Havanese with short coat, which has either been trimmed
or has not grown out yet.
Havana Silk Dog
|Country of origin
|Classification and breed standards
||Group 9 Section 1 #250
||Group 1 (Toys)
||Group 5 — Toys
|Not recognized by any major kennel club
|This breed of dog is
The Havanese is a member of the
of dogs, which also
Coton De Tulear,
Franzuskaya Bolonka and possibly the
These dogs were developed from the now extinct
Mediterranean Bichon Tenerife, which was introduced to the Canary
Islands by the Spanish and later to other islands and
Spain by sailors.
Black and tan Havanese
The Havanese, while a toy dog and always a companion, is also a hearty and
sturdy dog for such a size, and should never give the appearance of fragility or
of being overly delicate. The height range is from 8˝ to 11˝ inches (216 to 292
mm), with the ideal being between 9 and 10˝ 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
more long than tall. A unique aspect of the breed is the topline, which rises
slightly from withers to rump, and the gait, which is flashy but not too
reaching, and gives the Havanese a spritely, agile appearance on the move.
The expression of the face, with its almond eyes, is one of mischievousness
rather than being 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 like the rest of the dog, is covered in long fur.
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
ears, and even a standard that forbids the use of
topknots and bows in presentation. The AKC 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
Though there is some argument on whether the original Havanese were all white
or of different colours, modern Havanese are acceptable in all coat colours and
patterns, with allowances made in every
breed standard for their unique colourful nature. The only restrictions is
that every Havanese must have a black nose and eyerims, except in all-brown
dogs, where brown colouration is allowed. Popular colours include fawn, white,
and black, and parti-coloured Havanese are as well regarded as solids.
Havanese, like other Bichons and related dogs like
a coat that doesn't readily shed. Rather, it catches hair and
internally, and needs to be regularly brushed out. Many people consider the
Havanese to be nonallergenic 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
Havanese have three
types, the smooth, which is similar to the Maltese, the curly, which is not
unlike a Bichon Frise coat, and the wavy, which is the preferred coat type and
the type most uniquely Havanese. The hair is long, soft, and abundant, and
should have no coarseness. A short coat mutation shows up occasionally in
otherwise normal litters, but these are not showable Havanese and go so far
against standard that even novelty breeding of them is discouraged.
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, though, that the fluffy Havanese needs protection against cold
winter days, in spite of the warm wooly look of their fur.
The coat can be shown naturally brushed out, or
technique which turns the long coat into 'cords' of fur, and which is hard to
start but easy to care for when completed.
The Havanese has a silly, 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.
The Havanese is a very people oriented dog, and does not do well with long
periods of separation from their family. Because of that, they are not suitable
for people who work long hours or take frequent trips. 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.
Though the Havanese may seem to suffer from a large complement of ailments,
very few Havanese from reputable breeders will have these problems, and the wide
list is 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 uncommon ailments, Havanese are generally considered
healthy and sturdy dogs, and live between 12–16 years.
Among these ailments are:
- Patella luxation
- Chondrodysplasia (stunted leg growth, often resulting in bowed, dwarfed
- Legg-Calve-Perthes (inheritable condition which causes femur
- Liver shunts
- Heart murmers
Havanese, even ones not to be bred, should go through several tests,
including a one-time BAER hearing test, a CERF eye test annually, and a Patellar
Palpation and Hip Evaluation. Soaping has also become a popular way for
breeders to test health. It involves soaping up the dog to flatten the coat to
its body and reveal the structure of the legs. Crooked, bowed or over short legs
are a symptom related to many Havanese health issues, and dogs suffering from
them should not be bred.
Because of the small genetic pool from which the Havanese were revived,
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 wonderful and
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 favour 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
With dedicated breeding, as well as the acquisition of some new dogs of type
internationally, the Havanese has made a huge comeback, with recognition by many
major kennel clubs and one of the fastest growing registration of new dogs in
the AKC (+42% in
2004). They have also suffered from a certain level of trendiness due to rarity,
good temperament, and publicity by such famous owners as
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:
Havanese also compete in a variety of dog sports, such as
Havanese have several specific considerations for their care that a
prospective owner should keep in mind.
The Havanese has difficulty in
housebreaking and can take a year or longer to consistently train. This is
due to a smaller bladder than many other dog breeds.
Crate training or
training are two options to help aid in this difficulty.
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
The Havanese, with their drop ears, need to have their ears cleaned to help
prevent ear infections.
Though they are not a dog that requires 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.
The Havanese is an expensive and rare dog, and the cost of getting a dog from
a breeder who takes the time to put them through the right health tests can
drive the price to $2000 or more. Beware of anyone who is selling a Havanese
through a pet store. There is a lot of time and money invested into a healthy
puppy, and a responsible breeder should want to meet you, often a few times,
before selling you a puppy.
Many people sadly use the Havanese's rarity to sell them for a fast profit.
Increasingly, some people will attempt to pass off
a crossbred 'poodog' as the more desirable Havanese. If you must look for an
inexpensive dog, try a
Havanese rescue group first.
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