Kodi is my first dog of any type, and I did a LOT of research before I chose him. I wanted a small dog, and since there are allergies in the family, something non-shedding and low allergy was a plus as well. (We have a long haired white cat, so a hairless house is not an option, but it would be nice not to ADD to the quantities of hair!!!<g>)
I have known a number of Cavalier King Charles, and they don't seem to set off my "allergy alarm" too badly, and they are absolutely darling dogs. HOWEVER, when I looked into the breed more closely, and talked to several owners plus several friends who are vets, I was warned away from the breed due to the extensive heart problems in the breed. Over and over, I was told, "You'll fall in love and they will break your heart."
Somewhere on the internet, I found a couple of websites where you could put in the characteristics you valued in a dog, and it would give you a list of possible breeds. In each case, the breeds that topped the list were Coton de Tulear and Havanese. Hmmm... had never heard of either one! I found that there were a few Coton breeders in N.E., and contacted them, but none had any puppys available or expected within the foreseeable future. At that point I had not found any Havanese breeders in the north east that I felt comfortable with. (though I now know there are a few)
Then I found this forum, and started seeing the names of a few excellent breeders pop up over and over. I started reading Tom King's posts here, and then contacted him to see if he had (or would have) any puppies available. Even though the Kings (Starborn Havanese) are a long way from me, (I'm in MA, they are in NC) I really felt comfortable talking to them, they answered all my questions, were very honest and open about the way they raise their puppies and the health testing they do, and they had a litter that had just been born! Two of the puppies were already spoken for, but they had a waiting list for female puppies, and this whole litter was boys. If I was open to a male puppy, I could have one of the remaining 3. A friend of mine who is a dog trainer flew down with me to meet the Kings and temperament test the puppies. The Kings couldn't have been nicer, and the puppies were all wonderful... though one stole my heart from the moment he first climbed into my lap.<g>
While I know there are people on the forum who have Havanese that are a bit on the timid, clingy side, I think this is something you have to assess in each individual. Kodi is neither. He prefers to be right with us, of course... that's what these dogs were bred for! But he is perfectly comfortable and relaxed in his ex-pen, either when we are away from home or when we need to be doing something without a bouncy puppy under foot. That said, these are probably NOT a good choice for a family where no one is home all day every day... They really need their family around to be happy. Two can keep each other company, but I bet they'd still rather have their people around too.
Kodi is extremely smart. He really wants to work with you, and the people at the training center I go to with him are constantly amazed at how quickly he learns. He is very intense - always watching me to try to figure out what I want him to do next. (this is one of the reasons I picked him over the other puppies in the litter) He's a real people-pleaser. And it's not just me - when we work with a trainer, he is just as happy engaging and working with someone else. We are starting competition obedience lessons now, and I am looking forward to showing him in both Rally and formal Obedience. When he's older, I want to do agility with him as well. There are a number of people on the forum who compete in both obedience and agility.
Some people have a lot of trouble potty training their Havs, but a lot of Havs come from puppy mill or backyard breeders who don't pay enough attention to early potty habits. A pup from a good breeder should be already using a litter box, pee pad or other "designated potty spot" well before you bring them home. Kodi has had few accidents from the beginning, and all could be chalked up to us not being careful enough or not "reading" his signals that he needed to go. This is in spite of the fact that we started traveling with him in our travel trailer only a week after we brought him home. (I think he was 11 weeks on his first camping trip!) So he needed to learn the appropriate potty spots both at home and on the road. He was a champ!
We got a good puppy from a good breeder with excellent, healthy blood lines that are ALSO completely health tested (documented). We see over and over on this board that people fall in love with cute puppies (they are ALL to-die-for cute!) only to find that they have serious health problems after they are already in love with them. Any puppy can have a health problem... there are no guarantees with any living creature. But it makes sense when you are spending a lot of money on a dog to get one where the breeder is doing everything they can to prevent passing on health problems.
Dave mentioned grooming as being a potential "issue" and these are certainly not dogs for people who want to completely ignore grooming. But it also depends on coat type how bad the grooming issues will be. The silkier, less curly coats seem to matt less, while the cottony, curly or frizzy coats matt more. Kodi (and both his parents) have the silkier, less curly coat type, and so far, it really hasn't been much of a problem. While I ddn't get to see a dog "blowing coat" when we visited the Kings, I did get to see all their adult dogs, and watch Pam grooming them. Because of their coat type, even the adults in full coat were relatively easy to keep combed out. And if you just don't want to deal with the long coat at all, many pet Hav owners choose to keep there dogs in shorter "puppy cuts".
I can't tell you how happy I am that we decided to get a Havanese. As Dave said... you probably won't hear many people on this forum who feel differently. Even my husband, who had real reservations about getting a dog (he's a TOTAL cat person) has succumbed to his charms. He comes in the door at night, and the first thing I hear is, "Kodi, Daddy's home!" and Kodi goes bounding off to greet him. Kodi is loving and gentle, and beautiful and we love him to pieces.
Karen, Kodi, Pixel and Panda
(ARCHMX Starborn Kodak Moment CGC, NTD, BN, PCD, NA, NAJ, CDX-CCH, RE, RLV, RL1X3, RL2X4, RL3X3...
plus Starborn's Picture Perfect & Nauti Herd Compact Flash RN, CGC, NTD, SN-C, RL1)