Havanese are adorable, but:
Is it the ideal dog for you and your family?

De Los Gábatos, los medio-hermanitos de Candela

 

First I thought I should draw up a list of the pros and cons of the Havanese breed.  But then I realized that, what is a pro for one person, may not be so for another, and viceversa.  Besides, it would have been terribly hard for me to state something about this breed as a "con" when I find them just perfect.  So, I decided that the best thing might be to mention some facts that I believe a new Hav owner should take into account before getting a puppy.

Please also read the articles in the ABOUT DOGS & BREEDS section.  I believe you´ll be able to find some good tools to help you and your family make a better decision prior to getting your dog, or even decide if having one is the wise thing to do.

Most of the tools and pointers contained therein can perfectly be applied to the Havanese.  Here, however, I´ll just mention those particular facts that relate to the breed, and that should be taken into account before having a Hav puppy join your family.

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THEY HAVE LONG COAT

I "guess" this detail is pretty obvious, but it is important to think about what this trait entails.

* First of all, there is the misconception that long-coated dogs shed the most, thus causing allergies.  Not so.  In the case of the Havanese, a double-coated dog, they are considered non-shedding (that is: they shed minimally) and "hypo-allergenic" dogs.  In our family, Nicole is allergic to EVERYTHING.  However, she has no problem whatsoever with our Havs (Thank God, because I love her dearly - kidding!).

However, each person is different -specially in the allergies department- so I would advice meeting some adult Havanese to see how everything goes.

* Odorless dogs. This trait is impressive and true. Provided that you keep your dog clean, they do not have that smell associated with most dogs.

* Colorful bunch. They come in different colors and patterns. This characteristic makes them even more fun.

* Havanese coat should be "natural". This does not mean unkempt. The coat of a Havanese should be brushed, at least, three times a week, if not more often, to keep it looking healthy and to avoid mats. It is true that they do not require as much grooming as a Shih Tzu or a Maltese, for instance, but they do require grooming and dedication. A show dog would need even more attention paid to her coat, maybe by a professional groomer. This is the first time that we have dogs with a coat that require more time and dedication. I have discovered that I enjoy doing it myself because it gives me the chance to spend yet more time with them. Moreover, their grooming time has become a relax time for me. Besides, it is sort of a grown-up way to "play", with all the grooming tools available, the grooming products, the gadgets...

* As I mentioned in the Grooming section, many people prefer to keep their Havs in "puppy-cut". This does have some advantages, however, it does not mean that they won´t have to be brushed regularly. If left without proper care, the under-coat would mat the same way that it would in a dog with a "show-coat".

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TEMPERAMENT

The Havanese is a loving, fun, incredible little dog, and they NEED time with their human companions.

*Havanese is a people-oriented breed. They love to be in the company of their humans, maybe because they are convince that they are just another one -and you will too- . Remember: these toy breeds were created as company dogs, and they have been bred for centuries to do just that. Their "job" (the way hounds hunt, or working dogs are bred to rescue, or pull sleds or guard...) is to love and make their owner happy. As the AKC site states: "The diminutive size and winsome expressions of Toy dogs illustrate the main function of this Group: to embody sheer delight. Don't let their tiny stature fool you, though - - many Toys are tough as nails." Havanese do not like being alone, and they are independent provided they know where their humans are.

* In the Havanese community this trait is often described as the "velcro-dog-syndrome", because Havs follow their humans wherever they go. They are happy just being close to them, at their feet, on top of a sofa, just lying close to their loved ones. You may find this adorable -as I do-, some people may not.

* If you don´t have time to spend with them, or somebody that can keep them company if you're away for long periods of time, it would be the same thing than leaving a small child alone in the house. So, if you would like to be the center of the universe for you companion, his #1 hero, and the object of more love than you can imagine possible, the Havanese is the dog for you. If you'd rather have a more aloof and independent companion, a dog that won´t be an integral part of your family, then this is definitively not the right breed for you.

 

WE WANT A PUPPY NOW!

Even though the Havanese is rapidly gaining popularity -not necessarily a good thing...- it is still rare breed. They are not easy to come by, and if you want to buy a pup from a responsible or well-established breeder, it would be even harder. If you want a puppy for "yesterday", as they say, this is not the breed for you. You may be lucky, but as a general rule, good breeders have long waiting lists for the puppies. Besides, if they are really in it for the love of the breed, they would do everything possible to have their babies adopted by the best of families.

Having said that, let me tell you that the wait is worth it. Besides, the fact that they are not "yet" a popular breed has it positive side: unlike lots of other breeds, "it has not attracted the attention of unknowledgeable breeders making a safer bet in the genetic and temperament departments", as stated in Michelle Welton's book "Your Purebred Puppy"; and I may add: at least not in large numbers, yet.

Unfortunately, during the last years, their popularity has grown incredibly (be it because personalities like Barbara Walters has one and always talks about her, or because every time they are seen at the Westminster Show -where they first appeared just 4 years ago- people absolutely love them). Therefore, breeders should be yet even more zealous in placing their puppies.

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HEALTH

As I mentioned in the HEALTH section, no breed is free from genetic health issues, and no breeder can state that their bloodline is 100% infallible. Therefore, we all have the responsibly of researching the health issues that most affect the breed we are interested in.

One can state than, compared to other purebred dogs, the Havanese is a pretty healthy and long-lived breed. It is also true that some genetic issues do affect their lines. Unlike other breeds, however -and we are blessed for that- the genetic disorders known to affect them, are not life threatening. However, it is essential that we are well-informed, and that we help in any way we can to be part of their solution.

The main problem affecting the breed is the hereditary or juvenile cataracts. In our case, we would not sell a puppy to a person unless they agree to have their Havanese tested every year with an ophthalmologist.

 

TRAINING

The Havanese is super-smart and, as such, very easy to train. Besides, Havanese love to please their owners, so that makes their training quite easy, specially if you approach it as fun. This characteristic makes the Havanese great for novice owners.

Also, Havanese learn and adapt to their family's routines right away. They also discover the family members' weak points very fast.  What does this have to do with training?  Well, it means that you must be firm and consistent with them, and you should try -to the best of your abilities- not to succumb to their charming ways. And believe me: they are GOOD.  One of those sweet looks, and we might throw overboard our achievements.

Please bear in mind, however, that firm does not mean tough or forceful.  These dogs are like little kids, you´ll get a lot out of them with positive training.  I cannot imagine somebody harming or hurting a Havanese in any way, but DEFINITIVELY, with them -or with no animal, in my book- you won´t obtain any results out of an aggressive oriented training, other than breaking their spirit and their trust.

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HOW ARE THEY AS PUPPIES

Some people believe that, bringing a new puppy home, invariably means chewed furniture, destroyed shoes, etc. Bearing in mind than the new puppies' actions depend 100% on their owners' guidance, care and attention, one thing that really impressed me was that neither Lola and Charlie (who came home almost at the same time, both as 3-month-old puppies), and Candela afterwards, damaged anything in the house. Like a baby, when they start playing with something either dangerous or not one of their toys, it is the responsibility of the human to teach them, to distract their attention to one of the toys that they can play with and chew. Havanese are fast learners, and the most adorable puppies you've ever seen.

 

HOUSEBREAKING

Housebreaking a toy dog can be more difficult than housebreaking a bigger breed. First of all, they do not have the capacity of a large breed, thus making it necessary to take them to the chosen spot more times a day. Done consistently for a week, should do the trick. Maybe the biggest difference among small and large breeds, lies in the fact that it is a lot easier to tolerate a tiny Hav accident than it would be to do so with a Great Dane! Besides, they are absolutely cute and so smart, than they can easily get away with murder. However, if we take into consideration than dogs do not like to be in a dirty area, they do not like to be dirty themselves either, it will depend on us to dedicate the necessary time and care to properly housebreak them when they are puppies.

 

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HAVANESE AND CHILDREN

Appropriately described as one of the sturdiest of the toy dogs, the Havanese is not a fragile dog. Having said that, when they are puppies they are tiny and fragile. Therefore, their interaction with children should be supervised, in order to avoid an involuntary accident.

* They are extremely playful, and that makes them perfect for kids and adults alike.

*They are no hyper dogs, yet they are not a "decorative" dog either. I would say, they are a perfect balance of joy, playfulness and beauty.

 

  LIVING FACILITIES

Havanese are perfect both for house or apartment.

*They do not require a lot of exercise- and what they need they sure practice it on their own!, so they do not need to be constantly active outside the home.

"Toy dogs will always be popular with city dwellers and people without much living space. They make ideal apartment dogs and terrific lap warmers on nippy nights. (Incidentally, small breeds may be found in every Group, not just the Toy Group. We advise everyone to seriously consider getting a small breed, when appropriate, if for no other reason than to minimize some of the problems inherent in canines such as shedding, creating messes and cost of care. And training aside, it's still easier to control a ten-pound dog than it is one ten times that size.)", perfectly states the AKC site.

* However, I would say that due to their long coat and the fact that they need to be with people, I would not recommend them to those people who have the philosophy that "a dog should sleep outside". This is a true companion, not a guard dog -even though they make pretty good alarm dogs because they are aware of EVERYTHING that's going on.

 

 

So, if you want an ideal companion, a loving friend, a fun partner that will keep you laughing, and that needs your attention and love to thrive, the Havanese is the dog for you.

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