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Breed of the Week: The Havanese (Video)


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You all know what Velcro is, right? It’s that wonderful fabric that binds to itself and stays in place until you rip it off.

Have you ever thought of dogs in terms of Velcro, though? The Havanese is actually often called the “Velcro dog” because of the way he sticks so close to his human. The Havanese is a very pretty dog, very trainable, extremely energetic, and playful, as well. He’s a great addition to most families.


You’ve heard the rhyme, “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” Well, he did. And when he did, he brought little dogs to Cuba by way of Spain. They’re actually believed to be the ancestors of the Bichon Frise. Later, though, they began to develop into the breed that, today, we know as the Havanese. They had thick, silky coats, and because they were so wonderfully soft and wonderful to pet, they became favored by aristocrats.

By the early part of the 19th century, Havanese dogs were becoming even more popular. Travelers brought them all over the map, to England, France and Spain, and by the middle of the century, such personages as Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria were becoming fans of the breed.

Of course, most good things do come to an end, and eventually, the Havanese declined in popularity. It wasn’t until 1959, with the Cuban Revolution, that the Havanese became popular in the United States.

Then, in the 1970s, people rediscovered the breed, and a few Americans worked to re-establish it.

The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1995, based on the ancestry of just 11 dogs.


The Havanese is a small dog. Males and females both typically stand anywhere from 8.5-11.5 inches at the shoulder, and weigh as little as 7 pounds. Top end for the weight is 13 pounds.


The Havanese is a very gentle dog, and many owners insist that it has a sense of humor. It loves being with its people, and dislikes being alone.

The Havanese is also intelligent and curious. Usually, you won’t find any temperament issues with the Havanese, but as is the case with pretty much all dogs, it’s a good idea to view the parents before choosing a puppy. Also, look at how the puppy is reacting to his littermates; you don’t want a bully, but you also don’t want one that’s cowering in a corner and doesn’t want to socialize with the others in the litter.

Again, as with virtually every breed, it’s important to socialize your Havanese early on; expose him to a lot of different experiences and a lot of different people.


Generally, Havanese dogs are healthy. However, all breeds are prone to one type of health problems or another. It doesn’t mean that your Havanese will necessarily develop any of the possible conditions; it just means that you need to know it could happen if you’re considering the breed.

Here are some conditions that could affect your Havanese.

1. Hip Dysplasia

Often, people think of this condition when it comes to big dogs, and yes, it is true that you’re more likely to end up with a dog that has hip dysplasia if he’s of a large breed. It can affect small breeds too, though. So if you’re buying a Havanese puppy, ask the breeder to show hip dysplasia clearance for the parents.

You should also ask for clearances against Von Willebrand’s Disease (a condition much like hemophilia in humans).

2. Elbow Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint doesn’t fit into the thigh bone the way it should. Elbow dysplasia is similar. It results in a weakened, malformed joint, and might not be all that big a deal; some dogs just get a bit stiff or lame. Hip and elbow dysplasia are treated in the same way, with medication, weight management, an in extreme cases, surgery.

3. Chondrodysplasia

If your dog looks like his legs are too short for his breed, he could have chondrodysplasia. Sometimes, it’s not a big deal. Other times, it can be crippling. Most of the time, though, your dog can live a full, happy life with this disorder. You shouldn’t breed him, though.

4. Legg-Perthes Disease

This is a malformation in the ball joint of the hip. It reduces the blood supply to the femur, causing the femur eventually to become deformed, collapse, and die. Surgery is often needed, but the good news is that with rest and physical therapy, the outcome is generally good.

5. Deafness

As a breed, the Havanese is more prone to deafness than others. The good news is that dogs are very good at using their other senses to compensate for the loss of one. You’ll have to “sight train” your dog if he’s deaf, but there’s no reason why he can’t enjoy a good life.

6. Cataracts

Again, dogs are really good at using other senses to compensate for the ones that they’ve lost. So if your Havanese develops cataracts, pretty much all you need to do is the same things you’d do for a human who has problems with vision: don’t move stuff around. As long as your dog isn’t bumping into things, he’ll be fine.

7. Patellar Luxation

This is common in small dogs like the Havanese. It occurs when the kneecap, calf and thigh bone don’t line up properly/. A dog with patellar luxation will usually have trouble walking, but the condition can be corrected surgically.

8. Portosystemic Shunt

This condition occurs when the blood flow from the digestive tract doesn’t go through the liver. The liver works to take toxins out of the body, and when portosystemic shunt occurs, those toxins actually go back through the body and cause problems. Symptoms of portosystemic shunt can include weakness, disorientation, seizures, loss of balance, poor appetite, and even coma. Usually, this condition is treated with a change in diet. Sometimes, surgery is needed.

9. Heart Murmur

This doesn’t necessarily have to be scary. In fact, two of my dogs had heart murmurs when they were puppies, and they both grew to a very old age. It really depends on the severity of the murmur; sometimes, dogs just outgrow the heart murmur. In other cases, it can be corrected with diet and medication.

So, these are some of the conditions that your Havanese could develop. Keep in mind, though, that not every Havanese will get sick. In fact, there’s a very good chance that yours won’t.

Care and Feeding

The Havanese is typically very easy to train and care for. The only issues, really, are crate training and separation anxiety when it comes to this breed. Havanese dogs don’t like to be left alone, so you might find that he has a tendency to mess in his crate if you’re away for a long time.


The solution? Don’t go away for a long time.

Separation anxiety can also be a real concern with this breed, so again, don’t leave him alone. If you have to, make sure that he has lots of food and toys in his crate to keep him occupied until you come back.

Coat and Grooming

The Havanese has a soft, silky coat, and he doesn’t shed much. His coat will usually be pretty straight but could get a bit curly. It could be black, white, gray, sable, black and tan, or any other combination of markings.

Since the coat is pretty long, you will have to groom it regularly. Daily brushing is a good idea, and it’s also a good idea to clip the hair over your Havanese’s eyes in order to keep it from causing irritation.

A lot of people who have Havaneses actually choose to use professional groomers in order to keep their dog’s fur in top shape.

You should also brush your dog’s teeth regularly. This is the case for every breed, not just for the Havanese. It’s how you prevent having tartar and plaque buildup.

Another thing that you have to watch out for with the Havanese is boogery eyes. Watering and staining are common to the breed, and if they’re just “normal”, it’s not a big deal. However, sometimes, tear stains can indicate and infection, so if you think that’s the case, you should take our dog to the vet.

As is the case with all breeds, you should also check out your Havanese’s nails every month or so. If they’re clicking when he walks over a hard surface, they’re too long, so clip them.

I’d also suggest that you should get your Havanese used to grooming when he’s young;  it’s a lot easier to get a dog accustomed to grooming when he’s a puppy than it is when he’s older and set in his ways.

When you’re grooming, you should also check for rashes and sores, or anything else that loos unusual. I’d recommend doing this once a week.

Kids and Other Pets

A Havanese is usually a very good family dog. They’re very gentle with kids. Of course, as I’m always telling you, never leave a dog of any breed, or any size, alone with a child. Teach the kids not to mess with the dog’s food. It’s easy to say that the dog should know how to behave around the kids, but the kids also need to know how to behave around the dog. Kids and dogs usually do very well together, but only when both parties in the equation understand the rules. So know them, learn them, and pass them on.

That’s really all I can say, but I think it’s very important to say.

About the Author Ash

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