Havanese Dog

Cuban Import Makes Ideal Family Pet

You may have seen a Havanese dog, prancing along with its tell-tale springy gait and long-haired coat that camouflages it as a wiggling furball, and not have known exactly what type of breed it was.

Once difficult to breed in countries other than Cuba, the relatively little-known Havanese is now one of the fastest-growing dog breeds in the United States—and a very popular family addition.

Havanese dog

The history of the Havanese dog can be traced back to the Tenerife, the largest island in the Canary Islands. It is believed the breed traveled on board ships from Tenerife to Cuba during the mid 1400s. The breed is a member of the Bichon type, which is a non-sporting category of dog breeds.

Due to the strict government regime in Cuba, which limits exportation of everything from its people to its goods, the Havenese dog was not easily accessible to foreigners, including Americans.

Over the years, however, due to international breeding, the Havenese has become one of the fastest growing dog breeds in the American Kennel Club.

Havanese dogs have an easy-going reputation. They are devoted and loyal to the people in their lives and thrive on affection; however, this breed is also self-entertaining and enjoys playing with a variety of toys by itself.

The breed is intelligent and responds well to training. In fact, the Havenese has made a name for itself as a working breed, flourishing as a therapy dog, assistance dog, tracking dog and performing dog.

Dog fanciers recommend training Havenese while they're still young as the breed is known to develop stubborn tendencies as it ages.

A friendly dog, the Havanese gets along well with others and doesn't often show aggression toward strangers unless provoked. The breed is known to display a unique, lively gait that looks springy in motion, reflecting the dog's happy-go-lucky attitude.

Havanese dog

The Havanese dog is classified as a "toy" dog due to its small stature. On average, a Havanese dog weighs between 10 and 16 pounds and stands 9 to 10.5 inches.

The modern-day Havanese can be one of a variety of colors, including white, cream, silver, orange, red, fawn, brown, black and blue. Patterns may be solid, brindle, black and tan, parti-colored, piebald, black and white or sable.

The Havanese is recognized largely by its long, silky double coat, which is soft to the touch. Some Havenese coats are more oily while others can be frizzy and more harsh to the touch. Havenese breeders compare the "ideal" feel of the Havense coat to that of unrefined silk. Routine grooming is recommended for a healthy coat.

Even though the breed has a double coat, it's lightweight, so the Havenese can not endure cold climates. Extra protection such as dog coats or sweaters are recommended when your Havenese ventures outside during colder seasons.

While these medical conditions are generally uncommon they are known to occur in the breed. Your Havanese dog will not necessarily develop any of the conditions listed below. Choosing a reputable breeder from which to purchase your pet will help minimize the risks.

Havanese dog
  • Cardiovascular disease such as pulmonic stenosis, patent ductus arteriosus and tetraolgy of fallot is known to affect the hearts in the Havanese breed.
  • Cataracts are an opacity of the lens of the eye and may cause blindness if not treated surgically.
  • Luxating patella is caused by anatomical defects of the bones that make up the knee joint. It is manifested by the kneecap (patella) slipping in and out of its normal location in the knee. Mildly affected dogs may carry the leg for 2 or 3 steps while walking. Severely affected dogs may become severely lame and refuse to use their rear legs. Surgical correction of this condition is very rewarding.
  • Retinal dysplasia is usually a nonprogressive eye disease affecting the retina of animals that can be caused by viral infections, drugs, vitamin A deficiency, or genetic developmental defects of the retina. Retinal dysplasia is characterized by folds or rosettes (round clumps) of the retinal tissue. The most severe form of retinal dysplasia causes retinal detachment and blindness.

The Havanese Club of America encourages all Havanese owners to have their dogs take advantage of seven recommended tests for eye disease, congenital deafness, patella lunation, cardiac diseases, hip dysplasia, Legg-Calve-Perthes (hip joint disorder), and elbow dysplasia.

The Canine Health Information Center (CHIC), a centralized canine health database, promotes the testing of the Havanese breed and uses the research to link testing results to related pedigree information (parent, offspring, and siblings). When Havanese dogs are given all seven tests, they receive a certificate which places them in the database.

As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.