Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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A delightful combination of the spirited Havanese and the cheeky, playful Maltese, the Havamalt is a designer dog that will steal your heart. People-oriented and highly affectionate, the Havamalt will form strong bonds with the entire family and will never say no to a cuddle. As some dogs will be cautious around strangers, it is advised to socialise them thoroughly when they are puppies.

They say that good things come in small packages and the Havamalt must be great, standing shorter than 30cm! With their slight bodies, they don’t weigh a lot either and certainly won’t be taking up much space in the home. Their luxurious coat is their crowning glory, including flowing ears and a well-plumed tail. While most will be white, other colour combinations are possible thanks to the influence of the Havanese.

About & History

Two breed which share similar histories and are quite alike in appearance, the Havanese and the Maltese have been deliberately bred together to create a new designer dog called the Havamalt. As the Havanese and Maltese are already closely related, it was a natural step to recombine their genetics to make a charming little breed which has inherited some of the best characteristics of each parent. Though there is little solid evidence, it is hypothesised that the Havamalt was first developed within the United stated sometime in the 1980s or 1990s.

The Havanese

The Havanese is a Cuban dog that is best known for its long and flowing coat, which it wears with pride. Their ancestors came from the Spanish island of Tenerife, where most Bichon-type dogs are thought to have originated from. Sailors exported these dogs to Cuba and, in the 1800s, the Havanese began to take shape as its own unique breed. Its name is a nod to the city where it was first developed.

It wasn’t long before this loving dog developed a reputation as being a high-end pet, owned by aristocracy and VIPs. It was likely this local reverence is what made them so popular with tourists, and many visiting Europeans took a shine to the breed, importing them back home. Legend has it that during the Cuban revolution in 1959, eleven Havanese dogs were smuggled across the border to America, ensuring the breed lived on and were not lost to the history books.

The Maltese

The Maltese is also a type of Bichon dog; one that originated within the Mediterranean, close to the ancestors of the Havanese. Historians debate their exact place of origin, with some claiming they first came from the island of Malta, with others adamant that they came from the Dalmatian island of Meleda.

Regardless of where they were first established, it is known that these dogs have been around for thousands of years and have always been regarded highly by society, featuring in ancient literature and artwork. There was a misguided attempt to reduce the size of the dog back in the 18th century and it became necessary to outcross them with Poodles and various Spaniels to save them from poor health and extinction.


A toy dog with a diminutive frame and a moderately sturdy body, the Havamalt looks a lot like each parent, who are already tricky to distinguish from one another. More so than other hybrid dogs, this means that there is already a good deal of uniformity within the Havamalt population and it is quite easy to predict what an individual will look like when fully-grown.

The head of the Havamalt is rounded and relatively small with ears that hang close to the face and are widely set apart. They have circular dark brown eyes that seem to give them a ‘pleading’ expression at all times. Their muzzle is not too short and ends with a shiny black nose that sits neatly at the front of the face. Their bodies are slightly rectangular and their limbs not overly long. All individuals should have a tail that curls over their back and has a distinctive plume of fur.

Weighing from 3kg to 7kg and measuring just 20cm to 27cm at the withers, this toy breed is both small and light. Possibly best-known for their stunning coat, the fur of the Havamalt is long and thick with a slightly wiry texture. Breed members may be white all over like their Maltese parent or may take after the Havanese and have red, brown, cream or black fur. Many will have a mix of two colours, such as brown and white.

Character & Temperament

Impish and cheerful, the Havamalt is a pleasure to be around and is seemingly always in a good mood. Kind and loving, the Havamalt revels in the companionship of its family and is keen to stay close to those it loves. Despite their good nature, some individuals can become impatient with young children and do need to be monitored closely when in their company.

Alert and lively, the Havamalt makes an excellent watch dog and will be the first in the house to realise that someone new is arriving. They will make the visitor’s presence known with plenty of yaps, which may become tiresome at times! Their small size and sweet disposition means that they are no use as guard dogs.

Though confident and boisterous when in the company of their family, some dogs can be wary around new people and may be stand-offish when in new situations. Thorough socialisation can help combat this personality flaw and ensure a well-rounded and confident dog that is self-assured in any situation.


Smart and curious, the Havamalt is a pleasure to train and does not require an experienced owner as it is both adaptable and responsive. These guys can be a little sensitive and do not respond well to firm discipline or criticism, reacting better if they are rewarded for good behaviour. Some dogs can be so fearful of being reprimanded that they will simply choose to stop participating in training sessions, as they no longer find them fun.

It’s critical that the Havamalt is taught to be comfortable in its own company for short periods of time. Separation anxiety can be a real issue in this breed and is to be avoided at all costs as it is not practical to expect an owner to be with a dog 24/7. Crate training is very beneficial for this purpose and canine behaviourists can be employed to provide useful insights and tips.


Though the Havamalt is generally considered a very healthy dog with a lifespan of 12 to 15 years, it is important that the population is monitored for certain health issues, which can pose problems to some.

Luxating Patella

Intermittent lameness in one or both of the hind limbs may be caused by knee caps that pop in and out of place. A vet should be able to confirm their suspicion by feeling the knee and may wish to perform X-rays to assess the leg in more detail.

Porto-Systemic Shunt

When an animal has a shunt, an abnormal blood flow means that blood from the internal organs bypasses the liver, resulting in a range of symptoms, including stunted growth and neurological signs. While medical management can help in some cases, ultimately, surgery is the best way to resolve this issue.

Heart Disease

Both Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) and Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) can be seen within the Havamalt population. PDA is a congenital heart disease that results in a loud heart murmur, which most vets detect on the first health check.

MVD, on the other hand, affects older dogs and is usually not detected until middle age. Any heart murmur that is louder than a grade 3 out of 6 warrants further investigation and the most commonly advised tests include chest X-rays and echocardiograms.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A dog that can be easily kept in a small home or apartment, the Havamalt does not need an abundance of space and is quite content to potter about from room to room. A garden is appreciated, though not necessary. With moderate exercise requirements, most will be happy with two or three short walks a day to allow them to stretch their legs and get some fresh air.

Importantly, the mental stimulation of the Havamalt should not be neglected and many owners tend to focus on exercise requirements, completely ignoring the importance of keeping their dog’s mind active and engaged. As well as regular training sessions and play time, dogs should be encouraged to problem solve and play with interactive toys. This smart little breed would also do well in agility sessions and obedience classes.


While the Havamalt has long and luxurious fur, they do not actually shed much at all and some are even classed as hypoallergenic. Many owners will trim the coat of the Havamalt regularly so it is never allowed to grow and is not as high maintenance. For those that opt to keep their dogs long-furred, intensive daily grooming is essential to avoid tangles and matts.

The ears of the Havamalt have poor airflow and sit close to the face, making infections quite common. Some will benefit from ear plucking to remove excess hair from the ear canal and all should have their ears cleaned out and checked regularly.

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