach kids how to treat them. Havanese will often follow you from room to room throughout the day, and they can become very anxious when left alone; they do best when someone is home to keep them company. They don’t bark a lot but will alert you to stranger danger if someone unknown comes close to you or them enough to be a mini kind of guard dog.
They are quick learners but are known to be slow to potty train. You will need to calmly and positively reinforce positive habits. They are house pets, but this breed is not a couch potato. They don’t need a huge amount of exercise, but thrive with a short daily walk or being able to move around the house or fenced yard.
Because of their trainability and nimbleness, they are also great in agility arenas. They are born performers and found themselves as circus animals in Europe in the 1800s. These days they’ll willingly learn a number of tricks both with you and for you.
Caring for a Havanes
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Havanese.
The Havanese should be fed a high-quality dog food appropriate to his age. Some Havanese can be prone to becoming overweight, so monitoring of calorie consumption and weight level is necessary. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity so give in moderation. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Clean, fresh water should always be available. Of course, a veterinarian is the best resource when there are questions regarding diet.
The Havanese has moderate exercise needs needing it daily, but not a lot of it. They benefit from a brisk daily walk or a fun playtime with their owner in the backyard, as they are happiest when someone is with them. With the proper outlets for their energy, they are content to cuddle on a lap or romp inside the home. Never over-exercise a Havanese of any age. If they are panting and struggling to keep up, it is time to go home. Havanese do well in both houses and apartments, but they are not happy left alone for hours at a time.
Havanese are highly intelligent and eager to please, and they are easily trained so long as you use only positive methods. This can be a sensitive breed, so care must be taken to not scold them harshly. Socialization from an early age is very important. Expose them calmly to a wide variety of new places and new people, always ensuring that the experiences are positive and not intimidating. Gentle, patient training will result in a wonderful companion dog. Occasionally, they may bark excessively if not properly trained. The Havanese can be a good watchdog but poor guard dog because of the small size.
Havanese are generally healthy and fairly long-lived usually going through life with no major health issues. There are several conditions that the breed can be prone to. The conditions include eye disorders, chondrodysplasia, deafness, heart murmurs, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (when there is not enough blood supply to the head of the femur causing the head of the femur to degrade), hypothyroidism, and patellar luxation. Four specific health tests for Havanese is recommended. They include an annual eye exam (CAER), a hearing test (BAER), a hip x-ray, and patella (knee) certification.
The corners of the eyes should be gently cleaned daily to prevent tear-stain of the lighter-colored hair in the area. Check the ears often to remove excess wax or accumulated debris which can cause infections; wipe out the inside of the ear-flap with a slightly moistened gauze or paper towel. Never use cotton swabs as they can damage the ear canal. Havanese generally have good teeth; brushing then at least twice a week can keep them perfect and avoid dental health related issues. Proper nail care is also important. Long nails are uncomfortable for the dog and anyone they may jump on and they compromise the shape of the foot.