Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
Photo of adult Havaton
t. chen / Flickr.com

The Havaton can perhaps best be described as a sweet, fluffy little cloud, which is a cross between a Havanese and a Coton de Tulear. These small dogs are too cute for words and their soft, wavy fur makes them utterly irresistible. Completely devoted to their family, they depend on them heavily for their happiness and need to be around them most of the time; a trait some find endearing, while others find it exhausting.

A petite crossbreed with deep brown eyes and a smiling face, this is one ‘handbag dog’ you won’t want to put down. They have relatively long bodies but short limbs, meaning they rarely exceed heights of 30cm. A good choice for families living in small homes or apartments, Havatons are playful and energetic but do not need much exercise at all.

About & History

Also known as the Cotonese, the Havaton is a cross between the cheerful Havanese and the docile Coton de Tulear. You would be forgiven for finding it difficult to tell the difference between these two parent breeds as they are really quite similar and, in fact, they descended from some of the same breeds, such as the Bichon Frise and the Maltese.

The Havanese

The Havanese has the unusual nickname ‘The Velcro Dog’ as they form such strong attachments to their owners and never wish to be away from them. Luckily, they are good fun to be around thanks to their good nature and calm demeanor. Their ancestors hail from the island of Tenerife and these dogs were brought over to Havana in Cuba where, in the 1800s, they were further refined to develop the Havanese. As Cuba is an island, the dogs bred for many decades without being outbred to other pedigrees, meaning the Havanese became quickly established.

Luckily, they did not remain isolated in Cuba for long as travelling foreigners took a shine to them and soon exported them all over the world. Not surprisingly, breed numbers fell dramatically during the Cuban revolution but they were saved from extinction thanks to a small number of Cuban families who smuggled them out of the country and kept the line alive. This national dog of Cuba is recognised by the Kennel Club within their Toy group thanks to its dinky size.

The Coton de Tulear

The Coton de Tulear is a little-known breed that comes from Madagascar, its descendants being brought there by sailors sometime in the 1600s. They quickly bred with the local terriers, creating a new and unique breed that was likely used to hunt rats.

It’s known by some as ‘The Royal Dog of Madagascar’ and has been admired and owned by the upper classes for many years. It was only in the second half of the 20th century that these dogs began to spread around the world and they remain rare internationally to this day.


Havaton Large Photo
t. chen / Flickr.com

Small yet attractive, the Havaton is reminiscent of a teddy bear with its curly coat and bright, button eyes. They have petite, skulls and a neat muzzle that is well-defined and not snubbed. They have short necks, rectangular-shaped bodies and quite stubby legs meaning they are always close to the ground. Their tails are short to medium in length and curl gaily towards their back.

As both parent breeds are similar heights and weights, the Havaton is a uniform size. Most measure from 24cm to 28cm and will weigh somewhere between 3kg and 6kg. The attractive coat of the Havaton is long and wavy, sometimes even crimped. Their silky fur is soft to touch but can be prone to tangling and becoming matted so does require quite a lot of grooming. While most individuals are white, many will also have brown and black markings.

Character & Temperament

The Havaton is best known for being ‘a dog of the people’ as they were bred as companions and rely heavily on human interaction for their happiness and confidence. When around their master, they are not content to simply be in the same room but have an overwhelming need to be beside (or even on!) those they love. Due to this, owners must ensure they are present for most of the day to prevent behavioural issues, such as separation anxiety from ever developing.

Playful and humorous, the Havaton makes a good friend to young children and is generally more tolerant than other breeds of a similar size, rarely growling or snapping. Despite their good nature, they should not be taken advantage of and owners should always instill good manners in their young children and monitor any interactions between child and dog.

Due to their happy demeanor and love of humans, they make absolutely terrible guard dogs, though may well yap when a new person arrives, so can potentially be used as watch dogs.


People pleasers who are relatively smart, the Havaton is a good dog to train though can become bored easily if training sessions become repetitive. They can be taught a variety of tricks and can do well in canine agility and rally classes. While not the fastest or most athletic, their lively demeanour sets them in good stead.

There is no doubt that the best training method for these dogs is a positive reinforcement regime whereby they are rewarded for good behaviour and negative behaviours are simply ignored rather than punished. As they can be sensitive, any form of criticism can potentially result in them becoming disheartened and forming a negative association with training.


A generally healthy hybrid, the Havaton usually lives into its early teens, with some breed members even making it to 15 or 16 years old. As with any dog (pedigree or cross-breed) there will always be a number of medical issues that they are more prone to than others and that we need to be aware of.

Patellar Luxation

Owners may notice that a dog with a luxating patella will hop and skip when walking and running. While some dogs may only have one knee cap that pops in and out of place, others will be affected bilaterally.

For some dogs, a surgical procedure will be advised to permanently correct this orthopaedic condition, especially if they seem to be in discomfort or their mobility is impaired.

Portosystemic Shunt

Those affected with a shunt may be smaller than their littermates and fail to thrive as they should. They can have chronic nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and may even develop neurological signs, such as tremoring and seizures.

Shunts can be tricky to diagnose and dogs may require specialist imaging in some instances. While medical management can help to control symptoms, surgery is indicated in most. This is a specialised procedure and may require referral to a surgeon.

Mitral Valve Disease

Smaller dogs are more predisposed than others to develop mitral valve disease, a cardiac condition that progressively worsens with age. Those affected have a heart valve that does not function adequately and causes improper and turbulent blood flow within the heart.

A vet will detect a heart murmur when listening to the chest and can confirm the diagnosis with a heart scan (echocardiogram). While this is not a condition which can be cured, many dogs can be managed for years on a combination of medical therapy and lifestyle changes.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Small but energetic, the Havaton appreciates a few short walks a day. While they won’t be able to run for hours, they do have short bursts of activity and can be remarkably playful at times. They cope well in apartments and do not require big back gardens, making them a good choice for city dwellers.


It’s important not to fall behind when it comes to the grooming of the Havaton as their long fur needs to be brushed every day to keep it in tip top shape. Over-bathing can result in dry skin and a lackluster coat so should be avoided. When bathed, use a mild shampoo specifically designed for dogs.

Always be sure to thoroughly dry their ears (including the ear canals) after getting them wet. As their ears are pendulous and not well ventilated, they may acquire excessive wax so should be cleaned out as needed to prevent infection. The claws of the Havaton may need to be trimmed now and then, especially as they get older. Owners should check claws every few days to ensure they are not curling or flaking.

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