Updated 03 November 2023
Read time: 5 mins
article author
Written by Elle Padgham
Lead Copywriter


Havanese dogs have a reputation for being a real family pet. They love to be pampered and spoiled and will pay you back with affection and devotion. However, some become over-reliant on their owners and may develop into ‘velcro dogs’. These dogs have separation anxiety and find it hard to cope when their owners are not around.

Playful and smart, the Havanese is lots of fun to be around and a good training companion. Most fit in well to families with children but do require gentle handling and should be well socialised from puppyhood. Their coat is high maintenance and can become easily matted if not brushed regularly.

Breed history

This small dog has been around for several hundred years and was developed within the Cuban capital of Havana. It is thought that the Havanese was developed from similar breeds such as the Bichon Frise and Maltese. As Cuba is an island, the dog was not mixed much with other breeds and so quickly developed into a breed in its own right.

Not surprisingly given their regal appearance, the Havanese was a favourite of the aristocracy and owning one was a real status symbol. Unsurprisingly, the breed took a hit during the Cuban revolution but they have seen a steady growth in their numbers since. Nowadays, they are one of the fastest growing breeds in the USA.

General appearance

These dogs have a stocky, rectangular frame and bright eyes with a smiling expression. Their thick coat is long and flowing and comes in a range of colours including white, black and brown. Their fur should be a solid colour and they should not have any markings or speckling. They are a toy dog and rarely weigh more than 5-6kg.


Sometimes too smart for their own good, these intelligent and curious dogs are known to be real mischief makers. They love to be given something to do and to challenge themselves mentally. They are excellent at solving puzzles.

Happy-go-lucky and vibrant, they will be sure to put a smile on your face. They enjoy being social and affectionate and form strong bonds with their owners.

Frustratingly, some dogs will develop separation anxiety and will have a hard time being away from their primary cares. This condition can be difficult for owners to cope with and is sometimes a reason dogs are re-homed. It is important to work hard to prevent separation anxiety when dogs are young.

Health considerations 

A robust little dog, most enjoy good health. As with many other toy breeds, they tend to live well into their teens. We should be aware of a number of health issues which can be present within the breed such as:

  • Patellar Luxation. Many pedigree small dogs have knee caps that pop in and out of place from time to time. Some aren’t bothered in the slightest while others will suffer with considerable pain and mobility issues. Your vet can examine your Havanese’s knees to determine if they dislocate and to grade the severity of the problem.
  • Allergic skin disease. A dog with allergies may have pink skin and can often be seen licking their paws, rubbing their face on the ground and scratching at themselves. It is important to find what triggers them, which may be a food or something in their environment. Most are managed with a combination of diet, medicine and medicated washes. Supplements such as Pooch & Mutt’s Salmon Oil can help to strengthen the skin barrier and prevent allergen entry.
  • Hypothyroidism. Low circulating thyroid hormone (T4) tends to affect middle-aged and older dogs. The symptoms can be mistaken for ‘normal’ aging as they include weight gain, lethargy and a tendency to seek out warm places within the home. Thankfully, this condition is easily treated with daily medication. 
  • Mitral valve disease (heart disease). Those with mitral valve disease will have a heart murmur that can be heard when the vet listens to the dog’s heart with their stethoscope. Tests such as a blood test, chest x-ray and echocardiogram can help to diagnose and grade the condition. Most benefit from specific medication.
  • Porto-systemic shunt. A congenital liver shunt can result in a puppy who isn’t growing like its siblings and displaying signs such as tremors, lethargy and vomiting. Imaging studies can detect the shunt and a surgery may be required to correct it.


The Havanese is usually a very willing student and is eager to please their owner. They are quick to learn and can pick up on a wide range of commands. This is a breed that can be sensitive so owners should refrain from punishing them or telling them off if they do wrong. Rather, they should be ignored (which they dislike immensely). Rewarding them heavily when they do well should be motivation enough to stay on the right track.


It is not wise to neglect the grooming needs of the Havanese as they will soon become greasy and matted. Owners should brush them through every day, focusing on areas such as the ears, armpits and belly. Daily tooth brushing is advised and most need to have their ears cleaned every one to two weeks.

Tear staining is frequently seen and can present as brown or pink wet stains under the eyes. Have a vet check to ensure there is no underlying medical issue. It can help to gently bathe and then dry the areas each morning using cotton wool and rose water.


While energetic, these small-legged dogs don’t need a huge amount of exercise. They enjoy doing a variety of things and should be given the chance to sniff and find things along their walk.

Feeding considerations

Those with allergic skin disease may benefit from a hypoallergenic diet as well as the supplementation of fatty acids and probiotics. Food like Pooch & Mutt's Health & Digestion Food is a good start and perfect all rounder.

You'll find a handy feeding calculator on every product page here at Pooch & Mutt to help you identify how much of our health led recipes are right for the age, size and weight of your dog.

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