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How Smart Is a Havanese? Canine Intelligence Explained

Written by: Kit Copson

Last Updated on May 31, 2024 by Dogster Team

Havanese dog_ralfdeon, Pixaba

How Smart Is a Havanese? Canine Intelligence Explained

The Havanese—a toy breed from Cuba whose ancestry dates back to the 16th century—has, throughout history, been much more of a companion dog and a symbol of wealth than a working dog. They are incredibly amiable, friendly, and intelligent, but just how bright is this chirpy little pup?

According to a breed intelligence ranking, the Havanese is a dog of average intelligence, but they have many other strengths that make them a truly intuitive and loving friend. In this guide, we dig into the Havanese’s strengths and explain how they measure up in intelligence rankings compared to other breeds.

dogster paw dividerStanley Coren’s Breed Intelligence Rankings Explained

In his 1994 book, “The Intelligence of Dogs,” Stanley Coren, a canine psychology professor, shared the results of a survey on the subject of dog intelligence.1 He used the information provided by 199 canine obedience judges to create a dog intelligence ranking.

As Coren explains in the book, there is more than one type of intelligence (instinctive, adaptive, working, etc.), and his ranking measures only one type: working intelligence. Therefore, just because a dog is low down in the ranking does not mean that they aren’t intelligent in other ways. He also draws attention to the fact that training also influences intelligence and that there are exceptions.

portrait of two cute havanese dogs with dog leash sitting in forest and looking to camera
Image Credit: Peter Mayer 67, Shutterstock

Where Are Havanese Dogs on the Intelligence Ranking?

On Coren’s ranking, Havanese dogs sit at number 47 out of 79, along with the West Highland White Terrier and the Scottish Deerhound. This places them in the fourth tier, just over the midpoint of the ranking.

Fourth-tier dogs are of average working intelligence, and it typically takes between 25 and 40 attempts to teach them new tricks. They obey commands 50% of the time or more. Other dogs in the fourth tier include the Dachshund, Whippet, Great Dane, Boxer, Bichon Frise, and Siberian Husky.

At the top of the pack is the Border Collie at number one, followed by the Poodle, German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, and Doberman Pinscher. As a general rule, it only takes up to five attempts to teach a “top tier” dog a new command, and they are also incredibly obedient, following commands around 95% of the time.

In the sixth and final tier, right at the bottom of the list, are the Bulldog, Basenjii, and Afghan Hound. In short, sixth-tier dogs are generally considered not the best at working and obeying commands, but again, this doesn’t mean they’re not intelligent.

female-owner-showing-hand-signal-to-her-havanese-dog
Image Credit: michaelheim, Shutterstock

So, Are Havanese Dogs Smart?

Yes! Although they may only be average in the working department, Havanese dogs might be considered incredibly emotionally intelligent. For one thing, they’re typically quite sensitive, form unbreakable bonds with their humans, and are enthusiastic about a variety of activities. This often makes them fairly easy to train and socialize—a feat that might not be so simple with a breed known for stubbornness, like the Afghan Hound.

Their sensitivity also means they’re likely to be in tune with how you’re feeling. That said, extra-sensitive dogs may be susceptible to becoming overly attached and suffering from separation anxiety.

Havanese dogs are wonderfully adaptable. They are fine living in smaller homes because of their small size and moderate energy levels and tend to get on well with other dogs, strangers, and children. Of course, socialization is crucial for this to be the case, as with any breed, but the Havanese dog’s openness to various living environments, people, and other dogs and pets is a real bonus.

In short, Havanese dogs are sensitive, intuitive beings, which makes them wonderful companions and emotional support pets. They thrive with calm, respectful, and positive owners who will commit to returning their abundance of love.

Depressed Sad Senior Havanese Dog Laying and Doesn't Want to Play with his Toys
Image Credit: Boryana Manzurova, Shutterstock

dogster paw divider

Final Thoughts

The sweet, good-natured Havanese is a real joy to spend time with. Although they may not display brilliance in the working department according to Stanley Coren’s ranking, the Havanese certainly shine in other ways.

This outgoing, adaptable pup is often easy to train, and their sensitivity and affectionate nature make for an in-tune and empathetic companion.

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Featured Image Credit: Ralf Bitzer, Pixabay

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