Havanese vs. Maltese: Which Breed to Get?

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Havanese vs. MalteseThe Havanese and Maltese are toy breeds both prized for their beauty and companionship. Although they are both bichon-type breeds, they have some differences you should be aware of when choosing between them.

Here we will expand on the differences between the Havanese and Maltese, enabling you to choose the best for your lifestyle.

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Havanese vs. Maltese: An In-depth Comparison

Let’s start by looking at the two side-by-side.


The Havanese and Maltese are both considered ancient breeds because they have deep roots in history. In addition to this similarity, royalty and aristocrats favored these breeds as lap dogs due to their small sizes and charming personalities. But let’s have a closer look at where these two breeds diverged.


This cheerful little dog is the only breed native to Cuba. The Havanese was named after the capital city of their country of origin, Havana, Cuba. The breed gained the greatest favor in the eyes of royalty and wealthy farmers, who kept them to set them apart from the lower social class.

Compared to the Maltese, who were around by 600 to 300 BC, the Havanese is a newer breed. Many believe Italian sea captains or Spaniards colonizing the new world brought the first Havanese to Cuba in the 1600s. Looking at the Havanese bloodline, the forerunners of the breed are the bichon frise and the Maltese. During the time the Havanese enjoyed Cuban royalty, the breed was refined with Poodle crosses into the lively dogs we know today.

The Havanese was once called the Blanquito de la Habana (Havanese silk dog) owing to the long, silky hair typical of the breed. Another name is the Spanish Silk Poodle crediting the Poodle blood the dog contains.

Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway are just some of the famous individuals who owned these adorable pups.

Cubans introduced the Havanese to the United States in 1959 as they fled during Fidel Castro’s revolution in the communist takeover. When the Havanese found a home in the U.S, they grew massively in popularity all over the world. Havanese are still the lap dogs of choice among many pet owners today.


The Maltese have a long and rich history dating back to 600 to 300 BC, and the American Kennel Club recognizes them as an ancient breed. Maltese is generally believed to be from an island called Malta which is about 60 miles from Sicily, Italy. As far back as 3500 BC, the island was a thriving trade station and a famous trading center.

Most people believe that the Phoenicians, who ruled the Mediterranean before the rise of Greece, introduced the dog to Malta. Others believe that the Maltese originated from Egypt, others from Southern Europe. Malta is the general point of consensus as to the country of origin after which the breed acquires its name.

Historians believe that Egyptians worshiped Maltese as healers that brought good health by their presence alone. The ancient representations in Fayum, Egypt, in the form of hieroglyphics, fortify the belief that the Maltese had religious significance in Egypt.

The Greeks found the Maltese so fascinating that they depicted them in art in the 4th and 5th century BC. The “Melitae Dog” was shown on Golden Age ceramics and ancient Rome and Greece even erected tombs for these miniature dogs. Maltese were also called “Ye Ancient Dogge of Malta.”

The Romans turned this breed into a fashion symbol. A Roman matron was incomplete without one peeping out of the sleeve or bosom. Emperor Claudius couldn’t escape this breed’s charm because historical reports suggest that he had a Maltese dog as a pet.

The Maltese’s history took a dark turn after the fall of Rome. Chinese breeders preserved the breed during the Dark Ages in Europe. At this time of preservation, the Chinese breeders interbred them with native breeds and eventually sent them back to the West. The Maltese went on with their ancient popularity and are still adored as lap dogs to date.


The Havanese and Maltese vary not just in history but in appearance too. The Havanese is a small but sturdy dog that stands at the height of about 8 to 11 inches and weighs 10 to 16 pounds. The Maltese is smaller with measurements of 7 to 9 inches in height and less than 7 pounds in weight.

The Havanese has a beautiful, silky double coat that comes in a variety of colors. Common colors and markings include black, black and silver, gold, red, silver, white, fawn, red sable, cream, and fawn. The outer coat is denser than the inner coat and can be curly, straight, or wavy.

On the other hand, the Maltese are known to have a breath-stopping floor-length coat that comes in a gorgeous white color. Unlike the Havanese, who have a wide range of acceptable colorings, the Maltese can only have shades of lemon or light tan on the ears, although plain white is preferable. The coat is free of any kinks and curls, making it excellently straight.

The Havanese have big, brown eyes that are nothing if not expressive. Their ears are quite long, and their tails plume elegantly on their backs. On the other hand, the ears of the Maltese are so heavily covered in hair that it’s a bit hard to find them. The Maltese have a shorter snout than their Havanese counterparts.

Both the Havanese and Maltese have hypoallergenic coats which favor those with allergies. Not a single dog is completely hypoallergenic. You’re advised to spend some time with the prospective pup to ensure they don’t trigger allergies before making the permanent commitment of adding one to your family.

Aging Profile

The Havanese and Maltese enjoy lengthy lives because small breeds tend to live longer. Havanese have a lifespan of 14 to 16 years, while the Maltese live for 12 to 15 years. The lifespan of a dog depends on their lifestyle, such as diet and whether they have underlying medical conditions.

Both breeds attain adult height and weight at 6 to 8 months when most of these dogs stop growing. Both are very fragile as puppies, so it’s best to keep them away from small children who can unknowingly hurt them.

As members of the small doggy association, Havanese and Maltese are prone to dental problems. Their teeth are overcrowded in the mouth leading to a risk of dental issues like periodontitis due to tartar buildup.

The two breeds can suffer from:

  • Luxating patella (dislocated kneecap)
  • Heart anomalies like PDA (patent ductus arteriosus) and heart murmurs
  • Eye disorders

The health of your dog heavily depends on the quality of the breeder. Ensure you buy your puppy from a reputable breeder to avoid getting a puppy experiencing countless health issues. Breeders that promise smaller Maltese or Havanese dogs than the typical size are normally involved in improper breeding.


The Havanese and Maltese are suckers for love who could stick themselves to their owners like glue given a chance. These affection-filled cuties are friends to everyone and everything: strangers, other dogs, kids, and even cats. Early socialization is essential to ensure your pup is at their best socially.

Both breeds don’t cope with being alone too well as they are prone to separation anxiety. Seeing the extensive love these dogs have to offer, it wouldn’t be fair to leave them alone for a long time. The Havanese barks slightly more than the Maltese, but they know how to keep the mouthiness at bay.

Although Maltese adapt well to children, they are so tiny and fragile that small kids can seriously injure them. Havanese handle households with small children much better, but close supervision is crucial to prevent accidents. Maltese can be a bit stubborn and headstrong, but this passes with adequate training.

Generally, the Havanese and Maltese are gentle and affectionate dogs loyal to their owners. They are vivacious, and their lovely temperaments make them an excellent choice for pet lovers. These charming pups are sure to steal your heart with the joy they spread everywhere they go.


Both dogs are intelligent dogs capable of learning a wide repertoire of basic and complex skills. The Maltese are a tad more difficult to train than the Havanese because they can be stubborn. Havanese and Maltese are eager to please, making them easily trainable for obedience drills.

It’s crucial to utilize the intelligence of these dogs by training them in their puppyhood when they’re still malleable. Early socialization, basic commands, and potty training are some of what you should train your puppy. Positive reinforcement such as treats and praises are key in the smooth training of your pup.


Maltese and Havanese have low shedding, but their grooming needs are quite high. They require daily brushing to keep mats and tangles from forming on the coat. Many owners advise using a pin brush for daily brushing because a slicker brush can remove too much of the Havanese’s undercoat.

Maltese and lightly colored Havanese are susceptible to tear stains around the eyes. Wipe your pup’s eyes as soon as you see tears underneath the eyes with a washcloth to prevent them from staining. Trim nails when you hear clicking sounds as your pup walks, as long nails can hurt you during snuggle time.

Maltese and Havanese must have their teeth brushed several days a week to prevent tartar buildup. As small dogs, their teeth can be overcrowded in the mouth, so food debris and bacteria accumulate easily. Dental chews and chew toys are good oral practices but never substitutes for brushing.

Bathe your Havanese and Maltese every 2 to 4 weeks or when the pup gets too dirty. Lightly colored dogs can start looking dirty and unkept faster and require more washing. Never bathe your dog with cheap and harsh shampoo, as that would lead to sebum overproduction and an unhealthy coat.

Other Factors

In addition to the above, consider the below three things too:

1. Smell

The Havanese and Maltese have a low likelihood of having a foul smell. This is partly credited to the fact that they’re small and easy to wash. They also don’t have excessive skin folds, which could trap dirt, leading to an odor. The Havanese can smell faster than the Maltese because they have a double coat that can hold unpleasant smells.

We wrote more about the Havanese’s smell here.

2. Frequency of Bathing

Havanese require more frequent baths every 2 weeks, with some owners bathing them weekly. The Maltese can have their baths every 3 weeks but again, some owners wash them weekly. It would be best to use quality shampoo because the harsh ones will damage your pup’s coat.

3. Energy Levels

Both breeds have moderate energy requirements that you can meet with physical and mental stimulation. Daily walks and the chance to play in the house are enough to keep these pups physically stimulated.

Which Ones Should You Get as a Pet

Either a Maltese or a Havenese are good choices for:

  • Apartment dwellers: Both breeds can do well if you live in an apartment. Their small sizes coupled with their minimal exercise make them an excellent fit for apartment dwellers.
  • Semi-active individuals: The Havanese and Maltese have moderate energy levels and only need minimal exercise. These dogs are good for senior citizens or people that don’t want to engage in vigorous physical activity.
  • People who are prepared for plenty of grooming: Both breeds require quite a bit of grooming.
  • Allergy sufferers: Both breeds are hypoallergenic dogs suitable for allergy sufferers. Their minimal shedding ensures a low possibility of the dogs triggering your allergies. That said, consult with your doctor first.
  • People who are at home most of the time: The Maltese and Havanese are prone to separation anxiety when left alone for a long time. Ask a friend or relative to keep your pup company if you can’t be around for long.

Get a Maltese if:

  • You have no small children or bigger animals that can injure it.
  • You need a dog with very limited exercise requirements due to their small size.
  • Your home is properly proofed to keep such a small dog safe.
  • You are prepared to pay extra to find a responsible breeder.

Get a Havanese if:

  • You have children or other animals, as this is a sturdier and more robust dog.
  • You would like to do activities such as agility or obedience since these are highly trainable dogs.


Maltese and Havanese are great for first-time and experienced owners as well. Both are hypoallergenic dogs that favor allergy sufferers and shed very little. Supervise these dogs when spending time with children as they’re fragile because of their small sizes.

Both breeds are affectionate dogs with great loyalty to their families.

Considering Other Breeds Too?

Make sure to read how the Havanese compares with other breeds too:

Whether you are looking for food for your dog or other pet supplies, Chewy.com has them all. Right now, they are even running a promotion where you get 40% OFF your first Instinct Raw Frozen autoship order.