The Havanese, with their luxurious locks and endearing personalities, are not just a lapdog but a companion for all walks of life. These little dogs pack a lot of heart, intelligence, and vivacity into a small, sturdy frame.

General Info About the Breed

The Havanese is a member of the Bichon family, which includes breeds like the Bichon Frise and the Maltese, and is the national dog of Cuba. Renowned for their playful spirit and adaptable nature, these small canines are well-suited to various living situations, making them excellent pets for city dwellers and country folk alike.

History and Origins of the Breed

The Havanese is a breed with a rich history that harks back to the days of sea voyages and colonial trade. This toy breed originated from the now extinct Blanquito de la Habana, which translates to “little white dog of Havana.” The Blanquito descended from the Bichon Tenerife, which is part of the Bichon family that includes well-known breeds like the Bichon Frise and Maltese.

It’s widely accepted that the Havanese, named after Cuba’s capital, Havana, came to the island nation with Spanish settlers and European traders. The exact details of their journey and evolution are somewhat hazy, but these charming dogs soon became favored pets among the Cuban aristocracy in the 17th and 18th centuries.

When the Cuban Revolution shook the nation in 1959, the breed almost faced extinction. The political upheaval led to many Cubans fleeing to the United States, with a few of them bringing their Havanese dogs. It was these few immigrants that saved the breed from disappearing altogether.

The Havanese we know today was bred from these émigré dogs. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1996, under the Toy Group. The Havanese Club of America was also established to help preserve and protect the breed’s future.

This breed’s history isn’t just about its survival but also its versatility. In Cuba, the Havanese served as both companions and utilitarian dogs, sometimes herding poultry and doing light farm work. This is a testament to their intelligence and adaptability, characteristics that have contributed to the breed’s popularity worldwide.

Moreover, their history is colored by their roles as performers. In the 19th century, the Havanese were commonly seen in European circuses, performing tricks with their clown owners. This part of their history explains their flair for performance and love for attention.

While not as storied or ancient as some breeds, the Havanese has a unique and fascinating history that mirrors the cultural exchanges of the colonial era. From their aristocratic beginnings to their near disappearance, and subsequent revival, the Havanese breed’s journey is a true canine success story.



Size Characteristics

Size Range: Havanese dogs are classified as a small breed, and their size falls within a specific range. On average, they typically stand between 8.5 to 11.5 inches (21.5 to 29 cm) tall at the shoulder. This measurement is commonly referred to as the dog’s “height at the withers,” which is the highest point of the shoulders.

Weight Range: In addition to their height, the Havanese breed has a weight range that corresponds to their size. On average, they weigh anywhere from 7 to 13 pounds (3 to 6 kg). This weight range can vary slightly depending on the individual dog, with some Havanese weighing slightly less or more than the average.

Compact Build: The Havanese has a compact build with a well-proportioned body. They are not overly delicate or fragile, but they are still small enough to be considered a toy breed. Their bodies are sturdy, with a balanced structure that gives them an elegant yet robust appearance.

Lively Expression: Despite their small size, Havanese dogs have a lively and animated expression. Their facial features, including their expressive eyes, slightly rounded skull, and well-defined stop (the point where the forehead meets the muzzle), contribute to their charming appearance. Their ears are medium-sized and drop down, framing their faces, adding to their endearing expression.

Tail Carriage: One distinctive feature of the Havanese breed is their tail carriage. They typically carry their plume-like tail over their back, giving them an elegant and poised appearance. When they’re excited or playful, their tails may be held even higher, adding to their lively demeanor.

Adaptability: The Havanese’s small size and adaptable nature make them well-suited for various living situations. They are comfortable in apartments or houses with limited space, provided they receive the necessary exercise and attention. Their small size also makes them portable and easy to take along on outings or trips.

Height: Adult Havanese typically stand at 8.5 to 11.5 inches at the shoulder. This range places them well within the toy group of dogs, but their sturdiness can often give the impression of a slightly larger breed.

Weight: They usually weigh between 7 to 13 pounds when fully grown. There is some variance in weight, with some individuals leaning towards the lighter end of the spectrum while others may be slightly heavier, especially if they are not given enough exercise.

Body: The breed is slightly longer than tall, with a sturdy, yet not coarse, build. They should appear neither fragile nor cloddy, but rather, well-balanced with a moderate amount of bone.

Proportion: The Havanese’s body is well-proportioned, with the length of the leg matching the length of the body to give a balanced profile.

Musculature: Despite their size, Havanese dogs possess a good amount of muscle, especially evident in their thighs, which gives them a springy gait. This musculature is not bulky but serves to support their active and agile nature.

In comparison to other toy breeds, such as the Chihuahua or the Pomeranian, the Havanese is typically sturdier and less delicate, with a solid body structure that can withstand a fair amount of play and activity. However, their size does mean that they must be handled with care, as rough play or accidental drops can cause injury. Their size also means that they have modest exercise needs, which can be met with playful indoor activities or short walks outside.

Their stature, combined with their charming personality, makes them a highly sought-after breed for those seeking a small canine companion that is neither too fragile nor demanding in terms of space and exercise.





The Havanese is easily recognized by its long, flowing coat, which can come in a variety of colors and patterns. Their expressive eyes and folded ears add to their appealing expression, while their slightly arched tail often curls over their back.


The Havanese is known for its affectionate and cheerful disposition. They are excellent companions that form strong bonds with their families, including children and other pets. Their social nature means they get along well with dogs and are generally friendly toward strangers.


Highly intelligent and eager to please, Havanese dogs are typically easy to train. They excel in obedience and agility, and their keen sense of awareness makes them superb therapy dogs. Positive reinforcement and consistency are key to training this sensitive and responsive breed.

Exercise Requirements and Energy Level

Despite their small size, Havanese have a fair amount of energy and enjoy regular playtime and walks. They don’t require extensive exercise but appreciate a good play session or a stroll around the block to keep fit.

Grooming Requirements

Coat Type: The Havanese has a long, silky coat that requires regular grooming to keep it in good condition. Their fur can come in various colors, including white, cream, black, chocolate, and more. It’s essential to choose a grooming routine that suits the specific coat color and texture of your Havanese.

Daily Brushing: To prevent matting and tangling, daily brushing is highly recommended for Havanese dogs. Use a pin brush or a slicker brush to gently remove tangles and debris. Pay special attention to the areas behind their ears, under their arms, and around their belly, as these are common areas for mats to develop.

Professional Grooming: Many Havanese owners opt for professional grooming every 4-6 weeks to maintain the breed’s signature appearance. Professional groomers can trim their coat to a manageable length, keeping it from becoming too long and unmanageable. They can also help with cleaning the ears, trimming the nails, and ensuring the overall health of the coat.

Bathing: While Havanese dogs are not known to have a strong doggy odor, regular bathing is still necessary to keep their coat clean and healthy. Aim to bathe your Havanese every 3-4 weeks, or as needed, using a gentle dog shampoo. Be sure to thoroughly rinse and dry their coat to prevent skin issues.

Eye and Face Care: Havanese have expressive, dark eyes that can be prone to tear staining. To prevent staining, gently clean their eye area daily using a damp cloth or specialized tear stain remover. Their facial hair can also accumulate food and debris, so it’s essential to wipe their face after meals.

Ear Cleaning: Regular ear cleaning is essential for Havanese dogs to prevent infections. Check their ears weekly for dirt, wax buildup, or signs of infection. Use a dog-safe ear cleaning solution and cotton balls to clean their ears as needed.

Teeth Care: Dental hygiene is crucial for all dogs, including Havanese. Brush their teeth regularly with a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste to prevent dental issues. Dental chews and toys can also help keep their teeth clean.

Nail Trimming: Keep an eye on their nails and trim them as needed to prevent overgrowth. Overgrown nails can be uncomfortable for your Havanese and affect their gait.

Allergies and Shedding: Havanese are known for their low shedding level, making them a suitable choice for individuals with allergies. However, no dog breed is entirely hypoallergenic, so it’s crucial to spend time with a Havanese before bringing one into your home if you have allergies. Regular grooming can help reduce the allergen load in their coat.

In summary, the Havanese’s grooming requirements are quite demanding due to their long, silky coat. Daily brushing, professional grooming, regular bathing, and attentive care for their eyes, ears, teeth, and nails are essential to keep your Havanese looking and feeling their best. Proper grooming not only maintains their appearance but also contributes to their overall health and well-being.



Health Issues

Havanese dogs are generally a healthy breed, but like all dogs, they can be prone to certain health issues. Some of the common health concerns in Havanese include:

  1. Hip Dysplasia: A condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, leading to arthritis and pain.
  2. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): An inherited eye disease that can lead to vision loss.
  3. Patellar Luxation: A condition where the kneecap dislocates, causing lameness.
  4. Heart Disease: Some Havanese may be prone to heart issues, such as mitral valve disease.

Regular vet check-ups and responsible breeding practices can help reduce the risk of these health problems.

Notable Dogs

One of the most notable Havanese dogs is “Bono,” who won Best in Show at the 2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, gaining recognition and admiration for the breed.



Comparable Breeds

Bichon Frise: Known for their fluffy coats and friendly nature, they are similar in size and temperament to Havanese.

Maltese: Another small breed with a long coat, gentle personality, and adaptability.

Shih Tzu: Small companion dogs with a charming disposition and lovely coats.

Coton de Tulear: Social and friendly, these dogs have a cotton-like coat and are great with families.

Pekingese: Slightly smaller, they have a regal appearance and are loyal companions.

Bolognese: Italian breed with a white coat, affectionate nature, and good with families.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: A bit larger but still small, they are affectionate and good with children.

These breeds share some characteristics with the Havanese, making them options for those seeking similar qualities in a canine companion.

General Summary of the Breed

The Havanese is a versatile, affectionate breed that thrives on human companionship. Their adaptability makes them suitable for various lifestyles, while their intelligence and trainability make them a delight to work with. With their minimal shedding and joyful disposition, they fit well into many homes, including those with allergy sufferers. The Havanese is a small dog with a big heart, and their history as companion dogs makes them an ideal choice for those looking for a devoted and loving pet.

The Havanese is a member of the Bichon family, which includes breeds like the Bichon Frise and the Maltese, and is the national dog of Cuba.

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