This is really one of those questions where the answer will depend entirely upon who you ask. If you’re asking the guy living next door to a family with a Havanese dog who spends a lot of time in the yard, surrounded by gophers, then yes, the neighbour will have much to say about how vocal this dog is. Some of it may be impolite.

If you ask the owner of a New York apartment who can filter unexpected visitors through a camera intercom from the safety of the third floor, and who takes her beloved long-haired companion for long walks each day, then no. She’ll tell you that Havanese dogs don’t bark that much.

Resources across the board, from pet-training sites to veterinary guides, place Havanese dogs somewhere in the middle of the scale of ‘mouthy’ dogs. The specific definition of ‘mouthy’ is elusive, but essentially a mouthy dog is one who will repeatedly sound off for reasons other than fear, protectiveness, anger or hunger.

A Havanese dog couldn’t look meeker with his tiny size, his expressive little face, and his long, exceptionally soft hair. That said, like all dogs, he will let you know when all is not well in his universe.

So, what specific triggers will lead a Havanese to bark more often than usual? Understanding the following facts about your pet will help you to anticipate their needs, which should help to manage their compulsion to bark.

The Velcro Factor

The Havanese have a nickname—the ‘Velcro Dog’. Much as this name suggests, this dog is exceptionally reluctant to leave your side. He will escort you to the fridge. He will accompany you to the back door to take the bin out. He will lie in your lap with an expression of euphoric bliss as you stroke his ears while binge-watching Netflix.

If socialized well as pups, the Havanese get along well with children and other house pets. Although they can be clingy with their favorite humans, the good news is that they don’t tend to be territorial within their own safe space. Your average Havanese will start barking if excluded from an exceptionally fun game for more than a few minutes at a time, but they won’t bark possessively just because your kid is enjoying a cat cuddle.

So, that’s the good news.

Here’s the tricky part. Your Havanese dog will bark when they are lonely, and they get very lonely very easily. Your lovable Velcro bundle doesn’t just want your attention—he needs it.

He will start to suffer separation anxiety if you’re away for just three or four hours. This is fine if you work for yourself at home, if you’re a remote worker for another organization, or if you’re retired. If

you’re working from home, can you not just pop them out into the back yard for a couple of hours? Again, no. If you’re not outside with them, then this is unacceptable. 

Even with the freedom of a dog flap and the security of a strong fence, they do not cope well with being banished to the great outdoors. Not even if his section of the great outdoors features a penthouse-class kennel and some really cool toys for them to play with.

Booking holidays could be quite a trial. During his early socialization process, it’s a good idea to get him used to another friend or member of the family who will be happy to foster him into their own home while you’re away. And before you ask—no, Havanese dogs do not cope well in kennels. At all.

So long as they get their exercise and your attention, they cope well on camping holidays which don’t involve plane journeys or quarantine periods, and they will resettle nicely at a location where pets are welcome. If you can take their crate with you, so much the better.

The Eager Watchdog

Another Havanese-specific trigger for excess barking is curiosity. They’re not particularly composed when confronted with strangers. Sometimes the barking comes from apprehension. They just want you to check out what this new person wants. Most of the time they’re super-excited to make a new friend. Either way, when someone comes to your door, your dog will let you know about it, loudly and at length.

The socialization process in the pup’s first weeks is so important because this is the point at which you can train them to understand that a little eagerness is fine when a new person arrives in your home, but after that, they have to pipe down. The good news is that they mostly bark at new people because they’re extremely sociable; the barking isn’t intended as an owner-sharing deterrent.

In the early days of your relationship with your new Havanese, it’s a good idea to:

  • let visitors know in advance that you may have to spend a moment with your dog to make friendly introductions
  • take your dog out for exercise before visitors come by so that your dog doesn’t bark out of sheer restlessness.

The Prey Instinct

It’s easy to be fooled into thinking that the Havanese dog is docile. Nope. Just because they’re tiny (just 11 inches at the shoulder on average), and because they have huge please-love-me eyes, it does not mean that your Havanese has a weak prey instinct. Far from it, actually.

Havanese dogs get over-excited at the sight of a smaller, weaker invader of their personal space.  Good training can adjust the way that a dog responds to their prey instinct, but it cannot change the force of the instinct itself. A rural home with a yard surrounded by birds or diurnal wildlife is not restful for a Havanese dog. If you’re sharing a community space for a yard or garden, then prepare to handle the occasional remark about your dog sounding off at the squirrels.

The Eternal Pup

Okay, so we’ve established that Havanese dogs bark because they’re curious, protective or agitated. Havanese dogs are also boundlessly playful. If there’s fun to be had, they’re going to get involved. As an owner, you will need a lot of energy.

Once they’ve got past the potty training phase, you’ll find that they catch on quick with crate training, socialization, and chew-toy training, too. They love praise and will work hard for it. They’re very intelligent dogs who have a strong sense of cause-effect in the long term as well as the short term. They’re also pretty hot on sensing your mood.

Their intelligence has a flipside, of course. Havanese dogs are particularly cheeky. The Havanese do not ‘do’ serene and sedate. As pups, they’re palm-sized bundles of melty-eyed peskiness. They’re the Tiggers of the dog world. Their default setting is “play!” and if you don’t keep them entertained, then they will make their own entertainment. This can be at the expense of your garden, your newspaper, or your ornaments. Top tip: if you want to keep your dog busy during a conference call, then hand them a toilet roll. Just be ready for a substantial clean-up job, that’s all.

Havanese dogs may be small, but they need the same amount of exercise as a medium-sized dog, like a Basset Hound or a Boxer. They’ll be happy if they cover around 7-8 miles of walking and running (or playing catch) outside each day. That’s around 40 minutes at a time.

Adolescence

Adolescence is a phase which all dogs have to go through, so this trigger for excess barking is not unique to the Havanese, unlike the factors already listed. 

The Havanese adolescent period begins at around 5 months, and he’ll enter proper adulthood at around the 15-16 month mark. Adolescence is marked by a change in behavior. You may notice: hyperactivity, even when kept away from small and irritating creatures outside; increased levels of fear with no obvious trigger; and frequent bouts of recalcitrant disobedience. You’ll also notice your dog seeking more independence, which can lead to a confusing phase of your relationship. They want their hugs, but only on their own schedule, thank-you-very-much.

With the disobedience and the hyperactivity comes the barking. It is really important to keep up the boundary training and positive reinforcement during this time, while making it clear from your voice and your body that you mean it when you tell your dog that their behavior is not acceptable.

Adolescence doesn’t have to present a particularly stressful period for you or your dog, so long as:

  • you recognize and respond to the signs of their extra need for reassurance
  • you recognize and respond to signs of your dog being atypically stressed
  • You recognize and respond when your dog is overtired or overstimulated

The Havanese are particularly sensitive to the tone of your voice and the approval power of your smile. Keep your eyes wide open for the smallest signs of positive behavior—like them sitting quietly when you’ve only asked them once—and acknowledge this with affection and praise. With a lot of love and firmness, you’ll get through this sticky patch together.

Summing Up…

If you live a lifestyle which suits an intelligent, affectionate, attention-craving dog, then no, the Havanese are not excessive barkers. If feedback from owner associations is anything to go by, then they only gain a reputation for barking a lot if they’re over-stimulated outside, or under-stimulated inside the home.

Their diminutive size makes them very good apartment dwellers, just so long as they get all the adoration and outdoor exercise that they need.

Our advice would be to make the best of the first three months of your dog’s life to allow him to meet as many friendly people as possible. In particular, take the time to introduce human aunties and uncles into your dog’s life to minimize the anxiety they experience when parted from you for more than a day at a time.

Taking the time to teach your dog tricks also has a huge pay-off. It makes the best of their intelligence and builds their confidence. Being able to lead your dog through a little category of tricks is a great bonding exercise. It also means that play time passes quickly and easily on days when your energy levels are running a little lower than usual.