Keeshond

Table of Contents

keeshond portrait
Welcome to the world of Keeshonds, where fluffy fur meets a heart full of love! These enchanting canines are not only walking teddy bears, but also extraordinary companions known for their intelligence, loyalty, and affection. With their unmistakable "spectacles" (the markings around their expressive eyes), a Keeshond will steal your heart in no time.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Keeshond is a perfect match for those who seek an affectionate, loyal, and intelligent companion that thrives in human company. With their friendly and adaptable nature, these dogs make excellent family pets, getting along well with children and other animals. They’re also ideal for people living in apartments or houses with small yards.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEKeeshond
OTHER NAMESDutch Barge Dog, Smiling Dutchman
ORIGINThe Netherlands
BREED GROUPNon-Sporting Group
BREED SIZEMedium
HEIGHT16-19 inches
WEIGHT30-45 lbs
LIFESPAN12-15 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSModerate
EXERCISE NEEDSModerate
TRAINABILITYHigh
BARKING TENDENCYHigh
BITING TENDENCYLow
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELModerate
POPULARITY RANK90th
keeshond in a park
Photo: Luciano_Marques/Getty Images

Appearance

The Keeshond (plural: Keeshonden) is a medium-sized dog breed with a well-balanced, sturdy build that exudes both strength and elegance. Males typically stand between 17-19 inches tall at the shoulder, while females measure 16-18 inches. Their weight ranges from 35-45 pounds for males and 30-40 pounds for females, making them a comfortable size for most households.

The Keeshond’s body is compact and slightly longer than it is tall, giving it a harmonious, proportionate appearance. Their broad chest and strong, muscular legs contribute to their agility and endurance. One of the breed’s most distinctive features is its plush, richly plumed tail, which curls gracefully over the back and lies flat on either side, creating an eye-catching silhouette.

The head of a Keeshond is wedge-shaped with a well-defined stop, and the muzzle is medium in length, neither too long nor too short. Their medium-sized, triangular ears are set high on the head, standing erect and adding to their alert expression.

The eyes of a Keeshond are almond-shaped, dark brown, and medium-sized, conveying a friendly and intelligent gaze. The breed’s unique “spectacles” – the dark markings and delicate shading around the eyes – further enhance their endearing expression, making it appear as if they’re wearing glasses.

Keeshonden boast a luxurious double coat that serves as a stunning display of their beauty and provides insulation against harsh weather conditions. The undercoat is soft, downy, and pale gray, while the outer coat consists of long, straight, harsh guard hairs that stand out from the body, giving them a full, fluffy appearance.

The coat color varies from a mixture of gray, black, and cream, with distinct black-tipped hairs known as “shading.” The ruff around the neck and shoulders is particularly profuse in males, creating a mane-like effect that adds to their regal bearing.

In addition to the “spectacles,” Keeshonden have other distinctive markings, such as the characteristic “pencil” lines on their toes, which are fine, black stripes running lengthwise on the outer edges of their toes.

keeshond sitting on green grass
Photo: Luciano_Marques/Getty Images

Temperament

The Keeshond is a bundle of joy that radiates warmth and affection. This breed is known for its vibrant personality and its lively and cheerful demeanor. It’s like having a little ray of sunshine in your house that never fails to brighten up your day.

Keeshonden are not just friendly and outgoing, they’re also alert and intelligent. These traits make them excellent companions for both adults and children. They have an innate ability to understand human emotions, making them incredibly empathetic. When you’re feeling down, a Keeshond will be right there by your side, offering comfort with their soft fur and loving eyes.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the Keeshond’s personality is their tendency to spin in circles when they’re excited or happy. It’s as if they’re doing a little dance of joy, and it’s absolutely delightful to watch. This “Keeshond spin” is a unique quirk that adds to their charm and can bring a smile to anyone’s face.

Keeshonden are also known as “Velcro dogs” because of their strong attachment to their human family. They crave attention and love being involved in all family activities. Whether you’re cooking dinner or watching TV, your Keeshond will want to be right there with you, sharing in every moment.

Despite their playful nature, Keeshonden also know how to be laid-back and relaxed. They’re perfectly content to lounge around the house, especially if they can curl up next to their favorite human. But don’t let their calm demeanor fool you – these dogs are keen and alert, always ready to spring into action if they sense something amiss.

When it comes to interacting with strangers, Keeshonden can range from being friendly to polite. They’re not typically aggressive or overly shy. Instead, they approach new people with a kind of cautious optimism, ready to make friends but also keeping their guard up.

In terms of behavior, Keeshonden are generally well-behaved dogs. However, like any breed, they can develop problem behaviors if they’re left alone for too long or don’t receive enough attention. These dogs thrive on companionship, and they need to be part of a family that can provide them with the love and care they need.

Overall, the Keeshond is a breed full of personality and charm. Their friendly, cheerful demeanor, combined with their intelligence and alertness, make them excellent family pets. If you’re looking for a dog that will bring joy, laughter, and companionship into your life, the Keeshond might just be the perfect breed for you.

keeshond's face up close
Photo: Nelli Faytilevich/Getty Images

Ideal Environment

The Keeshond thrives in an environment where they receive ample love, attention, and companionship from their human family.

Physical Environment

As these dogs are known to be highly adaptable, they can comfortably live in various settings, including apartments, houses with small yards, or larger properties. However, regardless of the living situation, it’s essential to provide them with a safe, secure space to call their own, as well as opportunities for regular exercise and mental stimulation.

Climate Adaptability

In terms of climate adaptability, Keeshonden are better suited to cooler climates, thanks to their thick double coats that insulate them against cold weather.

They can tolerate moderately cold temperatures quite well and enjoy playing in the snow. However, extra care should be taken during extreme cold snaps, ensuring they have a warm, sheltered space to retreat to when needed.

On the other hand, Keeshonden may struggle in hot climates due to their dense fur. In warmer temperatures, it’s crucial to provide them with plenty of shade, fresh water, and well-ventilated spaces to prevent overheating.

Avoid exercising your Keeshond during the hottest parts of the day, opting instead for early morning or evening walks when temperatures are cooler. Regular grooming is also essential to help maintain their coat’s health and ensure they stay comfortable year-round.

Ideal Owner

When it comes to pet parents, Keeshonden are well-suited for both first-time dog owners and experienced canine enthusiasts. Their intelligence, eagerness to please, and trainability make them relatively easy to manage.

However, prospective owners must be prepared to invest time and effort into socialization, training, and interactive play to ensure their Keeshond develops into a well-mannered, confident adult.

Other Pets

As a breed that gets along well with children and other pets, Keeshonden are excellent additions to families with kids or existing furry family members. Their gentle, sociable nature makes them adaptable to various household dynamics, provided they receive proper introductions and supervision when interacting with new animals or young children.

keeshond puppy sitting in a park
Photo: animalinfo/Getty Images

Grooming

The Keeshond’s luxurious double coat, while undeniably beautiful, requires regular grooming to keep it in optimal condition and prevent matting. As a prospective Keeshond owner, it’s essential to understand the breed’s grooming needs and be prepared to invest the time and effort necessary to maintain their coat’s health and appearance.

Coat Care

One of the most critical aspects of Keeshond grooming is brushing. Due to their dense, double-layered coat, Keeshonden require thorough brushing at least twice a week to remove loose hair, prevent tangles, and distribute natural oils throughout the fur.

During shedding season, which typically occurs twice a year, daily brushing may be necessary to manage the increased hair loss and keep your home relatively fur-free.

To groom your Keeshond effectively, you’ll need some essential tools. A high-quality slicker brush is perfect for removing loose hair and untangling minor knots. A long-toothed metal comb or an undercoat rake can help remove dead hair from the thick undercoat, ensuring a thorough grooming session. When using these tools, be gentle and patient to avoid causing discomfort or injury to your dog’s skin.

In addition to regular brushing, Keeshonden benefit from occasional baths to keep their coats clean and fresh. However, it’s crucial not to bathe them too frequently, as this can strip their fur of its natural oils and lead to dry, irritated skin.

Aim for a bath every 4-6 weeks or as needed, depending on your dog’s activity level and environment. Be sure to use a mild, dog-safe shampoo and conditioner to preserve the coat’s health and shine.

Dental Care

Dental care is another vital aspect of Keeshond grooming. Regular teeth brushing helps prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and bad breath. Ideally, brush your dog’s teeth daily using a soft-bristled toothbrush and dog-specific toothpaste.

Alternatively, dental chews and toys can help maintain oral hygiene between brushings. Regular veterinary check-ups and professional dental cleanings are also important for your Keeshond’s overall health.

Nail Trimming

Keeshonden, like all dogs, require regular nail trimming to prevent overgrowth and discomfort. Aim to trim your dog’s nails every 3-4 weeks or as needed, depending on the rate of growth and wear. Use a sharp, high-quality pair of dog nail clippers or a grinder to avoid splitting the nail. If you’re unsure about trimming your dog’s nails yourself, seek guidance from a professional groomer or veterinarian.

Ear Care

In addition to coat, dental, and nail care, don’t forget to check your Keeshond’s ears regularly for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or foul odors. Clean their ears gently with a soft, damp cloth or cotton ball, avoiding the use of cotton swabs, which can damage the delicate inner ear structures.

keeshond lying on yellow maple foliage
Photo: Nelli Faytilevich/Getty Images

Exercise

Keeshonden are an active and intelligent breed that requires regular exercise to maintain their physical and mental well-being. While they may not have the same high energy levels as some working breeds, they still need consistent daily activity to stay happy and healthy.

Exercise Amount & Types

On average, a Keeshond requires around 30-60 minutes of exercise per day, depending on their age, individual energy level, and overall health. This can be divided into two or more shorter sessions to suit your schedule and your dog’s preferences. Keep in mind that puppies and young dogs may have different exercise needs, so consult with your veterinarian for age-appropriate activities.

A combination of moderate-intensity activities, such as daily walks, interactive play sessions, and mentally stimulating games, will help keep your Keeshond engaged and physically fit.

Walks provide not only physical exercise but also mental stimulation from encountering new sights, sounds, and smells. Varying your walking routes and incorporating occasional off-leash time in a secure area can further enrich your dog’s exercise routine.

Interactive play, such as fetch, tug-of-war, or agility training, is another excellent way to bond with your Keeshond while providing them with both physical and mental exercise. Puzzle toys and scent-tracking games can also help challenge their keen minds and satisfy their curiosity.

Dog Sports

Keeshonden can excel in various dog sports and competitions, such as obedience, agility, rally, and even canine freestyle dancing. Participating in these activities can provide an enjoyable outlet for your dog’s energy and intelligence while strengthening your bond and improving their overall manners and skills.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Keeshond, it’s crucial to take weather conditions into account. Due to their thick double coats, they may be prone to overheating in hot weather. Schedule exercise sessions during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or evening, and ensure they have access to water and shade.

keeshond sitting in a garden
Photo: Nelli Faytilevich/Getty Images

Training

Training a Keeshond can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both dog and owner, as this breed is known for its intelligence, eagerness to please, and quick learning abilities. Their friendly and affectionate nature makes them highly responsive to positive reinforcement and gentle training methods.

Early Socialization

When training your Keeshond, it’s essential to start early, ideally during puppyhood. Early socialization and exposure to various people, animals, and environments will help your dog develop a well-rounded, confident temperament.

Puppy training classes can be an excellent way to introduce your Keeshond to basic obedience commands while also providing valuable socialization opportunities.

Positive Reinforcement

Keeshonden are typically very trainable and excel in various activities such as obedience, agility, and rally. They respond best to positive, reward-based training methods, which reinforce desired behaviors through praise, treats, or play.

Harsh training techniques or punishment can be counterproductive with this sensitive breed, potentially causing fear or mistrust and hindering the learning process.

Consistency & Patience

Consistency and patience are key when training your Keeshond. Establishing a regular training routine and setting clear expectations will help your dog understand what is expected of them.

Keep training sessions short, engaging, and fun to maintain your dog’s interest and enthusiasm. Break complex tasks into smaller steps, allowing your Keeshond to master each component before moving on to the next challenge.

Additional Training Tips

One potential challenge when training a Keeshond is their propensity for excessive barking. As natural watchdogs, they may be inclined to alert their owners to any perceived threats or unusual occurrences.

While this trait can be useful in some situations, it may also become a nuisance if not properly managed. Teaching your Keeshond a “quiet” command and rewarding them for ceasing to bark can help curb excessive vocalizations.

keeshond playing in the winter
Photo: Ryhor Bruyeu/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

What to Feed & How Much

A well-balanced, nutritious diet is essential for maintaining the health and well-being of your Keeshond. When selecting dog food, it’s crucial to choose a high-quality product that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines, ensuring that it contains all the necessary nutrients for your dog’s specific needs.

There are various types of dog food available, including dry kibble, wet food, and raw food diets. Each option has its pros and cons, and the best choice for your Keeshond will depend on factors such as their age, activity level, and individual preferences.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine the most suitable diet for your dog, taking into account any specific dietary requirements or health concerns they may have.

The amount of food you should feed your Keeshond will vary depending on their age, weight, activity level, and the caloric content of the chosen food.

As a general guideline, adult Keeshonden typically require around 1.5-2 cups of high-quality dry dog food per day, divided into two meals. Puppies, on the other hand, have different nutritional needs and may require more frequent feedings. Always refer to the feeding recommendations on the food packaging and consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate portion sizes for your dog.

Treats

Treats can be a valuable tool for training and rewarding your Keeshond but should be given in moderation to avoid excessive weight gain and potential health issues. Opt for healthy, low-calorie treats, and remember to account for them in your dog’s daily caloric intake.

Water

Proper hydration is essential for your Keeshond’s overall health. Ensure they have access to fresh, clean water at all times, regularly checking and refilling their water bowl as needed. Be particularly diligent about providing water during hot weather or after exercise to prevent dehydration.

keeshond running on the beach
Photo: animalinfo/Getty Images Pro

Health

The Keeshond is a generally healthy breed with a life expectancy of 12-15 years. However, like all dog breeds, they may be prone to certain health issues. As a responsible Keeshond owner, it’s crucial to be aware of these potential risks and take appropriate measures to ensure your dog’s long-term health and well-being.

Some common health issues associated with the Keeshond include:

Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit correctly into the hip socket, causing wear and tear over time. Hip dysplasia can lead to discomfort, pain, and even arthritis. Regular veterinary check-ups, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding excessive strain on the joints during puppyhood can help minimize the risk of developing this condition.

Patellar Luxation: Also known as “slipped stifles,” this condition occurs when the kneecap moves out of its proper position. It can cause pain, limping, and, in severe cases, arthritis or even lameness. Treatment options vary depending on the severity, ranging from exercise modification and weight management to surgical intervention.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): PRA is an inherited eye disease that causes gradual vision loss, eventually leading to blindness. Regular eye exams by a veterinary ophthalmologist can help identify early signs of PRA and monitor its progression.

Hypothyroidism: This is a hormonal disorder caused by insufficient thyroid hormone production. Symptoms may include weight gain, lethargy, skin issues, and hair loss. Hypothyroidism can be managed through daily medication and regular veterinary monitoring.

Primary Hyperparathyroidism: This condition results from excessive production of parathyroid hormone, leading to high calcium levels in the blood. Symptoms can include increased thirst and urination, loss of appetite, vomiting, and lethargy. Treatment often involves surgical removal of the affected parathyroid gland.

To maintain your Keeshond’s overall health, it’s essential to provide them with regular veterinary care, a balanced diet, and appropriate exercise. In addition, responsible breeding practices and genetic testing can help reduce the risk of inherited health issues in the breed.

By staying informed about potential health risks and taking proactive measures to ensure your Keeshond’s well-being, you’ll contribute to their longevity and quality of life, allowing you both to enjoy many happy years together.

keeshond jumping on snow
Photo: bruev/Getty Images

History

The Keeshond is a breed with a rich history, tracing its origins back to the 18th century in the Netherlands. This breed, classified as a member of the Spitz family, shares ancestry with other Arctic and Northern European breeds such as the Pomeranian, Norwegian Elkhound, and Samoyed.

The Keeshond’s development can be linked to the Dutch riverboats and barges that traversed the country’s waterways. These dogs served multiple purposes, including companionship, guarding, and even pest control.

Their friendly disposition, keen intelligence, and striking appearance made them popular among boat captains and their families. The breed was also known by various names, such as the Dutch Barge Dog, Smiling Dutchman, and Overweight Pomeranian.

The Keeshond’s role in Dutch political history is particularly noteworthy. In the late 1700s, the Netherlands was divided between two political factions: the Orangists, who supported the ruling House of Orange, and the Patriots, who sought democratic reform.

The Patriots adopted the Keeshond as their symbol, with a particularly famous Keeshond named Kees owned by the Patriot leader Cornelis “Kees” de Gyselaer. As a result, the breed became synonymous with the Patriot cause and suffered a decline in popularity following the Patriots’ defeat.

Despite the political turmoil, the Keeshond’s appeal as a companion dog persisted, and efforts were made to revive the breed in the early 20th century.

A dedicated breeder named Baroness van Hardenbroek played a pivotal role in this revival, working diligently to locate quality specimens and establish a breeding program. Her commitment to the breed led to the establishment of the Dutch Keeshond Club in 1924, which aimed to standardize and promote the breed both nationally and internationally.

The Keeshond’s journey to the United States began in the 1920s when Carl Hinderer, an American breeder, imported several dogs from the Netherlands. These dogs formed the foundation of the American Keeshond population and garnered interest among dog enthusiasts.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 1930, with the Keeshond Club of America being established shortly thereafter in 1935.

Today, the Keeshond is primarily known as a beloved companion and family pet. While they may not be as prominently featured in popular culture as some other breeds, their unique combination of qualities continues to endear them to those who know and love them.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Keeshond in the United States is the Keeshond Club of America (KCA). Founded in 1935, the KCA is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the Keeshond breed.

The club works to educate the public about the breed, support responsible breeding practices, and encourage participation in various dog sports and activities. You can visit their website to learn more about the Keeshond Club of America.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. 

It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities. Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

Check out the Keeshond’s breed standard as set by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

keeshond puppy walking in an outdoor setting
Photo: animalinfo/Getty Images

Acquiring

Is a Keeshond on your wish list? This fluffy, friendly breed is sure to bring joy into your life! Begin by preparing a comfortable bed, high-quality food, engaging toys, grooming tools for their thick coat, and finding a reliable vet.

If buying is your choice, please ensure you choose a reputable breeder to guarantee a healthy, happy pup. But remember, rescue is a beautiful option too. Many Keeshonden are in shelters longing for a loving home. The American Kennel Club and the Keeshond Club of America can guide you through this rewarding journey.

Whether you adopt or buy, you’re gaining more than a pet. You’re welcoming a cheerful, affectionate companion who will brighten your days. With a Keeshond, life is a whirlwind of fun, love, and endless fluffiness!

FAQs

Is Keeshond a good family dogs?

Yes, Keeshond is an excellent family dog. They are known for their friendly, affectionate, and gentle nature, making them a great fit for families with children. Their intelligence and eagerness to please also make them highly trainable, which is an asset in a family setting.

Can Keeshond be left alone?

While Keeshond can tolerate being left alone for short periods, they are a social breed and thrive on companionship. Prolonged isolation can lead to separation anxiety, excessive barking, or destructive behaviors. If you need to leave your Keeshond alone regularly, consider arranging for a dog walker, pet sitter, or doggy daycare to provide social interaction and mental stimulation during your absence.

Is the Keeshond a rare breed?

The Keeshond is not extremely rare, but they are less common than some other breeds. They have a dedicated following of enthusiasts who appreciate their unique qualities, but they have not experienced the same widespread popularity as some other breeds.

Is Keeshond a wolf hybrid?

No, Keeshond is not a wolf hybrid. They are members of the Spitz family of dogs, which includes other breeds such as the Pomeranian, Norwegian Elkhound, and Samoyed. While Spitz breeds share some physical characteristics with wolves, such as their thick double coats and pointed ears, they are distinct domesticated dog breeds and not hybrids.

Is Keeshond hypoallergenic?

The Keeshond is not considered hypoallergenic, as they have a thick double coat that sheds seasonally. This shedding can release dander and allergens into the environment, potentially causing issues for individuals with allergies. Regular grooming can help minimize shedding and allergens, but the breed may not be the best choice for those with severe allergies.

Does Keeshond require a lot of grooming?

Keeshond has a thick double coat that requires regular grooming to maintain its health and appearance. Weekly brushing is recommended to remove loose hair and prevent matting, with more frequent brushing required during seasonal shedding periods. In addition to brushing, routine nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental care are essential for maintaining your Keeshond’s overall health.

How much exercise does Keeshond need?

Keeshond requires around 30-60 minutes of exercise per day, depending on their age, energy level, and overall health. A combination of moderate-intensity activities, such as daily walks, interactive play sessions, and mentally stimulating games, will help keep your Keeshond engaged and physically fit.

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