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Havanese Dog Temperaments and Care

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A female Havanese with her long fur trimmed in a "puppy cut."

A female Havanese with her long fur trimmed in a "puppy cut."

Havanese: About the Breed

You may not have heard of the Havanese or Havanese Silk Dog, but this breed has a long history that dates back to the 1500s. When Spanish colonists claimed what is now Cuba as a colony, they had brought their dogs with them, called Bichons. Over the centuries, these toy dogs came to be known as Havanese, named after the city of Havana. They developed their own characteristics and became the national dog of Cuba.

The Luxury Dog

Their fur became long and silky and wavy or curly with two layers. Some shorthaired Havanese do appear, but they are not considered show-worthy. The eye rims, nose, and lips are always black. They were considered luxury dogs of the upper class. When the Cuban Revolution took place in the 1950s, the upper class fled to America and Europe and brought their dogs along.

The National Dog of Cuba, the Havanese, which took centuries to develop, were nearly wiped out during the mid-20th century. This is only part of the story behind Havanese dogs, which today live mostly in the U.S.

Because of the specific breeding that Havanese dogs have undergone, understanding the history of the Havanese may help you work better with your pet. Although some of the history is a bit hard to trace, there is plenty of good information out there about the Havanese standard to give you a good understanding of your dog.

Today the Havanese is still considered a rare breed, but it is steadily growing in numbers and popularity. As well as show-dogs, Havanese are popular pets for apartment-dwellers. They are long-lived and healthy in comparison to some other toy breeds, though some are prone to dry skin and luxating patella. Their long, silky coats can be clipped for easier grooming. They don’t need a yard, but they will insist that you play with them indoors at least once a day.

Havanese puppies

Havanese puppies

Havanese Temperament

With their almond-shaped eyes, small smile, and fine coat of long hair, Havanese standards seem more mischievous than cute. Their temperaments, however, are fun-loving and caring, making this breed one of the best for children and older adults. Bred into aristocracy in Cuba, the Havanese has gone through many career changes over the years, from companion to royalty to working poultry farms.

Because the Havanese breed is playful and alert, they are extremely trainable with a cooperative disposition. Typically, they will present little feistiness during training, and the Havanese standard shows them to be very docile, friendly animals.

While small in stature—typically standing between 8 1/2-inches to 11-inches tall at the withers—the physical size of this toy dog breed belies its strength and muscular build. It can work as a guard dog. It will only bark if it thinks it is being approached by a stranger and will quickly stop the vocal warning upon learning that its owner acknowledges the approaching person.

A Havanese show dog, with its fur left untrimmed, long, and brushed.

A Havanese show dog, with its fur left untrimmed, long, and brushed.

Havanese Showdog Requirements

In the show ring, the coats of the Havanese should appear brushed and clean. Any trimming of the coat, other than around the extreme bottom of the feet, will lose the dog points in competition. When judging the Havanese standards, its typical height will be between 8 1/2 to 11 inches. Ideally, the animal should measure between 9 and 10 1/2 inches, measured at the withers.

The profile of the dog should slope up slightly from the withers to the rump and the tail. It should be coated with hair to match the rest of the animal that curls downwards around its rump. The back, other than the slight rise, should be straight with no small arch in the middle. The tail should create a feather-like appearance with the hair falling either straight or to the side.

Coat types, according to Havanese standards, will be one of three types: smooth, curly, or wavy, with the most sought-after being soft and wavy. Some adults may have short hair. A short, tight curly coat can cost points in the Havanese standard competition.

The intelligent expression on a Havanese dog’s face will draw focus to the eyes. The eye pigment is solid black around the rims, except on chocolate dogs whose eyes are rimmed in chocolate colors. A Havanese without black eye rims, except the chocolate, will not meet the Havanese standards for judging. The leather of their medium-length ears should reach halfway to the nose and be set high on the head.

The ears, when the dog is on alert, will rise from their widest point on the skull to form a slight arch.

Havanese Care and Training

The Havanese dog is a very popular breed today, especially in the United States, where these puppies can sell for a premium price. This is good news to a breed that suffered a crisis in the 20th century and has now come back with a vengeance.

One of the reasons that the Havanese dog was able to regain its popularity so effectively is the fact that this dog makes a great companion or family pet for many. He can get along well with children and other pets in many cases, and despite his toy stature, he makes a pretty fierce and vocal watchdog.

This breed is always on the hunt for someone to play with, and he needs plenty of quality time with his family, and playtime to burn off his abundant energy. A Havanese will remain playful and generally happy throughout his life, unlike some breeds that tend to get grumpier as they age. Havanese pups are fiercely loyal to their families and have plenty of love to offer.

The Havanese dog is characterized by a submissive temperament that is intelligent and eager to please his master. Unfortunately for Havanese owners, this doesn’t always mean that these dogs housebreak quickly and easily. In fact, the opposite is often true, and Havanese tend to take longer to get through the process than other breeds.

To assist in the process, some breeders are now recommending the use of a litter box that contains a hard, cylindrical paper pellet. This pellet can attract the dog to the box, encouraging the pup to use the box earlier and more often. This has become a popular method of housebreaking a number of toy breeds, including the Havanese.

Because this dog has a lot of energy, a fenced backyard will allow him a safe place to run and play. He will also want to spend plenty of time with his family, in play and cuddle time, so make sure you have the time to give him. A Havanese that does not receive sufficient attention from their family may become destructive.

Due to his fierce loyalty and courage, you may also find that your tiny Havanese pup will be an effective watchdog as well. While his size might keep him from looking too intimidating, his noise can be an effective deterrent to intruders. If you are interested in finding a Havanese puppy for your next family pet, make sure that you purchase your pup from a reputable breeder. This helps to ensure that you get a puppy that is healthy and well-bred.


KEITH on November 30, 2019:


sara on August 25, 2019:

I have a havanese, he is 6 and I love him so much!! Awesome dog! I want another one!!!

Sydney G Patten on July 12, 2019:

We are CRAZY about Patapouf, our Havanese who is one and a half.

She is loving, obedient, a good watchdog AND she is super smart. I've been working with her and she now has an extensive vocabulary of about 50 words and commands. She knows all her toys by name and will fetch the one I ask for. She has transformed our lives. She is so easy to have. She does not shed a bit. We are in love.

EMMESS on February 24, 2019:

This is for Terri123...I never heard that a Havi has to be crated at all times. If your dog is properly trained and there are no dangers in the home leave the poor dog out of the crate. If you want to leave the crate door open do so. For example..go to the supermarket or somewhere for 1/2 hour and tell him you will be right back. Upon returning see if he damaged anything, if not trust your instincts and please don't imprison that beautiful soul.

Baldy715 on February 21, 2019:

We have a 2 year old Havanese his name is Vito we love him very energetic with a high pitch voice who loves playing with our 8 year old dachshund Mario and stealing his treats!They are very intelligent dogs who loves to cuddle and having attention.

Melody on November 04, 2018:

I have a 6 month old puppy who is a pure golden havanese naimed Ginger, Everyone who mets him says he's cute. Ginger is potty trained, knows how to sit, come, stay, go down, roll over and walk on his hind legs...

Kathy on November 03, 2018:

I have a 4.5 year old havanese called tootsie, she is the love of my life, so cute, cuddly and affectionate with grandkids, best loving dog ever, my best friend

Josie on October 14, 2018:

We bought our Ryder 8 months ago and after owning a Terripoddle for 19 years and a Maltese for 23 years - this Havenese is amazing! Everything I’ve read is spot on! Our only concern right now is the pee training and the barking at the door ( Ryder growls:()!

We are really working on both ! He is adorable and so loyal ! We did pay $2300 and he is worth every penny! You get what you pay for and honestly - he really doesn’t shed! We have white carpet and he’s auburn - we would notice! Love this breed so far!

Mary on October 06, 2018:

My husband & I who are retired & have a 6 month old Havanese little girl weighs 7 lbs now. When have had her since she was 8 wks old . We love her to death but the one issue is she barks the entire time she is alone at home. We know she is barking as we have a web cam on her.

This is our 6 th dog during our 54 yrs of marriage and never had a dog that barked when home alone. We crated her right from the beginning, but she went crazy in the crate when we left for even a short time. She loves her crate to sleep all night. We have left her in loose to roam in our living room kitchen area, but she still barks the whole time. We can leave her in the house if we’re working in the yard where she can see us. We had given stuffed Kong, special treats on leave, sneak out, lots of toys, TV on. Nothing works. We are not very keen on using the barking collar giving her a static shock. Does anyone have a suggestion as whatwill stop her from being so anxious when we are out.

Thank you if you can...... we are not sure what else to try.

Nathalie C on September 20, 2018:


We have a 2 year old Havanese who gets car sick on longer car rides. We give her Cerenia. It's a Rx we get from our vet. It doesn't make her drowsy and she doesn't get car sick anymore. It is a great!. Talk to your vet.

Claudia on September 02, 2018:

Does anyone have issues with Havanese who get car sick?

Melodie J on August 05, 2018:


I have 2 Havanese girls, one is 3 years old and the other 2 years. They are both crate trained and i don't close their doors anymore. My girls automatically go to their crates at night when it's bedtime or they want a nap. They feel safe there so your girl would probably do the same. If your girl is completely house trained I see no reason to close her door at night. I also have them in my room so I can let them out at night if they need to go outside.

Terri123 on July 30, 2018:

I have a small Havanese (velcro dog) that I understand needs to be crated when we all leave but I am being told she always needs to be crated at night too. she is potty trained, does last all night without accidents (she is a year old) I want to take her out of the crate at night but others in the house says no they need to be always crated as that is what they do where we got her from. that doesn't seem nice. I think she deserves freedom. She doesn't complain either way. I'd keep the kennel in the room btw so she can go in/out when she wants.

Nathalie C on June 22, 2018:

Unfortunately, I have allergies and am not able to take someone's word at a rescue that a dog is purebred. On both occasions that we purchased a Havanese, my husband and I visited the breeder and the adult dogs and puppies in the home. Spent 2-3 hours to make sure my allergies weren't affected. We had made contact with a third breeder via email, but did not like the way they were being very pushy about taking a puppy and not insisting we visited in person. We 'interviewed' the breeders we chose to deal with as much as they interviewed us.

Joany on June 10, 2018:

I have a Havanese that was rescued from a puppy mill. She was only one and had already had a litter! She was traumatized and terrified but we’ve bonded and she’s practically perfect now. Took just weeks to housebreak.

Go to a shelter and rescue a dog. Don’t go to a “breeder” because you are making this problem worse!

Best $100 I ever spent.

Nathalie C on May 24, 2018:

As for price, when we got Charli, we paid $2500. Worth EVERY penny!!! Now, I believe they are up to $3000. Still worth every penny!

Nathalie C on May 24, 2018:

We have our second Havanese. Charli will be 2 at the end of June. Our breeder is phenomenal!! The work she does with the puppies gives them a huge head start before they go to their new family at 10 weeks of age. Our little Charli was pretty much potty trained when we brought her home. We trained her over the first couple of days to ring some bells hanging on the doorknob when she wanted to go out. She had a couple of accidents in the first couple of months but since then, she does great!. We keep an indoor 'potty park's by the back door in case she needs to go and we're not home, but she rather hold it and do it outside when we get home. Havanese ARE the BEST breed!

Leslie on May 17, 2018:

We have a 2 year old Havanese who we adore! Full of personality & loads of fun!

Vivien on January 18, 2018:

To "proud owner of a havi" who paid $2500 and has a brother who has havi from same breeder. May I ask who the breeder is? Have you experienced any issues of aggression in either of these two dogs?


Joyce on April 26, 2017:

Andy, my 7 month old Havanese has been with me for four weeks and is an absolute love. He is completely housebroken, on a great schedule and is very affectionate and smart. He has learned "sit" and "paw" in the last two weeks. He rides 100 miles a day going back and forth to work, is fabulous in the car except when I put his car seat in the back to accommodate a front seat passenger - he calls shotgun, and is only happy in the front. He is adjusting well to all the co-workers and students at my school and has even found a few dog friends. Overall he is just a wonderful dog. He will get some agility training in the future since he seems to be rather talented that way, but I couldn't be happier with him. GREAT breed.

Dianne on February 08, 2017:

I have a 5 month old Havi, and have had him for about a week. He's adorable, but stubborn. I live in NW Indiana, and taking him out at night is COLD, but he just looks at me. I don't know how to train him. He comes to me when he feel like it, but at other times he's just tooooo loveable. HELP

Steve on July 03, 2016:

My Havi house trained in 2 weeks by using the crate method. I was surprised how quick it went. He always wants to play games and be by your side. Such a cute personality. Best dog EVER!

EMMESS on May 16, 2016:

My Yumi is my first havanese. I must admit I had never heard of this breed. She is the sweetest funniest most lovable girl I have ever had. One thing I did notice is that she does not like to be hugged but, enjoys her belly rubs..She welcomes me with a toy in her mouth whenever I return from work or errands.She was a bit difficult to house train. I found that if I took a bit of her stool and placed it on a puppy pad she learned really quick after that. I did the same thing with taking her outside. I put some where ever I wanted her to go and low and behold she goes there every time. This might work for those having issues with housebreaking. I agree with the others who say it takes patient and it really does and boy is it worth it!..They are one of the best breeds out there.

Suze on October 13, 2015:

Our female Havanese is now two. She has settled into our lifestyle very easily. ( we are retired). She plays less with her toys inside but loves playing with a frisbee outside. We bought her a smaller and softer frisbee which she jumps and mostly catches it in her mouth. That is probably why she is not as interested in playing indoors. AND she does NOT shed. She loves to sit beside us or between us but not on our laps. ? I have it is normal with this breed. My breeder said males are more apt to sit on you then females. Any comments on that?

Beeluvrs on September 20, 2015:

My Havanese was difficult to house break, but it finally worked, after I decided to keep a leash on him at all times. He was born a year ago January, we got him in March and it was probably about May, before he was house broken. Keeping him on a leash all the time was easy, since he was happy to be near me. In keeping him in a leash, I was sure to catch him and take him outside. It was a breeze after I figured out the leash thing. If we take him some place new and there has been a dog there, he will lift his leg, but I'm prepared for that and stop him in his tracks. Once I've caught him, he won't do it again. He is very quick to learn and seems to understand an amazing amount of things. I could say a million wonderful things about him, but then I would be writing a book.

rnhende on August 05, 2015:

have a 5 year old male i got 4 weeks ago. great personality, very good dog. He was a show dog, then a stud dog. He was neutered 2 weeks ago. However, he is not house trained. I am using a belly band and going for frequent walks. The belly band is rarely wet, even overnite. However, I don't believe he is house trained yet. What is a reasonable time for house training? I have heard that toy breeds are hard to train and that adult males who were not neutered will take longer. What signs do I look for to begin to trust him. I want to minimize any marking in the house. I am also beginning obedience training and I find him willing to please some times and very stubborn other times. I have trained a lot of dogs, but it's been a long time (11 years), so I have forgotten what to expect.

Patty on July 20, 2015:

I have a 3 month old female Havanesse and she is very hard to potty train in a pad! one minute she does her business in the pad, the next she does it on the floor mat or even in her crate/bed!!! I also have a Shih poo male but he is well trained already! she barks constantly in I not next to her (even if I am in the same room) and I just dont know what else to do! :( Any tips will be greatly appreciated

Zoe on June 20, 2015:

I found the Havanese dog to be the easiest to house train. Being consistent is the key. They do not shed, they have hair not fur. I call them a velcro dog, they follow you where ever you go. The best breed!

dougalhead on June 07, 2015:

Merris, we are English but currently in Spain, we have just purchased our first Havi from a lovely Spanish breeder who has one golden bitch left. They come with a passport. Google

Merris on March 18, 2015:

Could any one help me. I would dearly like to purchase a Havanese as I have just lost my Olive. I live in England and non of the Assured breeders in the whole of the UK have any available.

Proud owner ofa havanese on January 28, 2015:

I have a havi and she's extremely smart. She learned quickly how to sit give her paw and lay down. She was potty trained quickly (outdoors only) and now once she's done doing her business she grands her leash and runs back to our house. She's adorably cute. My husband paid $2,500 for her. My brother has a havi as well and he is also very well trained. Great dogs. I had a Maltese prior to my havanese but he was hard to train and barked constantly. My havanese does not bark and my brothers does only when someone rings the door bell.

Terri on January 25, 2015:

Not all dogs shed. You are incorrect. Labradoodles, depending on how much lab they have in NOT shed at all. We have two 30 pound ones that are brothers. Although their coats are different....neither shed at all.

jim jones on January 07, 2015:

I have had a purebred havanese for over 2 years now & shes the love of my life. These dogs do not shed (if you think one hair falling off the dog a year is shedding then yes....but most shedding dogs litter anything they touch with hair...not true with the Havanese)

They are very astute at figuring you out & your routine; they have needs but as long as you give them what they need once a day they can be left alone. They have funny quirks of grunting & growling while playing, making toys "come to life" and playing a game of chase where you can run after them or just watch them run their asses off. My havanese will only bark when i am home (otherwise shes quiet). Once playtime is done they will just lay by your side....often just lightly brushing up agsinst you until you can feel the heat from each other....adorable. Grooming is a must & i get my havanese groomed every 4-5 weeks. These dogs were specifically bred as companion dogs. If i put her in a sac and carry her on my back she wont make a peep for hours as long as she's doing what im doing. You'll understand if you get one.

Doglover3 on December 01, 2014:

I want a havanese very badly

Ashley on November 06, 2014:

They do shed, but they are hypoallergenic, because they were bred to have hair instead of fur. Just saying..

Peter on February 27, 2013:

I Have a pure breed havi and intend on buying another one . Great little dog very healthy and comes from a great breeder. If I decide to breed her I WILL in no way expect the dollar value that JERI BORTON has talked about...

Śome people just want to breed dogs for fun IT'S not always about money...

lis886 on October 02, 2012:

I have a Havanese in the U.S. She did *not* cost $1000, and she has papers following both parents back 3 generations.

She is a very sweet, playful dog that loves to play fetch with an assortment of toys. She's energetic, though it's in short bursts. A quick game of fetch or a short walk does the trick, but in a couple of hours you'll need to do it again. Mine has access to a fenced yard and yet still needs at least two walks a day (though not particularly long ones). She doesn't shed but does require daily brushing as her soft, fine hair mats easily.

She's also quite vocal.

She's reliably housetrained now, but it took many weeks, consistency, and patience to train her. Consistency was key. With a routine, she learned the pattern. Once she had the pattern , she caught on and now even asks to go out when she needs to.

Maris on July 25, 2012:

I have a female havanese and she has also recognized what the bathroom is for! I put pee pads but she plays with them instead. It is hard to potty train her. She is 4 months

Michaela on May 14, 2012:

*jari* my havanese doesn't shed at all. Everything in this article is pretty spot on. Described most elements of my havanese. Even though she isn't fully house broken, she has recognized what the bathroom is for. So in that regard, i have started putting pee pads in there instead. Coco is the love of my life and the best obident dog I've ever had.

Jeri Borton on April 23, 2012:

I have a Havanese and I am on the list to get another one from a well respected breeder in Europe. I just read this article and cannot believe some of the ignorant things that I just read. Havanese do shed! All dogs shed as do all people. They just do not shed like a regular dog does. If you cut their hair it changes the silky texture. They are smart and sensitive little dogs. They are also so quite expensive to purchase. If you are buying a good, pure bred one with all of its papers and the papers of its mother and father, expect to pay at least $1,600 and up for a companion dog. If you want show quality it will be at least $1,000 more. There are no special deals for these dogs. If you finds one then there is something wrong. If it sounds to good to be true than it is. Perhaps it is not a purebred Havanese??? There are a lot of those out there, or it is an inbred havanese!!!! Be careful around children with these dogs because the children can hurt the dog not the other way around. They are velcro dogs and do not like to be left alone.

ollie on September 22, 2011:

ok you keep saying how to choose the right one so how do you choose you keep on only talking about breeders not the breed

liola on December 16, 2009:

i love havanese there my fav dogs