Virginia LaMon, DVM
By Virginia LaMon, DVM on Jan. 25, 2023
white and cream havanese dog sitting outside

In This Article

General Care

The Havanese is an energetic and entertaining toy breed belonging to the Barbichon family of dogs, along with the Bichon Frise, Bolognese and Maltese. Standing just under 1 one foot in height, a full-grown Havanese weighs between 7-13 pounds.

Once known as the Havana Silk Dog or the Spanish Silk Poodle, the Havanese is the only dog breed native to Cuba. According to the Havanese Club of America, the ancestors of today’s breed were brought from Spain to Cuba in the 1600s. During the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s, some Cubans fled to the U.S.—bringing these little dogs with them.

Caring for a Havanese

chart depicting a havanese dog's breed characteristics

The Havanese dog is smart, spirited, and highly trainable. They make good watch dogs but may bark excessively if not properly trained. Their medium-length coat can be straight or wavy and requires frequent brushing to stay free of tangles. The Havanese breed does best with daily walks and a moderate amount of play time.

Havanese Health Issues

The Havanese is a generally healthy breed that has a life expectancy between 14-16 years. Though these dogs have a long lifespan, they are predisposed to a handful of medical conditions.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a group of diseases that cause the photoreceptor cells (rods and cones) on the retina to break down. Initially, the Havanese may have difficulty seeing in the dark, but over time the condition will result in complete blindness. In most cases, PRA is an inherited disease, so dogs with this condition should not be bred. There are currently no effective treatments available.

Legg-Calvé-Perthes Disease

Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease is a condition in which the head of the femur breaks down, likely secondary to lack of blood supply. As the bone breaks down, pain and limping can occur. Legg-Calve-Perthes occurs in young dogs, mostly in Havanese puppies less than 18 months of age. In some cases, pain can be controlled with medications. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

Patellar Luxation

The patella (kneecap) is a small bone that normally sits in a groove within the femur at the knee. In dogs with patellar luxation, the patella moves (luxates) outside of its assigned groove. This inappropriate movement can cause discomfort and may lead to arthritis

Many pets will skip or run on three legs when the patella is out of place. In some cases, this may only last a few steps until the knee returns to its proper alignment. In more severe cases, the patella remains out of place.

In mild cases, joint supplements or anti-inflammatory medications are used to control pain and prevent arthritis. In the more severely affected dogs, surgery may be recommended.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is one of the most common conditions seen in dogs as they age, especially in small breeds like the Havanese. This is when bacterial tartar and plaque lead to inflammation of the tissues around the teeth and, eventually, to tooth and bone decay. The best way to prevent dental disease is through daily tooth brushing with a dog-specific toothpaste.

Routine dental cleanings are recommended to evaluate the mouth, remove plaque and tartar, polish teeth (to prevent future build up), and treat or extract teeth that are significantly unhealthy. Just like with humans, dental disease can be a painful condition and may even affect the health of a dog’s internal organs.

What To Feed a Havanese

Feeding a commercial kibble or wet food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a good way to ensure your Havanese receives a complete and balanced diet. 

Havanese puppies should be fed a diet formulated specifically for puppies or designated for “all life stages.” For adults, dental-focused diets may be recommended by your veterinarian to help prevent dental disease.

How To Feed a Havanese

As a toy breed, the Havanese dog will do best with two to three measured feedings per day. Havanese puppies should eat three to four small meals per day on a regular schedule to help maintain stable blood sugar.

How Much Should You Feed a Havanese

The recommended caloric intake for a Havanese varies from dog to dog and depends on their physical size, metabolism, neuter status, and activity level. The best way to determine portion sizes is to discuss with your veterinarian, who can calculate specific caloric needs.

Additionally, the feeding guide labels on dog food packaging provides valuable information for pet parents. Care should be taken not to overfeed your Havanese, especially because excess weight puts extra strain on joints—like the knee. Remember that calories in treats add up quickly!

Nutritional Tips for Havanese

Havanese dogs require a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to stay healthy and lean. They may benefit from the addition of omega-3 fatty acids into their diets. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in skin and joint supplements, fish oil, and even in some specially formulated dog foods. These fatty acids act as natural anti-inflammatories that help to support the Havanese’s skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart.

Behavior and Training Tips for a Havanese

Havanese Personality and Temperament

Havanese dogs are loving and intelligent pups with bright personalities. They are exceptionally affectionate and usually well-behaved with children and other dogs when supervised, socialized, and trained from puppyhood.                                                                                     

Havanese Behavior

The Havanese bonds quickly with humans and dislikes being left alone, so pet parents can expect to be followed closely by this shiny-coated shadow. Some Havanese dogs may develop separation anxiety and may not tolerate being left alone in their crate all day. If they’re taught not to bark excessively, these little pooches do well as apartment dogs.

Havanese Training

Havanese are exceptionally intelligent, which makes him relatively easy to train. These playful dogs will learn best when training games and positive reinforcement methods are used. Like all breeds, Havanese should be socialized from a young age to behave around children, other pets, and new people.

Fun Activities for Havanese Dogs

  • Obedience training

  • Agility

  • Nose work

  • Scent walks

Havanese Grooming Guide

The Havanese has a beautiful, shiny coat that’s both thick and light. The coat may be straight or wavy and have numerous possible color combinations, including black, white, fawn, gold, and so many more. Their coat is naturally long and requires lots of grooming. But pet parents can make their grooming routine easier by cutting their dogs’ hair into a short “puppy cut.”

Skin Care

Routine bathing of your dog is recommended as needed to maintain healthy skin. But don’t overdo it—bathing a Havanese more frequently than twice a month may strip the skin of healthy oils that act as a barrier against allergens. Gentle, dog-specific shampoos are best.

Coat Care

The Havanese’s long, silky coat must be brushed at least 3-4 days a week to prevent tangles and mats. Using a de-matting spray-on conditioner is helpful for breaking down tangles. Short-haired Havanese don’t need as much weekly upkeep as long as their haircuts are scheduled regularly.

Eye Care

Wiping your Havanese’s eyes daily with a soft, moist cloth will help remove debris. The hair around their eyes should be carefully trimmed to keep it from causing irritation. If squinting or eye discharge is noted, take your Havanese to the vet, as these can be signs of more serious eye conditions.

Ear Care

Cleaning your dog’s ears every 1-2 weeks helps prevent ear infections. Redness, odor, and/or debris in the ears are signs an infection may be present. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian.

Considerations for Pet Parents

The Havanese is a wonderful family dog, and they attach to their humans quickly. They may resent being left alone and can develop separation anxiety, so they do best in homes where someone is always by their side. While usually gentle with children and other pets, early socialization and training are imperative.

Havanese dogs can do well in all sorts of homes—as long as they get routine exercise, brushing, and attention. That said, Havanese can be barky, and any neighbors with shared walls might not appreciate your dog always raising the alarm.

Havanese FAQs

How much is a Havanese puppy?

Purchasing a Havanese puppy from a breeder can cost between $800-$1,500. Dogs of certain lineage may cost more. Havanese dogs and puppies can also be found in shelters and at Havanese rescues.

Is a Havanese hypoallergenic?

Havanese dogs produce less dander than many other dog breeds, so they are less likely to trigger allergies in some people. That said, no breed is truly “hypoallergenic,” because all dogs still produce allergens in their saliva and urine. Some people can still be sensitive to this dog, so always spend time with the breed before bringing home a Havanese puppy.

Is a Havanese a good house dog?

A Havanese can thrive in nearly any home, and their small size makes them good apartment dogs. But remember: Even though they’re less than 1 foot tall, they still require daily exercise and playtime.

Do Havanese dogs bark a lot?

Havanese dogs have a reputation for barking, so pet parents must train them to quiet down at an early age.

Featured Image: iStock/Dorottya_Mathe

Virginia LaMon, DVM


Virginia LaMon, DVM


Dr. Virginia LaMon graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. She completed her clinical year at Auburn...

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