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If you're looking for a companion who's as eager to cuddle as he is to perform a trick, the Havapoo may be the dog for you. This Havanese-poodle mix has a low-shedding, "hypoallergenic" coat, an alert but friendly nature, and an absolutely adorable look. Pair that with the breed's bright mind and moderate exercise needs, and you've got a dog who can fit right in with nearly any home or family, including first-time dog owners.
With any relatively new hybrid dog breed, including the Havapoo, everything from appearance to personality can vary widely. This is true even within the same litter—especially early on, when one parent is a purebred Havanese and one is a purebred poodle.
Each Havapoo puppy's looks and temperament depend on which traits he inherits from his parent breeds, so answering questions like, "how big do Havapoos get?" can be tricky. Size, in particular, can differ greatly, with full-grown Havapoo dogs ranging from a tiny 10 pounds to as much as 45 pounds. This is because the poodle parent can be a toy, miniature, or standard poodle. But many adult Havapoos stay under 20 pounds because miniature and toy poodle parents are more common.
A few traits are fairly universal to all Havapoos, including his round, dark brown eyes, floppy ears, and cute-as-a-button black nose. His fluffy tail is just the cherry on top of a practically perfect little pupper.
Sometimes called a poovanese, Havadoodle, or Havanoodle, the Havapoo has a soft, shiny coat that's wavy or curly (much like a poodle's), and comes in just about any color. While he needs to be brushed thoroughly a few times a week to avoid tangles and mats, it's an easy enough job to do yourself, especially if you use grooming as an opportunity to snuggle and bond.
Havapoos don't shed much, thanks to those poodle roots—and that makes them a good choice for people with pet allergies. But remember that no dog is truly 100-percent hypoallergenic, regardless of how they're marketed.
A bright mind, a signature bouncy gait, and a deep and abiding love of laps describes the Havapoo temperament pretty darn well. He's not only a brainy little buddy, but he's eager to learn and show off his tricks, which may be no surprise. The Havanese is known as a trick dog, and both Havanese and poodles have long histories of performing in circuses. This is an eager-to-please dog who's a delight to train using positive reinforcement, but you need to be mindful of how many treats you're giving him as a reward—he can have a tendency to put on weight.
Havapoos are loving, affectionate companions for everyone from active young children to seniors. Basically, if you have a lap and love to give, they'll be your best friend. They generally get along well with other family pets, too, including cats and other dogs. But don't assume that snuggles are all he needs; this playful breed still demands daily exercise and stimulation to be happy and healthy.
While Havapoos aren't typically a yappy dog, they are alert and can be quick to bark when someone new approaches. They're generally equally quick to stop and befriend the newcomer, though, so while he'll play the watchdog, don't count on your Havapoo for any guard duties. Providing your Havapoo puppy with early socialization and training (he'll do great in puppy kindergarten classes!) will help him understand when it's appropriate to sound the alarm, and when it's okay to let it go.
Do you live in a home or apartment that allows dogs? Congratulations—you have a perfect space for a Havapoo. Even the largest of Havapoos aren't terribly big dogs, and they're as happy in an apartment as they are in a home with a big, fenced yard. Just make sure you're prepared to give them the opportunity to be active each day.
"Unlike some small breeds, these dogs may be even more social and outgoing," says Erin Askeland, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA and Camp Bow Wow's Animal Health and Behavior Consultant. "They are also very playful and energetic, so they do need a good amount of exercise and attention to meet their needs even though they can appear content to be couch potatoes."
Although he's fairly small, Askeland says a Havapoo's sturdy little body can generally handle participating in a number of activities.
"Because Havapoos love their people, activities that involve their owners such as agility or rally can be fun and highly rewarding for both the dog and the owner," she says. "General walks with the ability to sniff and explore can be highly rewarding as well, and playing games like chase, hide and seek, and fetch are often popular with these little dogs since they involve their owner's attention."
Keep in mind, though, that his smaller size, along with his parent breeds' genetic tendencies toward health issues including hip dysplasia and patella luxation, mean that long distances or tough terrain may prove to be too much for his little legs.
"It's always good to get them checked over by your vet and note any lameness or difficulty getting around," Askeland says. "Dogs are so good at hiding pain, and people pleasers like a Havapoo may still try to do what you ask, even if it hurts, just because they don't want to disappoint."
Michael Miller, DVM, is co-owner of Lakewood Animal Hospital in Morris, Ill. He says Havapoo owners should think twice about taking their pup to the dog park. "Owners need to be cautious with any of these smaller breeds around big dogs," he says. "These little guys often think they are bigger than they are," and can be accidentally injured trying to keep up with the bigger breeds.
Fortunately, Havapoos don't require a park full of pups to meet their social needs. As long as they have you by their side, their tails will keep wagging.
"They are happiest when with their families and thrive on social interaction," Askeland says. "Make sure everyone in the home takes part in their daily exercise, training, and basic care—and that training is consistent in the family so that the dog does not become frustrated."
Once his physical and mental needs have been met, it's cuddle time! The Havapoo is a quintessential lap dog and will share snuggles with the whole family, but, as with any dog, small children must be supervised around him.
"A Havapoo can be a great family dog, especially for families with children because of their love of attention, their energy, and their patience," Askeland says. "But, even though they may love most interactions with children, it's important to teach children proper and safe interactions with a dog, as a small dog like a Havapoo could be easily hurt by a child, particularly if picked up or carried."
The majority of the Havapoo's grooming needs can easily be done by a dedicated owner: A thorough brushing a few times a week to prevent tangles and mats, with some special attention paid to key areas including the eyes, ears, and rear end. But, because the Havapoo's coat will vary a bit depending on how much poodle versus Havanese genes prove dominant, you may need to enlist the help of a professional groomer to keep him looking—and feeling—good, Miller says.
"One concern with all doodle breeds is ear infections due to the extra hair present within their ear canals," Miller says. Some experts believe this hair should be plucked regularly to prevent ear infections, while others believe that plucking itself can actually cause damage to the skin that leads to ear infections. Miller leans toward plucking, "so that the canals are more open to the air and the pet owners can more easily use ear cleaning solution routinely to keep those ears clear." But, he acknowledges that every dog is different, and recommends discussing your options with your veterinarian.
The Havapoo's fur can also lead to trichiasis, or facial hair rubbing on the eye, Miller says, as well as excessive tearing, which can lead to mats and skin infections near the eye. "Keeping the hair on the face groomed shorter will help to prevent these issues," he says.
That fur may also pose a posterior problem called a "fecal bun," which isn't just gross—it's painful and truly problematic. Havapoos can get feces stuck in the hair around their rear end if this area is not kept well groomed.
"Instead of dingleberries, this can sometimes form one large dingle-apple," Miller says. "This mass of fecal matter and hair is referred to as a fecal bun and can cause skin infections and prevent going to the bathroom normally."
If your Havapoo's bottom tends to mat or seems to always be dirty, Miller recommends getting your pup a sanitary shave to help avoid this icky issue. And like all dog breeds, your Havapoo will benefit from regular nail trims—don't let him click clack across the floor!
When it comes to meeting your Havapoo's physical and mental stimulation needs, it should be a pleasure. He's a playful and intelligent dog and wants to make you happy. Using consistent reward-based training will go a long way in a short time.
"The trick will be finding out what motivates them the most," Askeland says. Some will love a certain food, while others crave praise, toys, or games. But be careful not to overdo it on the snacks, as this can impact their weight.
"Because they love to please their owners, it can be easy to give too many food rewards to their offerings of good behavior," Askeland says. "Using part of their meals as treats for training, working with small quantities at a time, and keeping an eye on their weight with their vet will help."
A relatively healthy dog with a lifespan of 10–15 years, the Havapoo can experience some of the health issues of his parent breeds, such as a kneecap disorder called medial luxating patellas, the most common orthopedic issue in small breeds, Miller says.
"A common sign of luxating patellas is limping or holding up a back leg suddenly, and then all of a sudden going back to seeming like everything is normal," he says. Some dogs adapt, but others require surgery to correct the condition.
Dental disease is another common issue for small dogs. "Brushing their teeth and having routine prophylactic dental cleanings with a veterinarian can prevent this," Miller says. "However, even with the best care, some of these dogs will still require surgical tooth extractions to help keep their mouth healthy and their breath smelling clean."
RELATED: How to Keep Your Dog's Teeth Clean
With a hybrid dog breed, there's no real way to predict which genes are passed on to a puppy, so it's important to be aware of health issues common to the parent breeds. Here's what you need to know:
- According to the Havanese Club of America, health issues you may see in this generally healthy breed include eye disorders, chondrodysplasia, deafness, heart murmurs, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, and patellar luxation.
- Poodles can be prone to Addison's disease, which affects the adrenal glands, endocrine diseases such as diabetes, Cushing's disease, and bloat, according to the Poodle Club of America.
Although it's impossible to say exactly when and where the Havapoo originated, it's generally believed they came to rise in popularity in the past 20–30 years in the U.S., around the time the overall "doodle" craze of mixing various purebred dogs with poodles began.
His origins may not be clear, but there's no mystery as to why this hybrid breed appealed to breeders and dog lovers alike. Pairing the Havanese's affectionate, funny personality with the poodle's allergy-friendly coat and athleticism makes perfect sense.
As with any hybrid dog breed, you need to do your homework on any Havapoo breeder due to the prevalence of puppy mills in the designer dog market. Be particularly wary of any Havapoo breeder who claims to have mini or "teacup" Havapoo puppies and is marketing them as a unique breed. Unscrupulous breeders are quick to act when a breed—including a crossbreed—becomes popular, and they go on to breed dogs in inhumane conditions, not providing the type of care and attention that responsible breeders give to their dogs.
Be smart about shopping for your best furry friend and avoid falling for a puppy mill scheme by watching out for these red flags:
- There are multiple mixed breeds for sale from the same breeder.
- The website offers specific wait times for puppies.
- The breeder offers to ship puppies.
- It’s difficult to identify breeder contact information (no phone number, contact email, etc.).
- The Havapoo might not be recognized as a purebred dog by the American Kennel Club (yet, at least), but he is recognized by the American Canine Hybrid Club, the Designer Dogs Kennel Club, Dog Registry of America, Inc., and the Designer Breed Registry—all of which list the mix as a poovanese.
- The Havapoo isn’t the only popular Havanese hybrid. You’ll also find the Havachon (Havanese and bichon frise mix), and Hava-Apso (Havanese and Lhasa apso mix).
- Havapoos aren't to be confused with the similarly named Cavapoo (a Cavalier King Charles spaniel and poodle mix). Despite the different parent breeds, the two hybrids can look similar.