Characteristics and Temperament
The Havanese is truly one of the most delightful of the small breeds. They are exceptionally intelligent and quick-witted. They are a small sturdy dog of immense charm. Their love of attention comes from their adorable little "show-off" natures. They are curious and busy constantly. They are natural clowns and enjoy interludes of rowdy, madcap play.
The Havanese's expression tells you that they miss nothing going on around them; they love to sit somewhere high -- especially on the back of sofas and chairs. They never let strangers approach unwelcomed. The thrive on human companionship, and are at their best as a participating member of the family. They love children and will play tirelessly with them at any game in which children delight.
If raised near water or exposed to water at an early age, they become powerful swimmers, diving in and out of the water like tiny seals. The Havanese also have a natural herding instinct. In Cuba, they were used to herd the family chickens and geese.
- Indoors: very active
- Outdoors: moderate
- (This dimension relates to the force of behaviors regardless of how often they are produced.)
- (This dimension relates to the "stick-to-it-iveness" of a breed.)
- Havanese are low in territoriality and generally only consider the owner's home and property as their own.
- Strange dogs: submissive
- Familiar people: submissive
- (Submissive dogs approach most familiar and unfamiliar people and dogs with submissive displays.)
- (This dimension is defined by how frequently an animal changes from one emotional state to another.)
- fast to very fast
- (The ease with which a breed is able to form associations between two or more events determines its trainability.)
- Obedience: very good
- Problem solving: very good
- Obedience training is achieved with very little effort. Fast to learn and anxious to please, they are a charming, open-hearted breed.
- Havanese are good watch dogs, making sure to alert you when a visitor arrives, but will take their cue from you and welcome the guest when all seems well with their owner.
- very sociable
- (The number of people a breed can tolerate in one location. A very sociable dog can tolerate, even enjoy crowds. A very solitary dog would get irritable, fearful, or aggressive in a crowd.)
- Owner/family: open-family
- (Open-family dogs can discriminate between family members and non family members. However, they readily accept new members into the family after one or two playful experiences with them.)
- With strangers: very friendly
- (Very friendly breeds are described with the following terms: "likes everybody," "very friendly," and "likes people." These breeds may be very playful and jump on people who enter and continuously nuzzle, smell, and rub up against visitors. They are basically indiscriminate in their friendliness. They can be a pleasure to people who love dogs but an annoyance to people who do not.)
- With children: exceptionally good
- (Breeds that are exceptionally good with children can usually withstand the physical taunts of children; be calm in response to rapid movements; react unemotionally to loud and sometimes peculiar noises and modulate their physical strength in relation to the size of the child.)
Although it is new to the AKC, the Havanese is quite an old breed in "dog years". Its history is fascinating and important to defining type, as it is unique in many respects. The Havanese is the National dog of Cuba and its only native breed.
The Havanese is part of the Bichon canine family of small breeds which probably originated in the Mediterranean area in pre-Christian times. All Bichons are descended from the same bloodlines that produced the Barbet, or water spaniel; the Poodle; the Portuguese Water Dog; and others. The Barbet or "Barbichon" -- later shortened to Bichon canine family -- consists of several distinct breeds, including the Havanese. In order of popularity in the U.S., these breeds are: 1) Maltese, 2) Bichon Frise, 3) Havanese, 4) Lowchen, 5) Coton de Tulear, and 6) Bolognese.
During the days of the Spanish empire, Bichons travelled to Cuba with sea captains who used them as presents for the women of Cuban households. By gaining entry into wealthy Hispanic homes, which were otherwise closed to outsiders, the captains were able to establish lucrative trading relationships with rich Cuban families.
Once in Cuba, the Havanese (Habeneros in Spanish) lived exclusively in the mansions of the highest social class of people. Havanese were never raised commercially or sold but were sometimes given as precious gifts to a friend or someone who had performed a valuable service. Like the Victorian-age wealthy Hispanic women who owned them, the dogs were not seen in the streets or public areas. They lived in the rooms and interior courtyards of their tropical homes and occasionally rode in carriages with their owners.
Spanish aristocracy, developed without much outside influence. They did, however, develop in response to the climate of this tropical island. The Havanese of today is still a remarkably heat-tolerant little dog, due in no small part to the unique coat. Once called the Havana Silk Dog, or the Spanish Silk Poodle, the coat is like raw silk floss, profuse, but extremely light and soft, and insulating against the tropical rays in much the same way that yards of silk sari protect the women of India. In its native country, the coat was never clipped for this reason, and the hair never tied into a topknot, as the Cubans believe it protects the eyes from the harsh sun.
The Havanese found its way to Europe where it became very popular and was recognized by the European Kennel Club. It was known in England as the "White Cuban." Queen Anne is said to have admired a troupe of performing dogs that danced to music in almost human fashion.By the 18th Century, it was the cultural center of the New World, with an elegance that surpassed anything the British had managed in ITS colonies! The aristocracy of Europe found the city of Havana to be a great vacation spot, with its operas, theatres and palacios. On their return to Europe, they brought back the little Dog of Havannah, which found favor in the courts of Spain, France and England.
In both Spain and in the court of Louis XVI, they were shorn in the manner of poodles, and were much admired for their diminutive size. The English, on the other hand, appeared to leave them au natural, and called them the white Cuban, although they were as often found in parti-colors and shades of fawn.
By the mid-eighteenth century, they were downright trendy in Europe. Queen Victoria owned two and Charles Dickens had one, beloved of his seven children and named Tim. They were exhibited in the early European dog shows and type was well-established. In Cuba meanwhile, the times were changing. The aristocracy of the sugar barons was dying out and a new class was emerging, the bourgeoisie, and the little dog of Havana, adaptable as always, became a family dog extraordinaire, playmate of children, watchdog, and herder of the family poultry flock. It is a position he has held there for the past hundred and fifty years.
With the advent of the Cuban revolution, the class of Cubans who owned Havanese was the first to leave.
As happened to many other dog breeds, the Havanese' popularity waned over the course of time. For awhile they were used in circuses as trick dogs throughout Europe, but eventually they became almost extinct -- even in their native Cuba.
Only three families are known to have left Cuba with their Havanese during the political turmoil of the 1950s and 1960s. It is assumed that by that time there might not have been very many of these dogs kept by anyone. These three exiled families worked alone in Florida and in Costa Rica for over a decade to preserve the breed.
After raising Irish Wolfhounds and Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers for many years, Dorothy and Bert Goodale of Colorado began looking for a small breed to raise which would have the calm temperament and intelligence they cherished in the larger breeds. After a few years of investigation, elusive references to the Havanese had their attention, but no one knew where the Goodales might obtain them.
In the mid 1970s, they chanced upon an advertisement which resulted in the purchase of six pedigreed Havanese: a mother, four daughters, and an unrelated young male. Completely enchanted with the outgoing, intelligent, and affectionate nature of the breed, they endeavored to locate more of the little exiles.
Mrs. Goodale placed advertisements in Latin papers in Miami offering to purchase Havanese. After several months, she had received only one response. A Florida man wrote to say that a friend of his had five Havanese that he wished to sell. Mr. Eziekiel Barba had fled Cuba and settled in Costa Rica. Because of failing health, he had decided to move to Texas to live with his daughter and could no longer care for his "brood" of Havanese.
The Goodales arranged to purchase Mr. Barba's five dogs. This second group had the same look and gentle temperament as the first. All these dogs, as adults, averaged around 10 pounds and stood about 9 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder. Using the 1963 FCI breed standard (the only standard available), Mrs. Goodale began a breeding program to prevent the extinction of this breed.
Currently, there are approximately 4,000 registered Havanese in the United States.
The Havanese is also making a comeback in its native Cuba. The Bichon Habanero Club is working from a foundation stock of approximately 15 dogs and is closely supervising the breeding program.
The Havanese is a sturdy, short-legged small dog with a soft profuse, untrimmed coat. His plumed tail is carried curled over his back. He is an affectionate, happy dog with a lively, springy gait.
Size, Proportion, Substance
The height ranges from 8-1/2 to 11-1/2 inches, the ideal being 9 to 10-1/2 inches. The weight ranges from 7 to 13 pounds, the ideal being 8 to 11 pounds. Any dog whose weight deviates greatly from the stated range is a major fault. Any dog measuring under 8-1/2 or over 11-1/2 inches is a disqualification. The body from the chest to the buttocks is longer than the height at the shoulders and should not appear to be square. Forelegs and hindlegs are relatively short, but with sufficient length to set the dog up so as not to be too close to the ground. The Havanese is a sturdy dog, and while a small breed, is neither fragile nor overdone.
Medium length proportionate to the size of the body. Eyes are large, almond shaped and very dark with a gentle expression. In the blue and silver coat shades, eyes may be a slightly lighter color; in chocolate coat shades, the eyes may be a lighter color. However, the darker eye is preferred. Eye rims are black for all colors except chocolate shaded coats, whose eye rims are self-colored. Small or round eyes; broken or insufficient pigment on the eye rim(s) are faults. Wild, bulging or protruding eyes are a major fault. Total absence of pigment on one or both eye rims is a disqualification. Ears are set nei ther too high nor too low and are dropped, forming a gentle fold and cove red with long feathering. They are slightly raised, moderately pointed, neither fly-away nor framing the cheeks. Skull is broad and somewhat rounded with a moderate stop. The cheeks are flat and the lips clean. The length of the muzzle is equal to the distance to the stop to the back of the occiput. The muzzle is neither snipey nor blunt. Nose and lips are solid black on all colors except the true chocolate dog, whose nose and lips are solid, self-colored brown. Dudley nose, nose and lips other than black, except the solid, self-colored brown on the true chocolate dog are disqualifications. Scissors bite preferred; a level bite is permissible. Full dentition of incisors preferred for both upper and lower jaws. Crooked or missing teeth are faults. Overshot or undershot bite, wry mouth are major faults.
Neck, Topline, and Body
Neck of moderate length, neither too long or too short. Toplin e is straight with a very slight rise over the croup. Flanks are well raised. Ribs are well rounded. Tail is set high, carried curled over the back and plumed with long silky hair. While standing, a dropped tail is permissible.
Forelegs are well boned and straight, the length from the elbow to the withers equal to the distance from the foot to the elbow. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet are compact, well arched, well padded. Any foot turning in or out is a fault.
Legs are relatively short, well boned and muscular with moderate a ngulation; straight when viewed from the rear. Dewclaws may be removed. Feet are same as front feet. Fault is same as the front feet.
The Havanese is a double-coated breed with soft hair, both in outer and undercoat. The hair is very long and profuse, shown completely natural. The coat type ranges from straight to curly, the wavy coat being preferred. The curly coat is allowed to cord. The adult coat reaches a length of 6 to 8 inches. No preference shall be given to a dog with an excessively profuse or long coat. Short hair on all but puppies is a fault. It is permissible to braid the hair on each side of the head above the eyes, but the coat may not be parted down the middle of the back. No scissoring of the hair on the top of the head is allowed, nor trimming or neatening of the coat of any kind permitted except for the feet which may be neatened to avoid the appearance of "boat" or "slipper" feet. Coat trimmed in any way except for neatening at the feet is a disqualification. All colors, ranging from pure white to shades of cream, champagne , gold, black, blue, silver, chocolate, or any combination of these colors including parti and tri. No preference is given to one color over another.
The gait is unique and "springy" which accentuates the happy character of the Havanese. The forelegs reach straight and forward freely from the shoulder with the hindlegs converging toward a straight line. The tail is carried up over the back when gaiting. Hackney gait, paddling, moving too close in the rear, and tail not carried over the back when gaiting are faults.
Any dog under 8-1/2 or over 11-1/2 inches.
Total absence of pigment on one or both eye rims.
Dudley nose; nose and lips other than black, except for the solid, self-colored brown on the true chocolate dog.
Coat trimmed in any way except for neatening at the feet.
Special Medical Problems
The Havanese is a healthy, long-lived breed. However, like all dog breeds, they are susceptible to some medical problems. Regular veterinary care is essential.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
PRA is characterized by degeneration of the cells of the retina, leading eventually to loss of sight.
A cataract may be defined as a loss of the normal transparency of the len s of the eye. Any spot on the lens that is opaque, regardless of its siz e, is technically a cataract. Some cataracts are clearly visible to the naked eye, appearing as white flecks within the eye, or giving a milky-gr ay or bluish-white cast to the lens behind the pupil. Cataracts are rela tively common in older dogs (over 8 years). Junior cataracts develop in much younger dogs. A cataract is important only when it causes impaired vision. Blindness can be corrected by removing the lens (cataract extraction). While this restores vision, there is some loss of visual acuity because the lens is not present to focus light on the retina. The operation is recommended for the dog who has so much visual impairment that he has difficulty getting around.
Slipping or dislocating kneecaps can be inherited, or acquired by trauma.
Like all floppy-eared breeds, Havanese are susceptible to ear infections. Regular cleaning of the ear will eliminate recurring ear infections.
Brown stains in the corner of the eye -- or Poodle eye -- is peculiar to some light colored toy breeds. Its exact cause is unknown in many cases. One theory is that the pooling space at the corner of the eye is too small to collect a lake of tears. Another theory is that a low grade infection of the throat works its way up into the lacrimal duct and causes scarring. To help reduce tear stain, scissor the hair from the inside corner of the eyes and treat with a tear stain remover or a dilute solution of hydrogen peroxide (one part to ten parts of water). CAUTION: Peroxide must not be allowed to enter the eye. Mineral oil should be instilled first to protect against accidental contact. When no underlying disease is found, symptomatic improvement often results after giving the dog a course of broad spectrum antibiotics (Tetracycline). Tetracycline, which is secreted in the tears after oral administration, also binds that portion of the tears which cause them to stain the face. When the improvement is due just to the binding action of the drug, the face remains wet but not discolored. Surgery may be considered as an alternative. The operation removes the gland of the third eyelid (nictating membrane). This makes a better lake at the inner corner of the eye. It also reduce the volume of tears by removing the tear gland in the third eyelid.
The HCA health survey indicated that some Havanese suffer from dry skin problems, which apparently affects dogs with black or dark champagne coats.