Breed Group:
Companion Dogs

Middle Age: 6 years

Geriatric Age: 12 years

Life Span: 12 to 14 years

Havanese Breed Information & History

The Havanese breed has a well-traveled history, with ties to the ancient world but a genetic development shaped through colonization and political turmoil. The Havanese is genetically derived from the Barbichon family of dogs, originating in the Mediterranean. This breed accompanied Spanish explorers and traders to the new world, populating Cuba during Spain’s long colonial aspirations. For much of their modern history, the Havanese breed lived alongside the Spanish aristocracy in Cuba. Their time in Cuba resulted in little or no admixture from other breeds, but they did adapt over time to the tropical climate, resulting in a furry breed that ironically fairs very well in hot climates.

The popularity of the Havanese breed surged during the 18th century when they again crossed the Atlantic Ocean back to Europe where they became a favored dog of the European aristocracy. Over time their popularity in both elite and common households waned, leading to a precipitous drop in numbers. However, the Havanese breed had found a place in circuses as trick dogs, pleasing crowds for decades on both sides of the Atlantic.

Although their numbers had steadily declined throughout the 19th century, a few Havanese remained the family dogs of the Cuban aristocracy into the mid 20th century. When these families fled Cuba during the Cuban revolution in the 1950’s, they were brought to the United States, where they began to flourish once again. Most of present-day Havanese descend from these emigrants from Cuba. The Havanese breed was recognized by the AKC in 1996, fairly late given their long history as human companions.

Havanese Temperament & Personality

As one might guess from their long history alongside humans, Havanese love to please their owners. They are an intelligent dog that learns quickly and takes well to training. Their history performing in circuses was no accident; Havanese love to entertain and be the center of attention. They sometimes have clownish behavior, and will gladly perform tricks for the entire family. They have a medium energy level and have a curious personality. Their small size allows them to be wellsuited for apartments or urban dwelling, but their affection and strong bond that they form with their owner can lead to separation anxiety. Overall, the Havanese is an affectionate, friendly breed that packs a lot of personality into a small size.

Havanese Trainability

Havanese’s high intelligence, innate curiosity, and desire to please led to a dog that is easily trainable. Training should begin as soon as you bring your puppy home. Havanese should be socialized early, both to take advantage of their natural social inclinations, and to avoid any behavior issues around other animals or people. Havanese are sensitive to their owner’s moods, so training that uses positive reinforcement to reward good Havanese behavior will bring about the best results. Havanese are also known to be very vocal dogs, so teaching them appropriate times to bark will be important, especially for owners that live in apartments or small homes.

Havanese Exercise Requirements

The Havanese has no special exercise requirements. Being a medium energy dog, don’t expect them to need or desire to go on a long run with you. Exercise should take the form of a short walk or vigorous play session daily, which should keep them in optimal shape. This breed is not an outdoor dog, so always have them play in a fenced-in area, and have them on a leash when they are taken on walks.

Havanese Life Span & Longevity

Being a small dog with good genetics, a Havanese life span is fairly long. On average, Havanese life expectancy ranges from 12-14 years.

Havanese Breed Popularity

The Havanese is a very popular breed in the United States. According to the AKC, they are ranked 23rd in popularity out of 155 AKC recognized breeds. Being the national dog of Cuba, they are also popular in their native country.

Feeding Requirements for a Havanese

Ensuring the longest and healthiest life for your Havanese requires a good diet. Owners should seek out a quality food brand that contains high-quality protein as the main ingredient. Avoiding grain fillers, particularly corn or corn meal, will help prevent Havanese allergies and keep their coat and skin lustrous and healthy. Adult Havanese average in weight between 7-13lbs, so their food requirements will vary depending on characteristics like their activity level and their weight. They should be fed about ¾ cup to 1 cup of dry food a day, split into two meals. Food shouldn’t be left out in between meals to avoid overeating which can lead to health problems like obesity or in some cases gastric torsion.

How to Groom a Havanese

Havanese have a long, silky coat that needs regular brushing. Because they are a non-shedding dog, loose hair can tangle in the outer hairs of their coat causing matting unless it is brushed out. Expect to brush your Havanese 2-4 times a week on average. For optimal Havanese health, regularly check and clean their eyes and ears to avoid infections, and trim their nails regularly.

Are Havaneses Good with Children?

Havanese are an ideal family dog. They are affectionate and playful with children of all ages, making them excellent playmates. Given their small size, Havanese should be supervised when playing with children.

Havanese Health Problems

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a disease where the photoreceptor cells in a dog’s eyes deteriorate over time. PRA most often progresses from an inability to discern objects in dim light, to full loss of vision. PRA is a disease passed down through heredity, so inquire with potential breeders as to whether either parent line has suffered from this. Havanese are at an elevated risk of developing PRA, particularly as they get older, so it is important to be mindful of the symptoms.

Cataracts: Cataracts are a condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy or obscured, resulting in diminished or complete loss of vision. Cataracts most often occur in older dogs but have been known to afflict younger dogs as well. Heredity is the most common cause of cataracts, with some breeds having a higher risk than others. Havanese are at an elevated risk of forming cataracts, so inquire with your breeder to find out if this condition runs in their line.

Patellar Luxation: Patella luxation refers to a condition where the kneecap can easily become dislocated. If you notice your dog suddenly limping with no other signs of trauma, they may have Patella luxation. Dogs are excellent at masking pain, so you may notice smaller signs such as weakness in one leg, or excessive shaking of a limb. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose patella luxation during a physical examination. Because teacup and miniature breeds are highly susceptible to developing this condition, be mindful of the symptoms.

Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia in dogs is a health issue resulting from an uneven growth pattern in the hips between the femur and the pelvic girdle. This joint, normally tight in healthy dogs, exhibits a looseness that results in a loss of cartilage and corresponding damage over time. While hip dysplasia most obviously presents in older dogs, younger dogs can be diagnosed with the condition if a physical examination by a veterinarian uncovers a loose hip assembly. Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that affects many dog breeds, including the Havanese. Be mindful of excessive jumping or rough play during adolescence, as this is believed to be linked to same cases of hip dysplasia. It is important to not over-exercise your Havanese during their growth period.

Chondrodysplasia: Otherwise known as canine dwarfism, chondrodysplasia is a condition characterized by abnormal cartilage growth. Most often, chondrodysplasia manifests as abnormally short limbs accompanied by a regular sized body. Other traits often present with chondrodysplasia are a protruding lower jaw, resulting in an underbite. Some breeds are specifically bred for dwarf features, therefore chondrodysplasia is a desired trait. The Havanese, however, is not one of these breeds. Treatment for this disease varies depending on if it affects bone development in addition to cartilage growth, a condition known as osteochondrodysplasia, which can result in elevated risk levels of arthritis. In most cases, however, the most common complication resulting from chondrodysplasia is obesity, so diet modifications may be required.

Legg-Calves-Perthes Disease: Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (LCPD) is a condition that primarily affects small dog breeds, particularly toy and miniature varieties. LCPD is a disease where the head of the femur, or the long bone of the hind leg, begins to disintegrate. As the disease progresses the function of the hip joint, where the head of the femur sits in the pelvic girdle, steadily declines. Although the exact cause of LCPD is unknown, it is believed to be due to an inadequate flow of blood to the femur which causes degeneration and inflammation over time. Signs that your Havanese may be suffering from LCPD include gradual, but increasing, lameness in the hind legs, muscle deterioration in their hind quarters, and evidence of pain. LCPD is treated through a surgical procedure that rebuilds the head of the femur and allows it to ride in the pelvic girdle correctly.

Cherry Eye: Cherry eye is a condition where the third eyelid, or eyelid resting alongside the eye, becomes inflamed and swollen. This condition is most visibly characterized by a bright redness in your dog’s eye. Medication can be used in cases where cherry eye is caught early, but in more advanced cases surgery will be necessary.

Liver Shunt: Liver shunt in dogs is a genetically inherited condition where blood bypasses the liver due to a malformation between the portal vein and its subsidiaries. Improper blood flow to and from the liver can result in a buildup of toxins and bile acid in the blood, and cirrhosis of the liver over time. The most common indicators or a liver shunt are stunted growth, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, or frequent drinking and urination. Liver shunts are most often treated by changing the diet to allow for the proper digestion of food. Changes in diet are sometimes accompanied by medication.

Other Resources

national breed website: Havanese Club of America
rescues: Havanese Rescues

Health Issues Associated with this Breed: