The Havanese is a breed of dog of the Bichon type, which do not shed. These dogs were developed from the now extinct Bichon Tenerife, which was introduced to the Canary Islands by the Spanish and later to other islands and colonies of Spain by sailors. They are very playful dogs and good with older, more considerate children.
The Havanese, while a toy dog, 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 should give the dog the appearance of being slightly longer than tall. A unique aspect of the breed is the topline, which rises slightly from withers to rump, and the gait, which is flashy but not too reaching, and gives the Havanese a sprightly, agile appearance on the move.
The expression of the face with its almond eyes, is one of mischievousness rather than being cute, like the Bolognese, and the ears, which are medium in length and well feathered, always hang down. The tail should curve over the back at rest, and is covered with a plumb of long fur.
The key word for the Havanese is 'natural', and the breed standards note that except for slight clipping around the feet to allow for a circular foot appearance, they are to be shown unclipped; any further trimming, back-combing, or other fussing is against type and will cause a dog to be disqualified. That includes undocked tails, uncropped ears, and even a standard that forbids the use of topknots and bows in presentation, to keep with the traditional look of the dog, where the hair covered the eyes and protected them against the harsh Cuban sun. The American Kennel Club standard notes "his character is essentially playful rather than decorative" and the Havanese, when shown, should reflect that, generally looking like a toy in size only, but more at home with playing with children or doing silly tricks than being pampered and groomed on a silk pillow.
Havanese, like other Bichons and related dogs like Poodles, have a coat that 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 are supposed to have a slightly wavy, double coat. However, unlike other double coated breeds, the Havanese outer coat is neither coarse, nor overly dense, but rather soft and light, with the undercoat slightly more heavy. Not all Havanese have coats that match the standard. Havanese coats are supposed to be very soft, like unrefined silk(compared to the Maltese coat, which feels like refined silk) however in some dogs, the coat can become too silky, looking oily; on the other end of the spectrum, Havanese coats can be too harsh, giving a "frizzy" appearance.
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 woolly 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, similar to what dreadlocks are in Humans. This corded look may be difficult to achieve for the first timer, so it is always recommended that someone interested in cording their Havanese consults someone who has done it before.
The Havanese has a playful, 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, such as running back and forth between two rooms as fast as they can. They are very lovable.
The Havanese is a very people oriented dog. They often have a habit of following 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 Havanese'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, and this is no small part of its growing popularity around the world.
The Havanese have been known to eat only when they have company in the same room. If one is eating and their person leaves the room, it is likely the dog will grab a mouthful of food and follow their "person", dropping the food and consuming it one morsel at a time in the room their person goes to.
Havanese are true "dogs", loving to play in an aggressive manner, not wanting to be the "loser" of whatever game they are playing. That being said, they calm down quickly when prompted to do so by their owners.
Havanese have excellent noses and are easily trained to play "find it" where the owner hides a treat and the Havanese sniffs it out, never giving up until the treat is discovered. This is a highly trainable dog.
Because of the small genetic pool from which the Havanese were revived (11 dogs), Havanese organizations around the world are always on the lookout for new health and genetic issues that may come to the fore in this otherwise healthy breed.
As part of the Cuban Revolution, many trappings of aristocracy were culled, including the pretty but useless fluffy family dogs of the wealthy land owners of Cuba. Even though many upper class Cubans fled to the United States, few were able to bring their dogs, nor did they have the inclination to breed them. Indeed, when Americans became interested in this rare and charming 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 and is one of the fastest growing registration of new dogs in the American Kennel Club (AKC) (+42% in 2004). They have also acquired a certain level of trendiness due to rarity, good temperament, and publicity by such famous owners as Barbara Walters. The Havanese is recognized by major registries in the English-speaking world. In addition to the American Kennel Club, it is recognized by The Kennel Club (UK), the Australian National Kennel Council, the New Zealand Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club (US), and was recognized as Bichon Havanais, breed number 250, by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale in 2006. It also may be recognized some of the very large number of minor registries and internet based clubs and dog registry businesses.
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:
Havanese also compete in a variety of dog sports, such as
The Havanese has a profuse coat that requires daily grooming. If one does not intend to show their dog, it can be trimmed shorter so as to require less brushing.
The Havanese, with their drop ears, need to have their ears cleaned to help prevent ear infections.
Though they are not dogs that require 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 naturally yappy dog, but may alert its owners to approaching people. Usually acknowledging that you have heard their alert is enough to make them cease.
Havanese Rescue organizations: