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The Havanese: Everything You Need to Know - PawSafe

The Havanese: Everything You Need to Know

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

The Havanese

The Havanese is a delightful toy breed known for its affectionate nature and adaptability. As one of the world’s most popular lap and companion dogs, you may be thinking of looking for a Havanese puppy for sale. But as adaptable as these cuties are, it’s always important to research any breed before adding a new four-legged family member to your household.

Originating from Cuba, this breed has become a popular companion dog worldwide. Known for their intelligence and charming personality, Havanese dogs make excellent pets for families, singles, and seniors. In this article, we’ll explore various aspects of the Havanese breed with insights from our expert, Meghan from Elmparle Havanese Kennels.

Havanese Key Points

  1. Havanese dogs are affectionate, playful, and known as “velcro dogs” because they love to stick close to their owners.
  2. They are great for families with children, singles, and seniors, offering companionship and entertainment.
  3. Havanese dogs have a long, silky coat that requires regular grooming but is hypoallergenic, making them suitable for allergy sufferers.
  4. They are intelligent and trainable, excelling in obedience and agility training.
  5. Havanese dogs thrive in various living environments, from apartments to houses with yards.

Havanese Profile: Temperament & Physical Characteristics

Gorgeous black and white Havanese dog in flower field showing physical traits of the Havanese dog

Havanese dogs are cherished for their sweet and playful temperament. They are exceptionally affectionate and thrive on being involved in all family activities. 

As Meghan notes, “They are known as a velcro dog; they will follow you all around the house.” This breed’s sensitivity and emotional attunement to their owners make them excellent companions who flourish with ample human interaction. Havanese dogs are also known for their cheerful disposition and adaptability, making them a joy to be around.

Suitability for Families and Individuals

The Havanese breed is incredibly versatile, making them a great fit for various types of households. They are gentle and patient with children, making them ideal family pets. Their adaptability allows them to thrive in different living situations, from bustling city apartments to spacious suburban homes. 

Havanese dogs are also perfect for singles and seniors, as they can keep up with an active lifestyle but equally enjoy quiet moments at home. Their friendly nature and eagerness to please ensure they quickly become beloved members of any family.

Physical Characteristics

Havanese dogs are small but sturdy, typically weighing between 7 to 13 pounds and standing about 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall at the shoulder, according to the AKC Breed Standard. You can get them smaller in the form of the teacup Havanese, but these are controversial due to being prone to health issues.  

Coat Types and Colors

 They have a long, silky coat that is not only beautiful but also hypoallergenic, making them a good choice for people with allergies. Their coat comes in a variety of colors, including white, black, chocolate, cream, gold, silver, blue, and parti-color (a combination of colors).

Distinctive Traits

Havanese dogs are easily recognizable by their expressive eyes, which convey a range of emotions. They have a sturdy, compact build, and their tail curls over their back, adding to their endearing appearance. The Havanese also has a lively gait, often described as “springy,” which reflects their playful and joyful nature.

In summary, the Havanese is a delightful breed known for its affectionate temperament and charming physical characteristics. Their adaptability and loving nature make them excellent companions for a wide range of families and individuals. Whether you are looking for a playful pet or a loyal friend, the Havanese can bring joy and warmth into your home.

Is the Havanese Right for Me? Pros and Cons

Close up of a black white Havanese what are pros and cons of having a Havanese

Deciding whether a Havanese is the right fit for you and your family involves weighing the pros and cons. This charming, affectionate breed has many wonderful qualities, but also some considerations to keep in mind. Here is an extensive table of the pros and cons of owning a Havanese.

Affectionate and LovingRequires Regular Grooming
Havanese dogs are known for their affectionate nature. They thrive on human companionship and enjoy being close to their owners.Their long, silky coat requires regular brushing and grooming to prevent matting and tangling.
Good with Children and Other PetsProne to Separation Anxiety
They are gentle and playful, making them great companions for children and other pets.Havanese dogs can develop separation anxiety if left alone for long periods.
Adaptable to Various Living SituationsSensitive Stomach and Dietary Needs
Havanese can adapt to apartment living as well as larger homes, provided they get enough exercise and mental stimulation.Some Havanese can have sensitive stomachs and may require special diets or careful feeding routines.
Low Shedding and HypoallergenicCan Be Difficult to House Train
Their coat is low shedding and hypoallergenic, making them suitable for people with allergies.House training can take longer than with some other breeds, requiring patience and consistency.
Intelligent and TrainableCan Be Vocal
Havanese are intelligent dogs that respond well to positive reinforcement and training.They may bark to alert their owners of new sights and sounds, which can be managed with proper training.
Playful and EntertainingRequires Regular Mental Stimulation
They have a playful and entertaining personality, often amusing their owners with their antics.Havanese need regular mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behaviors.
Long LifespanHealth Concerns
Havanese have a relatively long lifespan, often living 14-16 years with proper care.They can be prone to certain genetic health issues, including hip dysplasia and eye disorders.
Versatile in ActivitiesNeeds Consistent Socialization
They excel in various activities, including agility, obedience, and even therapy work.Consistent socialization is important to prevent shyness or anxiety around new people and environments.
Loyal and DevotedModerate Exercise Needs
Havanese are loyal and devoted to their families, often forming strong bonds with their owners.They require moderate exercise daily, such as walks and playtime, to stay healthy and happy.

Havanese Common Health Issues & Lifespan

gorgeous Havanese in sunset what health issues are there in the breed

The Havanese, a charming and affectionate breed, typically enjoys a lifespan of 14 to 16 years, provided they receive proper care and regular veterinary attention. For a comprehensive understanding of the breed’s predisposition to various health conditions, you can refer to Dr. Alex Gough’s book, Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats.

While Havanese are generally healthy, they are predisposed to several genetic and health conditions. Here is an easy-to-understand summary of the most common health issues seen in this breed:

Cardiovascular Conditions

Heart Murmur –  Havanese are prone to heart murmurs. A study suggests a predisposition, although the underlying cause often lacks detailed explanation (Starr et al., 2007).

Dental Conditions

Abnormal Dentition: This condition may be inherited alongside cataracts, cardiac abnormalities, and osteochondrodysplasia (Starr et al., 2007).

Dermatological Conditions

Sebaceous Adenitis –  This condition affects about 35% of Havanese dogs. It usually appears in young adults and involves inflammation of the sebaceous glands, leading to hair loss and skin issues (Frazer et al., 2011; Bensignor & Guaguere, 2012).

Gastrointestinal Conditions

Congenital Portosystemic Shunt – Havanese are at an increased risk for this condition, which involves abnormal blood flow between the liver and the body. It often presents clinical signs in dogs less than one year old and is more commonly extrahepatic (Tobias & Rohrbach, 2003; Starr et al., 2007).

Musculoskeletal Conditions

Osteochondrodysplasia – This genetic disorder can be inherited alongside cataracts, cardiac abnormalities, and abnormal dentition (Starr et al., 2007).

Various Skeletal Defects –  These include bowed forelimbs, avascular necrosis of the femoral head (Legg–Calvé–Perthes disease), and patellar luxation, which are frequent findings in the breed (Starr et al., 2007).

Eye Conditions

Cataract – Havanese have a higher prevalence of primary cataract compared to mixed-breed dogs. This condition may be inherited with other issues like osteochondrodysplasia and cardiac abnormalities (Gelatt & MacKay, 2005; Starr et al., 2007).

Vitreoretinopathy –  This condition, involving vitreal liquefaction, predisposes Havanese to retinal detachment (Papaioannou & Dubielzig, 2013).

Reproductive Conditions

Dystocia – Havanese dogs are at an increased risk for dystocia, a difficult birth process. The incidence rate is higher compared to other breeds (Starr et al., 2007).

Best Food For A Havanese

A balanced diet is essential for the health of your Havanese. Both high-quality commercial dog foods and a carefully planned raw diet can be suitable options. Providing the right nutrients helps maintain their coat health and overall well-being.

Royal Canin Small Adult Dog Food

  • Formulated specifically for small breed adults
  • Supports digestive health and a balanced intestinal flora
  • Helps maintain healthy skin and a shiny coat

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

  • High-quality protein from deboned chicken
  • Whole grains, garden veggies, and fruit
  • Contains Blue’s exclusive LifeSource Bits, a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals

Hill’s Science Diet Small Paws Adult Dog Food

  • Made with high-quality protein for lean muscle
  • Antioxidant blend specifically for lifelong immune support in toy and miniature breeds
  • Contains nourishing omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin E for healthy skin and coat

Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe

  • High-protein, grain-free formula
  • Deboned turkey, turkey meal, and chicken meal
  • Includes DHA from salmon oil for brain and eye development

Nutro Ultra Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food

  • Trio of proteins from chicken, lamb, and salmon
  • High-quality ingredients sourced from trusted farmers and suppliers
  • Tailored blend of superfoods like coconut, chia, kale, and blueberries

Orijen Small Breed Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

  • Biologically appropriate diet with 85% quality animal ingredients
  • Fresh and raw animal ingredients, including poultry, fish, and eggs
  • Supports peak health with a rich diversity of fresh, whole animal ingredients

Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Small Breed Recipe

  • Grain-free formula with deboned beef as the first ingredient
  • Probiotics and prebiotic fiber for optimal digestion
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat

Canidae Pure Small Breed Real Chicken, Limited Ingredient Diet

  • Limited ingredient diet with 8 key ingredients
  • Grain-free formula with real chicken as the first ingredient
  • Includes probiotics for healthy digestion and antioxidants for a healthy immune system

Fromm Family Foods Small Breed Adult Gold

  • Quality protein sources including chicken, duck, and lamb
  • Enhanced with probiotics to aid digestion
  • Contains salmon oil for a healthy coat and probiotics for digestion

Each of these brands offers high-quality nutrition tailored to the specific needs of small breed dogs like the Havanese. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian to choose the best food for your Havanese’s individual health needs and preferences.

Importance of Balanced Nutrition

Balanced nutrition is crucial for the overall health of your Havanese. It supports their coat health, energy levels, and immune system. Providing a diet that includes essential vitamins and minerals ensures your Havanese thrives. Meghan notes the importance of a high-quality diet, whether commercial or raw, for keeping their Havanese in optimal health.

Incorporating a mixture of high-quality commercial kibble and raw foods can provide a well-rounded diet that meets all their nutritional needs. Always consult with a veterinarian to tailor the diet specifically to your Havanese’s requirements, considering their age, weight, and health condition.

Training and Socialization

Havanese are intelligent and respond well to positive reinforcement. Using rewards such as treats, praise, and play can effectively motivate them. Short, frequent training sessions are ideal to keep them engaged and prevent them from becoming bored. Incorporating fun activities and varied commands can make training enjoyable for both you and your Havanese.

Behavioral Management

Early training and socialization are crucial for Havanese to manage their high energy levels and potential for excessive barking. Introducing them to different environments, people, and other animals from a young age helps them become well-rounded and confident. 

Consistent training helps address and reduce undesirable behaviors such as excessive barking, chewing, and separation anxiety. Establishing a routine and clear boundaries will make your Havanese feel secure and understood.

Expert Advice

Meghan offers valuable advice for training Havanese: “Enjoy your time in the ring. The dogs are always going to do everything they can for you, so just enjoy it.” This highlights the importance of making training a positive experience and appreciating the bond you build with your dog during the process.

By focusing on positive reinforcement, early socialization, and consistent training, you can ensure that your Havanese grows into a well-behaved and happy companion.

Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Havanese dogs require moderate exercise to maintain their physical health and happiness. Here are some ideal activities for them:

  • Aim for at least one or two walks per day. A brisk 30-minute walk helps to burn off energy and keep them fit.
  • This activity not only provides physical exercise but also engages their minds.
  • Havanese excel in agility training, which provides both physical exercise and mental stimulation. Setting up a simple agility course in your backyard can be a fun way to keep your Havanese active.

Mental Stimulation Needs

To keep your Havanese mentally sharp and engaged, consider the following:

  • Puzzle Toys – These toys challenge their problem-solving skills and keep them entertained.
  • Interactive Games –  Games like hide and seek or treat-dispensing toys can provide mental stimulation.
  • Advanced Training: Engaging your Havanese in advanced obedience training or trick training can stimulate their minds and strengthen your bond.
  • Dog Sports –  Participating in dog sports like rally obedience or canine freestyle can be both mentally and physically beneficial.

Grooming and Maintenance

Regular grooming is crucial for maintaining the Havanese’s long, silky coat and preventing matting:

  • Brush their coat at least twice a week using a soft-bristle brush or a comb to remove tangles and loose hair.
  • Consider scheduling professional grooming sessions every 4-6 weeks to keep their coat in top condition.

Bathing and Trimming

Maintaining a regular bathing and trimming routine is essential for your Havanese:

  • Bathe your Havanese monthly with a gentle dog shampoo. Make sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid skin irritation.
  • Trim their nails regularly, about every 3-4 weeks, to prevent overgrowth and discomfort. If you hear their nails clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim.

Importance of Dental, Ear, and Eye Care

Proper care of your Havanese’s teeth, ears, and eyes is vital for their overall health:

  • Brush their teeth several times a week with a dog-specific toothpaste to prevent dental issues and bad breath. Dental chews and professional cleanings can also help maintain oral health.
  • Check their ears weekly for signs of infection or wax buildup. Clean their ears with a vet-recommended ear cleaner to prevent infections.
  • their eyes daily with a damp cloth to remove any discharge and prevent tear staining. Regularly check their eyes for redness or irritation.

By providing your Havanese with the appropriate exercise, mental stimulation, grooming, and maintenance, you can ensure they remain healthy, happy, and well-adjusted members of your family.

Finding a Havanese

Cute Havanese puppy for sale

Look for breeders who conduct health screenings and provide a clean, caring environment for their dogs. Meghan from Elmparle Havanese Kennels advises choosing breeders who do thorough health testing and offer ongoing support. This ensures you are getting a healthy, well-cared-for puppy from a responsible breeder.

Questions to Ask Breeders

  1. What health tests have been done on the parents?
  2. Can I see the puppy’s parents and health certificates?
  3. What socialization practices do you follow?

These questions help you gauge the breeder’s commitment to the health and well-being of their dogs.

Adoption and Rescue Options

Consider adopting from organizations like Havanese Rescue Inc. or Small Paws Rescue. Adoption is a wonderful way to provide a loving home to a dog in need and can be a rewarding experience for both you and the dog.

How Much Do Havanese Puppies Cost?

The cost of a Havanese puppy can vary significantly based on several factors including the breeder’s reputation, the puppy’s lineage, location, and whether the puppy is intended for pet or show quality. On average, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $2,500 for a Havanese puppy from a reputable breeder.

Cost Overview

  • Initial Costs: Purchase/adoption fees, vaccinations, spaying/neutering, supplies.
  • Ongoing Costs: Food, grooming, veterinary care, pet insurance.

Understanding the financial commitment involved in owning a Havanese is crucial for responsible pet ownership.


Havanese are affectionate, playful, and adaptable dogs that make excellent companions for various households. They require regular grooming, exercise, and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy.

Consider your lifestyle and commitment before bringing a Havanese into your home. They thrive on companionship and active involvement with their families, making them ideal for those who can dedicate time and attention to their needs.

Owning a Havanese is a rewarding experience filled with love and companionship. With proper care and attention, they make delightful pets that bring joy to any household. While they require dedication, the bond you form with your Havanese will be deeply fulfilling and enriching.

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.