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Havanese: Breed Characteristics, Training, Care & Nutrition

The Havanese is a small companion dog native to the western Mediterranean Basin and Cuba. The bright little dog is a very popular companion and can be found in almost every country in the world. The small dog with the beautiful silky coat can be found in the FCI under the FCI Group 9 Companion and Companion Dogs, Section 1 Bichons and related breeds without a working test with the standard number 250. He is a pure company and companion dog and is suitable as a bright family dog with character and temperament.

Havanese dog breed

Size: 22-29cm
Weight: 3-6kg
FCI Group: 9: Companion and Companion Dogs
Section: 1: Bichons and related breeds
Country of origin: Cuba
Colors: fawn, mahogany, black, white, havana brown
Life expectancy: 13-15 years
Suitable as: family and companion dog
Sports: Dogdancing, Trickdogging
Character: Companionable, Approachable, Intelligent, Playful, Affectionate, Gentle
Outlet Needs: Medium
Drooling potential: low
The thickness of hair: rather low
Maintenance effort: high
Coat structure: very long, soft, smooth topcoat and poorly developed undercoat
Child-friendly: rather yes
Family dog: yes
Social: yes

Origin and breed history

Internationally, the Havanese bears the name Bichon Havanaise, which also shows the close relationship to the Bichons, which are particularly widespread in Europe. The ancestors of these dogs are also believed to be the ancestors of the Maltese and the Bichon Frisé. The exact origin of the Havanese can only be speculated, but canid researchers assume that the small dogs come from Europe and were brought to far-flung countries with the Spanish colonial rulers of the time. Mainly to South America and Cuba. There the small dogs were crossed with the local dogs and a very robust and at the same time beautiful and well-balanced companion dog breed was created.

Breeding of the new breed took place mainly in the capital (Havana) of Cuba, hence the name Havanese. There, the rich colonial rulers in particular enjoyed the small dogs. The dogs were brought to the USA by ship and found many lovers there as well. With the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro, enthusiasm for the beautiful dogs in Cuba decreased significantly. The population saw the small service dogs as a status symbol and a remnant of the previously ruling class.

All of the old Havanese bloodlines are now extinct in Cuba. But the animals that were brought to the United States were able to save the breed from extinction. The Havanese remained largely unchanged and, with their friendly character, quickly found fans all over the world.

Nature and Temperament of Havanese

The nature of the long-haired Havanese is uncomplicated and friendly. The small dogs with the beautiful fur were primarily bred as pure company and companion dogs and thus meet all human requirements for a dog that can run with you in everyday life without any problems and gets along in a family. He is a very smart dog who loves to learn tricks and train with his owner. In addition, he is also lively and very playful with his people, while he is rather calm and neutral with strangers.

The Havanese gets along very well with children and likes to play with them without being reckless. Since he has no aggression and has no protective instinct, he can be kept very well as a second dog.

He manages to attract the attention of his people with ease and is a little charmer who likes to be in the midst of his people. If he is ignored, the Havanese pushes between his people and demands his occupation. He can bark, but is not a small barker. He has good self-confidence and, despite his small size, is not afraid of large dogs or strange situations. That is why it is also important to offer the small dog a regulated everyday life and rules that he can use as a guide. Otherwise, the little Havanese will quickly try to take control of the house.

With good socialization and training, however, he is an absolutely friendly dog ​​that is also suitable for beginners and usually does not cause any problems. Even if unwanted behavior creeps in, it can be easily trained and the small dog can be corrected very easily by its owner.

Are Havanese Dogs Barkers?

No, while he can bark to get his owner’s attention, this can be mastered with simple training.

The appearance of the Havanese

The Havanese is a small and rather compact dog with short legs and a quick and agile gait. It reaches a shoulder height of a maximum of 28 cm and there are no major differences between the sexes of the dogs. The small, agile dog should weigh a maximum of 6 kilos. Because he is very agile and likes to romp, obesity is rarely a problem with this breed.

A special feature of the Havanese is its beautiful coat. This is very long and smooth in most dogs of this breed, and can also have slight waves. According to the breed standard, the coat can be up to 18 cm long, but the small dog has hardly any undercoat, which is why it can happen that it freezes in winter despite the long top coat.

Multiple colors are allowed as coat colors, unlike their close relatives, the bichons, not just white. The Havanese comes in different shades of brown, grey, beige and even piebald. The coat should be soft and shiny and cover the body tightly. If it is rough or there are bald spots, there is often a health problem.

At how many months is a Havanese fully grown?

On average, the Havanese is physically fully grown at around eight months.

Upbringing & husbandry of the Havanese – this is important to note

The Havanese is a smart dog that enjoys working with its owner and is therefore easy to train. It’s considered beginner-friendly, although it can certainly demand your attention. He has a high will-to-please and is very easy to motivate for training. Toys or treats are the perfect reward for good cooperation, and there are also some dog sports that appeal to the Havanese. Because he’s an outgoing and active dog, he generally won’t have any problems with other dogs. Nevertheless, regular contact with conspecifics is important for his socialization and so that he can romp around enough. Its owner should consider its active nature and offer the little dog enough activity, but trick dogging and agility strengthen the bond between dog and owner.

Since the Havanese knows very well how to let his charm work on people, it is important for the owner to know this peculiarity and still pay attention to clear rules during training.

The Havanese quickly notices when his people are not serious and uses such opportunities to fool around or escape. Therefore, despite all the friendliness and cuteness of the dog, it is important to ensure that it is properly trained so that there are no accidents or other problems in everyday life with the dog. In general, the upbringing should be easy to handle, since the Havanese does not have a stubborn head and is free from any form of aggression. He will learn the basic commands very early and can then be further utilized with a dog sport.

In addition to basic obedience and suitability for everyday use, the little Havanese should definitely be trained to have their long fur properly cared for. Due to the length of the fur, the dog must be combed every day, otherwise the fur quickly becomes matted. In the hot summer, the fur may need to be trimmed back.

Despite its short legs, the Havanese is a very playful dog that needs sufficient exercise and activity. Long walks with a controlled free run are just the right thing to keep the little dog busy in everyday life. Games in the garden or joint bike rides are also good ways to keep your active little dog busy. In addition to all the training and employment, cuddling with the dog must not be neglected. The Havanese enjoys the attention and closeness of its people and can snuggle up next to its owner for hours and enjoy being stroked.

How long can you leave a Havanese alone?

If the Havanese is given enough exercise and has learned to be alone early, he can be alone for a few hours a day, but it shouldn’t be more than five hours.

Diet of the Havanese

The Havanese is a very picky dog ​​when it comes to their food. Whether dry or wet food – it is important that the food is of high quality and suitable for the needs of the Havanese. It should be free from grain and other additives and also digestible for small dogs. Since the Havanese is very rarely overweight, portioning is usually not a problem. It should only be ensured that the small dog is not overly spoiled. He’ll quickly learn when he’s begging his owner, who will give him a better treat than what’s in the bowl. This allows him to refuse the food in the bowl.

When choosing the food, you should always pay attention to the age of the dog. So it is important that a puppy gets puppy food up to the age of eight months and that an older dog is switched to senior food from the age of seven. Normally the Havanese does not have a sensitive stomach, but he can react to changes in food and allergies to different types of food can develop. In such a case, nutritional advice from the veterinarian can be helpful, as can a gradual transition, always mixing some of the new food into the old food. The amount of new food increases from day to day and the old food decreases more and more.

Once a good food has been found that the dog tolerates and likes to eat, it should not be changed. Unless the dog’s state of health changes or it’s getting old enough to make the change.

Health – life expectancy & common diseases

The Havanese is a relatively healthy breed. There are a few diseases that are more common in Havanese, but this is very breed dependent. It is therefore very important to only get a dog from a reputable breeder or a Havanese from an animal shelter. As an owner, you should take a close look at the housing conditions and at least the mother animal and the siblings. As a rule, the parent animals are completely examined for existing diseases before mating.

The following diseases can cause problems in the Havanese, as in many other small dog breeds.

The so-called kneecap luxation (PL) can cause problems and pain in the dog’s musculoskeletal system. Many small dog breeds with short legs suffer from this.
There is also often Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), an eye problem that can even lead to blindness in the animal.
Due to the breeding specialization on the long and beautiful coat, some Havanese also develop sebadenitis. Here, the skin is attacked and the dog suffers from fur loss and painful inflammation of the skin.
If the Havanese leads a healthy life, with plenty of activity and exercise, they can live up to 13 or even 15 years in good health. He is usually playful and active into old age.

How old do Havanese get?

Havanese have a long life expectancy. With good health, the little dog can live 13 to 15 years.

Care of the Havanese

Due to the long fur, the little Havanese needs adequate care. He needs to be combed every day and it is best for his owner to check his coat for small twigs and other debris after every walk. If the little dog has been out in the rain or jumped in puddles, it is important to dry it off and lie in a warm place. Since the Havanese do not have a proper undercoat, the dogs freeze quickly and can catch cold.

Special attention to the coat is required at every change of coat, because during this time the long and smooth coat tends to become matted, just like during the transition from puppy coat to adult coat appearance. Matted areas in the fur are not only very unsightly, they can also pose a health risk. Once the coat becomes matted, bacteria and fungus can quickly collect in these areas, leading to skin irritation and infection. Because the Havanese is generally prone to skin disorders, the little dog should be bathed every few months to help shed any loose dander. The long fur spreads an additional care effort, since it must be checked regularly whether the hair is not growing in the ears or hanging too much over the eyes. Careful shortening is therefore necessary at regular intervals.

Is the Havanese suitable for allergy sufferers?

No, although the Havanese sheds a little less fur than other long-haired dogs, people with allergies can react to the animal’s loose dander.

Havanese – Activities and Training

The Havanese should go for a walk at least three times a day for at least half an hour each time, but preferably an hour each time. Because despite his small body size, he is an active and active dog who likes to be outside. He can also be kept busy around the house and a large yard is a good addition but not a must. In addition to regular walks, dog sport is advisable, which keeps the little dog busy and breaks up everyday life for him.

Suitable dog sports here are, for example, agility for small dogs, Hopers, dog dancing or trick dogging. The most important thing is that the dog and the owner enjoy the activity. The joint interaction should always be positive and the shared sense of achievement strengthens the bond with the animal.

Good to know: special features of the Havanese

The special thing about the Havanese is of course his friendly and open character, he walks confidently at his owner’s side and loves to play and romp. He is a real charmer and a character dog, this is of course supported by his particularly beautiful appearance.

With its long, smooth fur, the small dog looks particularly beautiful and was therefore the darling of wealthy Cuban society for a long time.

Disadvantages of the Havanese

Like many small dog breeds, the Havanese has some issues with hereditary diseases. Most of these diseases can be ruled out by choosing a reputable breeder who pays attention to the health of the animals. Nevertheless, it is important as the owner to be aware that the dog can suffer from hereditary diseases and thus also to high veterinary costs. The time required to care for the long coat should also be considered.

How much does a Havanese cost?

This depends very much on whether it is a puppy from a breeder or an older dog from an animal shelter. A puppy from a reputable breeder can easily cost between $1600 and $2000.

Is the Havanese right for me?

The Havanese is the ideal dog for active families and singles who have the time and money to care for this special little dog. He is a lovable companion and yet a full-fledged dog with needs to match. Due to his exuberant nature, he is also well suited for dog beginners and seniors if they are willing to keep him busy. He is comfortable indoors, but still needs regular walks and meaningful activity to release his energy.

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