The First Week with a new Havanese – What to Expect and How to Prepare

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Havanese Dogs" by David Anderson. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: David Anderson

When your little Havanese puppy arrives, nothing will ever be quite the same. Welcoming a Havanese into the home is like welcoming a friendly shadow into your personal space, and you are going to love it. However, there are going to be the usual puppy frustrations as well. It will be tiring and sometimes exasperating as you try to convince your puppy to do the right thing and to protect them from their own curiosity.

The first week will establish a lot about your puppy’s life and the type of environment that the puppy will become acclimated to. With the puppy-proofing completed, now you get to start doing some of the fun stuff, as well as the housetraining.

Preparation and Planning

Training begins as soon as your puppy arrives, so you need to plan for it before that day. You should have everything set up so that you aren’t trying to figure things out as you go (you are going to be do quite enough of that as is, so you will want to have a baseline when you first start). Do a final check of the puppy-proofing. Given their small size, you can’t be too careful about checking to make sure everything is safe for the puppy.

If you plan to keep your puppy restricted to a small area of your home, you will need to add gates to your list, as well as other items that will keep your puppy confined to that area. You will need to have everything on that list at least a few days before the puppy arrives, if not earlier. This will give you time to go out and get other items you realize you need as the time gets closer. Once your puppy arrives, you will not have time to go out and buy those items, so do as much planning beforehand as you can. Take the time to sit down with your family and talk about what is needed, especially children. They will need to do certain things, so they need to have the right tools and supplies to do them.

Havanese mess
Photo Courtesy – Sheila Burnett

When it comes to caring for the puppy, you will have to be just as strict with the kids as with the puppy. The meeting with your family should include going over the rules and roles one more time so that everyone knows all of the expectations just before the puppy arrives. Training is everyone’s job, but usually there is a primary trainer in any home. Responsible teenagers can take on this role, but often it will fall to an adult. You can set up pairings so that there are at least two people responsible for certain aspects of the puppy’s care – such as a younger child working with you or your spouse for activities like feeding the puppy and checking the water levels. It is still primarily your responsibility, but you can let your children take the lead if they are interested in helping. It is important to make sure that the main needs of the puppy (such as feeding and walking) are covered, and the responsible party is reminded prior to the puppy’s arrival.

Plan a routine for your Havanese. The plan will need to be flexible because nothing ever goes exactly as planned, but having a starting point will make things much easier. As you are working on training and regular care daily, you can start to adapt to the puppy’s needs, slightly shifting the routine so that the puppy doesn’t undergo a lot of changes over a short period of time – considering that puppy has already gone through a major change, it is best to keep to a routine as much as possible. Tweaking the schedule is fine, but having a schedule is essential to helping the puppy fit into the family. Once the puppy is home, there will not be time to try to establish a schedule.

That last week before your puppy arrives, make sure you have everything planned and ready. All of the planning will never be quite enough, but it is much better than trying to wing it with an intelligent puppy that may be able to use your lack of planning to his or her own canine advantage.

The Ride Home

Training starts when your puppy becomes your responsibility, which could be before you even get in the car. Everything that your puppy should know happens during that first trip home.

The temptation to cuddle and play with the puppy will be great, so plan to be strong. You have to establish the rules so that the puppy understands them from the beginning. That Havanese brain is already working to understand the world, and it is going to pick up a lot of the world around the puppy.

Being firm and consistent will be essential for your Havanese. The first ride helps establish the family structure and pack organization.

Before picking up the puppy, ask if the little Havanese has been on a car trip before the day of the pickup. If possible, have two adults in the car for the trip home, particularly if the puppy has never been on a trip in a car. One person drives, the other comforts. Even if Havanese are not prone to being afraid of new experiences, the puppy did just leave the comfort of home and is heading somewhere in an unfamiliar environment with total strangers. That would be scary for anyone.

This is the time to start teaching your puppy about how much fun car rides can be. If you plan to crate train your puppy, have it in the vehicle and go ahead and place the puppy in it for the ride home. Make sure the crate is secure so that the little Havanese is not being moved around in the back of the vehicle. Being jostled and feeling powerless will leave the wrong impression about car rides.

First Night Frights

That first week will be a challenge for your puppy and for you. The puppy misses home and their mother, and the new place is probably intimidating and overwhelming, no matter how welcoming you are. However, there is only so much you should do to help reassure the puppy because training has already started. If you always react immediately to negative behavior, you are training your puppy to act that way to get what they want. It is an incredibly difficult balancing act, but ultimately it is worth it. Teaching the puppy that nighttime isn’t so terrifying also teaches the pup that your home is safe. If you plan to keep the puppy off the furniture, that means not letting the puppy sleep with you too, even during the early days. Once you allow a Havanese on the furniture, you cannot teach that canine that the furniture is off-limits.

Your Havanese will probably make a good bit of noise, including fussing, whimpering, and whining. These noises let you know that the puppy is uncomfortable, afraid, or lonely. After having slept every night with mommy and siblings, this is certainly understandable. However, that does not mean you should react to the sounds.

Havanese puppy
Photo Courtesy – Ava Brown

Do not think of those noises as the problem – sure they may be a problem, but you have to learn to ignore them for now. Do not move the puppy further away from you so that you can be more comfortable because that will have a very negative effect on your puppy. The poor dear is already scared, now you are exiling it to a place where it is completely alone. This will simply frighten the puppy even more, reinforcing the idea that your home is scary and unhappy. No matter how bothered you are by the noises the puppy makes, you must keep the puppy in the room with you and you should not acknowledge the noises. Over time, the puppy will be reassured that at least you are there to stay and will learn to calm down because you are present. That only works if you do not reprimand or in other way punish the puppy.

Part of being a puppy parent is accepting that you are going to have a few rough weeks with little sleep, just like with a human baby. Fortunately, puppies learn a lot faster than human babies, so you will return to a more normal sleep schedule a lot faster than you would if you brought a child home.

Before your puppy arrives, you should have a designated sleep area for them, including bedding and a pen or crate. This area should also be separate from the rest of the room with boundaries that the puppy cannot escape. When your Havanese starts to make noise, you have to learn to ignore it. This will also be incredibly difficult, and it is equally necessary. If you give in to the whimpering, whining, and crying now, the dog will expect that to work in the future (and will get louder with each time you try to ignore it later).

Finally, you need to plan for bathroom breaks. This may be a small area within the puppy’s space, or it could be a trip outside every few hours (depending on how you want to house train your Havanese). Whatever your chosen housetraining path, you will need to get up to help your puppy several times during the night.

First Vet Visit

Always take your puppy to the vet within the first two days of arriving at your home. This ensures your puppy is healthy while creating a rapport between your canine and the vet. The initial assessment lets you know more about your puppy from the vet’s perspective and gives you a chance to ask more questions that can help with any issues you have found since the puppy arrived. This trip is the baseline for which your vet will gauge your puppy’s growth and development too, making it critical for your puppy’s health.

The trip will definitely leave an impression on your puppy too. Odds are that your Havanese will want to explore the entire office, including the other pets. This means that you can start socializing your puppy as long as you are very careful. Make sure to ask the people who are there with their pets prior to letting your puppy say hello – you do not want the first encounter with another dog or cat to be horrifying. You want to make sure the other animals are not sick, in pain, old, skittish, or disinterested in an energetic puppy. Approach only mellow or interested pets so that your puppy has a positive encounter. The person accompanying the other pet should be able to tell you if it is alright, or warn you if a greeting will likely be unwelcome.

Remember, older animals may not feel well and certainly won’t be able to keep up with the energy of a puppy. Some of them will not be up for dealing with a puppy because they are tired or have simply gotten curmudgeonly in their old age. You need to be respectful of them because someday that will be your Havanese, and you don’t want them being made uncomfortable by younger dogs.

Also, make sure to give your puppy positive feedback for good behavior at the office. Being comforting and affectionate will teach your puppy that the vet’s office is not a bad place (something that they will probably learn after repeat visits of “torture”). A positive environment teaches your puppy to be at ease even during a vet visit.

The Start of Training

Once the puppy heads home with you, the training has begun, and it won’t stop as long as your little Havanese is around. You will be building on each training session for the rest of the dog’s life.

This is why it is important to start minimizing behavior you don’t want your puppy to exhibit.


Havanese are not notorious barkers, except when they are outside. This may not be much of a problem, but you still want to keep it to a minimum. Start training your Havanese in those early days to make sure barking does not become a problem, especially since they aren’t prone to it. It is likely that your Havanese will start barking or making noise to get your attention, so be prepared to try to nip that in the bud, largely by ignoring the sounds if you are certain that the puppy is only angling for attention. However, if the puppy wants to go outside to use the restroom, you need to react. It will take a while for you to learn your puppy’s language, so be patient.

The Leash

Leash training is going to be about as easy as possible when it comes to training a Havanese. It will probably be more fun than expected as well, giving both you and your puppy positive bonding time. Make sure you do not drag the puppy away from things that it wants to sniff. This is how your puppy learns about the world – just accept that walks will be a long process, and plan to keep the walks short for now. Over time, you will need to learn how to get your puppy to walk with a little more purpose and a little less distraction.

Teaching Respect

Even though the Havanese is incredibly personable and friendly, you are going to need to teach it to respect the family members. If not trained properly, it could act like a little terror. You aren’t likely to have to worry about more serious problems, but you don’t want your puppy to act like a brat when it gets older – that simply is not cute and gives small dogs the bad image that many of them have.

Training to Not Shred

One of the things that Havanese hate is to be alone, and they can take their unhappiness out on items around your home. Shredding things is not entirely uncommon with the breed, so you will need to spend time training your Havanese not to tear things up, particularly when you are not around. Crate training is the best starting point, but over time you will probably want to let the puppy out while you are away too.

In the early days, it is best to be home as much as possible. Over time, you can leave the puppy out of the crate for short periods of time, such as when you walk out to get the mail. This lets your puppy know that you will be back so that it feels less panicked about being home alone.

Obviously, you should keep things out of reach of your puppy, but items like paper are bound to end up getting within reach eventually. You want to make sure that your puppy understands that shredding these items is not acceptable. Be firm and consistent, but use positive reinforcement to let the puppy know when they are being good. Punishment doesn’t usually work, so you will need to provide the right kind of positive reinforcement to train your puppy not to shred things at home.

Grooming – They Don’t Shed Much, But Require Considerable Brushing or Cutting

That long beautiful Havanese hair is fantastic for many reasons, including that it means your dog will not shed much. This has been one of the many reasons that the little Havanese so popular. Given the fact that most friendly dogs are notorious shedders (particularly Labs and Golden Retrievers), it is wonderful to have a dog that is relatively clean.

Though the dog is not a big shedder, their fur does require a good bit of brushing and cleaning to help it remain so gorgeous. You can always have it cut short if you don’t’ want to brush the puppy every day. If you opt to brush your puppy, it is fantastic bonding time. Either way, you need to plan for taking care of your puppy’s hair before that puppy arrives.

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