The Havanese (Habanero in Spanish) is a small breed of Cuban origin that belongs to the Bichon type breeds developed from the Blanquito de la Habana (now extinct). The Blanquito, in turn, is the progeny of the similarly extinct Bichon Tenerife. Sometimes called the “Havana Silk Dog”, the Havanese is often described as an affectionate, gentle, intelligent and playful dog. It has the silky texture coat of the other Bichon breeds but the Havanese coat comes in an array of colours. Unlike other toy dogs, the Havanese is a sturdy breed and not overly delicate. It is slightly longer compared to its height from withers to ground, giving the general appearance of being slightly longer than tall. The slightly longer profile is a result of the long ribcage and not the loins. It also has shorter upper arms which, combined with a strong rear drive produces a springy motion when moving that results in a flashy, lively gait. The ideal height of a Havanese is 23cm to 27cm but the usual height ranges between 22cm and 29cm. Weight ranges between 4.5kg and 7.3kg with males on the heavier side of the scale.
The roots of the Havanese can be traced back to the Bichon breeds of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. These dogs are the same ancestors of the Water Spaniel, Poodle, and the Portuguese Water Dog. Bichon Tenerifes (now extinct) were brought to Cuba onboard ships by Spanish conquistadores as companion dogs. It is said that these dogs were also sold to wealthy Cuban citizens as well as provided as gifts by Spanish sea captains to win the favour of rich Cuban families. The Havanese is thought to have developed through evolving unique adaptations to the tropical climate of the Cuban archipelago and without the influence of foreign blood. It became very popular in Europe during the mid-18th Century when Queen Victoria owned two dogs and were exhibited in dog shows. After the Cuban Revolution, a lot of the dogs died out but some eventually were brought to the United States by their owners where American breeders became interested in the breed during the 1970s. In fact, all the Havanese in the world today except for those few that remained in Cuba can be traced to those 11 dogs brought to the United States.
This small breed is often described as affectionate, gentle, intelligent and playful. It is so affectionate that it usually forms a very strong bond and loyalty to its owner, often becoming attached to a single member of the family whom it will follow all day. As a result, it will suffer if left alone for long periods of time and may develop separation anxiety syndrome which could translate into destructive behaviour. The Havanese is gentle and is a very friendly dog. It will typically not bark at strangers, although there are some who are more shy than others. It is intelligent and can be trained easily but it should start at an early age. The Havanese is very playful and has a great personality. Often, it will play outside with other people and other dogs. It thrives on human attention and loves doing tricks and performing in front of others.
It is a smart dog and can be easily trained. Training should start at an early age because some habits will stick as the Havanese becomes older but training is still possible even though the dog is already mature. Similar to other toy dogs, the Havanese can be a bit difficult to housebreak. It can be taught, however, to use a litter box and can be house trained quicker than other toy breeds. It can also be trained as a therapy dog, assistance dog for the hearing impaired, performing dog, and tracking dog. In dog sports, the Havanese can excel in dog agility, flyball, and obedience training.
Grooming requirement is on the moderate side. The dense and profuse coat of the Havanese requires thorough brushing and combing several times a week to prevent tangling and matting. The curly coat is more prone to tangles and matts thus requiring more attention than the silky, slightly wavy coat. Havanese owners who don’t show their dog typically prefers the “puppy cut” trim for easy maintenance. As a dog with dropped ears, owners should make sure to keep the ears clean and dry to prevent ear infections. Using a cotton ball to be placed inside the ears when bathing will help prevent excess water from entering the ears.
The Havanese is a long-lived breed compared to other small dogs, with an average lifespan of 14 and 16 years. Because the Havanese was not influenced by other bloodlines, it is generally healthy and sturdy with relatively few health problems. Some Havanese may be prone to:
Although this happy little breed is an active and energetic dog, its size is small enough that it could get a lot of its exercise requirements by simply running inside the house or in a secured yard regardless of size and therefore it does not require as much hearty exercises as other dogs do. However, exercise should still be a part of the Havanese’s daily routine for the dog to be happy and healthy.
The Havanese is very good with children and can typically tolerate kids of all ages. Parents, however, should advise children to handle the dog properly and treat the dog accordingly when playing. This breed typically gets along fine with other dogs as well.