Just What is a Havanese?
The Havanese, while a toy dog and always a companion, is also a hearty and sturdy dog for such a size, and should never give the appearance of fragility or of being overly delicate. The height range is from 8½ to 11½ inches (216 to 292 mm), with the ideal being between 9 and 10½ inches (229 and 267 mm), measured at the withers, and is slightly less than the length from point of shoulder to point of buttocks, which give the dog the appearance of being slightly more long than tall. A unique aspect of the breed is the top line, which rises slightly from withers to rump, and the gait, which is flashy but not too reaching, and gives the Havanese a spritely, agile appearance on the move.
The expression of the face is one of mischievousness rather than being cute and the ears, which are medium in length and well feathered, always hang down. The tail should curve over the back at rest, and like the rest of the dog, is covered in long fur.
Though there is some question whether the original Havanese were all white or of different colors, modern Havanese are accepted in all coat colors and patterns, with allowances made in every breed standard for their unique colorful nature. The only restrictions is that every Havanese must have a black nose and eye rims, except in chocolate colored dogs, where brown coloration is allowed. Popular colors include fawn, white, and black. Parti-colored Havanese are as well regarded as solids.
Havanese, like other Bichons and related dogs like Poodles, have a coat that doesn’t readily shed. Rather, it catches hair and dander internally, and needs to be regularly brushed out. Many people consider the Havanese to be nonallergenic or hypoallergenic, but they do still release dander, which can aggravate allergies. It’s best to be exposed to the Havanese before deciding to choose one as a dog for a house with allergies.
Havanese have three coat types, the smooth, which is similar to the Maltese, the curly, which is not unlike a Bichon Frise coat, and the wavy, which is the preferred coat type and the type most uniquely Havanese. The hair is long, soft, and abundant, and should have no coarseness. A short coat mutation shows up occasionally in otherwise normal litters, but these are not showable Havanese and go so far against standard that even novelty breeding of them is discouraged.
Because of the tropical nature of the Havanese, the thick coat is light and designed to act as a sunshade and cooling agent for the little dog on hot days. This means, though, that the fluffy Havanese needs protection against cold winter days, in spite of the warm wooly look of their fur. The coat can be shown naturally brushed out, or corded, a technique which turns the long coat into ‘cords’ of fur, and which is hard to start but easy to care for when completed.
The Havanese has a silly, friendly temperament, which is unlike many other toy dog breeds. It is at home with well-behaved children and most other pets, and is rarely shy or nervous around new people. Clever and active, they will often solicit attention by performing tricks.
The Havanese is a very people oriented dog and will fret if separated from its owner or family. Because of that, they are not suitable for people who work long hours or take frequent trips. They will follow their humans around the house, even to the bathroom, but do not tend to be overly possessive of their people, and do not usually suffer aggression or jealousy towards other dogs, other pets or other humans.
The Javanese’s love of children stems back to the days when it was often the playmate of the small children of the households to which it belonged. Unlike most toy dogs, who are too delicate and sometimes too nervous or aggressive to tolerate the often-clumsy play of children, the Havanese, with care, is a cheerful companion to even younger children, making them a most popular small dog. Cheerful, mischievous looking small, good with kids? What’s not to like?
Havanese are generally considered healthy and sturdy dogs, and live between 12ï¿½16 years, though there is a prior history of genetic conditions with this breed. Don’t buy outside recognized breeder circles, and research the history of the breeders stock.
Havanese, even ones not to be bred, should go through several tests, including a one-time BAER hearing test, a CERF eye test annually, and a Patellar Palpation and Hip Evaluation. Soaping has also become a popular way for breeders to test health. It involves soaping up the dog to flatten the coat to its body and reveal the structure of the legs. Crooked, bowed or over short legs are a symptom related to many Havanese health issues, and dogs suffering from them should not be bred.
Because of the small genetic pool from which the Havanese was revived, Havanese organizations around the world are always on the lookout for new health and genetic issues that may come to the fore in this lovable and generally healthy breed.
The Havanese itself developed uniquely in Cuba, either as the result of said Spanish sailors, or as gifts from Italian traders to open the doors of wealthy houses to their goods. The “Little Dog from Havana” even traveled back to Europe where it found brief favor in the late 19th century as a circus and trick dog and a court companion.
As part of the Cuban Revolution, many trappings of aristocracy were culled, including the pretty but useless fluffy family dogs of the wealthy landowners of Cuba! Even though many upper class Cubans fled to the United States, few were not able to bring their dogs, nor did they have the inclination to breed them. When Americans became interested in this rare dog in the 1970s, the gene pool available in the US was only 11 animals.
With dedicated breeding, as well as the acquisition of some new dogs of type internationally, the Havanese has made a huge comeback, with recognition by many major kennel clubs and one of the fastest growing registrations of new dogs in the AKC (+42% in 2004). They have also suffered from a certain level of trendiness due to rarity, good temperament, and publicity by such famous owners as Barbara Walters.
Havanese at work
Because of the cheerful and readily trained nature of the Havanese, they are increasingly a dog utilized for a variety of jobs, especially those involving the public. Havanese have been utilized for:
- Therapy dogs
- Service dogs, such as aid dogs for those in wheelchairs and hearing-ear dogs
- Performing dogs
- Mold and termite detection
Havanese also compete in a variety of dog sports, such as
- Dog agility
- Fly ball
- Musical Freestyle
- The Havanese has difficulty in housebreaking and can take a year or longer to consistently train. This is due to a smaller bladder than many other dog breeds. Crate training or litter box training are two options to help aid in this difficulty.
- The Havanese has a profuse coat that requires daily grooming. If you do not intend to show your dog, a trimmed coat requires less brushing so do consider a haircut.
- The Havanese, with their drop ears, need to have their ears cleaned to help prevent ear infections.
- Though they are not a dog that requires long walks, Havanese are active and require at least a large, well-enclosed yard to run around in a few times a day. They will also use up energy tearing around and getting underfoot.
- The Havanese is not a yappy dog, but may alert its owners to approaching people. Usually acknowledging that you have heard their alert is enough to make them shoosh.
Buyer beware the Puppy Miller
The Havanese is an expensive and rare dog, and the cost of getting a dog from a breeder who takes the time to put them through the right health tests can drive the price to $2000 or more. You will not find a high quality animal in a pet store, they simply can not make money selling such expensive dogs unless they forgo the tests, see a registered breeder. Beware the puppy miller, you risk getting a sub standard dog, and in the process will be promoting poor breeding practices.