The small Havanese has a huge personality, and spending time with people is number one on his list of favorite things. The outgoing and curious Hav is a little performer at heart and is always thrilled to show off his newest tricks. He is a lively, spirited dog with a spring in his step and a constant smile on his face. He's earned the nickname 'velcro dog,' because he loves to stick by his owner's side. This diminutive breed developed in Cuba and has aristocratic roots, but has made an impression across continents—including among royal admirers. Havanese nearly went extinct in the mid 20th century, but they've since made a huge comeback as one of the most popular breeds.

Other Names

Havanese are also known as Havana Silk Dogs, Havs, and Havanese Cuban Bichon.

Havanese Mixes

Havanese mixes, while not common, may be available for adoption in shelters and rescues. A Havanese mix is often adopted quickly. To adopt an AKC registered or a mixed breed Havanese, the best first step is to contact shelters and breed-specific rescues to let them know you're interested.

While a Havanese mix may show some of the physical characteristics and traits of the breed, the genetics of the other breeds in the mix may also be present. Havanese mixed breeds may not be hypoallergenic. Most shelters do not perform DNA testing on the animals they care for—breed is often determined based on physical characteristics, as well as information provided at the dog's surrender.

Rescue Havanese mixes may share physical characteristics of the breed, but their temperament may not match the breed standard. Shelters and rescues attempt to determine each dog's personality through a series of evaluations—even if the dog's temperament may not follow the breed standard, you can get the dog that suits your home.

Havanese mixes may include Lhasa Apso, Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Bichon Frise, and various terrier-type dogs.

Physical Description


The Havanese sports a long, wavy non-shedding double coat. The coat is incredibly light and silky soft and should remain untrimmed for show. The coat may be corded. While all coat colors are permissible, there are 16 standard coat colors and eight marking types.


Average Height: 8.5-11.5 inches


Average Weight: 7-13 pounds

Breed Standard & History

The charming Havanese is small, yet sturdy, with a springy gait that shows his playful and alert temperament. His body is slightly longer than it stands tall. The chest is deep and loins are muscular. A high-set tail curves over the back and forms a silky plume. The tail should never be docked. His round head, large, dark eyes, and high set ears create a friendly, yet mischievous, expression. The long coat should be silky, never coarse, and is allowed in any color or marking. The coat should be worn long and flowing or corded. The hair should be free, not in a topknot. The Havanese temperament is friendly and alert, playful and intelligent, never quarrelsome. - AKC Breed Standards

The Havanese is a toy dog in the Bichon family. The breed is Cuba's national dog, and the only breed native to Cuba. The Havanese was developed by breeding the dogs brought to Cuba in the 16th century from Tenerife in the Canary Islands. This is the most commonly accepted origin story, though some claim the writings of Aristotle place the breed's roots in Malta. Either way, Havanese-type dogs have been depicted in art and mentioned in writings for centuries.

The Cuban climate influenced the dog's development, most noticeably in the form of a silky coat that can combat the sun's harsh rays and keep the Havanese cool. They became known as the Havana Silk Dog due to their unique, silk-like hair.

Havanese were kept by aristocrats in Cuba and were considered a luxury. To receive a Havanese as a gift was a symbol of status, and the dogs were kept as spoiled companions.

By the 18th century the 'little dog of Havana' had become popular in Europe, gaining the admiration of influential figures such as Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens. They became popular in France and England, and participated in dog shows.

As Cuba's social structure changed, the Havanese became a well-loved family companion in the households of the new upper class.

The Cuban Revolution saw a mass exodus of the bourgeoisie population who kept Havanese. Many were forced to leave their dogs behind when they fled the country. By the time the rare breed gained attention in the United States in the 1970s, there were only 11 Havanese in the country. American examples of Havanese were bred—likely some with European Havanese—in order to rebuild the population. The Havanese in America can all be traced back to the 11 dogs from Cuba. The breed has risen quickly in the popularity rankings since its recognition by the AKC in 1996.

A group of breeders is working to develop the Havana Silk Dog, a variation of the Havanese that more closely resembles early examples of the breed. These dogs have a silkier coat, longer muzzle, and longer forelegs. The Havana Silk Dog is not recognized by the AKC.

AKC Breed Category

Toy Group


General Temperament

The intelligent, easy-to-train Havanese is a friendly, lively dog who enjoys human companionship. They're active and always ready to play. The affectionate breed craves attention. They may be wary of strangers, but are generally easygoing and happy little dogs.

Family Life

Are Havanese Good with Kids? Aristocrats in Cuba considered Havanese to be wonderful playmates and watchdogs for children. The lovable breed is still considered a good family dog. Havanese are gentle and kind and often follow children around the home. They are more sturdily built than some other toy breeds, but play should be supervised to prevent injury to the dog or child.

Are Havanese Good with Other Pets? Havanese tend to do well with dogs, cats, and other pets in the home. They will likely want to play with the other animals in the house, and usually coexist peacefully.


Havanese were used as watchdogs and children's guardians in Cuba, and while they are small and friendly, they are likely to bark at the approach of a stranger. They may be shy or wary of new people, but are not aggressive. They can be protective of their people and territory, so they often make good watchdogs.

Energy Levels

Havanese have a moderate energy level. They enjoy playing or going for walks, but they don't have intense activity requirements.

Specific Concerns:

  • Intolerant of cold weather, so if you live in a colder climate, a warm dog jacket is imperative.
  • May be difficult to housebreak
  • Requires time-consuming grooming
  • Can be barky



Havanese are social dogs who enjoy spending time indoors with their people. They are small and easygoing, and may do well in an apartment if taught not to bark unless necessary. As with most toy breeds, they may be more difficult to housebreak—but Havanese can learn to use a litter box which may aid in house training.


While Havanese are surprisingly well-suited to hot weather, they're not meant to live outdoors. They enjoy playing outside, especially in a fenced yard where they are allowed to run. As a social breed, their time spent outside should be with their people—they should not be expected to stay outdoors alone. Despite their long hair, Havanese don't tolerate cold weather so special considerations may be necessary in cooler climates.


Havanese are energetic dogs, but they are able to get the majority of their required exercise through play—indoors or out—and a walk or two each day.


Havanese—though small—have a surprising endurance level. Havanese are playful and love any activity that involves their human companions. They're fairly heat-tolerant so they're ready to go when other small breeds may not be.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: A well-conditioned adult Havanese may be able to run up to two miles.
  • Hiking Miles: Havanese are hardy dogs and may have the stamina to hike up to five miles, if the trail is suitable for their smaller size. Special grooming considerations may be necessary to prevent matting or tangles.


The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food (based on average weight and activity level) to feed is ½ to 1 cup per day. This amount should be split between two or three meals.

While Havanese are not prone to food guarding behaviors, children should never be allowed to touch or remove food from any dog while it is eating.

Alone Time 

The social Havanese is nicknamed the 'velcro dog' because of his tendency to become attached to his people. The breed was developed as a companion, and still thrives on time spent with family. While Havs may be able to spend a few hours alone during the day, destructive behaviors may arise if left alone for too long.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

14-16 years


Havanese have a long, silky, non-shedding double coat. They require regular grooming to prevent tangles and matting. Havanese not bound for the conformation ring may sport a puppy cut, but frequent grooming is still necessary. Pets and show dogs alike may wear their hair corded, though the process is time-consuming and labor intensive—and the cords must be shaved off if they're no longer wanted. In cold climates, Havanese should have a long coat as they are not tolerant of the cold. Their long, silky coat protects them from the heat and sun, so it is not necessary to cut it in hot weather—they're more comfortable with it long.

Common Health Issues

While Havanese are a generally healthy breed, some of the more common health concerns are:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Eye concerns
  • Patellar luxation
  • Deafness
  • Heart disease
  • Liver shunt

You can minimize serious health concerns in Havanese by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



Havanese are intelligent, eager to please dogs. Basic obedience training comes easily to Havanese. Training Havanese not to bark unless necessary should begin at an early age. The best motivation for Havanese is positive reinforcement—punishment or harsh training methods will only discourage this happy-go-lucky breed. Housetraining can be difficult, as with most toy breeds.

Advanced Training

Havanese are natural performers and are often quick studies when it comes to advanced tricks training. They are always ready to put on a show. Havanese may excel at agility competitions and advanced obedience training. Musical canine freestyle—in which dogs and owners dance—is popular among Havanese owners. Havs were often trained as circus dogs due to their love of showing off.

The social nature of Havanese makes them a wonderful breed for therapy or assistance dogs.

Sporting Dog Training

Havanese were bred as companion dogs and do not have hunting instincts. However, they do well in tracking competitions and with training may be able to put their nose to use in the field. Their long coat may need to be clipped to prevent tangles.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Havanese.

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Havanese may not be the same color in adulthood as they were as a puppy. Most Havanese will experience a change in coat color around one year old, and some changes are more subtle than others. The color change in Havanese is due to genetics. Colors may darken, lighten, or change entirely. Black Havanese may end up silver and white, while dark brown dogs could turn lighter. Markings may appear or disappear. The changes may begin early in puppyhood, but aren't often finished until the dog reaches adulthood and has its adult coat. There is no way to know what color a Havanese puppy will be when it grows up, so reputable breeders recommend choosing a puppy based on temperament and leave color out of the decision making.

If two purebred Havanese carry the recessive gene for short hair, they may produce short haired puppies. If only one parent has the short hair gene, the puppies will have long hair but may still carry the short hair gene—which may produce short-haired puppies in future litters. A short-haired Havanese is usually able to be identified at a few weeks of age. When full grown, they have a short coat with feathering on the ears, tail, legs, and skirt.

While short hair in a Havanese is a disqualification in show as it is not within the breed standards, they still have the same temperament as the long-haired version, and are not prone to any additional health concerns.

Genetic testing is used to prevent breeding dogs with the short hair gene. Short-haired Havanese are called smooth-coated Havanese or Shavanese, but they are not recognized as a different breed. The Shavanese is not hypoallergenic because their fur is different—they shed their coat and their dander is different from long-haired Havs, which may cause more reactions in allergic people.