- AKC recognized in 1930
- Lifespan: 12-15 years
- Size: Medium
- Energy: Medium
- Recommended Crate Size: 36” dog crate*
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Table of Contents
You might not expect a guard dog to be one of the most affectionate breeds in the world. You might be surprised to see him wearing spectacles too. The Keeshond is a fun-loving, outgoing, happy dog who smiles most of the time and whose facial outlines make him look as if he is wearing glasses.
Quite the lover of people, the Keeshond hails from the Netherlands where he was named after the national hero, Cornelius Kees de Gyselaer. He is so important to the country, he was the symbol of the Dutch Patriots Party during the 18th century. If you think he might be your hero too, read on to learn more about this magnificent breed.
The Keeshond, also known as the “Keeshonden”, “The Smiling Dutchman”, or “Dutch Barge Dog”, is a medium-sized breed dog who belongs to the long hair group (especially when considering the hair on its neck). He is a proud member of the Spitz family.
This smart and friendly pooch originated from the region around Holland and Germany where he guarded farm fields. He also served as a very effective watchdog in and around the barges, readily alerting his people if he saw or heard anything suspicious. Although he’s not given to violence like chasing and finishing off an animal of prey or a human intruder, his bark is sufficient to ward both off and to let everyone around know trouble was amiss.
This breed dates back to the 117th and 8th centuries and beyond. His closest relatives are thought to be the Samoyed, Siberian Husky, Finnish Spitz, Chow Chow, Pomeranians, and Norwegian Elkhound. It is believed that the Keeshond was from the far North where they traveled with explorers and traders to Europe. As far back as the 1400s and 1500s, they guarded farms, kept vermin at bay, and helped protect the children in the family.
By the 17th and 18th centuries, the flexibility of the good-natured Kees led to their use as guard dogs on riverboats and barges. Their swimming skills made them excellent for swimming out in front of the boats so they could safely navigate the boats through foggy waters.
Beloved throughout the land, the German endearingly called them “Wolfspitzen”, while the French deemed them “Chiens Loup”. The Italians knew them as the “Lupini”. But it was Holland where they were most popular that the name “Keeshonden” was given in honor of the 18th-century Dutch revolutionist, Cornelis (Kees) de Gyselaer who led the Dutch Patriots and had a Keeshonden. The breed was the official mascot for the Patriots. The name was eventually shortened to Keeshond.
But the honor would turn around to bite the poor Keeshond. In 1787, the Patriot cause was not popular among many in the land and thus, the breed that was associated with Kees, however, managed to keep good records of their pedigrees and eventually saved the day for the endangered dogs.
In the 1800s, commercial trade flourished due to more modernized transportation being available. Barges became larger in size and thus, good size, very capable dogs were needed to help out with them. The Keeshond stepped up to the plate, fitting the bill for all that was required. They became sought after worldwide.
As the popularity of Kees working on barges expanded, they caught the eye for dog fanciers in Europe, Great Britain, and America. It was in 1910 that Lady Gwendolyn Wingfield Digby of Sherborne Castle in Gatacre took up with the breed while on a yachting trip in Holland.
She began importing them to England where she ran kennels. At around the same time, Baroness Van Hardenbroeck, founded the Netherland’s Keeshond Club. The passion exhibited by these women for the breed was contagious. The dogs became even more beloved.
Carl Hinderer played an important role in the history of the Keeshond too. In 1923, he persuaded the American Kennel Club to recognize them as they were his favorite dog breed. In 1930, his mission was accomplished and the Keeshond earned his membership into the club in the Non-Sporting Group. Originally they were registered as Keeshondens but the name was shortened in 1935 when the Keeshond Club of America was formed.
As with many other breeds, the Second World War took its toll on the Kees. After the war though, they began to multiply and the world embraced them more than ever.
Smart, talented, sensible, yet happy and fun, this friendly breed is the ideal family and companion dog. Nine times out of ten, he has a smile on his face and...he’s sure to put one on yours too!
The Kees is a medium size dog although his long, fluffy hair makes him appear larger than he really is. He’s a handsome guy with a well-balanced, strong and sturdy body, and an alert carriage. An adult male is generally 18 inches tall and females are usually around 17 inches. They weigh in from between 55 to 65 pounds.
The fox-like expression of this dog, coupled with the spectacle outline on his face makes him absolutely adorable. His eyes are dark brown and medium in size. The outline should be distinctively dark and should slant to the lower corner of each ear from the outer corner of each of his eyes. His eyebrows are expressive.
His muzzle is dark (preferable jet black), tiny and sharply pointed and his ears are black in color as well and are quite velvety and should be pricked, characteristic of his Spitz cousins. His tail is fully-plumed and lightly colored with a black tip. It tightly and proudly curls tightly over his back.
The coat of the Keeshond is striking - full and semi-harsh with a spectacular round of lion’s mane type fur encasing his neck and shading his face. It tends to stand away from his body with a full volume that gives him a “must pet” look.
He has a double coat with dense and downy soft fur under his long, coarse top coat. His back legs have feathering. His hind legs and bottom end are thickly coated which form the appearance of “trousers” which is such a dramatic mark of his individuality, trimming is not permitted when showing except for on his hocks, feet, muzzle, and pasterns. His trousers are a lighter color than the fur on his body.
The coat coloring of the Kees is a mix of gray, black, and cream. There is a range as far as shading goes with some darker than others. The outercoat tip hairs are black, giving him the distinct shading patterns he’s known for. His undercoat is cream or light gray and ideally have no tinge of brown or red. As puppies mature, their markings become more pronounced.
The Keeshond is said by many to be one of the most beautiful breeds in the world and one of the most fabulously unique looking too.
When considering the feeding regime for your Keeshond, it is recommended to provide dog food that is specially formulated to medium-sized breeds. Be sure that the food you give him is top quality. Being medium energy, you’ll want to fuel his energy with plenty of protein and nutrients as advised by his vet and/or breeder.
It is also highly advised for you to discuss your dog’s food and his feeding routine with your veterinarian and/or breeder in order to determine the size and frequency of meals in order to ensure a healthy, long life.
When he’s a pup, you may want to feed his small frequent meals until he grows enough to hold more in his tummy. This dog can become obese if he eats more calories than he is burning or if he is not getting his fair share of exercise. Obesity in dogs of any breed is dangerous because it opens him up to a world of woes like Diabetes and heart disease.
As with all pets, it is also important to ensure that clean, fresh water is always available.
Due to the fact that the Keeshond has a thick and long coat, you’ll need to do a little extra grooming in order to ensure that his fur is nice and squeaky clean. Once every few weeks is usually good but if you can get by with it, 2 to 3 will work so you don’t dry his skin or his coat out. Still, you don’t want him looking dull or dirty. Be sure to use a conditioning, dog-friendly shampoo.
A good brushing every day or two keeps his coat from matting and tangling and will keep his shedding down too. It will also stimulate his skin and keep it healthy. You can make this breed as fancy as you’d like...or stick with a more rugged look as many do.
If your Kees isn’t out and about outside enough to wear his toenails down naturally, you’ll want to help out by trimming them on a regular basis. Also check for splits, cracks, and tears and tend to any you see immediately.
Because his ears stand erect, they will tend to collect dirt and debris so make sure to clean them and keep them dry. If you notice any irritation, redness, or swelling or if he +is pawing at them, have him checked for an ear infection.
Brush his teeth at least once a week with a good quality doggie toothpaste and toothbrush. Doing so will help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
This breed is somewhat active. He’s also sturdy, agile, and athletic. He loves to be involved in physical activities and outings so, don’t deny him. Being with his people and using up some of his energy is a slice of heaven for the Keeshond.
You’ll need to take him on a formal walk for 30-60 minutes minimum each and every day. If you would rather, you can break the time down into two shorter walks. Be sure to set the tone that you are the alpha, leader of the pack and have him walk beside your behind you, never in front. This will also help in his training.
In between his walks, this dog loves to play games like Frisbee or Fetch. He’s very nimble and good at physical activities and is smart too so he should be challenged mentally as well. You’ll find the Keeshond is very playful, good-natured, and so fun to be around, you will most likely look as forward to your interactive play time as he does.
If you are going out for a swim at the lake or even are heading to the beach, don’t forget your Kee! He’s a great swimmer and loves to play in and around the water. It’s great exercise for him too.
Pet Crate Size
Pet Crates Direct recommends 36” dog crates* for most adult Keeshonds.
The temperament of this fine dog has gotten him where he is today. Coupled with his willingness to do what is asked of him and his intelligence and physical ability, the likeability of the Keeshond has made him one of the top dogs ever. He is considered to be one of the friendliest on the planet.
Keeshonds are generally well-mannered and are neither timid nor aggressive. In fact, they are just the opposite - loving, lively, and great with humans and other animals. They thrive on being with young and old alike and make excellent therapy dogs, especially for children with disabilities.
Many Keeshonds have been very good with autistic children. His inborn talent for tending to kids with love and loyalty stems back centuries. Nothing has changed in that department. They are also quite tolerant of children and of other pets in the household.
This dog is smart. He was smart enough to be able to guide barges through the fog and was intelligent enough to keep properties, farms, and ships cleared of pesky rodents. He needs to be challenged mentally or he will get bored.
When he is bored is the only time this dog will be likely to get into mischief - well, unless you leave him alone for any amount of time and then, he’ll certainly find something to get into so he can teach you not to leave him again. He’s smart enough to play games with you so be sure to teach him who’s the boss early on or you’ll be in for a mess of manipulation. Yeah, he’s that intelligent!
They also make superb watchdogs and will scare an intruder off by their bark alone which is fine by them because they don’t like being mean. He won’t just sit by and let a loved one get hurt though. You might say he is a reluctant aggressive guard dog, preferring peacemaking measures above violence.
The Kee doesn’t mind cold weather at all. He is built for it and even sports trousers to keep him warm in it. He isn’t fond of hot weather though and you probably wouldn’t be either if you had all the fur he has. If you live where it is extremely hot most of the time, you may want to reconsider getting a Keeshond unless you plan to accommodate him with an air-conditioned setting much of the time.
While the Kees is suited for living practically anywhere, in a small apartment or a wide-open ranch, the one and only issue you may face with close neighbors is his barking. He is easily trainable, however, and once you let him know you don’t desire him to bark at the mailman and television, he will probably narrow his vocals down to times that are warranted of such behavior.
Keeshonds are quick-learners that usually do love to please their peps and are unusually good at being in-tune with their pet parents. They can, however, have a slight independent streak and some stubborn traits when in training class. It’s not that they mean to buck the system, it’s just that they seem to think you got mixed up and it is up to them to show you the correct way to do something.
Positive reinforcement is the only way to go with this gentle breed. Otherwise, you will crush his spirit. Lots of lavishing of praise, heaps of pats, and an occasional treat every now and then should do the trick, literally. Do be cautious not to give him too many treats though. This dog loves to snack and can’t get enough of people food so...limiting is imperative.
To boost his self-confidence, give him a good dose of love, affection, and encouragement during all of his sessions. Repetition and patience are key.
Housetraining should be a breeze. He loves to please and is fond of the outdoors. Cold weather doesn’t even bother him much so, show him where to do his business and take him out often. Follow successful trips with lots of praise and affection and he’ll be potty trained before you know it.
Socialization is another training that will need to come while he is very young. Expose him to as many different people, places, things, and animals as you safely can. Get him used to loud noises, busy places, rambunctious children, babies sleeping, and so on. Then, he’ll be ready for anything as he gets older.
Obedience training is next on the list. He must be trained to follow your command and...without a treat in your hand. It is for his own safety and that of others that he master this skill. Sit, stay, and come are some of the basics but don’t stop there. This dog is capable of much, much more.
Agility is something this breed can star in. There are courses he can visit and train on or if you are creative, you might build one for him on your own property. He’s athletic and has the capability and energy to do the agility course so...why not?
Brain training is a must for this smart guy. He needs to use it or he’s liable to lose it! He will excel in things like doggie puzzles and brain game toys because he’s one who is good at problem-solving and figuring things out.
Trick training can also be taught to the Kees. If you stick with activities he likes, ones that go back to his roots as a hunter, he will love them and it will show. He’ll ace them and he’ll be as proud of himself as you are of him. Oh, and be sure to let him know how pleased you are with his achievements.
The Kees is a fairly healthy breed providing you keep him in good shape and don’t allow him to get overweight. He usually enjoys a life expectancy of around 12 to 15 years. There are some health problems you’ll want to keep a watchful eye out for. Some are characteristic of the breed due to his reaction to the environment and others are strictly hereditary.
In order to help ensure your pup the best health in life, get him from a reputable breeder with ample references. That way his parents (and their parents) will have been tested for some of the weaknesses know to plague the breed. No measure can completely assure your dog won’t get a medical issue, however. So be sure to take him in to see his veterinarian at the first sign that something might be amiss.
Here are some medical woes he may possibly encounter:
Epilepsy is a problem seen in Keeshonds. The condition involves involuntary seizures. While Epilepsy can be caused by a number or things like cancer, liver disease, brain tumors, kidney failure, brain trauma, or even toxins, the type that most often strikes Keeshonds is due to hereditary reasons and is termed Idiopathic Epilepsy.
Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Disease) is an elevation of cortisol, a hormone within the body that stimulates the appetite. The condition causes the abdominal wall to become weak because of the bloating and also causes chronic skin irritations and dark colored spots, mineralization on the skin, poor skin healing, and aggravated and persistent bladder infections.
Symptoms of the disease can include a bloated looking pot belly, lethargy, excessive drowsiness, panting, decrease in muscle mass, disinterest in activities that used to interest him, poor coat sheen, and an overall change in demeanor. If your dog is showing any of these signs, be sure to have him formally tested.
Hip Dysplasia is a condition where the hip doesn’t fit into the socket properly. Where the problem can be caused by environmental situations, like jumping from extreme heights, the type that is genetically passed on is often seen in Keeshonds. If left untreated, Hip Dysplasia can lead to arthritis and lameness. If your dog is having trouble getting around, you’ll want to have him tested for Hip Dysplasia. For extreme cases, surgery is usually an option.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid functions low. It can cause hair loss or thinning, a dull coat, excess scaling and/or shedding, unexplained weight gain, lethargy, inability to tolerate cold, and loss of interest in activities. If your dog is showing any of these signs, his vet can conduct a routine blood test to determine if he does have it and if he does, there are treatments that can be recommended.
Patent Ductus Dermatosis is a condition where the ductus arteriosus (which connects the fetus to the heart in pregnancy) does not function properly in that it fails to close and therefore causes blood to be diverted in an abnormal way through the heart. This condition is the second most common congenital heart problem that is seen in dogs.
Diabetes Mellitus is common in humans and is somewhat common in dogs as well. Because his body doesn’t produce insulin in this condition, he will need daily insulin injections to enable him to maintain balanced blood sugar.
Nasal Cavity Carcinoma (cancer of the nostril or nasal cavity) accounts for 1-2% of all cancers and well over half of those are malignant. Many are locally aggressive. If you suspect this condition in your dog, seek professional help from your vet who can diagnose and, if needed, offer treatment promptly.
Glaucoma is a building up of pressure within the eye in dogs and in humans too. It can be quite painful and can also easily lead to blindness. If your dog has pain in his eye area or is having trouble with his sight (like bumping into furniture), be sure to have him tested. There are treatments your vet can discuss with you. The earlier you catch it and have him checked, the better.
Cataracts are a covering of the lens of the eye. They can be just a dot the size of a pin top or can over the entire eye. Blurry vision is a sign and you also may be able to see the cataract yourself. If your dog isn’t seeming to see well, have his eyes checked as soon as you can.
Patellar Luxation in dogs is when their kneecaps dislocate from the position it is anatomically normally in which is the groove of the femur, or thigh bone. Small dogs are apt to have this condition but some medium-sized dogs, like Keeshonds, are prone to it as well.
It can be aggravated by environmental conditions such as constant running or climbing on rocks or jumping from high places. If your Kees is having problems walking or cannot walk at all, have him checked for this condition immediately.
Adult Onset Growth Hormone-Responsive Dermatosis is a skin disease that is caused by the deficiency of growth hormones. It’s a skin condition and is not common in dogs but it does seem to strike the Keeshond breed for an unknown reason.
There are two types, one is Pituitary Dwarfism that shows up early in a pup’s life, around two to three months of age. The other is adult onset which is seen later in life at around one to two years of age and is most common in this breed.
Hopefully, your little Kees will never experience any of the medical woes above. If he does though, be sure to act quickly and give him all the love and treatment possible.
Is a Keeshond a Good Fit for Me?
By now, you may be wondering who in their right mind wouldn’t want a Keeshond. He’s practically a dream dog. Mannerly, gentle, loyal, loving, and fun, he’s gorgeous and smart too.
You might be surprised to learn that you can find Keeshonds in shelters and organized rescue groups. Why? Because others thought the same thing. But, when they got him home, for one reason or another, they didn’t keep him.
Don’t put one more Kees though that heartbreaking scenario. Keeshonds are deeply bonded to their people and it would only break his heart to have to leave. Here are some soul searching questions to ask yourself to be sure beyond a shadow of a doubt.
If you are looking to add a family member who is very well-mannered, fun loving, and loveable to all, the Keeshond might just be your dog. If you already have pets in the household, no problem. This guy gets along with most every being, even cats, usually.
Do you have the time to make sure he can exercise each and every day? No matter where you live, a Kees can fit in but he must get his daily dose of exercise. Also, he might bark initially until you get him trained so beware of that if you live in an apartment or close to neighbors.
One last question. Do you mind a dog who is nicknamed “Velcro” or “Shadow” because he’ll follow you everywhere? If that’s alright with you, good...because this one will follow you to the ends of the earth. This dog cannot thrive without spending much of his time with humans. He simply won’t be happy.
The Keeshond is an adorable creature, inside and out. This long haired beauty that wears spectacles and trousers is one of a kind. If you think he’s your kind of a dog, you might just be in for a life-changing adventure. His constant smile is sure to make you smile too.
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