What’s the difference between a
Certified Havana Silk Dog and
just a dog someone is calling a Havana Silk
Dog? That, dear reader, is the key
question and I’m so glad you asked.
Havana Silk Dog has been
registered with the
Havana Silk Dog
Association of America. The
HSDAA is a group of breeders who got
together in 2007 and said enough is enough.
We are dedicated to preserving the original
look of the breed along with good health and
a wonderful temperament. I’m happy to
point out that I was among this group of
people and am a Charter Member of the HSDAA.
I was in good company too. Standing
with me were the breeders who brought the
Havanese into the AKC. Included were
three past Presidents, Board Members,
longtime Committee Chairs and the former
Registrar for the HCA who took over from
Dorothy herself. I bet your spidey
sense is going into overdrive now, isn’t it?
So what’s this Certified thing anyway?
Well, to be Certified, a dog has to provide
proof it is free of hip dysplasia, patellar
luxation, congenital deafness and heritable
eyes disease. There must be a DNA
profile to guarantee parentage………..
and the biggie….. the dog must be
physically examined to determine it displays
soundness, Havana Silk Dog breed type and be
free from CD (Osteochondrodysplasia).
CD is a skeletal abnormality known to be
associated with liver problems, heart
problems and cataracts. Since you can
not longer go to the Havanese Club of
America website to learn about the biggest
health problems facing the breed, here’s a
study from the Department of Pathobiolgy,
College of Veterinary Medicine and
Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University:
Hereditary Evaluation of Multiple
Developmental Abnormalities in the Havanese
The association established in Havanese
between osteochondrodysplasia (often
referred to by breeders as CD and
characterized by abnormally short, bowed or
asymmetric legs) and heart and liver
abnormalities, as well
as cataracts, may appear unlikely at first
blush, and probably explains in part why
many breeders simply refuse to accept it.
(Although the TAMU research project was
funded in part by the Havanese Club of
America, isn’t it interesting there is no
mention of this on the HCA website). Do
you think being honest about the health
problems facing their breed would help them
sell more or less puppies?
In a fascinating turn of events, however,
two separate human studies published
recently lend significant credibility
to TAMU’s discovery in Havanese.
One study established a link between leg
length and liver disease in humans (http://jech.bmj.com/cgi/content/abstract/55/12/867),
and a second established a clear correlation
between leg length and incidence of heart
Wouldn’t you think every breeder would be
concerned with producing healthy puppies?
Me too. Guess what? It ain’t so.
If it were, the Havanese Club of America
would be doing something about the diseases
that gallop rather than run through their
with that physical examination, owners must
also submit soaped pictures of their dog.
This helps display soundness and proportion
and can help in determining if a dog has
straight legs. Dogs with short or
bowed legs are disqualified from being
registered with the HSDAA. Let’s face
it, if we want to move away from health
problems and science is telling us crooked
or abnormally short legs are a good
indication of hidden (or not so hidden)
health problems……….why would we want
dogs with crooked or short legs? Now
keep in mind a dog can have OFA certified
hips and patella, have a current clear CERF
and hear out of both ears……..and still
have crooked or abnormally short legs.
Heck, lots of them have AKC Championships
too! The picture on the right shows 3
Havanese with CD, and all 3 have their AKC
Championships as well.
a Havanese breeder can’t or won’t show you
soaped pictures of a puppy or its parents…….run
run away. Don’t believe any excuse
that comes out of their mouth (either side).
And here’s another biggie………….AKC
Championships don’t guarantee a thing.
Judges don’t check the health of a dog or
its puppies. Most of them don’t even
check to see what is under the coat.
Plus puppies from AKC registered parents are
automatically eligible to registration
without any health screening. So you
never know what you are getting.
The HSDAA is an elite (yes I just used
that word) registry of Havanese.
It is not an elitist organization and anyone
who supports its goals may join.
I wish you well as you continue your search
to find your perfect Havanese. When
you hear, “Oh, the HSDAA is just a political
organization,” you should immediately ask to
see the soaped pictures of the puppy and its
You may also
hear that the Havanese and Havana Silk Dog
come from the same gene pool.
This is true, but misleading.
While the gene pool may be the same
at the moment, it doesn’t mean the dogs look
For years now we have been selecting our
dogs that express a different set of genes
Just because the same ingredients are
in the dog, doesn’t mean the recipe is the
To make it even simpler to
understand, there isn’t much genetic
diversity between Boxers and Beagles either.
And it is this selection and expression of
genes that is the root of the HSDAA and the
Havana Silk Dog. We chose to bring out
the look of that dog that existed in Cuba
prior to the revolution. We think this
is a cool and elegant breed. Other
(but not all) Havanese breeders will tell
you that look is extinct (They’ll tell you
the Havana Silk Dog is extinct) and we
should all just work with whatever we have
today. If this were true why are we
able to breed dogs today that look like the
dogs of old Cuba?
So, if you are
looking for a “cute” little dog with a
fluffy coat, a babydoll face, large, round
eyes, and a jaunty high-set tail carried
curled on his back, a Havana Silk dog is
probably not going to appeal to you, because that’s
not what this breed looks like. (Likewise,
if you are specifically looking for
a chocolate-colored puppy, you will be
disappointed. Although Havana Silk Dogs come
in many colors, chocolate is not
an allowable color in the Havana Silk Dog
breed standard and is rarely if ever
If, on the other hand, your preference is
for a more “elegant” little dog of
traditional Cuban type, with a flatter,
silky, wash-and-wear coat (which the average
pet owner can maintain without monthly
professional grooming), a longer, more
refined muzzle and dark, almond-shaped eyes,
a longer neck, and a tail carried high and
waving like a plume over his back, an
HSDAA-registered Havana Silk Dog might be
just what you are looking for!