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A Cuban Velcro Dog

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The Havanese is a Cuban dog loved by many because of its silky long hair and small size, perfect as lap dog. Its tendency to stay very close to the owner it becomes most attached to has earned it the nickname 'velcro dog'. It is an energetic dog and loves to learn and perform tricks as well as doing well in events like competitive obedience and agility.

Here is the Havanese at a Glance
Name Havanese
Other Names Bichon Havanais, Havana Silk Dog, Bichon Havanese, Bichon Habanero, Havanese Cuban Bichon, Bichon Havanês,
Nicknames Havaneser, Havanezer
Origin Cuba
Average size Toy, Small
Average weight 7 to 13 pounds
Average height 8 to 11 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Coat type Long, silky
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Cream, white, red, chocolate brown, fawn, beige, blue, silver, black and gold,
Popularity Very good - 24th as ranked by the AKC
Intelligence Very good – this is a smart dog, one of the quicker toy breeds
Tolerance to heat Very good – able to handle quite hot climates
Tolerance to cold Good – but not able to handle extreme cold
Shedding Low – it does not shed a large amount
Drooling Low – is not known to drool
Obesity Quite high – food and exercise need to be monitored
Grooming/brushing Not easy to brush and will need daily brushing
Barking Occasional to frequent – may need some training to curb
Exercise needs Fairly active – quite an energetic dog
Trainability Easy to train – some can be hard to house break though
Friendliness Excellent – it is a very friendly and happy dog
Good first dog Excellent – new owners would be fine with this dog
Good family pet Excellent – makes a great family dog
Good with children Very good – playful and affectionate with them
Good with other dogs Excellent with socialization
Good with other pets Very good with socialization
Good with strangers Excellent – it is very friendly and approachable
Good apartment dog Excellent – it is a great size for apartment living as long it gets daily walks outside
Handles alone time well Low – can suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Healthy dog, just a few serious issues - patellar luxation, liver and heart problems, eye problems
Medical expenses $435 a year as a starting figure including pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year or more including treats
Miscellaneous expenses $465 a year which just covers grooming, a license, basic training, toys and miscellaneous costs
Average annual expense $975 or more
Cost to purchase $1000
Biting Statistics Not Reported

The Havanese’s Beginnings

The Havanese comes from the Bichon family of dogs and its origins as stated are Cuban. In the 1600s Bichon dogs popular in Europe were brought to Cuba. As it adapted to Cuba's climate it became smaller with a white silky coat and is the ancestor of the Havanese. It was called the Havanese Silk Dog or the Blanquito de la Habana and it is no longer around.

In the 1800s when Poodles became popular in Cuba the Blanquito was crossed with them and this led to the Bicon Havanese. The Havanese was a popular lap dog amongst Cuban nobility and the wealthy and it soon became Cuba's most favorite dog. Travelers who visited Cuba also fell in love with the dog and some were brought back to Europe with both Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria being said to have been fans of it. However while in Europe the trend for them died out in Cuba it continued until 1959.

At the time of the revolution in 1959 many wealthy Cubans fled to the U.S and a small number brought their Havanese dogs with them. In Cuba itself breeding became less important as other concerns became more so. At one time it was close to becoming an extinct breed of dog even in its homeland of Cuba.

New Lease on Life

When Cuban refugees came and settled in the U.S in the late 1960s and early 1970s most had to leave everything behind them. But a small number were brought over and Mrs Goodale, an American breeder looked for Havanese to breed. By advertising in papers she was able to find 6 pedigree Havanese and later found another 5 from Costa Rica. With these dogs she managed to bring the breed from the brink of extinction.

In 1974 the first bred lines from her work were born and with dedicated work she and other breeders have continued to ensure the breed can once again thrive. In the 1980s some breeders in Germany found that some puppies were being born who did not have the silky coats of other Havanese but had smooth coats. This was something other breeders found too and so these Havanese have become called smooth coated Havanese or Shavanese for short.

It was recognized in 1996 by the AKC and today is ranked 24th most popular dog.

The Dog You See Today

The Havanese is a small dog but sturdy, weighing just 7 to 13 pounds and it stands 8 to 11 inches tall. It has a long double coat that is soft underneath and silky on top. It can be straight, wavy or curly. There are some that have a short haired gene that is recessive so when two adults are bred that both have that gene some of the litter may be smooth coated. Colors include white, silver, cream, gold, chocolate, black, blue, tricolor and parti color.

It has a long tail that arches over its back and has a long plume. Most have dark almond shaped eyes though some can have green. It has a tapered muzzle and a slightly flat head and deep chest. The ears hang half way down to the nose but do not touch the face.

The Inner Havanese


This dog is affectionate and gentle and is well suited to being a family dog or companion to a couple or single, young or older. It is responsive and trainable and quite intelligent. It is a very cheerful and sociable dog and usually gets along well with everyone. Usually it does not bark a lot but some can, and in those cases they have to be trained not to. It is alert though and will bark to let you know if there is an intruder.


Its loving nature, need for people around it and tendency to bond more closely to one owner means it can be a clingy dog. It will follow you around the house if you are the focus of its affections and it can suffer from separation anxiety and should not be left alone for long periods. It may be wary of strangers but once introduced is very friendly. If not properly socialized it can be more shy.

Due to its size some owners have a tendency to treat it like a baby, spoil it and carry it everywhere. This can lead to problems with small dog syndrome but this is a problem caused by owners not a natural part of their personality. While it is over dependent it should not be snappy or aggressive and while spirited it should not be domineering.

Since it is such a cheerful, kind dog that trains well it is often used in several fields including assistance dog, termite and mold detection, therapy dog, performance and tracking.

Living with a Havanese

What will training look like?

It is easy to train but does need a firm trainer. If it thinks it is more dominant than you it will not respond well. It also does not respond well to negative training techniques. It will hear nuances in your voice so you need to be firm, consistent but positive and patient. Use treats, praise and encouragement and make it clear you are the boss and things will go well. It has a past of performing tricks in circuses and loves the attention. However house breaking can be another issue, some are hard to house train and that may require more time and patience.

Early training and socialization are key to the dog developing into a well behaved, trusted and confident dog. This is not something to be skipped just because it is small and cute. Any people who do not have time or motivation to train, or have their dog trained and socialized should not become a dog owner.

How active is the Havanese?

As a small dog it is perfectly suited to living in an apartment as long as it has some time outside each day to exercise. It is active inside too, playing with toys and such, so some of the activity and mental stimulation it needs can be achieved in this way. It does not require a yard to be happy but if there is one make sure it is properly secured.

It needs to be taken for at least two good walks a day, 15 minutes each at least. It would also enjoy trips to a dog park where it can run free and play though it may need watching around much larger dogs. If it is acting up, chewing, barking, restless and hyper this may mean it is not getting the activity and stimulation it needs.

Caring for the Havanese

Grooming needs

When keeping it as a pet not as a show dog grooming can be made easier by having the coat clipped short. However if it is kept long it will need brushing and combing daily to remove the tangles that easily occur and debris that can collect in it. It will also need regular trimming, especially around the face unless that hair is tied up. Those with corded coats will need professional grooming too. Though it is a low shedding dog it has a lot of needs in terms of caring for the coat.

A bath is only to be given as it is needed so as not to affect the natural oils in its skin. After bathing most should have their hair blow dried and combed straight away being sure to use a low heat so as not to hurt them. Interestingly the long haired Havanese is hypo-allergenic but the smooth short coated Shavanese is not.

It will also need ears cleaned and checked for infection once a week as it can be prone to ear infections. Its nails should be clipped when they get too long and that is a job for someone with experience, whether you are a professional groomer, due to the nerves and blood vessels in them. Also brush its teeth at least two to three times a week. It will also need its eyes and face wiped daily as it can be prone to tears staining.

Feeding Time

It should be fed ½ to 1 cup of a high quality dry dog food each day, and that should be fed to it in two meals. Exact amounts to be fed to it will vary depending on its size, metabolism, level of activity and general health. Measuring its food and not leaving a lot out for it to graze on is important as the Havanese is prone to obesity, if it has the chance it will over eat.

How they get on with children and other animals

The Havanese is a great dog that gets along well with everyone including children and other pets and dogs. It will love playing with children and is loving towards them though small children need to taught to take care and may need supervision, just because of the Havanese's size. Socialization will help ensure it can adapt to meeting other dogs and improves its interactions further.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

This is a healthy dog with a good life span of 12 to 14 years. All dogs have health issues that can occur though and for the Havanese these include eye problems, patellar luxation, Legg-Calve Perthes, heart and liver problems, skin problems, Chondrodysplasia, deafness and joint dysplasia. Make sure you buy from a good breeder who can show health clearances not just for the puppy but also for its parents.


Biting Statistics

Looking at a report that covers the last 34 years of reported dog attacks against people in the USA and Canada there is no mention of the Havanese being involved with any attack. However keep in mind that any dog can be aggressive or snap or react physically given certain situations. It is also true that dogs who are chosen well to match your lifestyle, are given the mental and physical stimulation they need, fed well, trained, socialized and loved are less likely to be involved in any incidents than dogs not so well raised.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

The average price of a Havanese puppy from a good breeder is going to be around $1000. You can pay more than that when wanting a show dog and buying from show dog breeders. You can also pay less if you opt to rescue a dog, around $50 to $200, this will also save money on initial medical procedures to be done. But a rescue dog is more likely to be an adult not a puppy.

Some medical concerns will need to be taken care of when you first get it, such as a physical examination, inoculations, deworming, blood tests and if old enough neutering or spaying depending on whether the dog is male or female. It will also need micro chipping. These costs will start at $260.

There are going to be certain things you need too at home ready for it. A crate , carrier, bowls, collar and leash for example all coming to $120 or more.

Ongoing costs each year are going to be both non-medical and medical in nature. Medical basics for check ups, flea prevention, pet insurance and vaccinations start at $435 a year. Any injuries, accidents or health issues not covered by pet insurance are going to add on to that.

Annual non-medical basics needed like food and treats are going to be $75. Other costs like grooming, toys, basic training, license and miscellaneous items are going to be around $465 a year. There may be other costs on top of that, like kenneling, dog walking or further training for


Each year owning a Havanese is going to cost a starting figure of $975.


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  • The national dog of Cuba is a small but sturdy dog that is very attractive but in order to maintain that look it takes a lot of time, care and some money. This is a lap dog, it is cuddly and loves to give and receive affection but it is also lively and energetic and will need daily walks too.

    Owners who are away often or who do not want a clingy dog should not consider the Havanese. It will attach itself to you and hates to be left alone. It is a very friendly and happy dog though and makes a great best friend.

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