The Havanese are in the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) “toy” classification of dogs, whose size tends to top out at 1 foot at shoulder height. The taller boys grow to around 11 inches at the withers, the girls 10. Their expected weight range starts at 7lb and the heftier purebreds weigh in at 13lb. This is the size profile of the ‘true’ Havanese.
The United Kennel Club (UKC) puts them in the ‘companion’ class, which has the same class parameters. The different name just defines the Havanese dog’s role in human life and history perfectly.
Havanese dogs have quite the aristocratic backstory. They travelled from Spain to Cuba in the 16th century, where they became hugely popular as pets among the upper classes. Darwinian evolution kept them small and cute. Their singular role was to entertain people who hung around villas all day, spending money. Their sheer affection and adoration for humans made them the love token given by Cuban men to the women that they were courting.
Havanese dogs have long, silky hair which can grow to touch the ground. They don’t tend to drool or snore. They are the ultimate lapdog.
So, with such a defined pedigree adult size set out by both the UKC and the ACK, how can there be any real question over how large a Havanese dog can grow?
Sometimes the controversy concerns how small the Havanese dogs remain.
Because Havanese dogs are tiny, and because tiny dogs are infinitely popular, there are some unscrupulous breeders out there who advertise miniature or “teacup” Havanese dogs to new owners. Miniature as they are, their pedigree form does not permit for them to be that abnormally little without a medical fault coming into play, or without some reprehensible and irresponsible breeding practices.
Definitely keep an eye out for sales phrases selling “pocket” or “mini” versions of any breed and check their pedigree size range. It would be heartbreaking to adopt a dog and watch him or her grow very sick.
To put the improbability of a natural “teacup” Havanese dog into perspective, even when a Havanese is crossed with a Pomeranian (creating an “Ewokian”), the adult Ewokian still weighs in at between 3 and 13lb. They’re diddy at the smaller end of the scale, but still not in the teacup class.
What About the Girls?
As you might expect, the female Havanese will trail behind the male in both height and weight for most of their lives. Even when they’re in their third trimester and whelping time is right around the corner, they tend to gain just 15-20% of their body weight during their pregnancy.
The Little Guy’s Getting all Big…
Havanese dogs are adorable from their first squeak. At whelping, they weigh in at a miniscule 3-6oz. By 6-8 weeks, they’ve gobbled their way to their first pound. It takes three months to reach 2lb, and they’ve typically hit 5lb by the time they reach adolescence (at five months.) Their weight tends to match their age until ten months, and then nature and nurture will compete for the life-long stable weight as an adult.
Mixing breeds can make for a more robust dog with a longer life. Naturally, combining parentage is going to broaden the size range you associate with a Havanese. We’ve already mentioned the super-tiny Ewokian, but other combinations produce dogs that grow significantly larger. The Havajack (Jack Russell parent) grows to a comparatively generous 18lb. The same goes for the adult Puganese, and the fully grown Poovanese can tip the scales at 15lbs. No prizes for guessing the breed of the other parent in either of those couples. The expected lifespans of all these dogs is either sustained or increased.
When one or both parents are of a toy dog breed, the rule of thumb to estimate the pup’s future adult weight is to double their weight at sixteen weeks. This end prediction may take longer to manifest in some dogs than others. For example, if one of the parents comes from a line which is particularly slow to mature, then it may take the pup longer than the usual first year to reach their full adult size.
There is another element of your dog’s size that you will need to keep under observation as time goes by.
Watching your dog’s weight
A word of gentle warning about Havanese dogs. They are very intelligent. Not only do they respond to training that rewards good behaviour and discourages naughtiness, but they are quite capable of applying this conditioning system themselves. Their pattern recognition is superb. By the time they reach adolescence (at around five months), they’re perfectly aware that they have eyes for days and that if they look at you just-so, then they might get a treat out of it. And they at least seem to work on the basis that a human who’s handed over a nice treat deserves both an expression of soul-searing gratitude and enough nuzzling to melt the hardest heart. This, of course, encourages us to give them another treat.
Yeah, they can train us, too. They are among the more talented con artists in the dog world.
Although it’s so hard not to give in to the mournful, crushed-spirit reproach in your Havanese’s eyes when you refuse them a table scrap, their bellies simply aren’t designed for our food. And just think about how tiny their belly must be in that little body. Overweight Havanese dogs suffer badly with painful joints and labored breathing, which of course creates a vicious cycle. It becomes stressful for them to exercise, so they’ll whine until you pick them up, and then their metabolism slows down so that they can’t burn off the next meal.
Painful as it may be, you have to be firm with your Havanese dog. They need regular meals prepared with dogs’ digestive systems in mind. Premium dry kibble is recommended for the full nutrition load that they need for energy, and to maintain that beautiful coat. If that sounds expensive, just remember that they don’t need to eat very much of it. Regulars on Havanese forums also recommend to new owners that they snap treats into quarters for training rewards—big enough for a nice tasty bite, but not so big that they can’t run off the energy intake.
Don’t get too hung up on your dog’s weight until they’re a year old or so, and they’ve effectively stopped growing any taller. Between about 9 months and a year, they’ll have nearly reached their full adult height, but won’t have reached even half their full adult weight. It’s natural for them to look a little lanky until their muscle has bulked out with exercise. If you’re concerned that they’re too light, then check in with a vet.
The rule of thumb check for your dog’s healthy weight is whether you can feel any ribs when you run your hand along one side. If all you’re feeling is smooth, springy sides beneath that curtain of hair, then it’s time to cut back on their chow by about 25% or so.
They’re also more than usually vulnerable to thyroid problems, which can affect their weight regardless of their calorie intake. If your dog is lethargic and listless, and gaining weight despite a cutback in food, then they may need a blood test for hypothyroidism. Fretfulness, hyperactivity and sudden weight loss are signs of hyperthyroidism. Both conditions will need medical intervention, though hypothyroidism is easier to treat with a canine form of synthetic thyroxine.
That just about covers the variations on the size you would expect your Havanese dog to grow to. If you keep your Havanese dog healthy and active, then he will be your cuddly, portable best friend.
Sometimes, your dog just seems bigger
Along with an affectionate, lively personality comes a broad streak of curiosity and loyal protectiveness. A small, intelligent dog knows that they’re small, and they use it to advantage. However, the Havanese has a curious natural weapon to counteract their diminutive size. For such a tiny dog, they have a startlingly deep bark.
If you were to stand on the other side of an opaque door while a Havanese dog began his welcoming ritual from within, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d be facing a terrier or bulldog when the door opens. It’s not uncommon for Havanese owners to open up to find a very apprehensive stranger on the doorstep.
For a bright little dog who’s never going to grow up to be a big, fierce creature, it’s a good party trick to have.