Sept 1, 2023

The Havanese Standard is rich with words descriptive of the breed’s temperament and personality. Immense charm, friendly, intelligent, playful (mentioned three times), spirited, alert, soft, intelligent, mischievous, sweet and non-quarrelsome are the adjectives which together describe the essential characteristics of the breed and which, in combination, cause the breed to be adored by everyone who meets them casually or by living with them. Perhaps one more descriptive term should be added to the list: manipulative.

When I place a puppy with new owners who have not previously owned a Havanese, I always caution that they should watch their credit card account, as it wouldn’t surprise me if the puppy orders a gold-plated Rolls Royce! Havanese puppies have an unerring ability to get what they want. It never fails to amaze me that the new owner who swears that the puppy will never sleep in bed with them (tee-hee) will report weeks later, in answer to my question, “Where is the puppy sleeping?” “Well… in my bed… on top of my head… on top of my pillow.” I could have told them that weeks ago. Sometimes they go on to add – “The puppy starts out on top of my head and then moves between the two of us, pushing against my back with his feet!” Why this turn about in resolution that the puppy would be sleeping in his crate at night? Pure willful manipulation! They own you. You don’t own a Havanese, they own you. It takes great resolve and tenacity on the part of the owner to set the rules and stick to them. Sleeping in bed is fine as long as the new owner realizes the annoyance of having an untrained puppy soiling the bed linen!

The main difficulty with setting the rules and sticking to them is the uncanny plea on their faces – the velvety look in their usually dark brown, almond shaped eyes melts hearts. The annoyance of bed wetting is one thing, that penetrating stare begging for food is another thing. All new puppy owners get a strong lecture on that. Havanese normally love to eat… their food… the food of other pets in the house… and people food, too. All owners of Havanese need to be repeatedly cautioned about indulging that cutie with food rewards and treats. Fat dogs are not well dogs and obesity in pets is a nationwide crisis. People love feeding their pets and Havanese are very vulnerable to their owners’ food indulgence. Throughout a puppy’s life I require that owners send photos, and I am quick to say, “Little Lola is too fat! What are you feeding her?” The answer is usually something like, “She only gets a quarter of a cup of kibble twice a day.” No, I am not dumb and I know exactly the problem. “How many treats does she get during the day?” Then the truth comes out and I recite the very specific instructions in the puppy handbook I gave them, “NO TABLE SCRAPS!” No denials of the truth dissuade me and I implore them to stop being manipulated and get those extra pounds off the dog! More exercise, less food. But those deep brown bedroom eyes are very hard to resist! I get that, but my puppies’ health is of paramount concern and owners’ feelings be damned! I call it like I see it.

Havanese seldom fail to live up to these adjectives liberally listed in the Standard. I don’t know if any other Breed Standard is so descriptive of temperament and personality but our Standard certainly nails it! And that’s why we love them so much. We all need to be aware of how insidiously manipulative they are!

Alice L. Lawrence,
Havanese Club of America