Havanese Temperament & Personality: A Useful Guide For Dog Owners

The Havanese is a dog breed that might not be familiar in name, but is instantly recognizable in person. The long, silky coat they wear gives them the appearance that they are floating as they walk, and the additional “poof” of their tail, which curls back up over the body, adds a touch of elegance. They are very popular city dogs due to their smaller size and friendly, outgoing nature, and will generally grow no larger than about 15 pounds – rendering them ideal pets for apartment, condo, and townhouse dwellers. Dog owners of this breed say that the Havanese personality is affectionate, loving, and impressively intelligent. 

Havanese dogs have the distinction of being the only dog breed that is native to the country of Cuba; however, very few realize this well-loved pup actually hails from Latin America. The Havanese is a descendant of a now-extinct breed called the Blanquito de la Habana, or “little white one from Havana.” Today, this Bichon-relative breed may not have the curly coat of his cousins, but he certainly shares their enthusiasm and energy. This article will explore the jovial breed, described by the AKC as “intelligent, outgoing and funny”, including the Havanese temperament and disposition, health conditions, grooming tips, and other essential info for pet parents.

Are Havanese Dogs Friendly?

The big, bright eyes of a Havanese are a great indicator of his temperament: he’s not just outgoing, he’s earned the nickname of “Velcro dog” because he’s predisposed to stick like glue to his human parent. Unless a new person or animal is unexpectedly in his personal space, a Havanese is far more likely to give a wag of that unique curled-up tail than anything approaching aggression. He loves attention and adores company, making him an ideal lap dog for a stay-at-home pet parent or an elderly owner that loves canine cuddles. 

As a toy-breed companion dog, Havanese dogs are smaller with sturdy bodies and a light, springy step that makes them recognizable among other Bichon-type breeds. That said, as much as they love companionship, it’s important not to pair them with a much larger canine sibling without adequate supervision. Even friendly breeds like the Havanese do have their limits, and setting them loose in a yard or in a room with a larger dog could lead to mishaps and injuries. The same caution should be used when serving food to dogs or offering them a single new toy to play with – equality helps keep canine tempers from flaring in competition. 

As a walk-around-town companion, a Havanese is ideal – he isn’t typically put off by large crowds or a lot of noise as long as his pet

parent is nearby. He’s just as happy to stroll down the avenue looking for pats from passers-by as he is to curl up on the couch next to his parent and snooze. He’s also large enough to be walked on a leash and collar, but small enough to be picked up and carried where necessary.

Are Havanese Dogs Good For Allergies?

Many humans that are allergic to dogs are actually allergic to their dander – the dried flakes of skin and sweat that become airborne as a dog sheds his coat. Although they’re not ‘hypoallergenic’, per se, the Havanese is considered a non-shedding breed, despite its luxuriously long double-layer coat. Because the hair stays put, allergy sufferers don’t have to worry about breathing in the small, tickling fur and dander common to smaller breeds. They can pet, cuddle, and enjoy their dog’s company to their heart’s content. This is a particularly great benefit for homes that have an asthmatic pet parent or a child in the family that may be allergy-sensitive to other dog breeds.

Havanese Health Problems: What Pet Parents Should Know

Happily, Havanese pooches are uniquely hardy among toy breeds and tend to have few breed-specific problems. Like many smaller

dogs, he can carry a tendency towards knee and hip/joint issues in his genetics that may manifest as he grows older; pet parents should pay close attention to how readily he climbs stairs, or if he appears to be hesitant or reluctant to walk.  

This isn’t to say that the Havanese breed is entirely free of complications, however. Much like his Bichon-related breed cousins, he can have sight and canine hearing loss; these are usually selectively bred out in purebred lines, but recessive genes do emerge at times. When a Havanese is undergoing his periodic checkup at the vet’s office, it’s prudent for his pet parent to ask about an eyesight and hearing assessment to make sure he’s free of these issues. 

Housebreaking A Havanese: A Dog Owner’s Checklist

A Havanese dog is a pup that’s very eager to please and extremely praise and attention-oriented. In this sense, he can easily be instructed which phrases and time periods usually mean “potty-time,” and as long as his parent is timely about walking him, accidents should be minimal. That said, the tendency of this loving “Velcro” dog to cling to his parent’s side is a breed recipe for canine separation anxiety. It’s also, unfortunately, a trigger for the stress urination and defecation that go hand in hand with this trait. 

Training experts agree: a Havanese is not a good pet option for owners that plan to be away from home habitually. In addition to the small size of the dog – and his bladder – necessitating frequent bathroom breaks, it’s not uncommon for him to experience pronounced anxiety and depression when left to his own devices. If a pet parent isn’t able to stay with the dog during the day, it may be a good idea to ask friends, relatives, or pet sitting professionals to stay with the dog or at the very least, check in with him frequently. If leaving him alone is unavoidable, leave a television or radio on for comfort, and place an unwashed piece of clothing in his sleeping area to soothe him with a caregiver’s scent.

In terms of the actual housebreaking training, small, soft treats are an excellent and easy-to-remember incentive for him to do his business. These treats should be carried in a pocket or bag and used liberally when he:

  • Initially responds to his name and comes when he’s called.
  • Sits still to have his leash attached and readied for a walk.
  • Stays by his parent’s side and walks where he’s guided.
  • Right after he eliminates in the correct area.

The treats are a way to connect what he should be doing outside – going to a certain place and going potty – and doing it on command/his parent’s timeline. Whenever possible, use the phrase chosen to represent this chore – “go potty/pee/poop”, etc. – and give him his treat directly after he does so. That rhythm of phrase/action/recognition is the cycle that will reinforce the behavior and help teach him that it is “wrong” to go on the carpet inside. 

If a Havanese calls an apartment home, he may not have a yard full of grass to use when he hears nature’s call. In this case, a pet parent should be prepared to set up a safe place for him to do his business inside. This area will need to be kept free of mess and debris, and cleaned immediately if he uses it. If housebreaking a Havanese entirely indoors, these points should also be considered:

  • A non-porous, tiled or linoleum floor minimizes mess and makes sanitation easier: E.g., bathrooms, la