The Keeshond is an old dog breed, once a companion and watchdog on the barges and boats that travelled the canals and rivers of Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. He’s almost exclusively a companion dog today.
Even though these are purebred dogs, you may find them in the care of shelters or rescue groups. Remember to adopt! Don’t shop if you want to bring a dog home.
Keeshonds are people-lovers; willing to participate in all family activities, they thrive with people who expect this of their dog. They’re lively, alert, and intelligent — qualities that won them status as the most beloved dog in Holland. These adaptable pups can even make good apartment pets, but beware that they have a tendency to bark — something neighbors might not appreciate. They also won’t enjoy being left home alone for long hours of the day. If you can meet the breed’s needs, you’ll have a loving, fluffy family member.
Some dogs are simply easier than others; they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They’re also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies.
Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time dog parent to manage. You’ll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
If you’re new to dog parenting, take a look at 101 Dog Tricks and read up on how to train your dog!
Some dogs will let a stern reprimand roll off their backs, while others take even a dirty look to heart. Low-sensitivity dogs, also called “easygoing,” “tolerant,” “resilient,” and even “thick-skinned,” can better handle a noisy, chaotic household, a louder or more assertive owner, and an inconsistent or variable routine. Do you have young kids, throw lots of dinner parties, play in a garage band, or lead a hectic life? Go with a low-sensitivity dog.
Some breeds bond very closely with their family and are more prone to worry or even panic when left alone by their owner. An anxious dog can be very destructive–barking, whining, chewing, and otherwise causing mayhem. These breeds do best when a family member is home during the day or if you can take the dog to work.
Breeds with very short coats and little or no undercoat or body fat, such as Greyhounds, are vulnerable to the cold. Dogs with a low cold tolerance need to live inside in cool climates and should have a jacket or sweater for chilly walks.
Dogs with thick, double coats are more vulnerable to overheating. So are breeds with short noses, like Bulldogs or Pugs, since they can’t pant as well to cool themselves off. If you want a heat-sensitive breed, your dog will need to stay indoors with you on warm or humid days, and you’ll need to be extra cautious about exercising your dog in the heat.
All Around Friendliness
Some breeds are independent and aloof, even if they’ve been raised by the same person since puppyhood; others bond closely to one person and are indifferent to everyone else; and some shower the whole family with affection. Breed isn’t the only factor that goes into affection levels; dogs who were raised inside a home with people around feel more comfortable with humans and bond more easily.
See Dogs Less Affectionate with Family
Being gentle with children, sturdy enough to handle the heavy-handed pets and hugs they can dish out, and having a blasé attitude toward running, screaming children are all traits that make a kid-friendly dog. You may be surprised by who’s on that list: Fierce-looking Boxers are considered good with children, as are American Staffordshire Terriers (which are considered Pit Bulls). Small, delicate, and potentially snappy dogs such as Chihuahuas aren’t always so family-friendly.
**All dogs are individuals. Our ratings are generalizations, and they’re not a guarantee of how any breed or individual dog will behave. Dogs from any breed can be good with children based on their past experiences, training on how to get along with kids, and personality. No matter what the breed or breed type, all dogs have strong jaws, sharp pointy teeth, and may bite in stressful circumstances. Young children and dogs of any breed should always be supervised by an adult and never left alone together, period.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs, even if they’re love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn’t the only factor. Dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least six to eight weeks of age and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
Stranger-friendly dogs will greet guests with wagging tails and nuzzles; others are shy, indifferent, or even aggressive. However, no matter what the breed, a dog who was socialized and exposed to lots of different types, ages, sizes, and shapes of people as a puppy will respond better to strangers as an adult. Remember that even friendly dogs should stay on a good, strong leash like this one in public!
Health And Grooming Needs
If you’re going to share your home with a dog, you’ll need to deal with some level of dog hair on your clothes and in your house. However, shedding does vary greatly among the breeds. Some dogs shed year-round, some “blow” seasonally, some do both, and some shed hardly at all. If you’re a neatnik, you’ll need to either pick a low-shedding breed or relax your standards. To help keep your home a little cleaner, you can find a great de-shedding tool
Drool-prone dogs may drape ropes of slobber on your arm and leave big, wet spots on your clothes when they come over to say hello. If you’ve got a laid-back attitude toward slobber, fine; but if you’re a neatnik, you may want to choose a dog who rates low in the drool department.
Some breeds are brush-and-go dogs; others require regular bathing, clipping, and other grooming just to stay clean and healthy. Consider whether you have the time and patience for a dog who needs a lot of grooming, or the money to pay someone else to do it.
Due to poor breeding practices, some breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, such as hip dysplasia. This doesn’t mean that every dog of that breed will develop those diseases; it just means that they’re at an increased risk.
If you’re adopting a puppy, it’s a good idea to find out which genetic illnesses are common to the breed you’re interested in. You may also want to ask if your shelter or rescue has information about the physical health of your potential pup’s parents and other relatives.
Some breeds have hearty appetites and tend to put on weight easily. As in humans, being overweight can cause health problems in dogs. If you pick a breed that’s prone to packing on pounds, you’ll need to limit treats, make sure they get enough exercise, and measure out their daily food servings into regular meals rather than leaving food out all the time.
Ask your vet about your dog’s diet and what they recommend for feeding your pooch to keep them at a healthy weight. Weight gain can lead to other health issues or worsen problems like arthritis.
Dogs come in all sizes, from the world’s smallest pooch, the Chihuahua, to the towering Great Dane, how much space a dog takes up is a key factor in deciding if they’re compatible with you and your living space. Large dog breeds might seem overpowering and intimidating, but some of them are incredibly sweet! Take a look and find the right sized dog for you!
Easy-to-train dogs are more adept at forming an association between a prompt (such as the word “sit”), an action (sitting), and a consequence (getting a treat) very quickly. Other dogs need more time, patience, and repetition during training.
Many breeds are intelligent but approach training with a “What’s in it for me?” attitude, in which case you’ll need to use rewards and games to teach them to want to comply with your requests.
Dogs who were bred for jobs that require decision making, intelligence, and concentration, such as herding livestock, need to exercise their brains, just as dogs who were bred to run all day need to exercise their bodies. If they don’t get the mental stimulation they need, they’ll make their own work–usually with projects you won’t like, such as digging and chewing. Obedience training and interactive dog toys are good ways to give a dog a brain workout, as are dog sports and careers, such as agility and search and rescue.
Common in most breeds during puppyhood and in Retriever breeds at all ages, mouthiness means a tendency to nip, chew, and play-bite (a soft, fairly painless bite that doesn’t puncture the skin). Mouthy dogs are more likely to use their mouths to hold or “herd” their human family members, and they need training to learn that it’s fine to gnaw on chew toys, but not on people. Mouthy breeds tend to really enjoy a game of fetch, as well as a good chew on a toy that’s been stuffed with kibble and treats.
Dogs who were bred to hunt, such as Terriers, have an inborn desire to chase–and sometimes kill–other animals. Anything whizzing by, such as cats, squirrels, and perhaps even cars, can trigger that instinct. Dogs who like to chase need to be leashed or kept in a fenced area when outdoors, and you’ll need a high, secure fence in your yard. These breeds generally aren’t a good fit for homes with smaller pets that can look like prey, such as cats, hamsters, or small dogs. Breeds that were originally used for bird hunting, on the other hand, generally won’t chase, but you’ll probably have a hard time getting their attention when there are birds flying by.
Some breeds sound off more often than others. When choosing a breed, think about how often the dog vocalizes with barks or howls. If you’re considering a hound, would you find their trademark howls musical or maddening? If you’re considering a watchdog, will a city full of suspicious “strangers” put your pup on permanent alert? Will the local wildlife literally drive your dog wild? Do you live in housing with noise restrictions? Do you have neighbors nearby? Then you may wish to choose a quieter dog.
Some breeds are more free-spirited than others. Nordic dogs such as Siberian Huskies were bred to range long distances, and given the chance, they’ll take off after anything that catches their interest. And many hounds simply must follow their noses–or that bunny that just ran across the path–even if it means leaving you behind.
High-energy dogs are always ready and waiting for action. Originally bred to perform a canine job of some sort, such as retrieving game for hunters or herding livestock, they have the stamina to put in a full workday. They need a significant amount of exercise and mental stimulation, and they’re more likely to spend time jumping, playing, and investigating any new sights and smells.
Low-energy dogs are the canine equivalent of a couch potato, content to doze the day away. When picking a breed, consider your own activity level and lifestyle, and think about whether you’ll find a frisky, energetic dog invigorating or annoying.
A vigorous dog may or may not have high energy, but everything they do, they do with vigor: they strain on the leash (until you train them not to), try to plow through obstacles, and even eats and drinks with great big gulps. These dynamos need lots of training to learn good manners, and may not be the best fit for a home with young kids or someone who’s elderly or frail. A low-vigor dog, on the other hand, has a more subdued approach to life.
Some breeds do fine with a slow evening stroll around the block. Others need daily, vigorous exercise, especially those that were originally bred for physically demanding jobs, like herding or hunting.
Without enough exercise, these breeds may put on weight and vent their pent-up energy in ways you don’t like, such as barking, chewing, and digging. Breeds that need a lot of exercise are good for outdoorsy, active people, or those interested in training their dog to compete in a high-energy dog sport, such as agility.
Some dogs are perpetual puppies — always begging for a game — while others are more serious and sedate. Although a playful pup sounds endearing, consider how many games of fetch or tag you want to play each day, and whether you have kids or other dogs who can stand in as playmates for the dog.
Dog Breed Group:Companion DogsHeight:1 foot, 4 inches to 1 foot, 7 inches tall at the shoulderWeight:35 to 45 poundsLife Span:12 to 15 years
More About This Breed
The Keeshond (pronounced KAYZ-hawnd) is a medium-sized dog with an impressive gray, black, and cream coat and a massive, plumed tail. He was known for years as the “Dutch Barge Dog” because of his role as companion and guardian on barges and small boats on Holland’s many canals and rivers.
While the Keeshond will issue a stern bark when someone approaches his property, he’s such a love that he’ll readily accept anyone his owner brings into the household. In truth, he isn’t a very effective guard dog.
The Keeshond is a fan of cool weather. He likes spending time outside when the weather is crisp. However, he isn’t a backyard dog; he’s too people-oriented for that. He needs to live inside with his family and participate in all their activities.
The Keeshond loves children and plays nicely with them (although, of course, adults should always supervise interactions between kids and any dog). The Keeshond also gets along well other dogs and pets if he is introduced to them at a young age.
Besides being an excellent family pet, today’s Keeshond can strut his stuff in the conformation ring, obedience ring, and rally competition. He’s also sure-footed, which makes him a great agility competitor.
- The Keeshond is never reluctant to issue a warning bark to alert his family to strangers. His propensity to bark can be a problem if he’s left alone too much and becomes bored.
- The best way to make a Keeshond miserable is to keep him separated from his family. He was bred to be a companion, and he needs to be part of family life. If you don’t want a dog joining in family barbeques, card games, or movie time, consider a more independent breed.
- Keeping the Keeshond coat in good condition isn’t terribly difficult, but the breed does shed like crazy once or twice or year. Luckily, frequent bathing isn’t usually needed — the Keeshond scores low on doggie odor.
- To get a healthy dog, never buy a puppy from an irresponsible breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Look for a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs to make sure they’re free of genetic diseases that they might pass onto the puppies, and that they have sound temperaments.
The Keeshond is a close cousin to the Samoyed, Chow, Norwegian Elkhound, Finnish Spitz, and Pomeranian. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Keeshond was a companion and watchdog on small vessels called rijnaken on the Rhine River.
The Keeshond became the best-loved dog of Holland during a time of political unrest. Holland was divided into two factions: the prinsgezinden, or followers of the Prince of Orange, and the patriotten, or patriots.
The patriots were led by one Cornelius de Gyselaer, who had a spitz-type dog named Kees as his constant companion. De Gyselaer’s followers were derisively referred to as Keezen by the opposing Orange party. The Keeshond became a symbol of the rebel party, and the breed became popular among ordinary people.
In time, the followers of the Prince of Orange overthrew the rebel party and the Keeshond fell into disfavor as the representative of a lost cause; many dogs were destroyed. Some survived on Dutch farms and on barges around Amsterdam.
The breed was rediscovered in 1905 by a Miss Hamilton-Fletcher (later to become Mrs. Wingfield-Digby). She convinced her parents to take home two puppies. These dogs were taken to England and became the foundation stock for the breed’s introduction outside of Holland. Mrs. Wingfield-Digby and Mrs. Alice Gatacre aroused interest in the breed in England and, in 1926, the English breed club was formed.
The decline of the Keeshond in Holland continued until 1920, when Baroness van Hardenbroek became interested in the breed. The Baroness found that the dogs were still kept by riverboat captains, farmers, and working people. She began breeding Keeshonds and spread their story throughout Europe. Within 10 years, the Dutch Keeshond Club was formed.
The first American litter of Keeshonds was bred in 1929 by Carl Hinderer. The first Keeshond was registered with the American Kennel Club in 1930 in the Non-Sporting Group, and the Keeshond Club of America was formed in 1935.
Males stand 18 inches tall and weigh approximately 45 pounds. Females stand 17 inches tall and weigh approximately 35 pounds.
The Keeshond was bred more to be a companion than a watchdog. He’s not a hunter, nor does he have an innate desire for any special job. He is, first and foremost, a devoted friend.
He’s also intelligent and highly trainable. He’s so smart, in fact, that he can be a little mischievous. Expect the unexpected with these fellows. Despite this, the breed easily learns proper canine manners and can do well in the obedience ring.
A Keeshond is a lively, alert dog, full of personality. When he’s excited or happy, he likes to share his joy with everyone, often spinning in circles. His outgoing personality, as well as his love of adults and children alike, endears him to all.
As with every dog, the Keeshond needs early socialization — exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences. Socialization helps ensure that your Keeshond puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
Enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class is a great start. Inviting visitors over regularly, and taking him to busy parks, stores that allow dogs, and on leisurely strolls to meet neighbors will also help him polish his social skills.
Keeshonds are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they’re prone to certain health conditions. Not all Keeshonds will get any or all of these diseases, but it’s important to be aware of them if you’re considering this breed.
- Addison’s Disease: Also known as hypoadrenocorticism, this is an extremely serious condition caused by an insufficient production of adrenal hormones. Most affected dogs have a poor appetite, vomit, and are lethargic. Because these signs are vague and can be mistaken for other conditions, it’s easy to misdiagnose this disease until it reaches more advanced stages. More severe signs occur when a dog is stressed or when potassium levels get high enough to interfere with heart function, causing severe shock and death. If Addison’s is suspected, your vet may perform a series of tests to confirm the diagnosis.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is an inherited condition in which the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but others don’t display outward signs of discomfort. (X-ray screening is the most certain way to diagnose the problem.) Either way, arthritis can develop as the dog ages. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred — so if you’re buying a puppy, ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and are free of problems.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a family of eye diseases that involves the gradual deterioration of the retina. Early in the disease, affected dogs become night-blind; they lose sight during the day as the disease progresses. Many affected dogs adapt well to their limited or lost vision, as long as their surroundings remain the same.
- Patellar Luxation: Also known as slipped stifles, this is a common problem in small dogs. The patella is the kneecap. Luxation means dislocation of an anatomical part (as a bone at a joint). Patellar luxation is when the knee joint (often of a hind leg) slides in and out of place, causing pain. This can be crippling, although many dogs lead relatively normal lives with this condition.
- Diabetes Mellitus: This is a disorder in which the body cannot regulate blood sugar levels. Glucose (sugar) is needed by the cells of the body to burn for energy; insulin is the key that lets the glucose into the cell. Without insulin, the glucose cannot enter the cell, so the cells are “hungry” even though there are high levels of glucose circulating in the blood. A diabetic dog will eat more food to try and compensate, but he’ll lose weight because food is not being used efficiently. Symptoms of diabetes are excessive urination and thirst, increased appetite, and weight loss. Diabetes can be controlled by diet and the administration of insulin.
- Von Willebrand’s Disease: Found in both dogs and humans, this is a blood disorder that affects the clotting process. An affected dog will have symptoms such as nosebleeds, bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding from surgery, prolonged bleeding during heat cycles or after whelping, and occasionally blood in the stool. This disorder is usually diagnosed between three and five years of age, and it can’t be cured. However, it can be managed with treatments that include cauterizing or suturing injuries, transfusions before surgery, and avoidance of specific medications.
- Hypothyroidism: This is a disorder of the thyroid gland. It’s thought to be responsible for conditions such as epilepsy, alopecia (hair loss), obesity, lethargy, hyperpigmentation, pyoderma ,and other skin conditions. It is treated with medication and diet.
- Cataracts: Cataracts cause opacity on the lens of the eye, resulting in poor vision. The dog’s eye(s) will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve vision.
- Epilepsy: This is a neurological condition that’s often, but not always, inherited. It can cause mild or severe seizures that may show themselves as unusual behavior (such as running frantically as if being chased, staggering, or hiding) or even by falling down, limbs rigid, and losing consciousness. Seizures are frightening to watch, but the long-term prognosis for dogs with idiopathic epilepsy is generally very good. It’s important to take your dog to the vet for proper diagnosis (especially since seizures can have other causes) and treatment.
- Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs, and the Keeshond is no exception. There are three main types of allergies: food allergies, which are treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog’s diet; contact allergies, which are caused by a reaction to a topical substance such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, and other chemicals; and inhalant allergies, which are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. Treatment varies according to the cause and may include dietary restrictions, medications, and environmental changes.
If you’re buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy’s parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Keeshonds, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease; from Auburn University for thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
Having been bred first for life on a barge and later as a companion dog, the Keeshond has learned how to be happy in a relatively small space. He can live cheerfully in an apartment, a home with a large yard, or on a boat.
More important than space is the Keeshond’s need to live in the house with his family. Because he’s a companion breed, it’s essential that he be allowed to share as many aspects of his owners’ lives as possible.
If left unattended in the yard for hours on end, with little or no contact with his family, he’ll become bored and his natural propensity to bark will intensify. He can become a nuisance barker if allowed. If you don’t plan on spending quality family time with your Keeshond in the house on a daily basis, you should consider a different breed.
While every dog benefits from exercise, the Keeshond does not require a great deal of it. He isn’t generally considered to be the breed of choice for long-distance runners, for example. For your own health as well his, though, plan on at least one vigorous daily walk.
The Keeshond is not fond of hot climates; he’s happiest and most comfortable in cool weather. On hot days, keep him inside in an air-conditioned house or near fans. Some Keeshonds will also enjoy lounging in a small children’s wading pool filled with cool water.
Recommended daily amount: 1 to 2 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals.
Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don’t all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you’ll need to shake into your dog’s bowl.
Keep your Keeshond in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you’re unsure whether he’s overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test.
First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can’t, he needs less food and more exercise.
For more on feeding your Keeshond, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
Coat Color And Grooming
The Keeshond look is fabulous, with his thick, double top coat, woolly undercoat, and a longer outer (or guard) coat. His mane is more profuse in males than in females. His hindquarters have “trousers,” longer hair down to the hocks. His tail is like a plume set on a lady’s hat.
The Keeshond color is a combination of cream, black, and gray. He has unique facial markings that seem to form spectacles, with a delicate, dark line running from the outer corner of each eye toward the ear.
Surprisingly, the Keeshond’s full coat is relatively easy to maintain. Matting isn’t a severe problem, as long as you brush him at least twice a week. He does shed profusely twice a year, when he “blows” or sheds his entire undercoat all at once. This shedding period can be intense and can last for three weeks.
Keeshonds are relatively clean dogs; their doggie odor is minimal. Bathing is necessary about every three months or so (more often, of course, if he rolls in something smelly or plays in mud).
Given the breed’s heavy coat and intolerance to heat, you might think it’s wise to shave down the coat in the summer. Not so — the coat actually insulates, keeping the Keeshond cool and protecting him from sunburn. Brush, don’t shave.
Trim his nails once a month, and his ears checked once a week for dirt, redness, or a bad odor that can indicate an infection. Then wipe them out weekly with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to prevent problems.
Brush your Keeshond’s teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.
His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog’s ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don’t insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear.
Begin accustoming your Keeshond to being brushed and examined when he’s a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you’ll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he’s an adult.
As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Children And Other Pets
The Keeshond is a great pet for families with children. He’s a playful, good-natured companion for kids of all ages. And as long as he is well socialized and well trained, the Keeshond gets along well with other dogs and pets.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
Consider adopting a Keeshond from a rescue group before going to a breeder.
- The Keeshond Club of America
- Keeshond Club of America, Inc.