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The Havanese is the only breed of dog native to Cuba although they may originally have come from Tenerife aboard trade ships. They were popular among the Cuban aristocracy as lap dogs, and eventually were introduced in Europe in the mid-1800s, where they became trendy. Following the Cuban revolution, fleeing Cuban exiles took eleven Havanese with them, and the breed took hold in America from the descendants of these dogs. Even more remarkably, Havanese have remained basically unchanged in appearance throughout their existence.
Havanese were once known as Havana Silk Dogs for their flossy silk coats, which are their most distinctive characteristic and which serve to protect them from the harsh light of the sun. These coats come in a variety of colors, from black and white to tan, grey and sable, and may have straight, wavy or curly hair. While the coats may seem thick, they are actually quite light and reflect heat to keep the dog cool. The Havanese is longer than he is tall, and the adult dog has a height range from 8-1/2 inches to 11-1/2 inches and typically weighs eight to fourteen pounds. They also have a playful expression, with dark eyes and a broad nose.
The Havanese are among the world’s most charming dogs, with a genuinely affectionate nature, and a spunkiness that belies their small stature. Although they love attention, they will not do anything to demand it, but rather try to entertain people to get it. They are also good with children since they are sturdy enough to withstand the sometimes-rough play that kids may subject them to. But they are also good for single pet owners and even the elderly as long as they are given the proper attention and not left alone for long periods of time. They also do not require much exercise and a couple of daily walks is enough for them.
Their small stature allows Havanese to share apartments and other limited living areas with their owners. However, like many small dogs, Havanese are barkers, but this can be remedied with early training that will teach them to stop barking on your command.
The trainability of the Havanese makes them ideal show dogs, since they easily pick up tricks. Their affectionate nature also makes them good therapy dogs that have helped traumatized children by encouraging them to show affection. Havanese therapy dogs have also made an impact on nursing homes for the elderly, since their visits help residents overcome feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression.