In most households, the Keeshond is a lovable teddy bear companion. But in the 18th century, they were a political symbol for rebels overthrowing the ruling elite in Holland.
In the case of this breed, looks aren’t deceiving. They are every bit of sweet, charismatic, intelligent and loyal to a fault. Furthermore, their unique “spectacle” eyes will suck you into their world and force you to fall in love.
So how did the breed become so popular with the rest of the dog kingdom? Where does the breed come from?
Here is what you need to know about the Keeshond.
There have been many names to describe this breed. Some say the country of origin this breed belongs to is Germany. However, most experts give credit to the Netherlands, more specifically, Holland, for the rise and development of the Keeshond.
It all began before the formation of Amsterdam. According to legend, Vikings had a small foxy type dog resembling the Keeshond and upon traveling on their ship, something went terribly wrong. In fact, the ship would sink killing a whole crew with the exception of one man and his dog. It is said that the ship sunk off the coat of Friesland. Furthermore, the legend claims a christian fisherman, Wolfert, made the discovery of the sunken ship and came to the rescue of the man and dog. Many believe this moment was the precursor of Amsterdam thousands of years ago. In fact, historians claim the Keeshond is the dog appearing on the famous, “Great Seal of Amsterdam.”
In those days, it was thought to be a good omen to carry a dog on a vessel with the crew. This would be the role of the Keeshond for centuries as a barge dog as well as companion and protector.
Perhaps the most crucial point in this breed’s history belongs to the 18th century in Holland. There was a ruling elite by the name of the House of Orange. Also during that time were a rebellion led by Cornelius de Gyzelaar, who was the leader and who many consider to be a patriot. Gyzelaar and his band of rebels had with them dogs that we know today as the Keeshond. The party’s name was the “Kees” and many believe that is where this breed gets their name from.
Kees hond in Dutch simply means “Kees’ dog.” The breed would become the symbol for that patriot group as well as the ordinary working class.
However, after the defeat of the patriot party, the breed’s popularity began to dwindle. Whether the breed died from lack of food or the rulers were killing them is irrelevant because the breed nearly became obsolete.
In the 18th century, when the breed was popular, they went by “Dutch Keeshond,” in Germany, “Wolf Spitz,” and in the 19th century, England was calling them the “Overweight Pomeranian.” The breed began appearing in England around the late 19th century. The Kennel Club in England gave the breed recognition in 1926 and would change their name to the Keeshond.
The English began exporting the breed into the United States around the 1930’s. England and the interest in the United States would help revive the popularity with the breed. In 1930, the American Kennel Club made it official by granting recognition for the breed.
Since then, the breed has done very well for itself. They are the 92nd most popular American breed, according to the American Kennel Club. The UKC would also grant the breed recognition in 1936. According to the UKC, the FCI still considers the breed as the “German Wolfspitz.”
Today, the breed is generally a companion dog, with the capacity to work as a therapy and service dog. This non sporting group medium energy breed has become a favorite due to their unique muzzle and cat-like appearance.
The Keeshond is a medium size breed. The American Kennel Club states that a male can stand at 18 inches, while a female should stand at 17 inches.
Both male and female Keeshonds can range between 35 to 45 pounds. However, it is more likely that a female will weigh less.
Personality and Temperament
Historically speaking, it is obvious that the Keeshond is a loyal breed with a friendly disposition and charming exterior. Their friendly and lively nature as well as outgoing temperament makes the breed one heck of a family pet. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about children and other dogs as the Keeshond handles both well. Good with children and better with older kids, the breed is a lover and not a fighter. You may want to use caution around other dogs the breed doesn’t grow up with. They may become a bit territorial of others infringing their homestead.
This is a breed that enjoys new experiences and meeting new people. It won’t alarm you to see they handle strangers without aloofness. Again, they aren’t fighters but that doesn’t mean they won’t stand up to a bully. Even more, they love to go with their master to new places and should be a part of family vacations. In fact, the best place for this breed is by their people’s side.
They don’t do alone very well, but they do enjoy exploring on their own. Mostly in the backyard. Dog parks and hikes are fine with this breed. They do bark, but mainly when there is a reason. Keeshond’s aren’t shy and tend to vocalize either dismay or excitement with others.
As an intelligent dog, they are eager to please and enjoy learning new tricks and trades. They obey and learn commands with ease and are easy to train.
They may be lively when you let them outdoors, but this is obviously an indoor dog that will relax and slouch around the couch with you. Expect a ton of affection, attention and loyalty with this breed.
The Keeshond should live a relatively healthy life and most of the items on their laundry list of complications you can avoid with preventative care. When you buy this dog, make sure you purchase from a reputable breeder. This breeder should be able to provide you with the proper documents and health clearances. On top of that, you’ll want to schedule routine visits with the veterinarian to keep your Keeshond in good standing. If you do that, you should expect a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years.
Malformation of the hip joint that causes pain and discomfort, which is common among many dogs, Hip Dysplasia, can be found with this breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) has a study indicating their level of risk. The breed ranks low, at 140th among the Finnish Spitz and Cocker Spaniel. The breed had over 5200 evaluations and only a 6.7% incidental rate.
Elbow Dysplasia, similar to Hip Dysplasia, which will cause a great deal of discomfort and lead to other orthopedic issues is a medium risk for this breed. The OFA’s ranks the breed 43rd with a 8.0 dysplastic rate out of 1400 plus evaluations. This ranks them among the Clumber Spaniel breed.
The OFA ranks the breed 47th with a normal rating of 86.6% for thyroid issues. This puts them in the ranks along with the Beauceron and Doberman. They fare quite well in the cardiac department ranking 109th with a 99.8% normal rating.
Patellar Luxation or when the knee slips out of place or from its original groove or spot can be found with this breed. Of the 1300 plus evaluations, the Keeshond had a 2.8 dysplastic rating for the 58th position among the Labrador Retriever.
Other issues that can be found with this breed include: cataracts, von willebrands, hypothyroidism, diabetes, epilepsy, progressive retinal atrophy and obesity.
PHPT or Primary Hyperparathyroidism is something to concern yourself with when it comes to this breed. Especially since the Keeshond is 50 times more likely to suffer from PHPT than any other breed. This rare dog disease is treatable when you catch it right away. When the parathyroid gland produces too much hormones, or the parathyroid hormone, it will cause the blood calcium to rise at dangerous levels. This usually affects older or middle age dog. Shaking, weakness and lethargy are common symptoms.
The Keeshond is an adaptable dog, but they would much prefer an open living space, where they can run around enjoy their exploring interests. That said, you’ll need to watch out for the possibility of wandering off. That sense of exploration can become very tempting for the breed and you may find yourself chasing down your dog. Also, you should keep an eye on other pets that weren’t brought up with your Keeshond. There may be a possibility, albeit, a small one, of prey drive.
From apartment to the farm, this is a breed that really wants to be around you. The problem with living in ana apartment is how vocal the breed can be. However, you should be socializing and training the breed early on.
Training will be a breeze for this breed, and you’ll want to keep them busy if you aren’t home all day. Surrounding them with a companion isn’t a bad idea. The bad idea is leaving the Keeshond alone for long periods of time. That can invite destructive and neurotic behavior.
This isn’t an outdoor dog, and should live indoors and be an integral part of the family. You should get them out and active at least once a day. The breed is prone to certain issues like obesity that can have lingering effects down the road.
Trim their nails monthly, check their ears for red spots or irritation. If you can smell a foul odor, then you need to consult your veterinarian. Brush their teeth daily if you can but at the least 2 to 3 times a week. Obedience and agility are a few sports these dogs can thrive at.
Beginners or people with experience will do fine with this breed. All in all, they are a wonderful family dog that does well in most environments and pets. They just need the time and attention they deserve and you’ll get back in return, a very loving and loyal dog.
Like any other breed, your dog will eat depending on how active they are, their age and metabolism. You should provide them a rich diet and top quality kibble. Meat first ingredient such as chicken, beef, fish or turkey will suffice this breed’s dietary needs.
Most owners seem to recommend 1 to 2 cups of food per day. You’ll want to break that up into two meals to reduce Bloat, obesity and other issues that come along with overeating.
As always, you should provide your Keeshond with fresh drinking water.
Keeshonds are seasonal shedders, which means that they will shed heavier at certain times of the year. Typically in the spring or fall. You’ll want to groom them two to three times per week. A Keeshond has a double coat. It is thick and downy for the undercoat, while the top coat is long, straight and harsh in texture. It should be soft and shorter on their head and ears, but expect an abundance of hair for the majority of their coat.
The American Kennel Standard claims six color options for their coat standard: Black and silver, gray and black, gray cream and black, gray silver and black, wolf gray and black, silver and black.
If your Keeshond presents a foul doggy smell, you can always use a spray bottle and a pin brush then proceed by grooming their coat for 30 minutes. Consult your vet about an appropriate type of shampoo for your dog.
Fun Keeshond Facts
- Stanley Coren has this breed as the 18th most intelligent dog on his list.
- According to the Keeshond Club of the UKC, Princess Dianna grew up with Keeshonds and her sister, Lady Sarah, still owns a few of them today.
- Rymiska Keeshond, a kennel and website, claims that this breed is a relative of other northern spitz breeds such as the Samoyed, Chow Chow, Pomeranian and Norwiegan Elkhound.
It is rather easy to understand now why the rebels, the Vikings, Germans and many others have fell so hard in love for the Keeshond. Their sweet and loving appearance met by their loyalty for their family makes them such a wonderful pet.
Unique and intelligent, the Keeshond will continue to do what it does best for many years to come and that is bring happiness and fun into their people’s life, the way a perfect companion should.