The Keeshond is an old dog breed, once a companion and watchdog on the barges and boats that traveled the canals and rivers of Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries. He’s almost exclusively a companion dog today. He’s a people-lover; willing to participate in all family activities, he thrives with people who expect this of their dog. He is lively, alert, and intelligent — qualities that won him status as the most beloved dog in Holland.
Originating from the Arctic region, the Keeshond is believed to be related to the Chow Chow, Finnish Spitz and more. Especially popular with the Dutch, the breed is known for protecting farms, riverboats and barges. Extremely friendly, the dog still makes for a great watchdog due to his bark, but will be nice to strangers. A great companion, the Keeshond makes a great family pet and is very quick to learn.
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 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 member of the Spitz, or Nordic, family of dogs. He has a wedge-shaped head with a foxy expression, dark-brown eyes that are almond-shaped, and a lionlike mane around his neck.
- Early Keeshonden were known by such names as “fox dog,” “overweight Pomeranians” and “Dutch barge dogs.”
If you were to travel back to the Amsterdam of in the early 1800s, you’d see a familiar face on the barges passing by: the Keeshond. Paintings by Dutch artists such as Jan Steen portray a dog that is not much different than the Keeshond we see today. This handsome dog is related to other Spitz breeds such as the Chow Chow, Norwegian Elkhound, Finnish Spitz, and Pomeranian. The little Pom is one of his closest relatives.
The Dutch barge dog rode on small vessels that traveled the Rhine River, acting as both watchdogs and companions to barge captains. Their travels made them known well beyond The Netherlands, but they really gained a name during the political turmoil that gripped Holland in the late 18th century. The leader of the Patriot party, Kees de Gyselaer, was accompanied by one of the personable dogs, also named Kees, and he came to symbolize the Patriot movement. Unfortunately, when the Patriots were defeated the dogs’ popularity plummeted and eventually only a few remained.
The Keeshond’s fortunes turned around in 1920 when Baroness van Hardenbroek took an interest in the breed and helped bring it back into favor. A decade later, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed.
The Keeshond is now considered the national dog of The Netherlands. In the United States, he ranks 87 th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
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.
Although the Keeshond can survive outdoors in cool or temperate climates, it is a very sociable dog that prefers to live indoors with its human family. As it is a lively breed, moderate exercise, such as a brisk on-leash walk or a vigorous game session, is sufficient for meeting its needs. The dog’s double coat, meanwhile, requires brushing occasionally every week and more during the shedding seasons.
Keeshonden are not without health issues. They are generally healthy animals however; predisposed problems can prove to be detrimental. These diseases/disorders include Addison’s disease, Hip Dysplasia, Diabetes Mellitus, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Cataracts, Hypothyroidism, Von Willebrand’s Disease, Allergies and Epilepsy. If left untreated, some of these issues can jeopardize the life of a Keeshond. Other ailment might be problematic but with proper care, medication and treatment, a dog can live a long, fulfilling and comfortable life.
Will be okay in an apartment, although they should at least have an average-sized yard. Keeshonden prefer cool climates; they cannot withstand the heat well due to their thick coats.
The Keeshond is a fast learner that seems to be able to read his owner’s mind. Although they do have an independent streak, with patience and kindness, the Keeshond can be an incredibly obedient yet still fun-loving companion. He needs an owner who is caring and gentle. Repetitive training sessions that are calm and result in the dog getting some kind of yummy reward are most successful. Harsh words and treatment will get you nowhere with a Keeshond. They require love, kindness and easy instruction during all training sessions. Positive reinforcement will have your Keeshond the picture perfect companion.
Keeshonden can go from the home to the breed ring to the obedience in zero to sixty seconds. They also make great therapy dogs. Their adorable appearance coupled with their caring nature make them perfect for visiting ailing kids and adults in hospitals, rehabilitation facilities and nursing bills.
Keeshonden do not need a boatload of exercise daily. Inside of a fenced backyard, coupled with a family member who loves to play fetch will provide the average Keeshond with all the running time he needs to stay healthy, happy and out of trouble. Without appropriate exercise, Keeshonden can become unruly and rip things apart inside of the house. Nobody wants their home destroyed so at the very least, a few brisk walks daily will keep your Keeshond content. Exercise shouldn’t be boring and repetitive. It should be spontaneous at times.
The Keeshond has a long, abundant double coat with a harsh texture. There’s a lot of it, and the dogs shed heavily. The adult coat comes in when the dog is 18 months to 2 years old.
Although the Keeshond’s coat looks like it might take a lot of work to maintain, it can be kept up with brushing once or twice a week — more often when he’s shedding. You’ll spend about an hour caring for the coat each week. Grooming tools to have on hand are a soft slicker brush for the cottony puppy coat, a pin brush, a stainless steel Greyhound comb, and a good pair of shears or scissors for trimming the hair on the feet. Ask your puppy’s breeder for advice on how to groom the dog or visit this breeder’s website for detailed grooming tips.
If you do a good job of keeping the Keeshond brushed, he shouldn’t need a bath more than two or three times a year. Whatever you do, don’t shave the coat. It serves as insulation from heat and cold.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
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.
Is this breed right for you?
A family-friendly breed, the Keeshond gets along great with children and other animals of the house. Playful and adventurous, the dog loves to romp outside and will do best with a decent-sized yard that he can have access to. Not exactly a guard dog due to his friendly and outgoing nature, the Keeshond does make for a wonderful watchdog. Barking at anything he’s unsure of, he does his best to protect his loved ones. With a double coat, the dog requires brushing every other week and sheds twice a year.
Did You Know?
The Keeshond is a Dutch breed who served as a watchdog on barges and is named for an 18th century political figure — Kees de Gyselaer — who owned one of the dogs. The name is pronounced “kayz hund,” not “keesh hound,” and the plural is “Keeshonden.”
A dream day in the life of a Keeshond
A family dog through and through, the Keeshond will be happiest when waking up surrounded by his loved ones. Running outside to check the perimeter of the house, he’ll play and romp around a bit before returning inside. Affectionate, he loves getting petted and praised. Playing around with the little members of the family, he’ll enjoy an evening stroll before having a bit of family time and will then doze off with the rest of the gang.