How to Groom your Havanese - The Basics

Like so many things in life, there are always other opinions, the information I have provided is a guide for your consideration.  You may be attracted to the Havanese long luxurious coat but can you deal with the reality of keeping the coat clean and well groomed.  The Havanese breed standard requires the coat to be soft and wavy and may form curly strands. The coat does not fall heavily, straight and smooth.  The coat of the Havanese should have a silky feel and be soft and light.


The Havanese coat is a ‘low shedding’ coat, which makes this a great breed for those who have allergies.  Havanese lose their coat in a similar fashion to human hair. Havanese do shed their coat, but unlike most other breeds it does not come off when you pat them or on your clothes or furniture, it stays in the coat causing mats if not groomed out or clipped off.


For pets, the coat can be clipped short every two to three months for easier care. However, a short coat also requires grooming between clips. Just as you brush your hair between haircuts, your dog also requires grooming between clips. If the coat is to be kept long it needs to be thoroughly brushed and combed at least twice a week.  Grooming is an opportunity to be with your dog, to share some time together. If you see grooming as an opportunity to relax and share some ‘quality time’, then grooming will be something to look forward to rather than a dreadful chore or burden.


In owning a Havanese the coat will require brushing, nails will need clipping, ears and teeth will need cleaning.  Regular grooming is beneficial in many ways. It keeps the dog in good condition; it is an opportunity to detect any health problems and reinforces your position of being in control. To avoid these tasks because the puppy or older dog doesn’t like having it done is to neglect the responsibility of owning a dog. Neglect of appropriate grooming also leaves the dog open to developing health problems in the future.


When I purchased my first show Havanese I would go to dog shows and look at other long coated breeds in the show ring. I would ask other exhibitors how they bathed and groomed their dogs coat. Some would tell me what products they used (everyone recommended different ones), some would avoid the question all together. I also read many books on the grooming of long coated breeds. Slowly over a period of time I learned by my own experience.


I learned that not every dogs coat has the same texture and because of this they require different products. Even the type of tap water (tank or town water) can make a difference to the coat look and feel. You will need to try different products until you find one that suites your dogs coat texture (more expensive is not always better). It is important to keep the coat moisturized as a dry and brittle coat will split and break.


Start out right by introducing your puppy to being handled all over. A grooming table is a valuable asset as the pup will be much calmer and easier to handle on a table. Frequently place the puppy on a table (or your designated grooming area) and run a brush over his body, handle his paws, open his mouth, lift up his ear flaps. Make it fun - praise, give treats, make a big fuss over what a good puppy he/she is.



Grooming  EquipmentThe Basics


Pin Brush: A brush with medium length pins which are long enough to penetrate the coat. A pin brush is a good basic grooming brush similar to a human hairbrush. The pin brush is used for everyday grooming in a method called line brushing. Line brushing refers to lifting up sections of the coat and brushing one layer at a time, being sure to get down to the skin (look for that line of skin as the section of coat is lifted). It is easiest if the dog is trained to lie on its side while you do this. If you neglect to get right down to the skin and simply do 'surface grooming', the dog may appear groomed but under that top layer will be a mess of matted coat.


Comb: A wide toothed metal comb, one with teeth about one and a quarter inches long for combing the body. A small fine comb for areas around the mouth and ears.


Scissors: Tiny scissors are useful for removing hair bands used to tie back hair from the face. Medium scissors can be used to trim hair from the feet pads and the rear of your dog for hygiene purposes.


Nail clippers: The type of nail clippers used depends on personal preference. Guillotine or pincher types. There is also the option of an electric ‘dremel’ for grinding nails.


Spray bottles: When brushing the Havanese it is beneficial to use a spray bottle to mist the coat lightly, thus eliminating static that can cause the hair to break. There are many different sprays available and everyone has their own preference, but plain water will work fine with a small amount of conditioner mixed in.


Also, shampoo and conditioners, towels, hairdryer and a table to groom on.




There are certain basic techniques that need to be learned.  The most important thing to remember is to brush your dog often so that mats don’t get the chance to form.  When you brush the coat ensure to brush the full length of the coat, from the skin to the end of the hair. Never brush a dry coat as this will cause static electricity and will break the ends of the coat. Always dampen the hair lightly first, by mixing a tablespoon of conditioner in a spray bottle (500ml) filled with warm water.


Using a good quality pin brush, brush the coat in layers, beginning with the feet, legs and belly and work upwards to the back, making sure you brush all the way down to the skin, if you come across any mats use your fingers to separate them (gently pull the mats sideways to separate them) sometimes it’s a good idea to sprinkle a little baby powder into the mats to loosen them. Remember to brush the powder out of the coat afterwards. Pay special attention to the areas inside the dogs’ legs and also around the ears as this is where mats are most likely to form and sometime these areas are the most overlooked

At about 5 months of age you will have to tie up the topknot, to keep the hair out of your dogs eyes (the topknot is the hair on top of the head), this is done with a latex band, (available at most pet supplies) when you first start to do this you will have to put each band fairly low on the forehead to catch all the loose bits of hair, please don’t pull the hair too tightly with the bands or the dog will rub at it and this will break the hair.

Most Havanese “change coat” around the age of six to ten months, this means that your dog is changing from baby coat to adult coat.  At this stage it’s necessary to brush your dog at least twice a day as mats seem to form quicker than you can brush.  This is only a temporary stage that your dogs coat is going through this stage will take about three or four weeks, so keep on brushing and be patient.  You will find your Havanese easier to groom once gone through.

You also need to pay special attention to the face and eyes, combing the moustache and the hair on the top of the head (topknot) daily.  The inside corner of the eyes sometimes get dirty and needs to be cleaned, I do this with a small comb, with the teeth being very close together. Being careful not to get the comb in the eye, comb away the dirt making sure you get it all out, or use a piece of cotton wool soaked in a little warm water afterwards.

One more thing to mention is, after you have finished brushing always use a wide toothed metal comb, one with teeth about one and a quarter inches long, and comb through the hair making sure you have not missed any mats.


Nail Clipping:

Nail clipping should also be introduced to your puppy from the start. From the time of birth to the time they go to their new homes most pups will have had their nails clipped many times, so it's definitely not some new traumatic experience for the puppy. But no doubt they will still be fussy about it. Don't fight with your puppy about it, or get angry. If you hold his paw and he pulls back, holding it tighter will only cause him to get more distressed and pull back harder. Let go and pick it up again.


With initial nail clipping sessions, if the thought of clipping all the puppies nails is overwhelming, break it down into smaller sessions. Decide, for instance, that today you'll clip all the nails on one foot, or two nails on each foot, and tomorrow you'll do some more. Decide ahead of time so you know when you're finished, rather than giving up when the puppy becomes upset and rowdy.


You must check the hair between the pads of the feet.  This hair will mat if not kept cut short and can also collect burs which can give your dog sore feet. Comb the hair out and trim level with the pads of his feet for hygiene reasons.  Also, trim the hair around the outside edge of the feet to give your dog a neater appearance.



Teeth and Ears:

As Havanese have ‘floppy’ ears, I also prefer to remove hair from within the ear to allow for air circulation and reduce the possibility of ear infections. This is done with your fingers. Care needs to be taken not to enter too far into the ear canal. Use some cotton wool to clean the inside of the ear flaps using an ear cleaner.


The teeth should also be brushed weekly with a soft toothbrush and canine toothpaste. Do not use human toothpaste as this is not suitable for dogs.



Washing and Drying:

Bathing your Havanese can take a long time as your dog will need to be brushed, bathed, dried and then brushed again. I like to check and trim my dogs toe nails (including any dew claws) prior to washing. The dog will need to be brushed out prior to being washed to ensure that all knots are removed from the coat. The dog is then bathed. Ensure that your Havanese is wet all the way through to the skin, with tepid water (not cold water).

Always buy a mild shampoo or conditioner (more expensive is not always better). Place shampoo onto the coat and massage in a downward motion, following the flow of the coat. Do not massage in circles as you will end up with a pile of tangled hair.

Rinse out the shampoo and follow up with a good conditioner, massaging it well into the coat. Rinse again.  Make sure you rinse the coat until is squeaks, any shampoo residue left in the coat can make your dog scratch. Don’t leave the dog to drip dry as wet hair picks up dirt and tangles.

Following the bath, towel dry your Havanese and then thoroughly dry with a hair dryer.  Ensure the dryer is on a low heat setting, so the coat is not damaged. During the drying process the dog is brushed out again using a pin brush.

Understand that the blow dryer has to blow in the direction that the coat grows - in other words, away from the skin so the dryer has to be pointed away from the skin towards the end tips of the coat. It's the same with people hair. Blowing it in the correct direction will reduce tangles.