Once nearly extinct on his home island of Cuba, this little cousin of the Bichon Frise, the Maltese and the Coton de Tulear has a popularity that has grown well beyond his fan base in Little Havana. He comes in many colors and patterns, his long coat can be silky or fluffy, and all he wants is to be with you and make you laugh. He also loves children, cats and other dogs, and is even fairly quiet for a small dog. Just don't expect him to spend a lot of time alone: This is a dog who needs company all his life.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

The Havanese is a bright and lively little dog who likes to think up his own games and then play them with you. It's certainly possible to spoil a Havanese, but they're pretty resistant to becoming tyrants and generally respond well to affection and a little indulgence here and there.

Their coats are a challenge, requiring daily brushing and occasionally needing professional grooming. They don't shed much, however, which can sometimes make them less allergenic than dogs who do. Don't confuse that with being non-allergenic, however. If you have allergies, try to spend as much time as possible with Havenese dogs before you decide to bring one home.

The Havanese is an excellent family dog, and while care does need to be taken that these little dogs -- only 10 to 15 pounds -- don't get hurt by too much roughhousing, they're famous for loving to play with children.

Health Issues Common to Havanese

Havanese are an extremely healthy breed, and the people devoted to them want to keep it that way. That's why the Havanese Club of America has taken an extremely proactive approach to health problems in the breed.

Havanese are susceptible to hip dysplasia, a genetic hip deformity that requires costly surgery to repair and can lead to arthritis later in life. The kneecaps of the Havanese can easily get knocked out of place, a condition known as "luxating patellas."

Make sure to have your puppy's eyes examined once a year by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist, and seek veterinary care immediately at any signs of cloudiness, redness, itching or irritation of the eyes, or if the dog is squinting or pawing at them.

If the breeder you're dealing with is a good one, he'll be willing and able to discuss how prevalent these and other health problems, those with and those without genetic screening tests, are in him dogs' lines, and help puppy buyers make an informed decision about health risks to their dog.

To protect yourself from the expensive vet bills associated with these conditions, you'll want to purchase pet insurance for your Havanese before they show symptoms or are diagnosed.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Patellar Luxation Low $1,500-$3,000
Hip Dysplasia Low $1,500-$6,000

7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Havanese Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Start by finding a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Havanese Club of America and who has agreed to abide by the club's Code of Ethics, which strictly prohibits selling puppies to or through pet stores.

Ask your puppy's breeder to provide you with written documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or the University of Pennsylvania (PennHip) that your puppy's parents' hips are free of dysplasia. OFA certification that the parents are free of knee disease is also required, and must be done annually. A test known as BAER needs to have been done on the parents as well.

Pay close attention to your puppy's eyes. Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) documentation must be obtained yearly to certify that the puppy's parents do not have any genetic vision or eye abnormalities.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Havanese aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Havanese can live 15 years or longer, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Havanese to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Havanese

Pet insurance for Havanese costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Havanese are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Havanese are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Havanese is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.